Although no one within the Sabres organization will say, at this point, just where center Mikhail Grigorenko will end up this season, the team seems to be leaning a certain way.
Sabres owner Terry Pegula made a surprise appearance on WGR yesterday. Apparently he was taking his dog, Sidney, for his "daily drive" and decided to call in.
Host Kevin Sylvester, although somewhat taken aback, handled everything well.
Among the things Sylvester got the Sabres owner to talk about were the contributions of Steve Ott, whom Pegula called "#9 out there," (a refreshing change from the other #9) and Jochen Hecht whom he called a "Steady Eddie."
Of course, ultimately Buffalo fans are dying to know about the status of Grigorenko, who has three more "tryout" games before the Sabres need to make a decision on his status.
Sylvester noted that a shortened season could come into play--a notion he says was dismissed by GM Darcy Regier--burning a year of Grigorenko's entry-level contract. Pegula effectively shot down that notion saying, "A lot of people talked about the shortened season, if that's a reason to send him back to junior," he hesitates, "boy, something's wrong."
The real factor involves Grigorenko's play.
On WGR's Howard Simon Show Lindy Ruff seemed to be giving the kid plenty of slack.
The "kinder, gentler" Ruff called Grigorenko's play "good" saying that he's "handled [his first two games] well."
He also wants to alleviate any pressure on the kid, "I'm not asking for anything special," he said, "I'm just asking him to play his game, to do his thing." The only thing Ruff asks, as he does of all his centermen, is a responsibility in their own end, and in Ruff's eyes, "[Grigoreko] has been."
The "mystery" of just where the 18 yr. old will end up after five games remains. But hints that he'll be with the Sabres for the rest of the season are out there.
Quebec Remparts coach, Patrick Roy, while speaking with lapresse.ca, had this to say (via kuklaskorner,) "I begin to think that there is a strong possibility that Mikhail does not return with us. Yesterday (Monday), he played 13 minutes in his second game in two nights. He is doing well with the Sabres. And he behaves well defensively."
Pegula also points to that theme of "defensive responsibility"--echoing Mike Robitaille--in assesing where Grigorenko presently stands. "he is a gifted player, passer, shooter, playmaker. What's been a surprise is his defensive responsibility. It's been the thing that sticks out."
Grigorenko deserves a lot of credit. He has some mad skills, yet is doing what's asked of him which includes playing on the third line with Ott and Hecht. It's not a glamor role, but he's doing what's asked of him at this point, and doing it well.
That's how he's going to stick in the NHL this season.
Thx to Kris Baker at sabresprospects.com for the lead on Patrick Roy's thoughts
Baker also notes that the Remparts are 4-8 in Grigorenko's absence since mid December