Pat LaFontaine talks this afternoon. ©2014, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres’ Pat LaFontaine believes junior right place for Mikhail Grigorenko

BUFFALO – The old school part of hockey, Pat LaFontaine said, is earning your keep. There has to be a standard. Players must perform consistently once they crack the NHL.

The Sabres didn’t believe 19-year-old prospect Mikhail Grigorenko, who had been awarded a roster spot by the previous regime, was ready to play in the NHL, so they sent him back to junior Saturday.

“We’re doing what we think is best to develop our players and care for them and what they need,” LaFontaine, the president of hockey operations, said this afternoon inside the First Niagara Center. “I really believe under the situation and all the circumstances it’s the best place for him.”

Grigorenko, a dominant center with the Quebec Remparts, initially refused the assignment before accepting it a day later.

LaFontaine said the move will help Grigorenko develop properly. He wants the Russian to experience winning, become a leader and learn how to play a complete game.

“Once the Olympics come around, if he’s not in Rochester, he’s sitting around for 20 days,” LaFontaine said. “A player at 19 years of age needs to develop, needs to be playing. You also want to put a player in a position to succeed. Maybe he’s played a few years already and done very well. But he hasn’t won a Memorial Cup there yet, and I know it’s a place where it’s not going to be sitting around for 20 days.

“He’s not going to not be in the lineup. He’s not going to be on the third or fourth line. He’s going to be on the first line, second line, power play, 25 minutes a game, scoring and doing the things that he should be doing.”

Jay Grossman, Grigorenko’s agent, has expressed concern Grigorenko will be playing for his seventh coach in a year.

“He’s concerned and he should be. He’s his agent,” LaFontaine said. “He needs to know that we have a plan and we’re doing our best to help develop and be in communication. And Jay has to take responsibility, too. He’s also his agent that’s put him in this position, too.

“It’s not just the organization; it’s a combination of things. It’s unfortunate that maybe it hasn’t been the right program or protocol that should’ve occurred. I don’t think it was. It happened. But that’s behind us now, and what we need to do is what’s best for Mikhail going forward.”

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