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LaFontaine on Grigorenko: NHL Olympic break factored into decision to return him to junior

By Mike Harrington

Following today's USA Hockey announcement regarding the return of the Prospects Game to First Niagara Center, Pat LaFontaine spoke to the media for the first time about the Mikhail Grigorenko situation. The Sabres' president of hockey operations made it clear the team believes the decision to return the 19-year-old to junior hockey is by far best for his development and also made a point no one had really thought of.

The kid needs to play. And we're coming up on a month where he wouldn't see much ice if he was still in the NHL.

"One of the big parts of the decision is that once the Olympics come around if he's not playing in Rochester, he's sitting around for 20 days," LaFontaine said. "A player at 19 years of age needs to develop. He needs to be playing. You also want to put a player in a position to succeed. Maybe he's played a few years already there and done very well, but he hasn't won a Memorial Cup yet."

LaFontaine said the message to Grigorenko was clear -- go to Quebec, play 20-25 minutes a game including power play time, improve his all-around skills to become a 200-foot player and try to become a leader on a championship team.

"We're doing what we think is best to help develop our players and care for them and what they need," LaFontaine said. "I really think under the circumstances we're doing the best thing. 

"The old-school part of it is you really have to earn it. There has to be a standard. And when you get to the NHL, you have to be a consistent pro. Becoming a consistent NHL level player every night, that's hard."

And LaFontaine made it clear he feels the team's previous regime (see Regier, Darcy; and Ruff, Lindy) pretty much messed this whole thing up. No disagreement here. Olympics or no Olympics, Grigorenko simply isn't an NHL-level player yet.

"It's unfortunate that it hasn't been the right program or protocol that should have occurred," LaFontaine said. "I don't think it was. It happened. But that's behind us now. What we need to do is what's best for Mikhail going forward."

tagged

Andrej Sekera | Mikhail Grigorenko | Sabres | Sabres front office
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John Vogl

John Vogl

John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.

@BuffNewsVogl | jvogl@buffnews.com

About Sabres Edge


Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has been covering the Buffalo Sabres since 2007. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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