For much of the season, Sabres fans have been wondering what exactly Mikhail Grigorenko was doing on the team, since he hasn't been getting much ice time and has been a healthy scratch multiple times this season. We heard he was getting help from the Sabres skating coaches, but other than that, why is he here instead of in Quebec?
On Tuesday, Sabres GM Darcy Regier spoke with WGR's Shopp & the Bulldog about just that, and dropped a line that may indicate the team is already looking towards next season.
Regier started the conversation in very general terms, saying,
What we're doing with Mikhail, is he gets very strict guidelines as to what the expectations are for him on a game-to-game basis, and he meets them or he doesn't meet them, and in that process he may play and he may not play.
That may be the most generic sentence ever put into the English language, but what followed was much more interesting, and may indicate the thought process of the franchise for this season (emphasis mine).
There's a lot of communication, there is an explanation of expectations, and in between all of that, he's doing some extra work on the ice and off the ice, and what we're trying to do is get him stronger and get him better prepared to play a full season.
The end of Regier's last sentence would indicate that, at this point, Grigorenko is not prepared, or prepared well enough right now, to play a full NHL season. With the way the Sabres have been handling him so far this year - plenty of scratches, little ice time, almost no third period action - it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to say that they're essentially eating the first year of his rookie contract in order to better acclimate him, physically and mentally, to the NHL game solely for the purpose of next season.
Yes, I admit that it's wild conjecture based off of one small part of Regier's comments, but if you blow it out all the way, could this be Regier's casual way of saying that he knows the team isn't good enough to compete this season? You might have to take off the tinfoil hat for a second to think about it, but it's tough to argue that this isn't anything more than a throwaway year for Grigorenko based on the way he's been used, unless you consider the possibility that it's all just one long, extended training camp for next season, when Regier presumably thinks/hopes that the team will be closer to contention.
The question then becomes: was this the plan all along, or are Regier and Rolston adjusting on the fly now that the season's all but in the toilet? Or is this just the mad ravings of someone who's tried to answer this question dozens of times over the past few months, and is grasping at straws? Let us know what you think in the comments.