BUFFALO – Under coach Ron Rolston in Rochester, T.J. Brennan thrived, developing into an AHL star and arguably the league’s most dynamic offensive defenseman.
But that scoring prowess hasn’t translated to the NHL. Brennan played sparingly in the big leagues this season, sitting 17 of the Sabres’ 27 games as a healthy scratch.
Even when Rolston took over on an interim basis Feb. 20, the 23-year-old kept sitting, playing only four games under his old coach.
Finally, the Sabres traded the spare part to the Florida Panthers on Friday for a fifth-round draft pick, reuniting him with Kevin Dineen, Brennan’s AHL coach in Portland.
“It’s a real good opportunity for him,” Rolston said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center prior to the Sabres’ tilt against the Ottawa Senators. “He played with Kevin in Portland, and they have a good feel for what he can do. I’m excited. He’ll have a good opportunity there.”
Brennan was an offensive stud in the AHL, scoring 14 goals and 35 points in 36 games this season. He also had seasons of 16 and 14 goals.
The New Jersey native only had one goal 10 NHL games this season and two goals and two points in 21 career appearances.
Still, Rolston’s confident Brennan’s offensive will show up someday
“I think so, and there were signs of it here,” Rolston said. “It’s just we were in a situation we probably couldn’t use him to the full amount in those capacities with where we were. I think eventually for him that’ll show up. They’re a real good team power play team, too, in Florida, so I’m sure they’ll use him properly.”
In other roster news, Rolston echoed general manager Darcy Regier’s words about 18-year-old center Mikhail Grigorenko, who was returned to junior Friday, a surprising move.
“With the way we were at as a team, it was difficult to give him the opportunity that he probably needed developmentally,” Rolston said. “We just thought for our organization right now, the best thing would be for him to go and play in the playoffs and get playoff experience, and really be … a really big part of that team and be in every situation. …
“And also to go back there and be a leader, and to go back, have the right attitude and really help the young players there and just build his leadership skills.”
Rolston said the Russian rookie possessed a good attitude.
“Obviously, (Friday) was disappointing for him,” Rolston said. “I think he understood where he was and what he needs to do basically, what we wanted to get across, that he’s going to be a big part of things here. This is more of for him to be there to prepare himself to come back and be a big part of what we do here.”