January is quickly becoming a month the Quebec Remparts would like to put behind them.
On Tuesday, the Buffalo Sabres announced that they would be keeping Remparts star forward Mikhail Grigorenko in the NHL for the rest of the season, ending speculation that the big Russian would be returning to Quebec. Grigorenko, who won bronze with Russia at the world junior championship earlier in the month, scored his first NHL goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 4-3 overtime loss on Tuesday night.
Sabres GM Darcy Regier said if the season had started on time and the decision was to be made in September, Grigorenko would have spent the season with the Remparts, where he’s registered 50 points in 32 QMJHL games this season.
While that’s good to know, it doesn’t help a floundering Quebec team looking for a life preserver.
Quebec's 6-2 loss to the Moncton Wildcats on Sunday snapped a three-game winning streak, but the Remparts still finished January with a sub-par 4-6-0-0 record. The month included a five-game losing streak highlighted by a 4-0 shutout to the already-capsized Shawinigan Cataractes, handing the woeful defending Memorial Cup champions their ninth win of the season in 41 tries. The Remparts are also 3-7-0-0 in their last 10 home dates.
To make matters worse, after losing 11-2 at home to the league-leading Halifax Mooseheads, the team and head coach, GM and owner Patrick Roy suspended forwards Adam Erne and Anthony Duclair.
According to Le Soleil's Olivier Bossé, the team's leadership group and Patrick decided to bring the hammer down on Erne and Duclair, whose “me-first” attitudes on the ice were becoming a detriment to the team. Both players are eligible for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
The hatchet was buried the next day in a players-only meeting, and both Erne and Duclair played in the next game for the Remparts, a 3-2 win over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies at the Colisée Pepsi.
Both players had attended the 2013 CHL Top Prospects game in Halifax during the previous week. Erne, who scored in the game, is ranked 13th among North American forwards in Central Scouting’s mid-season rankings. Duclair, who had an assist, is ranked 35th on the same list.
Remparts captain Martin Lefebvre, one of the team's seven leaders who made the decision to suspend the pair, said the meetings helped the team refocus on playing as a group.
“We wanted the team to push in the same direction,” he said. “We found that [Erne and Duclair’s] attitude wasn’t what we wanted as a team, so we sent them the message.
“At the same time, it was a message to all of us that we can’t think individually. We had some players who were thinking of themselves and their point totals more than the team, and we’ve been able to address that problem. Everyone is heading in the same direction now.”
Erne and Duclair believe the message from their teammates got through.
“I think it was a team lesson, and not just an individual one,” Erne said. “I think it was a good lesson to refocus and come back as a team. We wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page.”
“We told the team that we would change our attitudes and we did,” Duclair added. “I think we’ve regrouped well as a team.”
The Remparts are 28-17-1-2 with 59 points and seventh in the 18-team league.
Lefebvre points to a 4-2 win last Saturday on the road against the Halifax Mooseheads as a key game the team will use to show they can forge ahead without Grigorenko and overcome a nasty January.
“We played with all 20 guys and we put the effort in and paid the price,” Lefevbre said. “That’s the kind of effort we need to have success going forward.”