For Luke Adam, season at a crossroads
After being named to the list of rookies participating in the skills competition at NHL All-Star Weekend, Adam was amongst the game’s best for a few days in Ottawa. Adam was selected to participate in the hardest shot contest for Team Chara, and acquitted himself quite well.
The odd part of the whole thing was seen Luke out on the ice along side the game’s best in the showcase weekend for the league is quite atypical of his experiences in Buffalo of late.
Riding a strong start to the season, centering a line between All-Star Jason Pominville and superstar Thomas Vanek, Adam appeared to be filling that top line pivot spot well.
Obviously, Jochen Hecht’s injury woes to start the season certainly helped Adam earn his spot on the team. Many (including myself) had Adam pegged to start the season in Rochester. Without a healthy body down the middle and an expanded roster to go off to Europe, Luke got his chance to start the season with the Sabres and took advantage. With four points in the first two games, he looked the part. Soon after the Sabres’ hot start dissipated, Adam began a slide down the depth chart.
His surprising October led to a solid November, and after a couple good performances early on December, dropped off the radar completely.
As Buffalo slipped further and further away from the playoffs, and dropped to the basement of the Eastern Conference, Luke disappeared from the boxscores. His last goal was December 17 in Pittsburgh, a span of 17 games. He doesn’t even have an assist since December 7th, a span of 22 games. He’s been sequestered to the fourth line, surely a move that can rejuvenate his offense, spending time alongside snipers Matt Ellis and Cody McCormick.
In the team’s last game, a shootout win in New Jersey, Luke Adam played 4:39.
This begs the question: What purpose does it serve to have Adam on the roster?
The team is a sinking ship. While injuries have created the void that Adam is filling, the Sabres will be bringing back two forwards, Paul Gaustad and Tyler Ennis tonight, so the team will be carrying an extra healthy forward. And yes, Jochen Hecht’s concussion problems do create a need to fill the spot between the team’s leading scorers in Pominville and Vanek. But if Luke Adam isn’t on that top line, is it worth keeping him up in the NHL to play five minutes a night?
Buffalo has lacked a scoring center with size for years and years and years. Luke has shown the potential to be that guy for the team. At age 21, he’s still growing into that role. Is his development being stunted not being groomed for that role? Would he be better served playing 20 minutes a night and being “the guy” in the AHL or being “the guy at the end of the bench” in the NHL?
When Jason Pominville, the team’s lone All-Star, and arguably the team’s most consistent player for the last few seasons, spent three full seasons plus in the AHL, how can you justify keeping him on the team in a low-capacity role? Pominville played 235 games in Rochester before becoming a full-time Sabre, and never looked the part of a rookie.
Luke Adam has 57 AHL games to his credit, and is struggling mightily.
Sure, there are going to be plenty of cases where the AHL isn’t necessary, when a player is more than capable of stepping right in, and it’ll show.
As of now, Lindy Ruff doesn’t feel Adam is adding enough, and he’s showing that by his ice time. The team is performing horrendously, and the season is on the brink of being washed down the garbage disposal.
A month and half out from Adam’s last offensive production, the debate about whether he’s better served being in Rochester or Buffalo should’ve been a hot topic coming into the weekend. Luke’s confidence probably got a nice shot in the arm after such a great experience in Ottawa.
While it could be just joking around, he was tweeting about how poorly he was going to do in the hardest shot competition, hoping he’d break 90 mph. He hit 98.3 mph, beating Dion Phaneuf of the Leafs, whose shot is widely regarded as hard. Is that just being modest or showing a lack of swagger from how bad things have been in Buffalo?
If he comes back from All-Star weekend, a weekend of sitting amongst the league’s best in the locker room, and his minutes are in the single digits on a 14th-place team, what good is being served?
Without Hecht in the lineup, these next few games are going to be looked at as crucial, not only for the team’s playoff hopes, but for finding someone to play on that top line. With about 50 points needed in 33 games to get back into the playoffs. The wins need to come, and the scoring needs to come too. Luke’s got a good chance to recapture that.
But if this week doesn’t turn into “the turnaround” and the Sabres are still looking at a lottery pick, and Adam is still empty handed on the scoresheet, maybe it’s time to think about the long-term instead of the long-odds.