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Poll: Is Ted Nolan Anti-Rookie?

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.

Nov 29, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres head coach Ted Nolan during the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 29, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres head coach Ted Nolan during the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Is Ted Nolan Anti-Rookie?

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Topics: Buffalo Sabres, Ted Nolan

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  • lee Munn

    Yes I do believe Nolan is a little Anti-Rookie style of coach. But I do believe that this is good for Buffalo this year. We need to see who of the up-down Vets that we have on this team are worth keeping. re-sign the one or to that impress the best & let the other 5 or more go. I am sure Pysyk will be up in a week or so to finish the season. Then next year can give Larsson, McNabb, Risto, Zadorov, Adam + (Ekblad or Reinhart) a start with Buff. Then give McCabe, Armia, Grigorenko, Catenacci, Locke, Kea & Varone their opportunity to prove in Rochester that it’s their turn! A little time in Rochester may do wonders for Grigorenko… Lets hope thats all he needs to get back on his feet.

    • Caitlin Campbell

      I Feel like it’s both a good and bad thing. It’s great to see which veterans need to stick around and I like your idea of bringing up a group next season and giving another group the chance to prove itself but at the same time I feel like some of these guys may just need some NHL tough love. I’d love to see Grigorenko after a sting in the AHL- could be a Girgensons’ type

  • wolfdoctor

    I think Nolan is more interested in winning now than developing players in the NHL for the future. Rookies tend to make more mistakes than veterans and consequently may contribute more to losses than veterans. Nolan most likely believes these players would get more ice time and experience by playing in the AHL or juniors. But like it or not there are a lot of players in the pipeline. My guess is that Nolan will allow one, maybe two, rookies per year to play on the Sabres. This year it’s Girgs and for the most part Pysyk. Next year ? Larsson, Grigorenko, Zadorov, Risto, Armia? Which one will he choose?

    • Jes

      With Miller, Ott, Moulson, and Tallinder and possibly Leino all leaving there will be more then 2 rooks playing next year.

      • wolfdoctor

        LOL. If so, my theory is shot to hell, unless the Sabres pick up some veteran fillers.

    • Caitlin Campbell

      The Sabres sit 30th, currently the current group of Veterans isn’t giving the team the best shot at winning, what will the rookies do that these vets haven’t? haha
      I like your theory of easing some of the young rookies in as there is a TON of talent in the pipeline, but like Jes pointed out, Sabres will have to fill around 5 roster spots next season

      • wolfdoctor

        Actually the team’s record is much better since it sent most of the rookies down, so the veterans ARE winning at a better rate.

        As far as all the open spots next season, the Sabres may decide to pick up more veterans, like D’Agostini, to fill those roster spots. We’ll have to wait and see.

  • Vic Soga

    Caitlin, I think Nolan is more anti-young than anti-rookie or anti-European or anti-Russian. Or is he pro Canadian like Boston. Or is he anti-American. Myers and Foligno have dual citizenship. Hmmm. The reason rookie Girgenson got picked was not only with his play but Nolan needed to keep good ties with the Latvian Olympic Team in case he gets let go. If he cut Girgenson, Latvia would not like that. Will he play for Latvia?

    • Caitlin Campbell

      That’s a good point, maybe he is just anti-Russian haha.
      Obviously he needs to stay in the good books with Latvia but I don’t believe Latvia qualified for the Olympics

      • Vic Soga

        Surprisingly they did and Germany did not. Girg should play for them. Only Enroth and Miller will be the only others playing in the Olympics?

    • Joe

      Girgensons has been one of buffalos best forwards as of late and u dont think he deserves to be on the first line? Weve scored 4 goals in 2 of our last 3 games. Maybe nolan is a little better at evaluating talent than so many of the fans on here and actually knows wat hes doing unlike buffalo has for years now. And if nolans past proves nething he wouldnt do something like not cut a player to stay in good graces with someone

  • ateee

    I don’t think Nolan is anti-rookie at all. It’s just that we have a LOT of youth. Making them earn minutes means that there has to be minutes to be earned and not given. With the sheer amount of rookies on the team, we can’t just throw everything to the handful of vets on the team. As baked as Larsson is or as good as Pysyk looks, I really have no issues with them being bigger fish in a smaller pond for a bit longer. There’s no rush to throw the weight of the entire team on the rookies’ backs. It’s fun getting a preview of this team’s future but let them work on being dominant today.

