Amerks’ 2013-14 Season Preview
The puck hits the ice at 7:30 PM NDT on Friday between the Providence Bruins and St. John’s IceCaps marking the first meaningful AHL hockey game in 107 days, 21 hours, and 39 minutes. That’s right folks, it’s been that long since the Grand Rapids Griffins defeated the Syracuse Crunch in Game 6 of the Calder Cup Finals to win their first Calder Cup in the team’s 12 year AHL history*. It’s only fitting, then, that the last team to win a Calder Cup game, and the first team eliminated from the Calder Cup playoffs open their seasons together. The Rochester Americans will be looking to make the playoffs for the third time in as many years; only this time they hope to avoid the bitter disappointment of their last two trips to the Calder Cup Playoffs. After the jump you’ll find a breakdown of who is on the Amerks’ roster and some thoughts on their depth.
I’ve compiled a list of players who I know for a fact are currently on the Amerks’ roster. I’m sure there are a few palyers I’m missing, but I haven’t been able to find an official list of training camp attendees. With that said, here is a positional breakdown of the players known to be at camp.
I’ve attempted to rank the players as I think they fall on the depth chart. Although I’m not quite familiar enough with some of them to make an accurate guess of how the lines will look, I would say that my lines and defense pairings wouldn’t look too dissimilar from this. It’s important to note that although Tim Schaller has been skating, he’s not quite ready to play. By the way, stealing Mike Zigomanis from the Toronto Marlies was a GREAT move by Darcy Regier. The Amerks have desperately needed a guy who can do what he does. Win faceoffs. Yes, I know faceoffs don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
The Amerks should be okay in most of the positions, but there are a few where I think they lack depth. That’s not to say that they don’t have bodies to fill the role, it’s mostly that the bodies filling those roles may not be all that good. I think that’s particularly the case with the right wing position. Outside of Jamie Tardiff, you have a rookie and three 4th line/ECHL players. Will any of them be able to step up and produce?
Much has been said in some circles about the Amerks’ lack of a tough guy, but I don’t think that’s going to be a problem, as there are players on the roster who aren’t afraid to drop the gloves if needed. While I’m personally not a fan of fighting, players like to know that they have someone on their team to watch their back. Personally, I’d rather have guys on the team who can do more than just fight. I think the only player on the team who may not fit that criteria is Johnny McGuire. We shall see if this is accurate or not.
The goalie position should be the most interesting (Read as: terrifying) situation. Outside of Hackett, the most two probable backups (Knapp and Lieuwen) are a combined 2-8-?-1 in 11 appearances.** Makarov is still eligible for to play another year in the WHL, but no decision has been made regarding his future (at least that I’m aware of) as of writing this. I think that Lieuwen might win this battle, but we shall see. Note: I say the goaltending situation is terrifying, only because we haven’t seen enough out of any of these goalies (save Hackett) to know how they would handle the starting role if/when Hackett is called up due to injury or trades. This position could quickly become problematic if either of those were to occur.
As far as the defense is concerned, I don’t think they’re too bad off. However, there are still some players who are questionable, particularly Gauthier-Leduc. It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone when I say he really needs to work on the defensive side of his game. That’s not to say that the offensive side of his game couldn’t use some work as well, but if you’re a defensemen you should at least act like you can play defense. I haven’t seen that yet, but what do I know?
I know I’m focusing entirely too much on one team, but what really needs to change is their performance against the Marlies. Over the past two seasons the Amerks are 0-6-0 against them in the playoffs and 4-11-4-1 against them in the regular season. I don’t need to tell you just how awful that is. They are certainly welcome to continue their domination of the Crunch (13-6-0-1), but the performances against the Marlies absolutely must change. There has been a great deal of turnaround on both teams, including the Marlies losing their coach Dallas Eakins to the Oilers, but there are still plenty of players on both teams who are familiar with this domination. Hopefully some fresh attitudes will change things up. They’ll have to find a way to beat former Amerk Drew MacIntyre, as well as perform in other areas. Especially the power play. Will the Amerks be able to finally make this an actual rivalry? I certainly hope so.
Overall I think this team is in slightly better position than they were last season. At least in comparison to the post-lockout team of last year. We still need to see what will happen with Andrey Makarov and Eric Locke. Both of these players are still eligible for another year with their respective junior clubs, but I’ve heard rumblings that Locke may have earned an ELC. If that is the case I doubt he would be returned. Edit: Eric Locke tweeted this morning (10/4) that he’s back with the Saginaw Spirit.
Of course much of this may end up being erased by an official release of the Amerks’ roster on Friday. I’m sure there are multiple cuts coming, as they most definitely will not be carrying 4 goalies, 8 defensemen, and 15 forwards. There is every reason to be hopeful for this season right now. If injured players like Marcus Foligno and Corey Tropp return soon that may allow players like Johan Larsson or Brian Flynn to return to the Amerks. We may even see Corey Tropp returned to the AHL for the time being. Edit: I should also mention that right wing Joel Armia will likely start the season on the Amerks when he returns from injury. All of these players would only make the Amerks a better team. Here’s to hoping that this season is better than the last!
In Cassidy we trust.
*The Griffins have been around since 1996, but from 1996 to 2001 they played in the IHL.
** I use the question mark for overtime losses, as the AHL has decided to count OT losses as regular losses under goalie stats, yet they consider them separately for teams. This makes no sense at all.