I think it’s finally time to address the elephant in the room when it comes to the Buffalo Sabres rookies and young prospects. Almost daily I find myself in a conversation with fans on twitter or in the comments wondering if Ted Nolan has something against this latest batch of rookies.
At first I completely wrote the idea off as players like Nikita Zadorov and Rasmus Ristolainen could use a little more seasoning before a full time NHL gig. But with the way in which Nolan has dealt with the rookies since taking over, it could lead someone to believe something is up.
We know that Nolan is under the belief of making the rookies earn their ice and “pay their dues” and I share the same thoughts as Mr.
Nolan on that matter. The player learns nothing and often falls off a cliff when their spot is just handed to them right off the bat, but his unwillingness to work with some of the young players is quite puzzling. Each time an issue has come up with a rookie they seem to find themselves playing for another team. In fact, the only rookie from opening night still with the Buffalo Sabres is Zemgus Girgensons.
The biggest area in which this has been noticed is with 2012 draft pick Mikhail Grigorenko. Has Grigorenko lived up to expectations? Certainly not. But Nolan and the Sabres are trying everything in their power to get rid of this kid, when they could be molding him and developing him. Taking on Grigorenko as a “project” could be the best move for interim head coach Ted Nolan- want to ditch the interim label? Turn the under-performing draft pick into a solid player who is contributing every night.
Maybe Grigorenko’s problem goes deeper than Nolan can fix, but you have to at least try. You’re stuck with the guy, he can’t go to the AHL and you don’t want him in the QMJHL, play him and allow him to develop.
Another case is the short-term demotion of Mark Pysyk after he was made a healthy scratch. Pysyk has been one of the best Buffalo Sabres defenceman this season, but scratching him and then sending him to the minors “short-term” is not going to help the kids confidence. He’s been playing fine, maybe he had an off game or there were a few too many D guys on the roster, no need to mess with the kid.
Nolan also considered using John Scott on the blue line, while Mark Pysyk was down in the minors- even if it was meant to be a joke, if he was willing to use Scott over Pysyk that should tell you all you need to know.
Finally there is Johan Larsson who could certainly use some NHL playing time for the Sabres to evaluate him and for his confidence. He’s a strong player and more than ready for some NHL playing time, why keep him down in the minors?
I understand making the young guys work hard for their ice, but when you’re the 30th ranked team in the NHL it can’t hurt to throw the rookies a bone right?
What do you guys think- are you getting the sense that Nolan may not be willing to work with the younger rookies? Vote in today’s poll and start debating in the comments.