Mikhail Grigorenko’s season in the QMJHL ended this past weekend with a 4-1 series loss to Rouyn-Noranda. He only had 2 goals (with no assists) and was a big minus for the 5 game series. A disappointing finish for sure.
But with the conclusion of his QMJHL season, he has returned to the Buffalo Sabres and was on the ice with them for practice this morning.
Darcy has already said that Grigorenko will not likely play on Wednesday. Amerks fans are upset at the thought that Grigorenko will be sitting in the press box with Buffalo. In reality, this is likely a good sign, and makes it more likely that he’ll be playing in Rochester this weekend.
Per @DaveDavisHockey (on Twitter), because of Grigorenko’s age, he needs to accrue 7 years of NHL service before he hits unrestricted free agency. In this strike shortened season, being dressed for 23 games will constitute 1 accrued season. Coincidentally enough, Darcy sent Grigorenko back to juniors after 22 games. Meaning, if he plays just 1 more game in the NHL this season, he will hit unrestricted free agency an entire season sooner. Darcy will do everything he can to have control over his prized first round draft pick as long as possible.
If Buffalo had a legitimate shot at a playoff spot, and Grigorenko’s offense had the potential to put them over the top, of course he’d dress. But Mikhail had his chance to show his skill earlier this season, and did not excel. Coach Rolston saw what he needed, and didn’t feel that Grigorenko would contribute enough over the remainder of the season. I can’t imagine anything changed over the past several weeks.
So, Griggy won’t be playing again in Buffalo this season.
Conversely, it doesn’t make much sense to bring him to Buffalo only to practice with Buffalo for the last 10 days of the season. He’s not going to learn anything in a few days of practice.
The Amerks weren’t on the ice today. Grigorenko may travel to Boston with the team today, and sit in the press box for tomorrow night’s game… but I would fully expect him to be on the ice in Rochester by Thursday morning so that he can get in some ice time with the Amerks before their 3-games-in-3-days, playoff-defining weekend coming up.
Darcy gets a lot of criticism for his decisions (some deserved, some not so much), but he absolutely has to realize that Grigorenko could make HUGE strides by coming to Rochester and attempting to lead the Amerks offense in a playoff run. Between injuries in Rochester and recalls to Buffalo, Darcy knows the Amerks offense is struggling. He has been in town for a couple of poor performances lately. There is NO WAY that he doesn’t see an opportunity for Grigorenko to learn and grow with the Amerks to close out the season.
The bigger question is… how far can Grigorenko carry the Amerks offense?