So for those of you who don’t know, each club in the National Hockey League has an affiliated team in the American Hockey League. The Buffalo Sabres have had the luxury of having their AHL affiliate just an hour away for a few years now. The Rochester Americans serve as the farm team for the Buffalo Sabres. Being a Rochester native myself, I remember the “Dark Ages” when our Amerks were affiliated with the Florida Panthers and the Sabres had the Portland Pirates. Those days were rough and attendance to the games was abysmal to say the least. Luckily all is right in the world now and Terry Pegula has acquired ownership of both the Rochester Americans and the Buffalo Sabres making them together once more.
The reason I’m bringing all of this up is, I think its times for a little change. There are a few players right now that arguably should be playing in Rochester. With that being said, there are also some young guns that could use the experience of playing in the big league. Each and every player on the ice has a role to fill. When those roles aren’t being filled, sometimes the farm teams are explored a little bit to see if maybe there is a better fit. This is not always the case though. Sometimes a player just needs a little confidence booster or even just a conditioning stint with the lower level clubs. For example if you take a look at what the Toronto Maple Leafs did earlier this season, they sent Goalie Johnathan Bernier down to play with the Toronto Marlies. When Bernier was sent down, the Marlies sent up Goalie Garret Sparks up. Sparks recorded his first NHL shutout in his first NHL game, while Bernier provided back-to-back shut outs in the AHL including a 9-0 win over the Manitoba Moose. I guess what I’m getting at is that if it works for Toronto, it could work for us too, right?
I cant be the only one when I say that Marcus Foligno could use a confidence boost. Currently Marcus has played in 30 games, he has 2 goals and 5 assists. I get it, he’s a fourth liner, a grinder, and he has a bit of a physical presence on the ice. He’s also one of the top candidates to be a healthy scratch. A lot of you are probably thinking “Well, Nic Deslauriers has the same amount of points and a worse plus minus than Foligno! Why isn’t he gonna be on your list?”. Well that’s because Deslauriers doesn’t need to be reminded his role on this team. He is the closest thing we have to a goon and he does a damn fine job of it. He doesn’t let his teammates get pushed around and he certainly has a physical presence on the ice. For those of you who don’t know, Deslauriers also used to play as a defenseman. Why is that important you ask? This helps him to be a decent two-way player. He can play offense when he needs to play offense and defense when he needs to play defense. Now don’t get me wrong, Foligno isn’t a bad player by any means, he’s still a young guy. He also comes from a professional hockey family. His father played for the Sabres throughout the 1980’s and his brother is the current captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets. I think playing at a lower level could really help the offensive side of Marcus Foligno’s game. He has the potential to be a real piece in the rebuild of this franchise, but I think they may be moving him along a little too fast.
Im going to keep this next part short and sweet. A lot of you guys have been saying that you have not been happy with Brian Gionta’s play and that he is an offensive liability. As true as some of that may be, he isn’t going anywhere. He’s our captain and a good one at that. His presence is more known in the locker room and that’s okay because Ryan O’Reilly has really been stepping up and showing our boys some on ice leadership. Both players have earned the letters they wear and Gionta will be around at least until the end of the ‘16-‘17 season. He was brought here to lead, not to score goals. Why he is still on the power play though is beyond me.
Zemgus Girgensons, the Latvian Locomotive. Not only is he a crowd favorite, Zemgus played in the Allstar game last season and also played for Team Latvia in the last Winter Olympics. Zemgus is a very universal player when it comes to playing with new people so being bounced around to new line mates really isn’t a problem for him. With that being said, he has been a bit of a ghost this season if you ask me. 32 games played with 2 goals and 3 assists Being sent down to Rochester could be exactly what he needs to bring him back to his former glory, even if it just to gain a little confidence.
How Johan Larsson made the team this year is well known. He had an awesome season with the Americans last year and a great pre season with the Sabres. This season so far he has played in 33 games, posting up a whopping 1 goal and 3 assists. Larsson to me seems to be almost in the same predicament that we saw with Ville Leino not so long ago but without that horrendous contract, thank god. When you put the talent around him he thrives, but when you put him on the third and fourth line with other players like himself, he doesn’t do so great. He thrived in the AHL last season and honestly was the only part of the Jason Pominville trade that I liked. Johan is another player who is still young and has a lot of potential that just hasn’t been tapped into quite yet. I don’t see Johan being an AHL lifer, but I also don’t see him staying around if he doesn’t start producing soon. We could get a decent return for him if he was traded to another club whether it’s picks or even another prospect. I would like to see Larsson go to another team where he can be better utilized and see more ice time, but I would also like to see us try and scoop up a decent left wing for him. We have enough depth at the Center position to where it wouldn’t kill us to see him go.
Now hypothetically speaking, if all three of these guys get sent to Rochester we’re going to need some players in return to fill the gaps. I would really like to see Evan Rodrigues, William Carrier, and Patrick Kaleta come to Buffalo. Yes that’s right, I said Patrick Kaleta. As unpopular as Kaleta may have become in the NHL due to all of his suspensions, he really is trying to turn his game around. I can honestly say that I think the only reason he didn’t make the Sabres roster this season was entirely because of his knee injury. Bylsma and Kaleta seemed to get along pretty well and Dan only had good things to say about the guy. He is also currently the most veteran Sabre in the system.
Rodrigues and Carrier have both been shining this year in Rochester and in my opinion deserve the chance to do the same in Buffalo. Rodrigues was one of the last few guys cut from the team and sent to Rochester this year in the preseason. He has been a very skilled player even back to his days of playing with Jack Eichel at Boston University. William Carrier was acquired in the Ryan Miller trade with the St. Louis Blues and has been playing in the QMJHL up until this season and has adjusted very well. As far as playing for the Sabres for the remainder of the season, I don’t see this happening. I do think it would be a good experience for him to get a taste of the fast pace, hard-hitting NHL.
Now fast forward about 5 years and I see a few more players from Rochester coming up to the Sabres including not only Rodrigues and Carrier but also Ullmark, Akeson, Bailey, and maybe even Jack Nevins. Until then I see GM Tim Murray and Head Coach Dan Bylsma making a lot of moves between our two rosters to see who has what it takes to play for the Buffalo Sabres, and who becomes the next AHL lifer like former Rochester American, Luke Adam.