Colorado Avalanche: Preseason Homework for Mikhail Grigorenko


Preseason Homework for Mikhail Grigorenko

The Colorado Avalanche draft day extraordinaire has come and long gone, and the free agent frenzy that ensued has also seen its dust settle. All that’s left in the wake of it all are the dog-days of August, which begin today. Every hockey fan knows them like the plague because they drudge onward endlessly, leaving the avid ice fanatic left with a feeling of distraught emptiness wondering when the NHL season — or news surrounding their team — will pick up speed again.

Thus, we’re all subject to this dreary existence of a month alike and must find other ways to occupy our time. Lakes and pools fill up with pale bodies relinquishing themselves to the heat of the sun, and empty pages on sport’s sites get filled with the most intriguing script that writers can put forth in such a down time without hockey. So, without further ado let’s delve into the subject at hand.

Over the next few weeks — for your edification as well as mine — I will be analyzing some of the Avalanche’s new acquisitions, as well as old faces with new opportunities. I will be giving them some “summer reading”, or what they should work on in order to improve their game and land a roster spot, or solidify the one they already have. First on the list is Mikhail Grigorenko.

Roster Spot or No Roster Spot?

The first question I will pose to these would-be-suitors (if they truly desire marriage with the club) is whether or not they deserve a roster spot. These mates need to treat the Avalanche final roster as a woman they cannot lose because she certainly can’t be the one that got away, hence why they are suitors. Anyway, Mikhail Grigorenko definitely deserves a roster spot, but — with players that definitely deserve a spot — I will be tasking them to excel and seek that which may currently seem unattainable.

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The goal for Grigorenko has to be a spot on the second line, skating on Nathan MacKinnon’s wing with Gabe Landeskog (I’ll get to MacKinnon in a later post, but he should battle for the second-line center role). So, Grigorenko’s goal is certainly counter-intuitive to Joe Sakic’s vision of the second line. However, Carl Soderberg has never served a second-line role. Neither has Grigorenko, but Grigorenko has elite potential and should realize it this year, so why not take the step in training camp and land a spot on the second line.

Even though these events are highly dependable on a lot of other factors, Mikhail Grigorenko needs to shoot for the top, and doing a few things during the preseason and training camp will certainly help him on his way.

What can Mikhail Grigorenko improve?

If one is to look at his profile on Elite Prospects, it’s easy to see that Mikhail Grigorenko has excelled at every level except for the NHL level. There are many factors that could play a role in this result: perhaps he lacks confidence at the highest level, perhaps his skills have been used improperly, or perhaps he lacks motivation. The latter is probably the most likely scenario for fans and coaches to believe, but it may not tell the whole story.

Players need good players around them in order to succeed, unless they are capable of making mediocre teammates play to their level. Also, players need proper coaching in order to feel the real impact of the game, and also understand their role in this impact. And, being reunited with Patrick Roy will certainly do wonders for Grigorenko’s potential.

However, Grigorenko needs to focus on a few things going into training camp, and ensure that he puts these to use during the preseason.

First of all, Grigs is a decently sized kid — 6’2″ and 210 pounds — and Roy will love to see him put this size to use more often. He’s an inch taller than Landeskog, and the same weight so he’s certainly capable of putting his size to use, but doesn’t do this enough, especially when concerning body position. There have also been some concerns on his skating ability, especially when related to NHL prowess.

However, the biggest concern with Grigorenko is whether or not he will finally show the necessary commitment to make it to the NHL level and become a mainstay. I’ve already mentioned that I think Roy will do wonders where this is concerned, and I think Roy believes this himself because he is quoted saying the following after a May game last year:

"“I think he’s learning,” Roy told the Buffalo News. “Some players develop faster than others. I’m sure the expectations are very high for him in Buffalo, but Grigo has a lot of skills, has a lot of hockey sense.”"

Obviously Roy has been interested in Mikhail Grigorenko for awhile — long before the eventual trade — and has faith that he will develop into the forward he is touted to be. However, Grigorenko needs to also believe that he is not only suited for a top roster spot, but be willing to fight for what it takes to earn that spot.

To my estimation, Grigorenko has believed this but at a detriment to himself, believing he is due the honor without taking the steps necessary to ensure it. This sort of confidence can unmake anyone because no one should be given their due unless earned, and those that believe it this theirs out of their pure existence alone are truly mistaken. Grigorenko has had it easy dominating the lower leagues, and was certainly under the impression that this skill would transfer to the highest level without constant attention. However, I think he has finally learned that it takes much more than talent to succeed at the NHL level, and hopefully this will transfer to the Colorado Avalanche next season.

Fortunately for the organization, Grigorenko has been given a show-me deal, which in turn will likely result in his constant effort throughout the season and eventually in his culmination as an elite player. If — in the unfortunate event — this does not occur, then the Colorado Avalanche haven’t missed out on much — besides a dud for the O’Reilly trade — because they haven’t risked much on Grigorenko.

Most Likely Scenario

Ultimately, Mikhail Grigorenko is not likely to make the second line next year, although I do think that it’s in his future, especially with aging wingers Alex Tanguay and Jarome Iginla. He is unlikely to ever hold a center position on the Colorado Avalanche roster unless he proves more capable than Nathan MacKinnon in a few years. However, he certainly possesses the skill set to run wing with MacKinnon when Nathan finally takes over the second-line center role.

In the end, Grigorenko’s talent level suggests that he is more than capable of succeeding at the NHL level. He — of course — has more to work on. However every player on the roster has room to improve, as every individual in life must feel the same.

Grigorenko’s talent level is there, but his confidence and commitment may be lacking, which could be potentially detrimental to such a high skill level. Therefore, it is Patrick Roy’s duty to ensure that he is given the best opportunity to succeed with what he possesses, and I believe this rests with a top-six role on the roster sooner rather than later. He will have to fight with Mikko Rantanen in a few years for that top roster spot, but I believe both are suited for a role near the top, and I will get to Rantanen in next week’s post.

What do you think Grigorenko could improve on the most? Do you think he’s suited to a top-line role? Or, will his fate be forever bound by the bottom-six? Let us know in the comments!

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Next: Grigorenko: What Can Colorado Avalanche Fans Expect?

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