Tonight the Amerks kick off 2008 as aÂ yearÂ with aÂ lof of uncertaintyÂ as they head out on the road with a game against the division leadingÂ Toronto Marlies.
In the month of December the Amerks went 1-12 while tying a team record with 10 consecutive losses.Â They also finished the first 3 months of the season in last place in the Division, Conference, and 2nd to last in the league.
Statistically the Amerks still have the potential to climb out of the basement and back into playoff contention, or least prove they won’t be ranked amongst one of the worst Amerks team in history.Â In November they went 7-4 and were playing .500 hockey.
The skid started just after reports came that the Sabres were officially going to split from the Amerks at the end of the 07/08 season.Â Officials from the city of Rochester also indicated they would not negotiate renewing the lease beyond this season until after Rochester Sports Group figures out there financial issues and get things on solid ground.
The uncertainties include ownership, affiliation, the young team, coaching, and the lack of a lease with Blue Cross Arena beyond this season.
The Amerks, who are owned by Rochester Sports Group, require new investment to keep the team off of the brink of bankrupcty.Â Steve Donner has said that he has potential investors lined up.Â The Buffalo Sabres have also shown interest in purchasing the franchise, which on paper seems logical, but that would not be in the best interest for a successful Amerks team.
Beyond new investment and or ownership comes the need for an NHL affiliate that not only cares about the development of there own prospects but also the success of the Amerks to be able to win.Â The Sabres have said they are through as an affiliate with current ownership.Â The Panthers have shown interest in sticking around.
The current Amerks team is also one of the youngest in the league, and ever as a franchise.Â The biggest issue with a young team is the lack of leadership and guidance by veterans who have been around for a while.Â When the team wentÂ 7-4 in November it was almost appearing as though the young team was going to pull a decent season together.
Which brings us to coaching, Randy Cunneyworth has done a great job developing players and producing a winning team consistently making the playoffs in his time here, but has failed to win a championship.Â It was widely reported in the off season that he was interviewed for various positions around the NHL but in the end returned back to Rochester.Â All of which makes us wonder if his heart is in it this season.
While issues off the ice are never supposed to be an issue on the ice, there’s no denying those things are a factor.Â The current Amerks team is young, split, and completely uncertain about where any of them will be living and playing next year.Â Tough for any young 20 year old to put to the back of there mind.Â Which raises the question, if there was an older player or two around to help these guys out, would things be diferent?
Which brings up the last issue, there is no lease agreement betweenÂ Rochester SportsÂ Group and Blue Cross Arena beyond the end of this season.Â The City has said they won’t negotiate based on the current financial issues.
So, as today is the second day of 2008 and the Amerks struggle to get through the season, we a have an uncertain year ahead of us rather than a year of hope.
Let’s hope that when we end 2008 we can take a look back and say that everything worked out well and the Amerks are the #1 sports team in Rochester again.