For many Buffalo Sabres fans in Rochester, the opening night of the Amerks hockey is one of the most anticipated dates all season. After a long offseason, tonight is that night, and there have been a number of changes made in preparation.
Coping with losses
When free agency opened this summer it was quite clear that Darcy Regier was not going to be able to resign everyone. Some of the more important losses included Mark Mancari, Rochester’s leading scorer. They also lost Nick Tarnasky, their forefront enforcer and tough guy and Alex Biega, one of the teams’ best defensemen.
That doesn’t include team MVP and goaltending star, David Leggio, who was lost in free agency to the Washington Capitals organization.
Few had hope that Darcy Regier would be able to pull off the moves necessary to manage the loss of these great players. In order to replace the scoring prowess of Mancari, Regier signed Jamie Tardif. Tardif finished top-5 in the AHL last year for scoring when he notched 30 goals while playing for the Providence Bruins.
It is expected that Frederick Roy and Kevin Sundher will take over the enforce and tough guy role that was left when Tarnasky signed with Montreal.
Alex Biega was one of the most consistent defensemen for the past two seasons. Giving that his offensive game really took off in his time in Rochester, it was understandable that he was going to be looking for a raise. Sadly, the organization didn’t see things that way and he decided to move on and sign with the Vancouver Canucks organization. With the loss of Biega, Regier really needed to stabilize the blue line. Drew Bagnall has been a stud in the AHL for the past six years, only notching one season with a ‘negative’ rating.
David Leggio. Is there really much more to say? He was voted team MVP, and posted incredible numbers in back-to-back years with the Amerks. Although many see this as a horrible loss for the team, the reality of it is that the Amerks have more things to worry about.
Leggio is 29 years old and is not getting any younger. The Sabres organization is loaded at the goaltender position when it comes to prospects, including, Matt Hackett, Nathan Lieuwen, Connor Knapp and Andrey Makarov. The organization may actually be better off without Leggio.
For the past two years the Americans have been swept in the first round by the Toronto Marlies. In the six years leading up to that they had only made the playoffs twice and had been beaten in the first round both times. There is no doubt that there is a massive pressure on the Amerks and their coaches to make the playoffs, and have success.
This year’s team seems to be much improved than the last. There is no other way to put it; if they have no success in the playoffs there will be huge amounts of unrest among the fan base and the organization.
Leading into the season it was not much of a debate on who would be the captain of the Rochester Americans. Matt Ellis is a wonderful character on and off of the ice. He knows what it takes to succeed in the league and has the drive to help others do it.
Alternates: Drew Bagnall, another league veteran who knows what it takes to succeed. Mike Zigomanis has spent 11 years in this league and like the others, knows how to win. There is not much else to say about the leadership group for the Americans because it speaks for itself. If any group is going to be successful with this team, it is going to be these men.
Regardless of the standings at the end of the year, cup or no cup, it is going to be a great year to be following the Rochester Americans.
Game Night: Quick Hits
Rochester Americans vs. Grand Rapids Griffins, 7:05 PM Face-Off
October 4th, 2013.
Blue Cross Arena, Rochester NY.
Follow me on twitter (@JustinTBanker) for live-tweeting of tonight’s game as well as updates on the Rochester Americans in the future.