With the NHL Trade Deadline over, the look-back on it pretty much is to see how teams got better an dhow some got much worse. Obviously, the big thing is how teams are attempting to tank for Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel— mainly the Buffalo Sabres, who pretty much destroyed their team.
However, one of the things that happens is a trickle down theory into the AHL and ECHL. Hell, it’s even gone to the SPHL in some cases. In the Sabres case, what will happen with the Rochester Americans who sit nine points out of a playoff spot in 13th in the Western Conference with 13 games left to play. Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s Kevin Oklobzija was the first to observe what’s happening to the Amerks and how it effects the rest of the AHL in these next games:
The Amerks roster has been stripped of essentially every scoring forward. Every one. But they still have 18 games to play.
Joel Armia was sent to Winnipeg in the Evander Kane/Zach Bogosian trade. Over the past four days, Phil Varone, Zac Dalpe, Tim Schaller, Mikhail Grigorenko and Jerry D’Amigo have been recalled, joining Amerk teammates Johan Larsson and Matt Elllis in Buffalo.
Which means the Amerks will go into Utica on Wednesday night with a lineup that includes 11 forwards and seven defensemen.
The Toronto Marlies, Utica Comets and Hamilton Bulldogs are surely loving it. The Amerks play Toronto five times. They have four more games with Utica and three against Hamilton.
This is fair? This is good for the league’s competitive balance? Hardly.
And it’s hard not to think about what this means for balance, especially with the breakdown of the schedule left for the Amerks and what this means for the teams overall that are chasing the Marlies, Comets, and Bulldogs. Even with a depleted roster, the Amerks went to a shootout with the Comets Wednesday night, despite losing it in the end.
It trickles down to the ECHL, too– as the Fort Wayne Komets have been plucked over and over when it comes to their roster, whether it be from their parent club in Lake Erie or other teams taking their free agents. The only upside for the Komets is that they have been able to take the “next man up” philosophy and despite all of the call-ups; continue to be first in the North Division and tied for first in the Eastern Conference. Yet, the GM of the Komets is none too pleased with it, despite the players getting chances with different organizations in a higher level:
Mike Embach and Shawn Szydlowski have been called up to Norfolk of the American Hockey League. Embach has 55 points and Szydlowski 51.
“I think it’s more short-term than long-term, but I really don’t know,” Komets general manager David Franke said. “Right now, we’ve got what we’ve got. There’s a chance we could get some help from Lake Erie. We’ve got the rest of the week to see what we can do.”
Along with Eric Faille in Texas and Pat Nagle in Utica, the Komets will have four players in the AHL who are not part of their affiliation with Lake Erie.
“I’m not happy about it at all, but it’s a good opportunity for the players,” Franke said. “Once again we lose some of our best players to a team that we’re not affiliated with. That’s the nature of the beast in this league. I think it will work itself out. I don’t think it’s a long-term deal and we’ll just deal with it. We’ll be fine.”
Heading into the season, the Komets said they were hesitant when it came to getting into an affiliation again, mostly because their roster was left to shambles and trust was broken from other NHL teams. Luckily, the depth of the Komets has been enough that they haven’t been too effected by the call-ups and been able to keep up with the rest of the league, which has a lot to do with the systems the Komets have put into place.
Though, if you want to talk about the Komets and their fear of their team being ripped apart, the Komets actually called someone up from the SPHL that is being called the reason why this team is not going to make the playoffs in the SPHL, which is a super tight race right now. As Kevin Murdock was called up, the Fayetteville FireAntz had to go ahead and scrambled to find a goalie with Murdock’s pedigree (top save percentage in the SPHL: .936) and this after they lost Sean Bonar to the Orlando Solar Bears mid-season:
Murdock was the brightest of the few high points in the FireAntz’s .500 season. When he’s not around, the results have been disastrous. After Murdock beat first-place Peoria on Friday night, the FireAntz gave up six goals Saturday and nine Sunday to the Rivermen. Jordan Tibbett was torched for all 15 of those, has a 2-5-1 record, and his goals-against has ballooned to an astronomical 5.08.
It’ll be interesting to see whether Murdock gets to play while in Fort Wayne. It’s his second stint there: He played 12 minutes in one game last season for the Komets after coming out of college. He was 1-1 in limited action in Tulsa earlier this year, playing on back-to-back nights, then having the remainder of his time wasted on the bench. Ditto for Sean Bonar, who was called up to ECHL Orlando and was 1-1 before being traded recently to Wichita, and he’s had a front-row seat for four games without being used.
Murdock is expected to be with the Komets for at least two weeks and maybe as long as four. If it’s the latter, well, the FireAntz’s season ends March 27-28 with a home series against Pensacola. Their postseason hopes are pretty much toast without a goalie of Murdock or Bonar’s caliber.
Even though you have a lot of goaltenders out there with the lack of teams around, not only trying to get the quality of player on the team is one thing, but the willingness for a goalie to play in a league like the SPHL– which has gotten better over the years, but still doesn’t hold the prestiges as other minor leagues due to lack of exposure. The FireAntz sit four points out of a playoff spot with 11 games left and suspect goaltending to say the least– the FireAntz will have to man-up in order to save some kind of face as push comes to shove.
In the Murdoch case, it’s basically the epitome of how call-ups have a trickle-down effect as the FireAntz lost their heart and soul twice and now have to go ahead and hope for the best. But that’s the nature of the business– the Komets had to go ahead and do something in order to save their face as other teams are pulling their best guys to give them better chances, despite those AHL teams being pretty much out of the playoff race. As far as the Amerks, they are just going by the plan of their ownership group and the bigger picture of the team goals overall….when it comes to the NHL side. No clue how that replenishes the AHL side of things– unless that master plan is something that will be revealed in free agency– but the Amerks team, fans, and others are trying to be as good of soldiers as possible even when they are more than frustrated over the situation they have been put into.