    • Caitlin Campbell

      I”m fully on board with the “earn your ice” philosophy and I think it’s the best route for the Sabres, but I do feel like some rookies have earned that ice IMO.
      But if the AHL can help Pysyk and Larsson expand their game there’s nothing wrong with that. Can’t wait for this team’s future, going to be solid

  • Thomas Eric

    Play the kids let them grow together as a unit if Nolan isn’t on board then ax Nolan I don’t want him as our coach any way

    • Caitlin Campbell

      See that’s the flip-side to the equation- allowing the kids to grow together and build a core together for the future while surrounded by a few veterans could go a long way…

      • Thomas Eric

        It’s how it should be we drafted them to play right? Then play them and give grind good line mates

    • Joe

      What happens when u play them and they get walked all over all seasom amd their confidence gets shot? And then they have no career

    • RalphMedicus

      Who would want a coach that has this team winning? Your right. Fire Nolan, bring back Rolston, and resume getting outshot every night 40-15.

  • qwicwted

    This is my concern with Nolan, I think he would rather play guys like Ellis, D’Agostini, Porter and Scott. I’m still not impress with McBain and you pick up Olmark who is supposed to be very talented and he’s playing on the 4th line. The one time he was with Moulson, he looked pretty good. At this point, I would rather see more rookies in our lineup than the Journeymen that Nolan favors. I understand his no workie, no playie philosophy, but these guys need to play – at least call back a couple of them instead of rewarding our tired retreads. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the hard work that our journeymen have done, but we need to look to the future.

    • Caitlin Campbell

      I agree, I’d much rather see some exciting rookies who show promise for the future over some 4th line guys who have very little future in the NHL. I think Nolan wants that hard working, blue collar type of team though

    • Joe

      We just let girgorenko play and look how that turned out. Maybe if he felt like he had to earn his spot hed play harder. The few bright spots ive seen out of him r when hes working hard and playing hard which henrarely does. If he worked harder when he was on the ice i think hed already be playing on the second line for us

      • qwicwted

        Joe there is a reason why 7 other teams passed on Grigorenko – Bflo took a chance and I wonder how much of that chance they would have taken if they didn’t have the Girgensens pick following. I think Grigorenko is like Yakapuv – as it seems both believe they are entitled. We all knew going into the draft that, “The elephant in the room for Grigorenko is work ethic. Russian players, fairly or not, tend to be heavily scrutinized in this area and the comment has been made that Grigorenko is lacking here. In December, independent scouting service Red Line Report said that Grigorenko “simply does not work hard AT ALL when he doesn’t have the puck, even at crucial moments”
        Thing is, Patrick Roy was contacted about Grigorenko’s work ethic and the Sabres put value in Roy’s feedback. Any draft pick is a chance and Yakapuv is not particularly burning it up in Edmonton. Might have been a gamble, but maybe Bflo should have thought about trading for Yakapuv – seems he and Grigs have some chemistry.
        Anyway, as I said, I’m just not keen about Nolan’s philosophy of playing all our journeyman. I would like to see more of our rookies in the lineup.

  • Joe

    I think everyone needs to realize that this is the way it needs to be if we are truly looking to the future. You cant just play rookies and have them reach their full potential these days. Not everyone is a crosby or ovechkin

  • RalphMedicus

    Rookies typically don’t play in the NHL. There are some exceptions but it is not common practice. Your dealing with 18 and 19 year olds who are not physically mature enough to stack up against 27 and 28 year old men. Is Nolan antirookie. I would say so but for good reason. He wants to make sure these guys succeed. Bringing them along slowly gives them the best chance for success. What exactly would rookies do for this team anyway? We all saw how that worked at the beginning of the year getting out shot 40-15 and losing night after night. Does anybody really think a losing environment promotes the growth of players who are’nt ready to stack up against top competition? We have a farm club for a reason. Many players are’nt ready to go straight to the NHL. They need to be developed against lesser competition. The writer of this article has demonstrated a very poor understanding of the player development aspect of pro sports. Putting Pysek in Rochester was meant to be a joke?(eighth paragraph). That is an absolutely ridiculous notion. These guys are professionals. Nolan would not demote a player to make a joke. That comment gives zero credibility to the writer of this article.