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On Clear Day and Evan Rankin

03/06/12
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“I can see your white knuckled hand from holding on, and lately, I’ve been wondering why we rely on the sure thing … Stay alive, over-drive, until we find something new.” (Bronze Radio Return, Everything Moves)

As I sit here, fifteen thousand or so feet above Tennessee, I realize how much I missed hockey while I was on vacation. I cannot express how difficult it is to find hockey on television in New Orleans, let alone on a ship in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a bizarre feeling to be in the process of drinking something delicious and fruity (I’m talking about JUICE people, gosh) and having your face absolutely melted by the constant stream of live music in the sunshine on the Lido deck and still being worried about how your hockey teams are doing. Hockey really is a way of life, wouldn’t you say? While I was sitting in the Atlanta airport on the LONGEST LAYOVER EVER in the history of the world, whining to my new rock-star friend about my sunburned shoulders and back, I realized that some pretty interesting things happened in my absence, and I wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page. So, enough about my glorious vacation, my cold-weather friends, and back to the important stuff.

On Monday, February 27, the NHL had their Trade Deadline Day. For all intents and purposes, it was a rather dull day … until, of course, Darcy sprang the news of the Kassian/Gragnani-Hodgson/Sulzar trade on us shortly after the deadline had passed. I know a lot has already been said about this around these parts (and all over the internet), but I really want to emphasize that I think we definitely made out like bandits here. Kassian has not shown the promise that we had all anticipated, looking down-right lazy and put out that he actually had to play in Rochester when he clearly thought he belonged in Buffalo. I hope that he is all that Vancouver is looking for in a player, but I would not be surprised if he matured to a middle of the road player, at best. I do wish him and Grags all the best in the Vancouver system, and I’m excited to see what our new friends will bring us.

The AHL’s version of deadline day is something called Clear Day. The Clear Day roster, which is presented by each of the 30 AHL teams is a roster of 22 players who are eligible to compete in the remaining games of the season and the Calder Cup playoffs. Players can be replaced as a result of recall, injury, or suspension – what the AHL refers to as emergency situations – similar to emergency call ups for the NHL during the playoffs. Teams are also allowed to add draft choices and players on amateur tryout when their junior or college seasons are done. Much like the NHL, 16 of the AHL’s teams will make the playoffs, which begin in April. The Amerks Clear Day roster is no big surprise to anyone. Both Leggio and MacIntyre make the goaltender cut, clearly. Included on the list are frequently called upon Marcus Foligno (in Buffalo as of the writing of this piece), TJ Brennan, Corey Tropp, Travis Turnbull, and Joe Finley. Luke Adam is also on the Clear Day roster. This does not mean that these players cannot be called up for the remainder of the season, only that they’re eligible to compete in the playoffs, should Rochester make the cut. Absent from the list is the oft-injured Michael Ryan. To me, this suggests that the Amerks organization is aware that he will not be able to play the rest of the season, although not much is ever said about what’s actually wrong with him.

Of particular note on Rochester’s Clear Day roster is newly-inked-to-an-AHL-contract Evan Rankin. Rankin was signed to a PTO contract on November 25 and has played in 18 games for the Amerks since then, amassing 15 points (8g+7a). Before joining the Amerks, Rankin played 15 games for Toledo of the ECHL, where he earned 18 points (10g+8a). Rankin has played in 32 AHL games on PTO with various organizations, including Rochester, Grand Rapids, and Manitoba. His presence is definitely felt on the ice, and I am glad to see that the Amerks finally inked him. I actually muttered “It’s about g-d time” out loud in the airport, which garnered me a few strange looks. I’m also still actively engaged in post-cruise sway, so weird looks in my direction aren’t really that unexpected right now. I am a big fan of Rankin’s style of play. He’s got a bit of size on him, and he’s not afraid to finish the play. I hope he sticks along long after this season, as I really think he’s an asset to this organization, but they don’t always ask me, so we’ll have to wait and see.

It is also important that I mention that Drew Schiestel, who played 43 games with Rochester, amassing 12 points (2g+10a) and 12 PIM, was assigned to the Texas Stars. He has been the odd man out on the blue line since players started returning from injury, and will likely get more playing time in Texas. Schiestel is in the final year of his three-year amateur contract, and it’s likely that he will not be a member of this Sabres organization at the end of this season, although they will continue to hold his rights until the season is complete. Please keep in mind that an assignment is just that – this is NOT a trade, and it is likely a way to let him keep his legs while his agent starts shopping him around to other clubs. Schiestel was replaced on the Clear Day roster and the blue line by Nick Crawford.

Currently, the Amerks sit in 7th place in the Western Conference with a 28-22-6-3 record, having played 59 of their 78 scheduled games. They are a measly four points out of 4th place, but the majority of the teams ahead of them have at least two games in hand. As a matter of fact (and stats), only the Peoria Rivermen and the Lake Erie Monsters have played more games than Rochester, with 60 games a piece. Rochester has faired well against their upcoming opponent, the Binghamton Senators, only having lost to them once. While any points at this stage of the game are big and great, Binghamton is currently sitting low enough in the Eastern Conference that they are not a playoff threat and these points won’t matter as much as they would if they were against a Western Opponent. Still, points are points, and I’m ready to get back into the Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester War Memorial to see the Amerks win.

As always, I’ll have my recaps after the games on March 9 and 10, as well as a trip to Syracuse to see the Amerks on the road on 3/16. I have something pretty awesome coming down the pipes for y’all, as well, so stay tuned. If you are going to be out at some of the upcoming home games, don’t be shy – I just spent six days being introduced as “Stephanie! You know, from Twitter? The hockey girl!” so I’d love to say hi. See you at the game!

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