Mikhail Grigorenko just wasn't ready for big minutes with the Sabres, so General Manager Darcy Regier decided today the rookie center was better off getting prime ice time in the playoffs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The Sabres have sent the 18-year-old back to the Quebec Remparts, but Regier feels Grigorenko learned a lot about what he needs to do to be an NHL player, which should benefit his future.
"I think this has been a very good thing," Regier said about Grigorenko's NHL debut season.
With the Sabres near the bottom of the NHL and the trade deadline approaching April 3, Regier said the team needs to find a way to acquire more good players. But ...
"I'm not in a blow-it-up mind-set," Regier said.
To hear all his thoughts, click the audio file below.
Lindy Ruff spent 26 years with the Buffalo Sabres as a coach and player. The run came to an end Wednesday. The Buffalo News has it covered:
*Ruff came to First Niagara Center for practice, meeting some of his players and looking at video before heading to a news conference to honor high schoolers who will take the ice downtown next week. It was like any other day in Sabreland.
Ruff then worked his struggling team hard on the ice, a 90-minute practice that was one of the longest of the season. He met the media for 4 minutes, cutting off questions a little earlier than on most days this season. Then he headed out to his home in Clarence.
*When it actually happened, Bucky Gleason writes, my first thought wasn't about the Sabres finally making a bold move that they owed their fan base. I wasn't thinking about who would replace him. Strangely enough, it was about how much I owed Lindy Ruff, knowing that I could never repay him.
*Regier arrived 20 minutes late to announce that he had fired Lindy Ruff as his head coach, Jerry Sullivan writes. It was fitting, because like so many of the general manager’s moves, this one was long overdue.
*Ruff dreamed of holding the Stanley Cup in his adopted town of Buffalo. He pictured himself skating around Memorial Auditorium with the chalice over his head. He envisioned himself clutching the Cup on the bench in First Niagara Center.
Ryan Miller was on the team bus, ready to depart for Toronto this afternoon when Lindy Ruff came aboard and told the Sabres players he'd been fired as coach.
"We’re not playing great hockey, and there’s a lot of pressure on the organization I can imagine right now," Miller said during a phone call with The Buffalo News. "Ownership or management need to do something. It’s unfortunate. I feel like it’s a situation we put the coach in. We weren’t executing. If we were executing but still losing, I think that’s one thing. But we’re not playing the game the right way.
Darcy Regier says Lindy Ruff is still the man to turn the Sabres around. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)
By Mike Harrington
If you're thinking about a particular move to provide a quick fix for the slumping Sabres -- specificially the firing of coach Lindy Ruff -- you better think again.
I spoke earlier this evening to General Manager Darcy Regier and asked him the following question: If things go poorly this weekend, how much will you be forced into big change, whether it's players or the coach?
The Sabres ended their morning skate today like they often do -- with coach Lindy Ruff calling them over to the boards across the rink from their bench for a quick chat. But as the group broke up, sticks were tapped on the ice and a few gloves face-washed rookie Mikhail Grigorenko in a form of hockey-team congratulations.
Ruff had just broken the news to the players that Sabres fans everywhere were waiting to hear: Grigorenko is staying in the NHL. He'll be in the lineup tonight against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"It's really amazing news and I'm really happy and really excited," Grigorenko said. "It's a good step in my career and I'll do everything to show people they made the right choice."
General Manager Darcy Regier told The News Monday night that Grigorenko would likely have stayed in juniors this year had this been a regular 82-game season. But Regier said now that he's starred for half a season in the Quebec League and for Russia in the World Junior Championships, his NHL timetable was accelerated.
After making the customary apology to fans virtually every NHL owner has made this week in the wake of the lockout, Sabres owner Terry Pegula dropped a surprise on reporters at the start of his 22-minute news conference today in the Lexus Club at First Niagara Center: He has agreed to a contract extension with General Manager Darcy Regier.
Regier, who took over the club in the summer of 1997, signed what's believed to be a two-year extension in the fall of 2010 and it's not completely clear how long this extension will run. The Sabres do not release contract terms but Regier's original deal was not expiring after this season anyway.
"Both sides are happy with the arrangement," Pegula said. "And we look forward to continuing to work with Darcy into the future. The timing of this decision was not today. We've been talking about this. We had this agreement for quite some time. I approached him. Darcy is a talented guy. ... We work very well together and we're looking forward to the future."
Said Regier: "I am very grateful and honored to be able to continue in this capacity working with this ownership."
In other notes from the press conference:
---Pegula on the lockout: "It's good to be back. I can tell you as an organization, the Sabres are very glad to be playing hockey again. We apologize to the whole hockey fan base, the media, our sponsors and our supporters for the hardship we may have put people through but sometimes things happen that you don't plan for in life."
---Pegula he talked often to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman during the lockout and said he felt it was necessary to help struggling small market teams. Pegula said he did not push for a quick resolution: "I'm a new owner so I'm not about to say, 'OK, here's what we're going to do, guys."
---Pegula said the Sabres' goal remains to win the Stanley Cup and he's been heartened by watching Boston and Los Angeles end droughts in the 40-year range by winning it the last two years.
---Regier said the team has already had organizational talks about the contracts of stars Ryan Miller, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek -- all of which expire after next season.
---Pegula on this year's club: "I think our team is a lot different than the team I inherited when I bought it. It's got a new imprint on it, a new mark. It looks like a good hockey team."
---Pegula used the term "totally inaccurate" when asked about numerous reports in Pennsylvania he paid $1.3 million to augment the salary of Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien and keep him in Happy Valley so he wouldn't jump to the NFL.
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.
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.
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.