The Buffalo Sabres will once again sport one of the youngest lineups in the league in this upcoming season, but their roster probably won’t look the way it did at this time last year. By this time in 2013, the Sabres looked like a team that had been driven out to the desert and left to their own devices. Young players were marooned on a toxic squad that finished dead last in the NHL.
One of the young players to be most affected by the dysfunction in Buffalo during a three-year stretch that culminated in the firing of GM Darcy Regier was forward Mikhail Grigorenko. Chosen 12th overall in 2012, the 20-year old Russian center has been a lightning rod of criticism since he arrived and immediately failed to make the impact everyone expected from him.
In two straight seasons, Grigorenko has been kicked back to junior hockey. Instead of pouting though, Grigorenko has made the best of the situation and allowed it to fuel him for this upcoming season.
“From past experience I realized it’s probably no one’s fault but mine that I didn’t go into the NHL,” Grigorenko said per Joe Yerdon of Pro Hockey Talk. “If I want to play in the best league in the world, it’s just on me. No one’s going to make me play just because I was drafted in the first round. I just have to go out there and be the best.”
While many young players have seen their careers crushed or stunted by a premature leap to the pros, Grigorenko maintains the perspective necessary to carry on. The Sabres won’t turn a full 180 degrees from their league-worst status last year, but there is much more structure on the team after they signed a number of veterans and implemented a full-time coach with pro experience.
Now it’s up to Mikhail Grigorenko to turn things around this year as much as the team that drafted him. “I’m really excited for this year. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get way better than I did last year,” Grigorenko said.
If Grigorenko does show such improvement, the steep learning curve, expected to take years for such a young player on a young team, could speed up for the Buffalo Sabres and put the team back into the playoffs sooner rather than later.
Tags: Buffalo Sabres