Hi, all! I am the newest voice of your farm team, here to take over for Magics while he's away bettering himself in Russia. I won't be a regular until the beginning of Feb., but we figured we should introduce me a bit early. Some of you may reconize my moniker from the comments section of this fine site. Others may reconize me as one of the voices over at Chairman How's Glorious Army, where I have the honor of being a main contributor. Others may not know me from a hole in the wall, which is why I'm goning to start out with a lil' introduction here. Those of you who know me well—too well?—just bear with me.
I've been going to Crunch games for seven years. I've been a season ticket holder for five. I haven't been going as long as some, but I've been around long enough to know what's going on. Most find this rather odd considering my extra-curricular background, which consisted/s of: dance (quit in 8th grade), orchestra (quit after high school), marching band (ended in 12th), and church choir/elder (current). Notice the lack of any kind of organized physical activity. I played softball for about three years when I was younger. It might have been two. I was once known to shoot a bumpy, orange ball at a hoop in a very non-specific way. I rollerblade. I don't ice skate. Somehow, though, hockey—specifically Crunch hockey—wormed its way into my heart and stuck.
My "claim to fame" in the Crunch world mostly occurred during the '09-'10 season, when I led an unsuccessful attempt to get an exiled player back on the team. CBJ had replaced defenseman Dan Smith during the off season, and we were all bewildered as to why. I was determined to not sit quietly and let one of the best defensive defensemen I had ever seen go without a job. I made quite the nuisance out of myself for the first half of that season, believe you me. I sent e-mails. I made and sent petitions. I started Facebook groups. I collected comments. I sent snail mail letters. I was one busy mo-fo.
Although the attempt didn't work for a variety of reasons, it did grant me two amazing personal and blogging opportunities. The first was getting to do a phone interview with Chris MacFarland, assistant general manager of the Blue Jackets. The other was getting to interview Dan Smith himself. That moment would only be topped a few weeks later, when I got to watch the Crunch suck horribly with him at my side. Dan and his family were in town for the Mirabito Outdoor Classic, with Dan serving as an honored guest. I had a jersey I wanted signed, and I ended up sitting with him for the last 10 minutes of a game. To be honest, getting to watch and talk hockey with my favorite player will probably stay with me forever. Not many get that chance.
In my years as a fan, I have been accused of wearing rose-colored glasses. I tend to look on the positive side of things, hoping for the best instead of expecting the worst. That irritated a few of my fellow Crunchies, so I'm sure they were all relieved when those glasses came off during the 09-10 season. I was a bitter little person last season. Although it all wasn't because of hockey, the climate in Crunch Land didn't help any. I was exhausted from it all. I received a wake-up call in April, when I had a breakdown with a few of my closest friends. I knew things needed to change.
All in all, the affiliation switch is especially dear because it brought me a true breath of fresh air. The rose-colored glasses are back on. I'm happier and I can look at things with more perspective and with less alarm-ism. I'm pretty sure I've talked Magic off the ledge several times this season. In fact, that is what I'm planning on bringing you all while he is gone. Although I could never replace his wit and/or adoration of liquor (I'm much more attached to my liver than he is), I love this game and my team with a passion I've been told few can match. I hope I can live up to that reputation.
With all this in mind, here is my weekly report!
As a fan, I have always hated the "we play to the level of our opponent" excuse. It drives me crazy. To me, a team should play how they can play every single night, no matter who the other team is. Playing the best team in the league? Play your heart out and see where it gets you. Playing the worst team? Do the same. If you have a certain level of talent then, for God's sake, play to that level every single night!
As I said, I've never played hockey. So maybe this is harder than I think it would be. Maybe the players feel they're entitled to a night or two (or seventeen) where they don't play all out and can just cruise on auto pilot. After all, this is their main job, and who among us hasn't done that at our own place of work? Aren't there just days when you go in knowing you're not going to do much? Maybe the players feel the same way, knowing they're playing a team that is down on their luck or just not very good.
Maybe I'm totally off base and they just do it to be annoying.
Whatever the reason, I'm beginning to agree with a friend of mine that this is the situation we've found ourselves in with the Crunch this year. To say the Crunch "sucks" is to be untruthful. The Crunch doesn't suck. We've seen nights of energy, of exciting talent, of gorgeous goals. However, we've also seen nights—like last night—of lackluster, blah play.
Exhibit A: Last night, the Crunch played the worst team in the league, the Adirondack Phantoms. We've played them twice this year and lost. We also lost last night, by a score of 2-0. The Crunch lacked energy, direction and drive. Jon Mirasty, our enforcer and a ball of nuclear energy, was scratched on a night when his antics would have at least given the crowd some energy and something to watch. He's been scratched for a gazillion games in a row. Don't get me started.
Exhibit B: 7th place Syracuse has been shut out by the Baby Sens, 5th in our division, three times this year: 7-0, 4-0, 5-0. We've beaten them once, by a score of 2-1, way back in October. Although two places ahead of us in the standings, Bingo only has four more wins. We're pretty evenly matched, and yet, we've only won one out of four.
Exhibit C: The WBS Baby Pens are, without a doubt, one of the best teams in the league this year. Syracuse has beaten them, even dominated them, both times we've played them this year. Syracuse won the first game 4-3 and the second 3-1. We face them again tonight, 12/29. We'll see what happens.
Exhibit D: After dropping that 7-0 game to Bingo two weeks ago, the Crunch went on to the 3-1 victory the next night over the Pens. The following evening, they played their third game in three nights against one of the hottest teams in the AHL at that time, the Connecticut Whale. I believe they were on a six-game winning streak when they rolled into town. The Crunch, of course, went on to beat them 5-0. Why not, right?
After beating the Baby Pens and the Whale before the break, the team then lost to Rochester, 5-2, and, as I said, to the Phantoms 2-0. The difference between all these teams is obvious: the Crunch beat the more skilled teams, while losing to the equal or less talented.
This is what we're working with right now, Duck fans. It's been an interesting ride. But I've seen so much that I like. I only wish we'd see it with more consistency.
Notes of interest: Prospect JP Levasseeur was awarded the AHL Player of the Week for his work during the Crunch's win over both WBS and and Connecticut two weekends ago....Dan Sexton has continued to impress with his speed, determination and tenacity. We love ourselves some Sexton here in the Cuse!
Until next time....GO CRUNCH N' DUCKS!