The changes for the Buffalo Sabres are already underway now that Ted Nolan and Pat LaFontaine are running the show. Nolan made some strong statements about the direction that the team will be heading in the future, and indicated that there would be a downsizing of the immediate youth movement in Buffalo.
He spoke to John Vogl of the Buffalo News at length about the changes that he wanted to make moving forward. As per Vogl’s report:
We have so many young guys here, and it’s almost like going back to junior hockey in some sense. Patty and I have been talking for the last three, four days about that. I didn’t realize how young they really were and the positions that they’re in and the capabilities of what they can do besides playing here.
It isn’t too tough to figure out exactly which young players Nolan and LaFontaine are referring to. Several top-end prospects were crammed into the lineup far too soon while Darcy Regier was in control. The first name that comes to mind is Mikhail Grigorenko—the 12th-overall selection of the 2012 draft was viewed as raw and in need of work right out of the gate.
Regier insisted on inserting him into the lineup though, and shocked the hockey world when he decided to keep the youngster around for the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign. Grigorenko has struggled mightily and publicly in Buffalo this season, and it didn’t take Nolan very long to get his finger on the pulse of the situation.
Another guy that was probably forced into NHL action too soon is Nikita Zadorov. He was the 16th-overall selection at the draft last summer and represents the future of Buffalo’s blue line. No one expected the big but raw 18-year-old to make the jump to the NHL this season, and again he was put into the lineup way before he was ready.
In his comments Nolan alluded to players that had been strong in the AHL, yet haven’t received chances. Moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see how the new regime shakes up this roster, and how all the young players react to their demotions when and if they come.
While it might stink to be one of the players being shuffled around, it must be refreshing to Sabres fans to see management actually acknowledge a problem with solutions instead of barreling right along with eyes on another top draft pick.