In an effort to keep myself positive and ignore the continued inconsistency of the Crunch, I've decided to focus in on the players themselves this week. After all, it's really those guys you all are probably most interested in. Although winning generally breeds more development than losing, the Crunch's record can be less helpful when used as an evaluation tool for individual players. So, I decided to do a mid-year eval for the team. It's gotta be better than dragging up the same complaints I had two weeks ago.
Today we start off with: the defense and the goaltending.
Joe DiPenta: Anyone who knows me through a hockey perspective knows that I adore the defensive defenseman. I want D-men who are black and blue after games from blocking shots. I want D-men who are brave enough to use their size and throw their bodies around. I want D-men who don't screw around with the puck behind our own net and then stand there filing their nails while the other team takes it away and tucks it into the net with less than a minute remaining in a tied game. (Sorry, bad Andrei Plekhanov flashback) DiPenta, for all intents and purposes, is one of these players. He's the captain of our team this year, and I think he's earned it. DiPenta is, shockingly enough, the only defenseman on our team currently carrying a positive +/- stat (6). What's even more amazing about this is that DiPenta practically runs our PK on his own. I wish we could clone him. Come to think of it, if he and Dan Smith had about 6 babies together, we'd be unstoppable.
Mat Clark: Although I know Clark is a favorite of one of my friends, I still somehow manage to forget he's on the team on a daily basis. It's just one of those weird situations where the synapses in my brain don't all fire at once. Either that or Clark is just a very forgettable defenseman. Hmm. While managing 9 points (1, 8) in 38 games with the Crunch this year, he's also acquired the second worst +/- on the team. Clark currently clocks in at a chilly -11. I think Clark is one of those defensemen who just isn't offensive enough to justify the mistakes he makes.
Nigel Williams: Just about the only thing Williams is good for is allowing us to trot out lines from 10 Things I Hate About You. Actually, even saying that is being generous, as there's only one line in the whole movie that mentions his name. Williams' 2 assists in 16 games and a +/- of -9 pretty much makes him only worth something when repeating "That must be Nigel, with the brie" in an obnoxious tone. Other than that, we'd be better off with a folding chair.
Nathan Paetsch: I cannot overstate the value of Nathan F'ing Paetsch. He's a diamond in the rough. He's the feather in our cap. He's the Romeo to our Juliet. He's the cheese on our macaroni. He's absolutely the one player where, if Crunch fans are looking at the Ducks and whining "what have you done for ME lately?", the Ducks can say, "Nathan F'ing Paetsch, that's what! QUACK!" (Yes, in my mind, everyone in the Anaheim front office quacks. If it was good enough for Gordon Bombay...) Paetsch was grabbed for absolutely nothing from a jilted Florida organization, who apparently wanted him gone because of some alleged curfew problems. Hey, whatever, their loss has been the Crunch's gain. In 28 games with the Crunch, Paetsch has netted 16 points (8,8), the most out of all our d-men. He spends a considerable amount of time on the power play and has a fairly respectable -1 as a +/- stat. He is a beast.
Jake Newton: Unfortunately, Newton is another player whose usefulness only comes from being able to make fun of his name. We didn't have to search very far for this one, folks: replace "Jake" with "Fig" and you pretty much have our nightly joke du jour. Newton is currently out with a busted knee, but considering he only managed 4 points (2,2) in 34 games with the club, while amassing a whopping -16 stat, we're not exactly missing him. As Magics would say, if his +/- was a wind chill, they'd definitely be closing schools.
Mark Mitera: Mitera (8 points, -7 +/-) is very good at knowing his teammates.
Nate Guenin: The jury is still out on the newest acquisition to the team. Although he was touted as a puck-stopping defenseman, Guenin is a -2 in 2 games for the club. That stat was created all during one game, this past Friday night. His 6 total penalty minutes while in a Crunch jersey also came during that one game. The next night he didn't score any points, but he also didn't allow any goals. He also stayed out of the box. Disciplined game=better stats. Who knew?
Timo Pielmeier: Pielmeier has the best record of our two goalies so far this year, with a 9-11-0-1 total. Pielmeier seems to have confidence in his game that can't really be shaken, even when he's having a bad night. Unfortunately, despite that confidence, he hasn't managed to show that he can be a solid number one for this team. He's had moments of brilliance, but he's also had moments that caused Crunch fans to hide their heads in the sand. He's young and inexperienced, something which I'm sure is working against him at the moment. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what the "problem" is with Pielmeier's game, other than that he just needs more time.
Unfortunately for the Crunch, the time for patience with the goaltending is slowly running out. It wouldn't be so bad if we had a second goaltender with confidence, but as much as I adore our other 'tender...well...
JP Levasseur: Although a goaltender with previous AHL experience under his belt, Levasseur obviously suffers from a lack of confidence in himself. You can pretty much tell from the first 10 minutes of the game what kind of night we're in for when he's in net. There is no turning him around. His 5-10-0-2 record reflects this. What stinks about this situation is that when Levasseur is on, he's absolutely and totally on. During a weekend in December, he earned the AHL Player of Week when he stopped 96 of 100 shots faced in 2.5 games. (he was called in relief of Pielmeier during one of them) He won two of those three games, one against the best team in the league at that time and another against one of the hottest teams in the league at that time. Unfortunately, he hasn't won a game since. He can do some fantastic things when his head is in the right place, but when it's not...it turns ugly fast. This kind of hot/cold play obviously leaves the Crunch floundering.
So, looking back, there's not a lot of good news here, is there? Well, maybe we'll find some good things next week, when I take a look at the other half of our team. We're bound to find some positives there, right?