Now that the NHL lockout appears to be behind us the next matter of business for teams is training camp. Since there will only be a 48 game season this years training camps will be shorter and will feature less players than normal. The biggest question for Buffalo Sabres fans was whether or not 2012 first round pick Mikhail Grigorenko would be in attendance at training camp- The Sabres announced on Monday that Grigorenko will be in training camp starting Saturday.
In all likelihood the Sabres will keep Grigorenko to the end of camp and likely into his 9 game tryout before they make their final decision. There’s no question the young Russian has the potential to jump into the NHL, but is now really the right time?
Grigorenko was selected by the Buffalo Sabres 12th overall in the 2012 NHL draft, arguably the steal of
the draft after he fell outside of the top 10 and right into Darcy Regier’s lap. He has the potential to be a franchise player and first line centre in the NHL, and has been lighting it up in the QMJHL all season. Playing for the Quebec Remparts during the lockout Grigorenko has been one of their best players racking up 29 goals and 50 points in just 30 games- 10 less that many of his opposition and teammates. He is coming off a phenomenal breakout year in 2011-2012 that saw him record 85 points in just 49 games and is looking to match his totals from last season with the Remparts.
In addition to his stellar play in the “Q”, he is coming off a very successful World Junior Tournament with the Russian squad that defeated Canada to win bronze. During the tournament Grigorenko was able to step out of the shadows of fellow 2012 draftee Nail Yakupov who had a very quiet tournament and ultimately became one of the leaders after scoring 2 goals and adding 4 assists- including the tying and winning goals against Switzerland in the quarter-finals.
Everything about this kid screams bright future and NHL star, so why shouldn’t he join the Sabres in their 48 game season?
First of all, because it’s a shortened NHL season there is no time to give up games. Teams need to be battling out of the gate right from day one, there is no chance to give young rookies an opportunity to adapt to the fast pace NHL game. In fact I would be very surprised to see many rookies play this season. The competition right from the first puck drop will be to great for the majority of rookies trying to get their feet wet, there will be no easy games to start off the season. How will a 48 game season help Grigorenko who hasn’t played a game in the NHL yet, he’ll likely just become frustrated and discouraged.
The second reason ties into the first- Remember how Lindy Ruff treats young players? Not very well. Right now Grigorenko can be penciled in as the 3rd line centre behind Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis. Grigorenko doesn’t belong on the 3rd line and should be in the top 6 forwards, but if Ruff doesn’t like what he sees he will move him to the 4th line or onto the wing. It’s too early in his career for him to be moved around without a fair shake at his proper position. Wouldn’t it be better to have him play in the “Q” where he dominates as the first line centre, can be a leader and make a playoff run with the Remparts instead of riding the bench with the Sabres?
Lastly, and I know this doesn’t mean much for most, but Grigorenko needs to stay in the “Q” because the Remparts need him. He is leading the Remparts in scoring and is easily their best player, if he goes so do the Remparts chances of winning the Memorial Cup.
“I’m still hoping he’ll be back with the Remparts to finish the season. His loss would obviously be devastating, because we count on him a lot.” Quebec Remparts head coach Patrick Roy.
Grigorenko has played 30 games with the Remparts, he’s invested his time and efforts into the success of the team. His teammates, coaches and fans are all counting on him to lead the team to victory, it would be terriable for their star player to abandon them half way through their season. The experience he will gain from finishing the year with the Remparts and making a solid run through the playoffs will only benefit him for when he is truly ready to make the jump to the NHL.
The development of players in hockey is like a chess game, one wrong move and the game is over. Calling up a player too quickly can ruin a layer and ultimately hurts their development, many are over their heads and just can’t adjust. The Buffalo Sabres can not afford to mess around with Grigorenko’s development.