One week ago today we were mentally preparing for game 7 against the Abbotsford Heat and hoping for a legendary game. It certainly turned out to be a legendary game, unfortunately not in favor of the Amerks. As sports fans, it’s the type of loss that will live with us forever until another Calder Cup is won. Until that happens next season, there’s still a number of things to discuss about the one that just ended and I’ll start by grading each of the players.
Thanks to Eric Bourgeois (frequent reader, supporter and die hard Amerks fan) who contributed to this. There’s a couple things I disagreed with him on and noted. You may agree or disagree yourself on a lot of things said and I’d love to hear your thoughts. These grades are based on a lot more than just a stat sheet.
Starting with highest grade to lowest:
Jason Garrison: A-
— He’ll have a full time job in the NHL soon enough. Eric had him listed as a B+ but I gave him an upgrade. The Amerks defense had issues all season and without Garrison in the lineup for the post season (2g+7a) things may have been worst. Once he masters his shot from the point and can use it more effectively he’ll have a long career ahead of him.
Mike York: B+
— He was the heart and soul of this team and his play making was dazzling. The Amerks were a better team when he was in the lineup than when he was not. His skill for feeding the perfect pass or stepping out from behind the net to score a goal were always highlight reel material. Can’t give an A due to the fact that he disappeared for two months out of the lineup. It doesn’t really matter anymore if something more than knee surgery happened but when he left the Amerks ability to win disappeared as well.
Jimmy Bonneau: B+
— It seemed like a huge mistake when the Amerks released him after the first game of the season but they quickly called him back. Jimmy did everything that was asked of him throughout the season. His span of four fights in x games with Jon Mirasty was a memorable moment of the season. He proved he could stand toe to toe with anyone and also play a regular shift on the ice without being a liability. He does not strike fear into the eyes of opponents, but they know he’s there and will have to answer to him. When Steve MacIntyre arrived his role sort of faded, but I’d love to see him back in an Amerks uniform again.
Jordan Henry: B+
— Led team in +/- and really came into his own offensively. However, sometimes plays too offensive. He appeared to have a conflicting style of play this season between trying to be offensive but at times not being defensive. He’s a bonafide NHL prospect that deserves to get a look over other players. He’s a leader on the ice but also from the bench. Very few players were as vocal as him on the bench. I upgraded him from Erics score of a B to a B+ because he played in 76 regular season games and was more consistent than any other defenseman.
Chris Taylor: B
— He needs to be a player-assistant with a reduced role next season. Maybe 40-50 games. Looked gassed in the playoffs. I say he gets 40 points in 40 games playing rested. Could be more of an asset in the playoffs rested too. Taylor was the only player other than Jamie Johnson to play in all 80 games, something Taylor would probably say he was fine with. At the start of the season he was often making great plays at the right times to win games but that magic faded as the season went on.
Jeff Taffe: B
— Scoring 28 goals and 28 assists were a huge part of the Amerks offense all season but still less than what he produced the year before with the WB/S Penguins. He’s more of a play maker than a goal scorer but scoring goals is what was expected of him in Rochester. Expecting something out of a player that he is not is a great way to screw with the way he plays. Taffe is on a one way contract with the Panthers for the 10/11 season which means unless they send him through waivers he may not be back.
Shawn Matthias: B
— The only game he’ll ever play again in Rochester should be with the Florida Panthers when they play their preseason game here in October against the Boston Bruins. He’s an NHL player and when matched up with better players he steps his game up. Playing on a third line in the AHL was slowing his career progression.
Jamie Johnson: B
— Played in all 80 games for the Amerks through the good times and the bad times. He’s consistently productive and plays hard. If he had been more of an offensive threat in the playoffs his score would have been higher. He’s the type of player you’d love to have on your team every season if he stays as productive. He has clearly stated he would not return next season as he pursues his goal of playing in the NHL.
David Brine: B
— He is what he is – a checking center. He’s good on draws and the penalty kill. He showed promise as an NHL player when he played in nine NHL games in the 07/08 season but since then has played to the calibre of being an AHL’er. He’s not considered a veteran yet 245 career AHL+ regular season games. He’ll earn a job somewhere but it’ll be somewhere else, not playing for the Panthers or Amerks.
Graham Mink: B
— A back injury in a game against the Hershey Bears cost him an A, but he’s the type of guy you build this team around…not the guy you scratch for a game 7. BIG, Plays hard, fights, scores, good around the net and in the room. Goalies hate when Mink is in front of them because of his size. He may not get a real chance in the NHL but he enjoys playing in the AHL and if the Amerks can continue giving him a great experience here he could stick around fora while.
