And Now to Blame the Panthers

January 20, 2011 - By
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On Wednesday night I wrote an article that called out the Amerks on not making a simple phone call.  A few readers agreed that they should at least make a phone call, many others said no it’s not up to the Amerks, the Panthers got us into this mess.  This all reminds me of a few years ago when the Buffalo Sabres were on the way out the door and it was a he said / she said type of thing and we seemed to learn about a lot of half truths.

So, how did we get to this point? Well, the Florida Panthers built this roster and it sucks so they ultimately deserve the blame. They had Jeff Taffe and Graham Mink under contract but dumped them. Jimmy Bonneau would’ve been great to keep around for some muscle but they didn’t want him back either. They didn’t think Jordan Henry was worth keeping and let him walk. Hard to believe that compared to this current defense he would’ve been a stand out. Also, if the Panthers suffer another injury who are they going to call up?

One could argue that if Mark Cullen did not get injured, Michael Grabner had not been claimed off waivers by the Islanders and Michael Nylander didn’t essentially break his neck the team would probably be a little different.

Unfortunately you look at the defense led by Joe Callahan and you see where the problem is.  The core defense consists of Callahan, Mike Kostka, Clay Wilson, Mike Caruso, Paul Baier, Adam Comrie and Colby Robak.  Amidst those defensemen is Clay Wilson who was asked to play more defensive and not be the natural offensive defenseman that he is.  This defense wouldn’t be intimidating against an ECHL team.

You almost feel bad for Jacob Markstrom and Tyler Plante who rarely have any help in front of the net.  Markstrom has made improvements as the season has gone on and he’s adapted but when you’re defense stinks you suffer as a goalie.  The same can be said for Plante.

Now, to the Panthers they say that the Amerks told them they were not paying any salaries this season and that per the affiliation agreement the Panthers would be supplying the roster.  Dale Tallon told the Amerks ok they had it taken care of.  So the Panthers built a roster and it stinks.

Mike Santos talks to Amerks Coach Chuck Weber many times a week so he likely gets a fair assessment of how the team is doing but why hasn’t he seen it for himself? That we know of, he’s been to Rochester once and that one time he did not make an attempt to sit with the Amerks management.  Also, he has not called Jody Gage in two months to discuss the state of the team. Why can’t he call and say hey here’s what’s going on, how about we work together to turn things around since you’ve been in the AHL so long.

Interesting to note that two months ago is when the Amerks said they would not be renewing the current agreement with the Florida Panthers.  Are the Panthers spiteful?  Who knows.  They spent to their internal budget on the Amerks and to them that is that.

The best they seemed to do was to bring in Bates Battaglia and he has done nothing on offense.  Bryan Helmer just signed with the Oklahoma City Barons and has been a monster on defense.  He certainly would have helped out this core that is suffering every game. There’s a long list of “what if” players but as evidence, the Panthers aren’t that into a winning culture in the AHL.

The end of this affiliation can’t come soon enough.  Five seasons of the Panthers in Rochester has produced absolutely nothing except some friendships between some of the players and fans.  We were warned about the Panthers days in San Antonio and as it turns out the same things have happened here with crappy teams.  Some will say the Dale Tallon era will produce better results but we can’t wait any longer. Is the season over yet?

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10 Comments on “And Now to Blame the Panthers”

  1. nafsnep says:

    Keith, I read your three articles on this and Kevin O.’s this morning and strictly from an outsiders perspective (a WBS fan) – if no affiliation agreement won’t be set in place until after the season and both sides refusing to talk to one another while the entire hockey world looks on, it makes me wonder if Florida and Rochester are just stuck with one another. I say this for a number of reasons: 1) Andrews has worked his entire career for a 30-30 NHL-AHL deal. He’s not going to not have an AHL team skate next year independently. 2) Again, from an outsider perspective, where is Florida going to go next year? San Antonio? Indy? Then what does it do to the 15-15 Eastern / Western Conference split? 3) What NHL team after seeing this with Rochester wants to partner up with the Amerks when they themselves won’t even pick the phone up and ask for help? I realize all the points that you raised that the players don’t tell the coach what time practice is, but still…

    All of these reasons, speaking purely as a casual observer to the situation and not someone with his finger on the pulse like you and Kevin, makes me wonder / believe that Florida – Rochester may just be stuck with one another, whether either side likes it or not, for the foreseeable future.

  2. VTPantherfan says:

    Keith,
    You and a number of Amerks fans aren’t being fair to the Panthers. Not inasmuch as you’re blaming them – certainly they own a share of it – but in that you’re unwilling to find fault with the Amerks’ management. You refer to the San Antonio affiliation – you do realize that the current management, coaching staff, and even controlling owners have changed since San Antonio? Indeed, the San Antonio debacle was largely a construction of Mike Keenan, and we all know what kind of a mess he makes whenever he gets his hands on a team. The Panthers didn’t have much talent in the pipeline, but Keenan’s gutting of the whole system and disposing of the majority of their minor league prospects set the Panthers back years.

