In hindsight, the Buffalo Sabres made a costly mistake with a key young prospect this season.
They admitted that mistake on Friday when they announced that they have sent 2012 first-round draft pick Mikhail Grigorenko back to the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL after 22 NHL games.
Why is this a mistake? Let's recap.
• The Sabres kept Grigorenko on the NHL roster for 22 games, burning a year off his entry-level contract in a shortened season on a bad team that isn't going to the playoffs. They could have given him a tryout of up to five games and sent him back then without having to use up a year of his initial entry-level contract.
• During those 22 games, they played him less than 10 minutes a game on average. He scored one goal to go with four assists.
• They decided they were going to send him back to juniors, anyway, making the first two points seem like head-scratchingly bad decisions.
The issue isn't necessarily the move of sending Grigorenko back to juniors.
If they're not going to play him in real, meaningful minutes in Buffalo -- or if he's not ready for such minutes -- it's not going to do him any good to play seven or eight minutes (if he even dresses) when he could be playing top-line minutes for Quebec and dominating opponents (which he did the past two years to the tune of 135 points in 91 games) as he continues to develop his game. And, even in his limited minutes, he didn't appear to be quite ready for the NHL game.
The issue is why the Sabres didn't do this sooner (like, after five games). There's nothing wrong with admitting your mistake, but it's horrific roster management and another example that the franchise is a rudderless ship headed directly for the iceberg. And no amount of coaching changes is going to fix that. It runs much deeper than just the people behind the bench.
The Sabres selected Grigorenko with the No. 12 overall pick in the June entry draft after he took a surprising fall out of the top 10. He was considered to be one of the most talented players available.