Many of us Buffalo fans have spent weeks upon weeks complaining about the barrage of injuries that our team has suffered. One thing many of us probably haven’t taken the time to consider is the affect the number of injuries the Buffalo Sabres have suffered has had on their farm club, the Rochester Americans.
As the injuries have piled up for the Sabres, the steady stream of players jumping on the I-90 to Buffalo hasn’t stopped. This has meant bad news for the Amerks, who have played with an incomplete lineup 3 times this season. As of today there are four players of try-out contracts and three players up from the ECHL. While the job of a farm club is to supply players to the NHL, no one anticipated so many would have an extended stay with the Sabres.
Zack Kassian and Corey Tropp are leading the charge of Amerks players playing in thirteen games each and accumulating six and two points, respectively. Tropp is currently out with a concussion and has not started skating. Brayden McNabb has been a quite the surprise for many of us, playing in eleven games and being arguably one of the best players on the ice night in and night out. Paul Szczechura has suited up for nine games total over two separate call ups, TJ Brennan and Joe Finley have played three games each, and Derek Whitmore, Colin Stuart and Drew McIntyre have appeared in 2 games apiece. Marcus Foligno also made his NHL debut last week in Ottawa, playing his first game against his older brother and in front of several dozen family members. Of these players, Kassian, Tropp, McNabb, Whitmore, McIntyre, and Brennan have all made their debuts.
Somehow , the Amerks are still winning, even with a super depleted lineup. Their last win, a 4-1 decision over the Lake Erie Monsters, showed their competitiveness. Through all the call-ups, 17 total over the season, they are still competing and winning games. They are also drawing larger crowds, averaging just over five thousand fans per game, up from last seasons average of just under four thousand fans.
Many attribute this to them being affiliated with Buffalo again, which makes perfect sense. The drive from Rochester to Buffalo takes approximately an hour and a half (but really it only takes an hour if you drive like a real Buffalonian). The tickets are cheap and it gives everyone a reason for a little road trip. Many Sabres fans were excited about this partnership from the beginning because it gave us a chance to see future Sabres players. It brought many back to when names like Pominville, Vanek, Roy, Miller, Gaustad, etc. were nothing more than names of prospects playing in Rochester.
While this has been a trying season for the Buffalo Sabres, it has been equally trying for their farm club. Hopefully as regulars start returning, more players will head back to the farm to continue their growth and development, only to return when they are really ready. While no one can argue the call-ups have played anything short of spectacular, imagine how good they will be in a year after they have dominated the AHL?