    Now, you accuse the Panthers of sour grapes over the Amerks announcing that they would allow the current affiliation agreement to expire. But it isn’t the fact they announced it, it’s the fact they announced it not to the Panthers, but to the press. That suggests strongly the lines of communication were already severed, and that it was the Amerks who are not willing to pick up a phone to talk to Panthers’ management(Ted Nolan’s involvement makes me wonder if his style of dealing with people is why such a successful coach who was popular with fans and a Jack Adams winner was blacklisted by the NHL). I think ultimately the Amerks’ management wants to try to steal a local NHL team from their affiliate – the Rangers, perhaps. Isn’t their deal with Hartford coming to an end, or was that last year? Anyway, for whatever reason the Amerks management – which is a new management team, correct? They took over in the last few years, after the affiliation with the Panthers started? – hasn’t really wanted to deal with the Panthers much no matter who was in charge of that team. They didn’t want to work with Martin, Sexton, or Tallon. It didn’t matter whether it was Alan Cohen or the current controlling memeber who owned the team. It doesn’t matter who’s coaching the Panthers, nor whom the Panthers get them for a coach in Rochester. They don’t like anyone or anything about a team called the Florida Panthers. But a team name isn’t responsible, it’s the people working for it, and thus far NO ONE the Panthers have had in any position working with Rochester has been satisfactory to the Amerks, which strongly suggests it’s Rochester’s management that’s the real problem, for whatever reason they have.

    Now, I could certainly suggest they don’t like the Panthers because they’re not a deep-pocketed, big money team. Or maybe because the team has struggled for years and doesn’t have big-name prospects to draw crowds (aside from Markstrom, and that’s only this year). The big club doesn’t have a huge fanbase due to years of failure that could help boost Rochester’s fanbase by extension. There are plenty of valid reasons not to like the Panthers club from a business perspective and thus lead to Rochester’s unwillingness to extend an agreement. But ultimately the facts suggest the actual failure in the working relationship is the fault of Amerks’ management which has decided to sabotage the affiliation to try to get to the greener grass on the other side of the fence.

  3. VTPantherfan says:

    Okay, I read yesterday’s article. You’re blaming Rochester for not picking up the phone so it’s not like you’re not laying any blame at their feet. But I really think, as I posted, it’s more than “waiting for orders” – they want to paint the Panthers as villains and end the affiliation. This protects them from the wrath of their fanbase by making the Panthers into scapegoats while still allowing them to make a risky break from NHL affiliation before knowing they have another deal in place to replace them.

  4. zil says:

    The Panthers “aren’t that into a winning culture in the AHL”? From what I can tell, they aren’t that into a winning culture in the NHL, either!! Seriously, the Amerks asking the Panthers for more help right now is like asking a hemorrhaging patient to donate some blood. How can we possibly help you if we can’t even help ourselves?

  5. Mike Santos Impersonator says:

    Just a point of contention, Florida did not let Jordan Henry walk. They qualified him but he chose to go where the money was. But partially it was because he felt he would never get a chance in the NHL level by playing this season in Rochester. So he took the money and went over to the KHL.

    And keep that in mind when thinking about going independent too. Players want that nugget of possibility to play in the NHL. By being independent, you’ll have to compete against the other leagues like the KHL for talent. The KHL is going to be able to pay more for those young players that will be required to meet the development rule in the AHL (the money over there is tax-free).

  6. Keith Wozniak says:

    VTPantherfan, I like the Panthers. I want them to be successful. I also want the Amerks to be successful. Neither has happened. Both sides are to blame and I agree with the part where you said, “the fault of Amerks’ management which has decided to sabotage the affiliation to try to get to the greener grass on the other side of the fence.”

    Like I posted yesterday, the Amerks definitely should have been more aggressive but instead they decided to sit back and now that things stink they’re laying blame. The point I tried to make today was that the Panthers did build this roster and it stinks. In the end, both sides have messed up and we as fans suffer the most.

    Even when all of this is finally over I’ll still be following the Panthers.

  7. Keith Wozniak says:

    Thanks for the correction Santos Impersonator!

  8. Hawkseye says:

    I have to agree both sides are stuck with each other. This is like a marriage where they are just finishing up the divorce paperwork, but stuck living with each other for numerous reasons. one side stays on the other side of the imaginary line, until the divorce is final…But still not talking to each other.

    As already stated, both sides have fielded awful teams. The partnership has not worked, and the Panthers were never happy with the player development. Panthers will be Rochester bound next season, but will have an amicable split when both sides find new partners in 2013. The Return of the Disney Bears in Orlando 2013 perhaps?(joking, I know it was Solar Bears but here is the pitch – Disney reboots the Might Ducks Franchise into the Disney FLA Bears!)

  9. VTPantherfan says:

    Thanks for clearing up, Keith. I know a lot of Rochester fans (from comments I’ve read on a couple of boards) are buying into the notion that it’s all the Panthers’ fault – not just this roster but the whole relationship between the teams.

    Here’s more testimonial evidence grabbed from a live chat with Ted Nolan on the 18th at the Democrat and Chronicle website:
    “[Comment From Eric BourgeoisEric Bourgeois: ]

    Hey Ted! I had the chance to sit with Mike Santos for a game several weeks ago. He told me he’d be fine with you guys approaching him with someone you wanted to sign who could help the team. Why not put his word to the test and go out and grab a couple of guys before its too late? There are 38 games left – we can still make something out of this season and a nice run would give us momentum heading into the summer.”

    The reply:
    Ted Nolan: “All of the good players were signed this summer. What you are going to find are hole fillers and gap fillers and you don’t win championships by filling the holes.”

    In other words, his approach is to assume there’s nothing to be done and let the team suck, rather than proactively try to find someone available who could help the team, particularly on defense. It looks very much like the Amerks don’t WANT to be successful – at least until they ditch Florida having made them look like the bad guys.

  10. Keith Wozniak says:

    Agreed. A few disagree, many others agree. It’s a mess.