(January 19, 2013 – Source: Rick Stewart/Getty Images North America)
Mikhail Grigorenko has had himself quite a disappointing rookie season, to say the least. The 18-year old prospect has just a goal and two assists in 16 games this season; he has seen his ice time bounce around more than a child on a trampoline.
He has been scratched four times this season, three of which came last week when the Sabres played Pittsburgh, Winnipeg, and Toronto. His use, or lack thereof, has caused plenty of questions about why the team decided to keep him in Buffalo this season instead of sending him back to Quebec City of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) for more seasoning.
The 6’3″ Russian has played an average of 10:32 per game this season under Lindy Ruff and Ron Rolston. Specifically, under Ruff, he averaged 11:14 of ice time per night. In his two games under the new interim head coach, Grigorenko has seen just 11:25 in ice time in total, an average of 5:42 per night.
“He’s talented. But, he’s got a ways to go. Ya know, in terms of game situations, and some costly mistakes, everyone makes them, but certainly, a lot of talent but he’s got a ways to go,” Rolston said last week after the Sabres 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders.
He continued: “Right now it’s more just his pace. His pace I think is what he struggles with at times in the game when it picks up and the tempo picks up. You know, he’s got the ability. You can see his hands, the skill, his vision, but, when the tempo gets jumped up a little bit is where he’s going to have to make some improvements.”
So it’s his pace, huh? It’s not up to level with the likes of Jochen Hecht? Doubtful.
If the new coach, who will likely only be here for the remainder of the 2013 season, feels that the kid as a way to go before he’s ready for the NHL game, then why keep him up with the team.
The best way Grigorenko will improve is by getting the ice time, but it seems clear that Rolston isn’t ready to give him more ice time than an average fourth-line skater. In fact, that’s where Grigorenko was on Tuesday in Buffalo’s game against Tampa Bay.
Playing him on the fourth line is a great waste of talent. He’s not getting any valuable playing experience by playing on lines with John Scott, Jochen Hecht, and Patrick Kaleta on a given night. It’s time to send the kid back down the the Junior level where he can regain some confidence because that looks like it’s quickly dissipating.
If the first year of his entry level contract being burned is truly no issue, then it shouldn’t be a big deal to send him back down. Bring him back next season for a full training camp, and see where he’s at.
The kid is still really young. He’s the only 18-year old in the NHL so there is still plenty of time for him to develop, but don’t waste his talents — and time — by sitting him on the bench for 54 minutes a game.
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