Depending on who you talk to or what you read you would think that the divorce is all but finalized between the Rochester Americans and Florida Panthers, but that's not entirely true. It's not over because the Amerks and Panthers new General Manager have not even had a chance to meet yet to discuss how they envision the partnership developing.
When it was announced in the news papers on Monday that Benoit Groulx had handed in his resignation to the Florida Panthers we learned that the Panthers did not call anyone within the Amerks organization to let them know. The Amerks also did not try to contact anyone within the Florida Panthers organization.
Lewis Staats was called by Bill Torrey the day that Dale Tallon was going to be announced as the new Panthers GM and advised it would be a few weeks before Tallon would be available. Tallon has been busy with his travels to Germany for the World Championships, the NHL Combine in Toronto and the GM Meetings this week. That's the same time frame I was given when I inquired about an interview with Tallon. That all makes sense, but if time was found to talk to the Florida media, a few minutes couldn't be arranged with the Amerks first?
Either way, the expectation from the start was set that Dale Tallon would be talking more in depth with the Amerks next week and that's still the plan. The Panthers are the ones in charge of hiring a replacement for Benoit Groulx so it really had no impact on the Amerks operations at all.
Things are looking up though with Dale Tallon in control.
Let's take a look back at two summers ago to see where we're at today (under the current ownership group).
When Curt Styres bought the Rochester Americans two years ago on June 18, 2008 there have been a lot of positives between then and now. Unfortunately things have also not gone as planned.
When Styres and Staats first met with Jacques Martin, Panthers GM at the time, Martin agreed with the Amerks that the Panthers prospects would do best in a winning environment with a mix of prospects and veterans. That did not happen in the first season. The Amerks finished the season in second to last place in the league with a record of 29-43-0-8.
One of the biggest reasons for the poor season was the lack of a quality goalie to start the season. Chris Beckford-Tseu had been signed and considered at the time by Jack Birch the "best prospect available." We all know how that worked out. Drew MacIntyre had been available at that time as well but because of limited financial resources he was not an option. Had MacIntyre been signed as goalie the season probably would have been different. Mike Brodeur was eventually signed and helped salvage the second half of the season but it was too little too late.
The 2009/2010 season was the second year of the affiliation and the Amerks tried to turn things around but felt as if Florida could have done better. The Amerks spent money signing veteran players to help out the prospects that the Panthers were also providing. Unfortunately the Panthers never paid what was supposedly verbally agreed on. The concerns of tensions between players and head coach Benoit Groulx were never acted on either. Randy Sexton apparently did not agree that there were any issues and let the issue slide.
While those things are going to be what the season was remembered for, they were not the only reasons the Amerks season ended early in the first round of the playoffs. We could probably look back at games and see mistakes made by defensemen that changed the outcome of some of the games more than the coaching style.
The Amerks want their NHL affiliate to have the same goals as themselves which is to win. That's something they thought were on the same page with when they first signed on the dotted line with the Panthers. Instead of growing together in the partnership the two sides seem to be growing distant, but still have time to salvage the relationship.
That brings us to the expectations of Dale Tallon, the man who helped construct the current roster of Chicago Blackhawks that are playing for the Stanley Cup. That type of winning is something that Lewis Staats said the Rochester Americans want to be affiliated with. When they get some time to really talk hockey with Tallon they'll get a better idea of what the future holds.
During Tallon's tenure as Blackhawks GM their AHL teams in Norfolk and then Rockford were consistently winning. If that same success can be repeated here in Rochester the affiliation with the Panthers could possibly continue for years to come. That's not something some Amerks fans want to hear, but it all comes down to winning. If the Panthers have a new success for winning and can prove it this season it'll result in increased numbers at the box office. Bring in a new affiliate that provides another poor team and the same attendance problems will exist.
Heading into the third season of the agreement and third Panthers GM there's definitely a reason to be cautious and concerned but, it's not all doom and gloom. If the Panthers prove that they have a recipe for winning and strengthening the affiliation everyone will end up being happy. The Panthers prospects will develop in a great winning atmosphere and the Amerks will see success in the standings which will result in ticket sales.
The Panthers are likely running out of lives (pun intended), but with the expectations of goalie Jacob Markstrom and an experienced GM now in control things could finally be headed in the right direction. Panthers fans also thought the same thing would happen when Mike Keenan was in control and then Jacques Martin and we know how those years turned out.
The lines of communication will be open, the Amerks are looking forward to an improved season, and everyone will have an open mind.
Ed. Note: Keith is the founder and managing editor of the wonderfully awesome LetsGoAmerks.com where this article originally appeared - check it out for everything on the Amerks and American Hockey League.