Steve MacIntyre: B
– Knocked down Mirasty, Knocked OUT Yablonski, took out the Heat bench. He is THE deterrent in Hockey. Don Cherry says he’s the best heavyweight in hockey. Eric said he was not appreciated here AT ALL. I think it just took some time for fans to realize players are literally afraid of him and did not want to ever fight. Players do feel safer knowing he’s around. When he’s given the chance he can look somewhat decent in a semi-regular shift.
Maxime Gratchev: B
— He was inserted into the lineup and did not have the luxury of really knowing players since he only played in 13 games. Gave us much needed speed, would be an excellent depth signing for next season. There may not be room in the lineup every game for him but having him on standby with the Florida Everblades would be a great thing.
Daniel Steiner: B
— The guy can produce, but due to the vet rule there may not be room for him in Rochester. When Mike York was out of the lineup Steiner was vital to this team. If he decides to stay in North America next season he’ll likely be invited to an NHL camp somewhere and should be a leader on an AHL team.
Kenndal McArdle: B
— Will Florida re-sign him, will he be healthy? Is he the 10-11 version of Tanner Glass? Has to play physical to be effective, but gets injured playing that style. Tanner Glass recovered from similar injuries and spent the season playing in the NHL, the same should happen with McArdle. If he would’ve been healthy all season he likely would have earned an A.
John de Gray: B
— He’s going to be the “enemy” next season playing in Syracuse. He’s a solid defensive defenseman that got better as the season went on and was reliable to not give up the puck. He needs to learn to use his body more than just the long reach of his stick, in other words he seemed to play too nice sometimes. He was a quality player to get on loan from the Ducks when the defense was really hurting.
Tyler Plante: B
— A solid AHL goalie. He would make a nice veteran goalie to have around, especially with his fire. He needs to be given the chance to play or he seems to get rusty. He protects his crease and is not afraid to get physical or allow the physical part of the game to get to him mentally. The Panthers have a logjam of top goalie prospects coming in (Cheverie, Markstrom and Salak) so his time may be over due to the numbers, not his skill. Watch out for him to come back and haunt the Amerks like David Shantz did this season.
Jason Cipolla: C+
— A lot of people questioned how he became an assistant coach in the AHL but he has done a good job with what he has had to work with. It’s been widely discussed the issues players seemed to have with Benoit Groulx but no one had any issues with Cipolla. He was the coach on the ice with players well after practices had officially ended. He was constantly working with players and always talked with players during games. Eric had given him a much lower score, but I think Cipolla did the best he could do with what he had to work with and even possibly allowed to do.
Evgeny Dadonov: C+
— He becomes invisible, but was only a rookie AND in a foreign country. He will continue to become a better player and probably needs to be put on the same line as players with more speed. Playing with Graham Mink and Chris Taylor will teach you a lot, but those two are not the fastest. He needs to work on his ability to carry the puck through the neutral zone. He will be better next season and should grow into an NHL player.
Clay Wilson: C+
— He was one of the top scoring defensemen in the AHL this season and a great power play QB but his size in the defensive zone was often an issue. He’s a small player and was never afraid to stand up to another player but was easily overpowered. He made costly turnovers that resulted in the other team scoring, something often overlooked because he would make an offensive play to make people forget. Even though we gave him a C+ I would have no problems seeing him in an Amerks uniform again. The Panthers saw enough interest to offer him a two way NHL contract and he deserved the call up which he finally got at the end of the season to try and show something more.
Michal Repik: C+
— Invisible in the playoffs and down the stretch. Can’t sustain a good game over the course of a full season. Eric said he can’t envision him being in the NHL at this point. I disagree. I think he’s like Shawn Matthias and he’ll play better in a better league. His development may have been hindered due to the number of veterans that seemed to get more ice time than he did.
Mike Duco: C+
— When he plays like like Mike Duco is supposed to play he could be an energy NHL’er. When he doesn’t play physical he isn’t worthy of an AHL roster spot. When he did play physical he was a force on the ice and the type of player that other teams are frustrated by and fans love. Some games he played with that force and energy, many he did not.
Rory Fitzpatrick: C
— He had a horrible end to his career but looking at the bigger picture it’ll just be a small note. He played okay for the most part when he was healthy and could play. Someone players relied on for assistance on and off the ice. If anyone could predict injuries he never would have been signed but in theory it was the right decision to sign him.
Luke Beaverson: C
— A reliable defenseman when others are injured but he’s likely going elsewhere. He’s got the size but too much depth hurt his chances to really try and move up the rankings. Some time in the ECHL playing full time will help him try and get noticed by someone else.
