Yes, the NHL and NHLPA still need to “dot the I’s” and “cross the T’s”, and both sides need to ratify the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but for all intents and purposes, the NHL Lockout is over.
Many Amerks fans are lamenting the deal because of “all the players that we’re going to lose to Buffalo,” and saying that the Amerks are doomed.
In a weird, twisted way, it may actually be good for Rochester.
Of course the Amerks are going to lose some players. Cody Hodgson was a Sabre last season and sent down explicitly to develop further this season in the AHL. He’s going back. Marcus Foligno seemed destined to earn a spot in Buffalo this season, and has proven his value in Rochester. He’ll be going up. TJ Brennan might have cleared waivers before the season started, but with 30 points in 33 games in Rochester, its doubtful he’d clear now. He would HAVE to clear in order to play in Rochester.
Those three guys are probably gone. And they’re a huge three. Hodgson is clearly a #1 center, is a deceptive skater and has fantastic hands. Those skills were amplified in the AHL and will be a big loss. Foligno’s work ethic and drive will be a big loss to the team. And losing Brennan’s presence, especially his scoring capability on the power play, really hurts.
Assuming those 3 moves happen, that will leave the Sabres with 13 forwards (Vanek, Pominville, Leino, Stafford, Ott, Ennis, Hodgson, Gerbe, Kaleta, McCormick, Scott, Ellis, Foligno). Thats exactly the number of forwards I’d expect Buffalo to carry. We won’t get any forward reinforcements from Buffalo via waivers.
More interestingly, it would leave Buffalo with NINE defensemen (Myers, Regehr, Ehrhoff, Leopold, Sekera, Pardy, Weber, Sulzer, Brennan). Its doubtful the team would carry more than 7, meaning 2 have to be moved. Sekera could be an interesting trade piece, with a 3 year deal at only $2.75M. But assuming no trades happen, 2 of those guys would have to come to Rochester. I would assume Pardy comes down (taking his $2M off the cap in Buffalo), and probably Weber.
Oddly enough, this could really help.
The Amerks biggest problem this season has been a lack of defensive defensemen to help out the goalies. They gave up 50 shots to Abbottsford Friday night, and the Heat are clearly a defense-first team. The Amerks are desperate for blueliners who are better at keeping the puck out of their own zone. If they get Pardy and Weber, and those guys come down with the right attitude, this is EXCELLENT for the Amerks.
Losing Hodgson and Foligno up front is more problematic. They are the Amerks two top scorers (on a points per game basis), and these moves would leave us with only 12 forwards on the roster when everyone is healthy. Will Darcy recognize this, and sign some veteran help for the Amerks? Or will he just backfill those gaps with underperforming ECHL/CHL guys like Szydlowski, Boychuk, etc? Time will tell. We can only hope he does the right thing.
Another interesting consequential benefit of these moves… rumors are floating that the team has a segmented locker room… some of the players don’t all get along very well (sound familiar, going back to the Panthers era?). It seems like the older, more veteran players hold one side of the team, while the young, up-and-comer, top prospects are on the other side. And in some cases, there is a strong dislike between certain players. Now, I’ve never been on the inside of a pro locker room, and I dont always expect everyone to love each other on a team of 20+ men… but this type of dissention is concerning. With some of the top guys going up, it may actually HELP the team chemistry on, and off, the ice.
One last interesting side effect based on the timing… NHL teams are expected to hold training camps of 28 to 30 players each. That probably means each AHL team will lose about 5-7 guys to training camps, effective immediately. Three of the Amerks next five games are against AHL-best Syracuse, meaning the Crunch may be significantly crippled. If the Amerks can get some reinforcements in quickly, they may be able to steal some points from a decimated Crunch team.
The Amerks are definitely going to have a new look, effective immediately. But the outlook isn’t as bad as many are making it out to be. The second half of the season starts NOW.
UPDATED 1/6/13 at 3:33PM: According to this story on WIVB out of Buffalo, Nathan Gerbe had spinal surgery during the offseason and could miss considerable time this season. Considering Kevin Porter’s play in Rochester, I’m guessing he’s the next likely player to go up to Buffalo. Thats 3 of our top 4, and 4 of our top 6 scorers. Hopefully Darcy is working the phones to bring in reinforcements.