Too little, too late, as Amerks say see you next season
The Amerks played winning hockey over the season's final four weeks. There was just one problem.
"It was about seven or eight months too late," coach Dan Lambert explained.
And he's right. For the vast majority of the season, the Amerks were barely able to stay out of the AHL's basement, carrying one of the worst records in the league into, and then through the all star break.
"The playoffs were a realistic goal for us," said forward Justin Bailey, who finished the season with a career-high 23 goals in just 52 games in Rochester. "But we had a couple of rough stretches that proved that, you lose those games early in September and October and November, it comes back to hurt you."
The good news is there were plenty of bright spots for Rochester, but will the Amerks be given the chance to build on those bright spots moving forward? Linus Ullmark in particular was almost absurdly good for most of the year.
"When the season started, I wanted to be the go-to guy and play every game this season," Ullmark said.
While he didn't quite make it into every game, he was about as close as a goalie in the AHL is going to get. Ullmark appeared in 55 games for Rochester, stopping an absurd 1,525 shots. But just like many of the other top-performers in Rochester this season, he's hoping his performance in 2016-'17 will earn him a job in Buffalo next season.
"If they want me there, I would be happy to take one of those spots," said the all-star goalie. "Since the start of the season, that's what I've been striving for."
While Ullmark and his Rochester teammates are hoping to be in Buffalo next year, first-year coach Dan Lambert is hoping to be back with the Amerks.
"Today, i don't have reason to believe otherwise," Lambert said. "But things do change daily, and when you have an organization where both teams don't make the playoffs and people are unhappy, anything can happen."
But Lambert is preparing to come back, and also made sure to specify that he wants to come back as well.