One of the biggest challenges for the Rochester Americans is an inconsistent effort in games they have the chance to win (like Friday night against the Abbotsford Heat) which can be attributed to young players and the expectations of players to put in a lot of ice time. The result? The Amerks have lost 15 combined games due to a one goal margin. That breaks down to six in regulation, six in overtime and three in the shootout. Considering the fact that the Amerks are only four points behind the division leading Toronto Marlies we can see how even a few more wins would put the season in a different light right now.
Assuming the Amerks had found a way to win at least half of those 15 losses they’d be the division leaders and be considered one of the top teams in the league in the standings. Add seven wins to the 20 that the Amerks currently have and they’d be tied with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and one win behind the league leading St Johns IceCaps who’re at 28 wins.
That’s a great way to look at things with the glass is half full attitude considering the injuries and call ups that have had an impact on the roster all season. The inconsistencies are discouraging at times but the team shows up just about every night and does what they can. There’s only been a few games that have been complete disasters, a nice change from the previous five years.
So, what if Michael Ryan had been healthy all season and playing? He’s a great skater and puck mover but it’s still a big what if since he’s never played more than 59 games in a season and the last time he did that was in the 2004/2005 season with only 11 goals and 11 assists.
What if Darcy Regier had spent the time to find a different veteran scorer instead of a guy that’s been hindered by injuries his whole career?
There were trades made in the minor leagues on Friday that saw players move between the Hershey Bears, Adirondack Phantoms, Lake Erie Monsters, Connecticut Whale and Houston Aeros. You can see them here and here.
The Hershey Bears are already one of the top teams in the league and they just got better adding defenseman Kevin Marshall. A top team finding a way to get better yet teams just getting by are still just getting by. According to GM’s though it’s not easy to make a trade yet somehow many often find a way.
Heck, even the Florida Panthers have made trades this season to improve the San Antonio Rampage. The Rampage by the way are at the same level in the standings than the Amerks. I’m not saying that we should’ve kept the Panthers as an affiliate BUT they sure are showing more care for their AHL team as the season goes on.
So, what’re the Buffalo Sabres doing to help this Rochester Americans team? Where’s Darcy? It’s hard to believe there isn’t anyone out there willing to make some sort of move to add some offense. There’s an abundance of defensemen, does no one want one? They could have easily sent Zack Kassian and Luke Adam down to play on Thursday and if needed brought them back to fly with the Sabres to Long Island. It would’ve given both a chance to play and the Amerks a quick boost. Granted neither were needed in hindsight on Thursday for the win but that’s not the point. Kassian may not even play tonight against the Islanders.
Looking at the injuries…
Colin Stuart has been out since mid December and should be back within two weeks. Before he was called up and injured with the Buffalo Sabres he had 8G+9A in 25 games. He’s good for a goal and assist almost every other game. That type of guaranteed goal scoring is what this team needs. Once Stuart is back in the lineup we should see some things improve.
Put Zack Kassian in the lineup for the game on Friday night and he may have been able to find an additional way to get the puck to the net. He’s received some heat lately for his lack of physical play but on the scoring front it’s something he continues to do. He could have easily played Friday night and then hopped on a flight to Long Island to be available as an extra if needed.
Once Even Rankin returns we can only hope that he returns the same way he started with being a top scorer on the team. Recovering from a concussion could set him back in terms of conditioning and attitude towards taking the puck to the net. The hope is within the next couple of weeks he’ll be back as well but with concussions we’ve all learned that a set back can occur at anytime.
Speaking of set backs, that’s where Corey Tropp is right now. When the season started for Tropp he played in 10 games for the Amerks and scored 4G+3A which earned him the early season call up to the Sabres.
What if Luke Adam was sent down to get some more playing time and gain that confidence he seems to be missing? The affiliation only being an hour away is supposed to be a benefit. Well, it’s benefiting the Sabres and players getting to their NHL paycheck with less travel but the distance isn’t being utilized by the Sabres to help players get some playing time.
There’s also TJ Brennan who’s still up with the Sabres and out with a concussion. The Amerks defense has struggled at times recently and could use him on the blue line both defensively and for his scoring touch.
It could also be easy to call out players in the lineup currently that are not producing but at the same time they’ve been put in positions they may not be best qualified for. Some of these guys would benefit from time in the ECHL to play at a different level, score and work on their game to bring it back but that hasn’t been possible.
The Amerks have 30 games remaining on the schedule (including tonight February 4, 2012) and are only four points behind the Toronto Marlies for the division lead, the only guaranteed playoff spot. They’re currently tied for the last playoff spot in the conference and within seven points of fourth place. The season has been frustrating at times but it’s easy to see how a couple of healthy players and possible a roster move or two could change things from biting our nails in close game losses to exciting wins like on Thursday night.
Of course, just as player get healthy it’s likely that others would get injured and we’d be back to the top of the discussion.
Amerks are on the road against the Syracuse Crunch tonight at 7:30pm. The Crunch embarrassed the Amerks with a 4-0 win last Friday.