The writing is, quite literally, on the wall for Luke Adam.
After Friday night's Rochester Amerks loss to the Syracuse Crunch, Marcus Foligno wandered by in a suit while Adam, covered in sweat and with ice on his leg, answered questions by his locker.
Foligno is headed to Buffalo when Sabres camp starts on Sunday; so are teammates Cody Hodgson and T.J. Brennan.
Adam, who scored a goal and was plus-1 in the loss, didn't get an invite.
“It's disappointing,” Adam said after Rochester's 5-3 loss. “Any time you don't hear your name mentioned it's disappointing, but I think I'm NHL ready and I'm just waiting for my opportunity to go back up there and show them.
The decision to leave him off the camp invite list sends a clear message: The Sabres' organization is finished considering the 22-year-old a legitimate prospect.
Last season, the Amerks' forward scored 20 points in 52 games for the Sabres. His hot start to the season, one in which he scored 19 points in the first 30 games, put him on the radar for Sabres fans.
But since scoring his last NHL point on Dec. 17, 2011, Adam has 28 points in 77 games between the NHL and AHL.
“I do believe I've gotten better as a player since being sent down last year,” he said.
Even so, he's fallen so far off the Sabres' map that Rochester might as well be Siberia.
What (or who) is to blame for Adam's drop? There have been plenty of theories from him being a better center than wing to his issues with confidence. Both, he has said at one time or another, have been true.
But the reality is he just isn't a fit with Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff.
While Ruff does – contrary to popular belief – have an offensive-minded and aggressive system, he has always asked much of his forwards defensively.
Take his captain Jason Pominville for example – a supremely talented two-way winger who has consistently been used in offensive situations as often as defensive ones. That's a Lindy Ruff player.
Adam is different. He isn't a strong back checker and doesn't dig pucks out in the corner. The 6-foot-2 forward is at his best when he's finding pockets in the defense and using his above-average hands to knock pucks in the net. That isn't a Lindy Ruff player.
To be clear, this isn't an indictment on Ruff. His system has been successful at times and has failed at times. Any broad generalizations suggesting otherwise are misguided. But we've had plenty of time watching Ruff to figure out which types of players work under his system and which do not. Adam does not.
To Ruff's credit, to quote Bart Simpson, he "tried to try" when it came to his young center. Ruff started Adam in a team-high 57.7 percent of offensive zone starts last year. The Sabres' coach attempted to put him in offensively beneficial situations, but it still wasn't a fit.
Just because it didn't work in Buffalo doesn't mean he can't be somebody's player in the NHL. Last season, Adam was second on the Sabres in goals scored per 60 minutes to only Tyler Ennis. He can produce.
More or less, Adam and the Sabres have gone as far as they can go with each other. He believes he's an NHL player and they would, apparently, rather sign a player such as Jochen Hecht than even give him another sniff.
It's time for the Sabres to do what they should have done at the trade deadline last year and deal Adam to a team that can use him. Some teams play systems in which offensive and defensive players are used in specified roles. It's realistic to think he could fit in with one of those teams.
Adam's trade value won't be high, but the longer he stays in Rochester, the lower it will be. Either way, the team needs to do what is best for him and them and move on.
“If need be, there's lots of other hockey teams watching too,” he said. “I need to play well here to get that opportunity though.”
- The Amerks are losing T.J. Brennan to Sabres camp, but their defense is otherwise in tact. Some may argue that's a bad thing. They allowed 45 shots to the Crunch on Wednesday night, five of which found the back of the net. Brennan said after the game "it could have easily been seven or eight to three" the way Leggio played.
- Kevin Sundher was a minus-4 on Wednesday night, Phil Varone and Evan Rankin were both minus-3. The Amerks are a downright terrible 5-on-5 team. Subtract Hodgson and the bail-us-out power play and this team could be in trouble of falling completely out of the playoff picture. It would be easy to say they should just play stronger defensively, but that doesn't seem possible at this point.
- The Amerks need more out of Varone. He led the team in scoring last season but only has 11 points in 31 games and is minus-8.
- Zemgus Girgensons was still at wing, but played on both the power play and penalty kill on Wednesday. He did not have a large impact on either special team.
- David Leggio has a solid .911 save percentage, but 3.00 goals against average. What does that mean? He's facing a ridiculous amount of shots. 118 in the last THREE games to be exact.
- Nick Tarnasky skated on a scoring line on Wednesday with Luke Adam. Tarnasky will take on a more offensive role going forward. He's a sleeper for getting some NHL time this year as a fourth-line grinder. He's also a guy you strongly prefer be on your team, not the other team.