Michael Caruso: C
— He was never bad but was never great either. He struggled in the middle of season. Definitely not a top prospect anymore. Maybe not a prospect anymore? You’re either a vet contributor or a true prospect. Caruso could turn out to be the type of defenseman that suffered from not having a solid defensive coaching staff. He’s not a player you’re worried about having in the lineup but he’s also not a game changer.
Alexander Salak: C-
— There’s two ways people will look at Salak, one way would be off of the stat sheet and the other would be for those who saw him play. He was near the top of the league with 29 wins and only 14 losses but he needs help. As the season went on he was not an AHL goalie. His desire to compete gets him hot and is something to build on but that desire also seemed to have an impact on his game, unlike Tyler Plante. Salak was new to North America and started off the season on a streak but opposing teams quickly figured him out. He was easy to get out of position and score goals on. If he would have had a goalie coach working with him all season instead of about 10 days total he probably would have been much better.
Victor Oreskovich: D
— Is it effort with him? History suggests it is. He was physical the last 2 games, and shows signs of promise, but was not consistent and not offensive at all after the first 5 games of the regular season. After taking two years off it was probably too quick for the Florida Panthers to call him up and rely on him for half the season. Once his productivity slowed he was sent back down and he never had that fire and passion he had at the start of the season. If they had allowed him to continue playing in the AHL and building upon his game he may not have regressed as the season went on.
Keaton Ellerby: D
— He has regressed. That is not arguable. Defensively he’s a huge liability (and he doesn’t posses a Wilson type of offense). Unless you’ve watched him play on a regular basis you’ll probably disagree with this grade. His avoiding a hit to gain the red line on an icing in game 7 was the type of play that took momentum away from the team. A horrible giveaway in game 6 that the Heat turned into a goal was a play that costs the Amerks the series. It’s not entirely his fault, but it could be argued that the Amerks were worst defensively with him on the ice. The scouting reports from Juniors questioned him, and now we have our own questions.
Peter Aston: D
— He was a warm body that knew how to play defense when someone else was called up or injured. Players spoke highly of him in the locker room but will never be a top six defenseman in the AHL.
Andrew Sweetland: D
— One of the most baffling comments ever was when Benoit Groulx said he was the best player on the ice after a game. It’s amazing to think he played in 51 games this season. If the Panthers had thought so highly of him they should have had him playing in the ECHL to improve his offensive game, not playing on the fourth line in the AHL.
Benoit Groulx: F
— After what many felt was a terrific rookie season where he never made excuses, team played hard, and he said all the right things…this year everything fell apart. After a hot start where we still were playing subpar some nights, we had many injuries and recalls and when the players came back nothing clicked. Line juggling, no emotion (almost took a nap as Mirasty attacked the Amerks bench), getting out-adapted by an always in motion Playfair in the playoffs are all examples of why he had a terrible season. Rumors of players not respecting him have turned out to be true as exit interviews with Johnson and Fitzpatrick indicate. His willingness to yank a goalie is a strength, but his decision to go with Salak in game1 may have cost us a sweep. His decision to sit a winner with proven playoff experience in Mink was as bizarre a move as I’ve ever seen by a coach. Him not sitting down with Fitzpatrick and explaining his scratching in Game 1 was wrong. For all this – he needs to be removed as head coach of the Rochester Americans. His lack of awareness and poor communication aren’t helping us win a cup, sell seats….nor is it helping Florida develop players.
Other players worth noting but never really played enough to be given a grade…
— He’s not a goal scorer, he’s not a great passer and he’s not really a physical player. What role does that leave him to fill?
— 2 stints, 10 games…represented us well. I wanted to give both he and Andrew Lord kudos for helping out this season. Lord took a lot of punches the week he was here, and deserves a look in September. If guys like Carlson, King and Delory were signed for depth than players like Lord and Hartlieb deserve to be kept on speed dial in times of need.
— Just what the doctor ordered. A young angry D not afraid to hit, punch or slash. I want him here next season. Florida ought to think about signing him even… not just us. At the end of the 08/09 season I said the same thing about Matt Duffy and he never really progressed, but certainly worth keeping around as he could become one of those rare finds.
— A solid defenseman for depth in times of need but never really continued on the same path he had at the end of the 08/09 season. He may have been another casualty of depth.
— He’s a 7th defensemen in the NHL. He has the toughness for the position. He didn’t get a grade as he was really only seen in the playoffs and even then it seemed as if he was still favoring his ankle at times which may have slowed him a bit. He seems to want to play in the NHL more than the AHL which is fine, but not the type of distraction needed from a player here next season.