For a club that made the Calder Cup playoffs after a two-season drought, the Rochester Americans hardly ended their season on a positive note.
A 91-point season meant little for Rochester after the Amerks coughed up a 3-1 first round series lead, losing Games 6 and 7 on home ice to Abbotsford. Game 7 saw veteran right winger Graham Mink, the crown jewel of last summer's off-season Americans rebuild, sit out as a healthy scratch. The two-time Calder Cup winner watched the Amerks drop the deciding game, 2-0.
Coach Benoit Groulx opted to sit out Mink to meet the American League veteran limit, a decision that did not sit well with a segment of the Rochester fan base.
Defenseman Mathieu Roy was a late-season acquisition by the parent-club Florida Panthers. Problem was, the Roy acquisition nudged the Rochester roster past the six-veteran limit, forcing Groulx into a difficult decision when he opted to insert captain Rory Fitzpatrick into the lineup for Game 7.
Mink, for his part, did not find fault with Groulx in break-up day comments to the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle.
"I understand," Mink told the newspaper. "I see trying to get (Fitzpatrick) in the lineup. I had six of the seven games and we didn’t get it done."
But break-up day sounded like just that for at least one of the Amerks.
Respected veteran Jamie Johnson returned from a stay in Europe to sign with the Panthers last summer and veterans are not generally lured back to North America without a genuine chance of earning NHL ice time. Johnson put up a 27-goal season with Rochester, but a return to the Florida organization next season doesn’t seem to be an option for the forward, who did not see any ice time with the Panthers this season.
"Florida didn’t give me the time of day all season," Johnson said to the Democrat & Chronicle. “I wouldn’t want to give anything back to them.”
Johnson had further words about Groulx for the newspaper.
“I found there to be a lack of respect,” he said. “I played all 80 games for him, I played when we had nobody (due to injury), and then I felt like I was pushed aside the last two months and in the playoffs.”
In a season where the Amerks looked like Calder Cup contenders two months in, the club and fan base head into the off-season with many questions to answer.
MOOSE KEANE ON RETURN?
The Manitoba Moose look to be in a state of flux for next season. Coach Scott Arniel is near the front of the NHL head-coaching rumor mill, goalie and restricted free agent Cory Schneider is unlikely to return for a fourth season in Winnipeg and the Moose have several questions to confront after an extremely disappointing season that ended with a first round exit.
One important question that must be answered is whether Manitoba's Mike Keane wishes to extend his career at least one more season. However, it seems the decision will not merely depend on what the Moose captain's body tells him, but what direction the team’s management chooses to go.
“You know what, it won’t be up to Mike Keane, it will be up to the Manitoba Moose," GM Craig Heisinger told the Winnipeg Sun. "We had a good meeting with Mike and we’ll make that decision going forward. Mike has indicated he wants to play and we’ve indicated to Mike that decision will be up to us. We haven’t made that decision yet.”
THIS & THAT
• On Tuesday, the AHL approved the transfer of the former Iowa Chops franchise to the Texas Stars, giving the Dallas affiliate full membership in the AHL for 2010-11...
• All indications out of Albany and Lowell are that the New Jersey Devils will be relocating their affiliate to Albany next season...
• John Spoltore, a playoff hero for the Providence Bruins during their run to the 1999 Calder Cup, passed away April 30 in Toronto after a battle with brain cancer.
From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world's second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiling prospects destined for the next level. It appears every weekend only on TheHockeyNews.com.