I don't think I have to give you guys a history lesson when it comes to the hockey youth of America,Canada and the world, right? In case you forgot, please read my piece on believing the draft hype and how it all seemed like a topic manufactured by media members and fueled by a hockey mass hunger for hope.
Seven months after I wrote that piece, I haven't changed my mind about the draft. I tried buying into it. However, everything I read and see about Grigo doesn't exactly yell "HE'S A STAR" or "HE NEEDS TO STAY PUT". What people are forgetting in the grand scheme of things is that this isn't about the Sabres 2013 season or making a run to the 7th spot. This is about Grigo. A guy who supposedly is going to solve our center problems.
Now, I'm not trying to come across as someone who wants to be right in order to make myself better. I'm not exactly batting .300 here with Buffalo sports. No one is. But the thing I feared the most with Grigorenko is coming true ...
And that's the hype..
It started with media members saying the guy was ready after an intrasquad scrimmage. Then we had hockey prospect expert, Jerry Sullivan, comparing him to Mario Lemieux. Then 75% of Twitter was bitching about line combinations. It ended with John Vogl writing a game story about him not playing the 3rd period against the Canes. That is a lot of material for a guy who, based on age and draft selection, probably isn't going to contribute in a major way this year.
Look, the guy has looked all right, but if his jersey number was #37, would you be begging to keep him? He's still pointless and the high interest in what he's doing on the ice still feels very manufactured by fans and media members. "Wow. Look at his energy! Look at that back pass!" I don't know, it seems like everyone is trying really hard to see certain things in him. It just feels a bit fake. I think the microscope we have put him under has become a kaledioscope. We are making it into something that isn't exactly there.
Because so many people were feeding into the hype about this kid, it is a lot harder now for them to admit that he's not ready for primetime. God forbid if you correct a wrong in this day and age. Instead, it is about blaming Ruff. If Grigo makes a mistake and gets jettisoned to the bench, Lindy is an asshole for being too tough. If Stafford does that and gets thrown to the bench, we applaud Lindy. If Grigo goes scoreless for 10 games in a row, we blame his linemates. If Stafford does that, we blame Stafford. People are already pissing about Lindy Ruff's strategy with Grigo.
This is not a repeat of Chan Gailey not giving C.J. Spiller playing time. I don't care if it is Lindy or Emilo Estevez or Herb Brooks coaching the team, Grigorenko is a kid who at best, would probably get 8-10 goals this year. That is it. That's the best he can deliver. What people don't want to contemplate is whether this kid is going to go in the tank like Luke Adam did last year.
Do you want him sitting in the press box because Lindy hates his backchecking methods? Do you want to risk killing this kid's morale so we can make a run to the 7th seed? I just think the risk is worse than any reward for this year.
If the Sabres were deep at center or resembled the 2006/2007 squad, it would be easier to put him in because there wouldn't be any pressure on him. Stop trying to hurry him because of last June's hype and our desperation for a playmaker. He's going to be stuck on the 3rd or 4th line and maybe that's where he should be. It is just too much to ask for him to be The Man this early in his career.
He's going to be questioned every single night about why he's playing with this guy or that guy. It is going to be a circus. It has already gotten to that point. This is what everyone seems to want to talk about. Not about struggles or lack of offense. Just about Grigo. Oh, did I mention he has as many points as I do?
Would it be better if he played with Ennis or Vanek or anyone more talented than 42 and 9? Yes. Is he better than any of our 4th line centers? Probably. However, his growth as a star player is more important than what the Sabres do this year.
Maybe I have the Boy Who Cried Wolf Syndrome after listening to fans yell for Luke Adam, Brayden McNabb, Mike Weber, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Chris Butler and about 20 other guys we decided were 1st line talent because they skated hard in their 3rd game. The fact of the matter is, this guy is the future and that's what we should be woried about.
This team isn't a Cup contender and if your argument is that the youth is the future, then why try and force it down my throat right now? Why go against what the majority of other NHL teams do with their young talent? If this guy is supposedly lazy, I think paying his dues in the Quebec Juniors or in the AHL next year will help him get past that. Let him work to make the club. I know he's been kicking ass there, but so have tons of other players in the OHL. Just because a guy gets 40 goals in 30 games, doesn't mean you have to promote him right away. That's not how it works.
And even if Ruff puts him with better players, what do you think that's going to do? Make him a top center on the team overnight? It won't. The stats say so. 18-year-olds who aren't drafted in the top 10 hardly have an impact on their teams. Hell, for the most part they don't even play with the team during the first couple of years after being drafted.
This is pure speculatin on my part, but I think Ruff was force-fed this guy from management. I mean, none of Darcy's draft picks have played in the same year they were drafted except for this one. It's funny how this has all put Ruff in a really bad light for the fans. I can't remember fans/media being this pissed off about Ruff's use of a player, especially one that 90% of us never watched play until 10 days ago.
Am I saying this guy sucks? No. I'm just saying it takes time and although I love killing Lindy and Darcy when I can, I'm not gonna kill them if this kid struggles this year. I think it is a very tricky slope with young hockey players like this. You wanna say that it is better that he plays with the big boys instead of kids right off the bat? I don't know, every player is different and five guys just isn't enough evidence for me.
I remember when people thought Tim Connolly should have worked out his kinks in the AHL instead of being pushed on to the Islanders roster and it ruined him. Do you think if the Sabres kept playing Ryan Miller after he got shelled in his first start against Detroit, it would have served him better? It probably wouldn't have. Draft picks work their shit out in the minors or in juniors, not in the pros. Hence, the low number of players who play in the NHL the same year they get drafted.
I'm looking at player development as a whole with the NHL for why I'm not believing the hype for his rookie year, not the idea of what you want out of him because you are looking for instant hope.
I feel very similarly about Kreider for the Rangers. He was being anointed as the second coming before he'd played a single game in the NHL. Big shock that in the first few games this season he was mediocre. Nothing wrong with that - he's a young kid. Stop trying to force him into being the next Messier *right now.*