Does Buffalo care about winning in Rochester?

-Written by Jason Bonno

Buffalo Sabres management is failing the Rochester Americans. The season, which arrived amidst much hoopla with the NHL lockout, is starting to come off the rails by the middle of December, with apparently no help in sight. To the contrary, the positive is just that, it’s only the middle of December and there are 55 games remaining. However, one has to wonder if Sabres GM Darcy Regier and Kevin Devine, who oversees Amerks hockey operations, really have any pulse on what is happening to the Amerks – and if they do, do they care?

It didn’t start well on the injury front, with the Amerks losing Corey Tropp for the season during their very first game. Many fans hoped for a replacement player right away. That the Sabres management would recognize losing their top winger in the first game could be a devastating blow, especially in a league with so much talent. But nothing happened. It was understandable, especially when Brian Flynn capitalized on his new opportunity. He has, perhaps, become the Amerks’ best forward and arguably MVP to date.

However, it didn’t end there. As it seems to happen to every year to the Amerks, regardless of affiliation, the injuries began to mount. First, it was Cody Hodgson, the team’s most skilled and best player. He broke his hand on October 27th in Glens Falls. He played the following Friday at home, however it was determined he needed to immobilize the hand and he was going to be out a few weeks. Predictably, a few weeks turned into more than a month. Then it was rookie Zemgus Girgensons getting hurt, then Nick Tarnasky, Rick Schofield and finally Evan Rankin.

And that brings us to today, a day after a 4-3 loss in Toronto. An indefensible game where Sabres management let down their own team and the fans who watch them. The Amerks have lost 6 out of their last 8 games. They played this game in Toronto down a skater. A professional hockey team in the top league in North America couldn’t even dress the correct amount of skaters. Out of those 17 skaters, one was a defenseman playing at forward. That leaves the Amerks, playing one of the best teams in the league, using 10 forwards. Which goes back to the original point: The Buffalo Sabres management is failing the Rochester Americans.

This doesn’t even go into all of the other issues the Sabres have neglected. The Amerks’ defense has struggled all season long with the lack of a veteran, stay at home defenseman. It’s obvious to even the novice fan. But the Sabres have no plan to help out or add anyone. According to the Democrat and Chronicle’s Kevin Oklobzija, Kevin Devine said the Sabres had no plans for any roster changes if the NHL ends its lockout. So Amerks fans, you will lose at least Marcus Foligno and Cody Hodgson, and see absolutely no help from the parent club. So, if the lockout persists, it sounds like there will be no help to the roster, as no one will be going up to the NHL.

I am struggling to figure out how a management team can be so blind to what’s right in front of them. The Amerks are 10-9-2 sitting in 11th place in the western conference, out of a playoff spot. How can any professional team, in any league in any sport, rule out changes or additions to a mediocre team that sits outside of the playoff picture? Yes, as noted prior, it’s early in the season. But if the problems we have seen persist, it won’t make a difference. Cody Hodgson will not get the defense to tighten up or make the goalies better.

This is a parent club, the Buffalo Sabres, who said on day one when they bought the Amerks that their goal was to win a championship. Terry Pegula, Sabres owner, wrote a letter to Amerks fans stating the goal in Rochester is to win a Calder Cup. Well Mr. Pegula, what happened? Last year’s edition of the Amerks was mediocre, and snuck into the playoffs on the last day of the season. They then were swept by a much better and more talented team. This year’s edition looks to be no different. YET, we have management coming out saying they have no interest in trying to help the team out? That kind of statement should be grounds for firing and it should be offensive to every Amerks fan out there. And frankly for every fan of competitive sports in general.

