Anytime a player is ranked in the top 3 and is projected to be taken in the top 5 in an NHL draft then falls outside the top 10 there’s a problem. A lot of people wrote of Mikhail Grigorenko‘s fall to 12th in the 2012 draft, but the more I see him play the more I’m beginning to understand why the Russian centre fell to 12th and the Buffalo Sabres.
Mikhail Grigorenko made the Sabres out of training camp last season (if you can even call it training camp) and played enough to
waste a year of his entry-level contract, problem is he didn’t play well or at least not as well as one would have expected. He scored just 1 goal in 25 games with the Sabres last season, but most people chalked it up to him being a young rookie. Now in his “2nd” season and first full training camp, Grigorenko isn’t looking much better.
It was a big mistake for Darcy Regier to announce that the Sabres would be keeping Grigorenko in Buffalo all season because he’s playing like a kid with nothing to prove. He’s not trying and looks absolutely invisible out there on the ice and although it’s only preseason, he is facing off against a lot of young OHL and AHL guys. If he can’t look dominate right now, then there’s a problem. Based on everything we’ve seen from Grigorenko through preseason there is absolutely no way this kid deserves a spot on the Sabres roster, he hasn’t earned it and as a result he may be watching a few games from the press box. I can’t see how the Sabres can give Grigorenko – who hasn’t shown up for preseason – a spot over a kid like Zemgus Girgensons, who is playing his tail off for a spot on the roster.
Grigorenko has absolutely no right to take the preseason off or to play as badly as he has been. He’s still by all accounts a rookie and needs to be working hard like Girgensons, Armia and Johan Larsson to earn his spot on the Sabres. Instead you barely notice the Buffalo Sabres former first round pick, if he doesn’t improve his game, he’ll be another pick who doesn’t live up to their potential.
The knock on Grigorenko – why he fell so low – was his work effort. A lot of teams felt that he was a lazy player and through the preseason he’s living up to that reputation. If you’re not going to score at least help out on defence, Grigorenko has looked horrible on the back-check as well. Unless a player slows down and skates right beside or into Grigorenko, he doesn’t make any effort to check them at all. He also hasn’t been trying very hard on offence when he doesn’t have the puck, unless it comes easy for him he isn’t interested. There’s a lot of things Grigorenko needs to learn before he becomes a star for the Sabres, he needs to learn to give it his all every night and every shift both on offence and defence.
At this point in his career, Grigorenko isn’t mature enough or ready for NHL hockey. It is really hurting his development that he can’t be sent down to Rochester where he could learn to be a pro and prove himself. If a prospect isn’t pushed or expected to earn a spot, they won’t try and they won’t develop. Look at the Leafs and Nazem Kadri, that organization put him through the ringer and while it wasn’t always fair, Kadri had to earn every minute of ice-time with the Leafs and look at him now. It’s time to knock the sense of entitlement out of Grigorenko and make him earn a spot on the Buffalo Sabres. It should be a privilege and an honour to wear the blue and gold not a right just because you were drafted. There’s other guys trying harder through camp, who seem to be hungrier for a spot.
Maybe I’m expecting too much, but I’ve been extremely disappointed by what I’ve seen out of Grigorenko thus far in his young career. I expected a more determined player who would give it his all every night and score some great goals. Mikhail Grigorenko has not done enough to actually earn a spot on the Sabres, and it’s a shame that he’ll be given one for such a poor effort. He’s still has time to learn how to play in the NHL and hopefully a Steve Ott or even Cody Hodgson can mentor the kid and teach him so that he can maximize his full potential. But so far he’s been quite unimpressive.