A (Very Early) Look at the Amerks’ (Potential) 2013-14 Roster
I’m not exactly sure what Darcy Regier has planned for the Amerks next season. And let’s be honest here, neither do you. As much as we want to be entirely “doom and gloom” about their chances next season, it’s simply much too soon to be declaring the season an utter failure. Remember, it is currently July 10 and the Amerks’ season doesn’t begin until sometime around October 4 (their home opener). Let’s take a look and see who they’ve lost and gained since free agency began on July 5.
I compiled a list of players who played (or could have played) for the Amerks during the 2012-13 season (minus Chad Ruwhedel). I did, however, leave out a few players who signed PTOs and played fewer than 10 games. Those players will likely not be part of the Amerks in the future, so there is no sense in considering them. (Note: The teams are listed in descending order of games played.)
Since the beginning of free agency the organization has lost the following players.
The loss of Riley Boychuk barely deserves any sort of mention. He played 26 games with the Amerks in 2011-12 and registered 2 assists, 18 PIM, and an even +/- rating. Mostly he played in the ECHL and CHL (Central Hockey League), so this isn’t a tremendous loss for the Amerks, or even the Sabres.
Nick Tarnasky had a career year this past season, as he set new career highs in both goals (16) and points (26). In addition to scoring, Tarnasky also brought a physical aspect to the team that had been sorely lacking in the previous season. He also entertained the pro-fighting contingent with several heavyweight bouts. While I’m not normally a fan of fighting, I will say that I enjoyed the way he played the game. I would have gladly taken him back on the team.
The Amerks also lost their leading scorer in Mark Mancari. This is probably the biggest blow to a team that lacked scoring depth at times during the season (and playoffs). Will Regier be able to find someone to replace the scoring Mancari brought? We shall see.
The Amerks have also lost another fan favorite in Evan Rankin. I can’t say that I know of a single fan who didn’t like Rankin. Then again, perhaps I converse with the right people and haven’t discovered any of his detractors yet. This is yet another big loss for the Amerks on offense.
Adam Pardy did a good job filling the void left by Joe Finley after Finley was lost on waivers to the Islanders. Without him the most veteran defenseman on the team was Alex Biega. That’s not to insult Biega, of course, as the two made a decent defensive pair for the Amerks. It would have been nice to see him return, but like most players he was looking to play in the NHL.
The Sabres’ depth on defense pretty much pushed Alex Biega out of the organization as he too was looking for a shot at the NHL. He will likely have a better chance in the Canucks’ organization at that shot than he would in the Sabres’. I would have liked to see him return, but it was not to be.
What can I say about David Leggio? He’s been a fan favorite for the last two seasons, as well as the team’s MVP during that time. While the loss of Leggio hurts the Amerks, the fact of the matter is that there just isn’t room for him in the organization. Would I have liked to keep him around? Absolutely. The trouble you have, however, is that Ryan Miller is in the last year of his contract and the Sabres are a team that is in rebuild mode. This likely means that Regier saw more value in getting Matt Hackett playing time this season than having him sit as Leggio’s backup. Could they have kept Leggio around with the promise that he would be Enroth’s backup if/when Miller leaves? Possibly. However, it seems that Regier may not see Leggio as an NHL goaltender other than occasional injury call up. This mostly seems like a move to get the younger guys more playing time.
Since the start of free agency, the organization (at least as far as the Amerks are concerned) has gained Mike Zigomanis (C) and Alex Lepkowski (LHD). The former spent last season with the Toronto Marlies, and the latter was a former Sabres’ draft pick from 2011 (5th round, 137th overall) who has spent the last few seasons with the OHL’s Barrie Colts. I will say that the acquisition of Zigomanis is quite nice, but he is only one piece of the puzzle. Both of these players are on AHL contracts.
Barring offer sheets or trades, it’s safe to say that the RFAs will either be in Rochester or Buffalo next season. There are some players, like Cody Hodgson, who will definitely be in Buffalo. Other guys, like Brian Flynn and Luke Adam, will likely depend on their preseason performance. Personally, I think Corey Tropp is in the AHL to start the season. Had he not been injured last season, I think he would have been a lock for Buffalo.
Of the UFAs listed above, I wouldn’t mind seeing Schiestel brought back. Even that is a stretch at this point.
The question, now, is whether or not a few other players will make the roster in Buffalo. Originally I had Rasmus Ristolainen as starting the season in Rochester, but credible people have said that he will likely either be back in SM-Liiga (Finnish Elite League) or in the NHL. However, confirmation of this is still necessary. Take the table below as an assessment of what the Amerks could potentially have based on the remaining RFAs and signed players.
I debated putting Andrey Makarov in the table above. Ultimately I chose to include him, but he is still eligible for an overage year in the CHL. He could turn pro this season, but I think it’s ultimately going to depend on how he performs during development camp as well as training camp. I’m assuming that Mark Pysyk sticks in the NHL this season and that they demote Chad Ruwhedel to the AHL. This might be a stretch, but this is only my (likely incorrect) assessment.
So where does this leave the Amerks in terms of the depth at each position?
The players I listed above give the Amerks a fairly bare bones roster. While they do have enough defensemen to get by, I’m not certain that I want to see some of them playing on a nightly basis. Then again, I’m not a coach or a GM. Regier needs to do something about adding defensemen, especially veteran defensemen. You’ll also notice that the wings, particularly the left wing, are rather weak. Based on what we’ve seen for the past few seasons, it’s entirely likely that some of the first-year centers may start the season playing left or right wing. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a couple more veterans who have a history of scoring. I’ll leave the goalie position to be determined at a later date.
I know it’s early yet, and that there will likely be additional signings, but from what I’ve seen thus far it appears that Regier may be looking to play as many prospects as possible. (Which is not something that is unheard of in the AHL. Development is what the league is for.) While one can certainly hope that prospects such as Joel Armia can fill the scoring void left by the losses of Mark Mancari and Evan Rankin, but I think that might be expecting too much. The off-season is still young, so we shall see how things turn out as it progresses.
In ??? we trust.