Maybe Something Happened When Mike York Went on Leave

The Rochester Americans don’t believe that it’s time to hit the panic button but the media and alot of the fans do.  Who is right in this situation?  It’s an interesting debate going on in Rochester right now.  The roster of veterans and prospects that everyone wanted for the perfect environment was given to us by the Amerks and Florida Panthers.  Everything seemed to be going very well with the Amerks winning 18 out of their first 22 games but then something strange happened, Mike York left the lineup.

Mike York last played on December 2nd in the Amerks road loss to the Manitoba Moose, since then his whereabouts have been pretty much kept a secret.  At first it was a personal leave.  Then he returned and skated in a few practices.  Then it was knee surgery, which he should be returning from at any time now.

Was Mike York really the leader behind this team that helped control the locker room and generate plays on the ice?  Or did his situation create a divide in the locker room that sent morale into a downward spiral?  Chances are we will never know but one thing is obvious, things have not been the same since then.

There have been a lot of other factors involved like injuries and players being called up to Florida but all of that has settled down yet we’re still hearing the same tired excuse from the coach that it’s not having a full roster.  The Hamilton Bulldogs had three of their top players called up on Friday but they still found a way to dominate the game.  The Amerks have rarely dominated a game since early in the season.

Going back to Mike York, is it all a coincidence or has that whole situation toppled this team?

If I had to make a guess I would say that there is a company line that has been issued by either management (I doubt) or the coach (more likely) and everyone is sticking with the script.  The comments have all been the same recently.  The bounces.  The rebounds.  The injuries.  The call ups.  The game plan.

What happened to dedication, hard work, passion, grinding, hitting, fighting, and pride of being a Rochester American?

The only thing noticeable lately is frustration.

On Friday night at the end of the first period the fans up in the balcony were yelling like they always do and I saw a player on the ice look up at them and yell a few choice words.  Those words instead should be directed to the rest of the team who decided to not show up and play.  Another player a couple of weeks ago also yelled some comments back up to the balcony.  It’s not a good sign when players have become so frustrated at fans for voicing their opinions about the obvious.

Shawn Matthias was regularly booed last season but he never went that far.  He knew he was not performing that well and had to work harder.  At the end of the season he even nicely asked those fans if they were going to stop.

The looks on players as they leave the ice and the locker room used to be one of excitement but it’s now turned to frowns like they dislike showing up to work and just want to go home.  The comments are the same.  Everyone is frustrated but even though they’re frustrated they (the coach and players) don’t want to hit the panic button, even though the media and the fans have hit it for them.

It all comes back to early December when Mike York left the lineup and the team that arrived back in Rochester after a six game road trip was not the same one that left.  Was it York?  Did something happen between York and Benoit Groulx?  If something did happen, it seems as if whatever it was create a divide between the players and the coach.

I will say one thing, no one is talking publicly and for probably for good reason.  Does a minor league player really want to speak his mind to the media and risk his career in some way because times are not the best?  Probably not.  But, shouldn’t that be the job of one of the veterans to speak up and take control?

Florida Panthers General Manager Randy Sexton was in Rochester on Thursday to talk about how things are going and to talk about the future with Amerks management, hopefully they are seeing and reading the same things the rest of us are.

The professional hockey players and professional coaches say everything is fine, just a few bad games here and there.  One last thing to consider, maybe Kevin Oklobzija and myself are completely wrong.  I would love to be wrong, but when the rest of those in attendance agree with us I think we’re on to something.

Maybe Mike York will come back and everything will be perfect again like it was in October and November?  Who knows.

The Amerks face off against the Binghamton Senators later tonight at 7:05pm EST.  I’ll try and get the chat room up and running right around there and will post messages to Rochester Sports Fan, Twitter, and Facebook.

A big win would be awesome, it still wouldn’t change how this season has progressed.