Here we are in late December and the offensive side of the Rochester Americans lineup has just about dried up and as of this morning the team is short on players heading into tonights game against the Lake Erie Monsters. Based on the Amerks roster that played on Sunday minus Whitmore and Foligno they have six defensemen, two goalies and ten forwards. The simple math indicates that leaves them two forwards short. As of Tuesday night there was not any news of additions to the roster.
Don Stevens had mentioned on Sunday that Shaone Morrisonn and Joe Finley were out with injuries from that game. Morrisonn was also handed a one game suspension from the American Hockey League for an elbow this past Friday against the San Antonio Rampage. It’s possible that Morrisonn was just sitting the game out ahead of the pending suspension. We should find out sometime today what the status is of Finley and Morrisonn.
There’s often talk about “man games lost” due to injuries on a team and I can’t imagine another team having a number as high as the Rochester Americans right now. The number combined between injuries and call ups (based on my late night math) is at 163 games. The Amerks have only played 29 games this season.
No one could have predicted that the top five in points on the game day roster in late December would be Mark Voakes, Jacob Lagace, TJ Brennan, Alex Biega and Phil Varone. Those five players have combined for a lousy 17 goals. Voakes only has two goals all season and Varone only has one. Evan Rankin isn’t in the top five but will be soon. Rankin has only played in 11 games and already has six goals and four assists. Voakes has 15 points in 29 games.
How did the team get to this point? All of the injuries in Buffalo but also the lack of action by Darcy Regier in adding real depth to the Amerks roster. Even when Whitmore, Foligno, Kassian, Stuart, Szczechura, Tropp and McNabb find their way back (if some ever do) there’ll still be issues with the roster. All summer myself and many other Amerks fans pointed out the lack of a deep roster that could put points on the scoreboard and it’s come true. The inevitable injury bug was bound to strike and strike hard it did. Obviously no one could have predicted it’d be this bad but it’s exposed huge holes in the roster that were predicted. Again, even with players bound to return at some point it’s still not the powerhouse roster everyone had wanted and expected.
A user by the name of Kent on the message board in late July had said, “Not only are we complaining about the Sabres not signing another scorer for Rochester but I think we need them to sign someone for Buffalo or we are going to see a heck of a lot of call ups this year. As it is the Amerks roster can’t afford to lose anyone to call up or injury, so now we could be in double trouble.”
That’s exactly what has happened, double trouble.
In late July we heard Darcy Regier say, ”We’re still looking to add some scoring in Rochester, we’ve got quite a bit of depth there. I think if we can add some scoring that’s probably the focal point.”
He never added some scoring. Since the word depth is something that has different meaning to fans of an AHL team compared to that of the NHL parent team I’ll cover both. The “quite a bit of depth” has been true by looking at how well so many players have moved from the Amerks to the Sabres and had an impact on the roster. Their has not been “quite a bit of depth” though because as the call ups have happened and the Sabres have lost so have the Amerks. Both teams are hovering on the brink of a complete disaster of a season.
What’s the solution? Build a deeper team over the summer months when AHL free agents are readily available as depth. A deeper roster of AHL veterans pushes other players down to the ECHL where they should really be playing. The Amerks roster has consisted of players from the first day that were handed roster spots instead of earning them. These guys are busting their chops every night but it’s not helping them develop into the players they could be. Instead of some players working on their scoring in the ECHL they’re struggling to score on top lines in the AHL.
Now that the season is underway the only hope is finding more players like Evan Rankin who can make the jump and be productive, guys like him aren’t easy to find. A couple weeks ago the Amerks called up Rob Bordson who was a leading scorer in the ECHL but in six games he hasn’t produced a point.
Stay tuned to see what player is called upon to fill in on the Amerks roster tonight. At least we’ll get to laugh at a new version of the 12 days of Christmas!