Let’s contrast this by looking at the San Antonio Rampage. Two weeks ago, they had the worst record in the league. Today, they’ve won 5 out of their last 6 games. You know what else they did? The management team there, who at one time ran the Amerks, decided the team needed some help – even in the middle of a winning streak. They signed Jon Sim, one of the AHL’s best goal scorers in recent year. (55 goals in his last 89 AHL games, and a veteran of nearly 500 NHL games). They also signed defenseman Mike Mottau, who has been an NHL regular for the past 5 years. Many Amerks fans, including myself, have bad memories of the Florida Panthers for good reason. However to their credit, they are attempting to make moves to help out their AHL team. The effort is there.

I’ll end with some simple math that is puzzling and that I just can’t quite figure out. The Amerks have six injuries to forwards currently. The amount of forwards the Sabres have brought in to help Rochester? Zero. Not a single player brought in. Not from the ECHL, not from free agency and not even their own “prospects” playing at lower levels like Shawn Szydlowski and Jacob Lagace. Some forwards are expected to return the next game. But that’s irrelevant. It’s downright shameful that Darcy Regier and Kevin Devine would allow this to happen for even one game. So we come back to one very simple point that’s becoming quite obvious: Buffalo Sabres management is failing the Rochester Americans.

2 thoughts on “Does Buffalo care about winning in Rochester?”
  1. I agree that if the lockouts ends, and the Sabres don’t do anything, that would be a cause for concern. However, I don’t think the lockout will end. Also, I am willing to wait and see exactly what they do before I criticize Buffalo. And keep in mind, every team in the AHL is going to lose guys. Every team will suffer in some way. The league as a whole will not be as talented. I suspect guys like Brian Flynn, Frederick Roy, Mark Pysyk, and Gergensons all get much, much better (not to mention vets like Macari, Porter, and Tarnasky). Also, you’re forgetting that Sabres management has been able to find “hidden gems” like Rankin and Flynn. How do you know they won’t scoop up someone like that again? I think too many people want the Sabres to go out and make some blockbuster signing if the lockout ends. But this is the AHL, not the NHL, and if they can scoop up another Flynn or Rankin (or even Roy), I’d be thrilled.

    What I like what Sabres management is the young players they have found. I recall reading message board posts (on this site) that crucified Sabres management for not signing someone like Derek Whitmore to replace Corey Tropp. I read tons of posts where people bashed Brian Flynn. I’ll Flynn ANY DAY over Whitmore, thank you very much!

    You say we need a defenseman. Well, Gaiuthier-Leduc is getting better and better. No, I am not saying is a world-beater right now, but I see him turning into a very solid player (that’s improving everyday). I agree that McNabb is underachieving, and that needs to change.

    You credited Florida for some recent additions they made to San Antonio. If you’re suggesting Florida is a better parent club than Buffalo, you are flat OUT OF YOUR MIND.

    Yes, the Amerks have a ton of injuries. But all the guys are expected back very soon (some are already back). Be thankful these injuries are occurring now, and not at the end of the season. You suggested the Amerks sign someone like Jacob Legace to fill in for the injured players (instead of the defensemen playing forward). Let me ask you this – do you really think Lagace would have lifted the Amerks (without Hodgson and others) over Toronto? I feel that if they bring in Legace, some people would complain and say, “Oh it’s just Legace. He stinks. We need Whitmore or Hamel.”

    I think the Amerks are playing bad right now, but it’s early, and they have injuries. I think the talent is there. Are they perfect? No, but who is? We have CODY HODGSON! Do you know how many AHL teams would KILL for talent like this. Yes, he is injured – GET OVER IT. He’ll be back this weekend. And MARCUS FOLIGNO! Do you know how awesome that is? Also, Brian Flynn, TJ Brennan, Evan Rankin, Mark Pysyk, and even Frederick Roy are fun to watch. And you’re praising Florida?!?!?! COME ON!

    Look – are the Amerks and Sabres management perfect? No. But I think some people need to take a chill pill. The team is slumping mainly because of injuries. All teams go through this at one point or another.

  2. The Amerks are too young – that is not up for debate. 2nd youngest team in the AHL with only 2 vets by definition. The young coaching staff could really use another veteran winger and Dman.

    Young teams don’t win cups.

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