Buffalo Sabres fans hoped The Grooming of Grigo would be a key story line to follow this season. The team had modest hopes and there have been few instant results.
As the shortened season continues, particularly if the Sabres maintain their spot in the basement of the Eastern Conference, the development of rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko will be closely followed.
So far at least, there hasn’t been much of a plot.
Grigorenko has just one goal and two assists in 15 games, sitting out four as a healthy scratch. He’s averaging only 10 minutes, 53 seconds per game — and has been under 10 minutes five times.
One theory was that a veteran head coach like Lindy Ruff, especially one in a fruitless effort to save his job, didn’t want to trust a raw rookie. Then Grigorenko’s ice time would quickly jump up when a developer like Ron Rolston was behind the bench.
That hasn’t happened yet. Rolston played Griogrenko just six minutes in Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders and said afterward the NHL’s lone remaining 18-year-old needs a lot of work. Grigorenko was Buffalo’s No. 1 draft pick and the No. 12 choice overall last June.
Rolston said he didn’t see any issues with conditioning but it was simply a case of the rookie not being up to speed with the NHL game enough.
“Right now, it’s more his pace,” Rolston said. “The pace I think is what he struggles with at times, when it picks up and the tempo picks up. He’s got the ability. You see his hands, his vision. But when the tempo gets jumped up a little bit is where he’s going to have to make improvements.”
Prior to Saturday’s game, Grigorenko told The News he couldn’t really pinpoint what he would learn watching from the press box but felt the team was doing what’s best for his longterm development.
“Every hockey player wants to play and for the last week I didn’t,” he said. “I missed the last three games. It was a little bit hard. It’s never happened to me in my life.”
Grigorenko works to get up to speed with Sabres
Buffalo News | Feb 25