Chirping The Bench: Mid-Year Reviews, part 2

ALLOKAGO:
I figured I'd better do this now, as I'm in a pretty good mood after last night's David vs. Goliath Crunch win. The Crunch, with the second-worst record in the AHL, took on Norfolk, a team with the second-best record in the AHL, and won 3-2. The Crunch not only won, but won convincingly, with an all-around nearly perfect effort from the forwards, the defense, and the goaltendng. In other words, everyone on the team actually did their jobs. Shocking!

Last night also saw the debut of a forwards-only power play, and while the unit didn't score any goals, it looked a lot more put together and tighter than the man-up units we've seen so far this year. It's an interesting tactic I've never seen the Crunch do before. It'd be nice if the new strategy would start creating some points.

With the debut of the forwards-only power play, it seemed fitting I post this soon after. Here is my mid-year review of our forwards. As you'll see, I can't really call them our scoring unit. The following stats were rather painful to write, but it basically illustrates one of the main reasons the Crunch is the second-worst team in the AHL. The frustrating part is that, on paper, this offense should be at least mediocre. Unfortunately, calling it that right now would be laughable.

Keep in mind that some of the guys on the list bounce around a bit, with the ones towards the bottom finding themselves healthy scratched on any given night. I did all of the forwards that are currently on our active roster, not just ones that regularly get minutes. I'm apparently a glutton for punishment.

Nicolas Deschamps (LW): In the beginning of the season, Deschamps looked fantastic. In his first 9 games in a Crunch uniform, Deschamps racked up 4 goals and 3 assists, and anchored what looked to be one of the most promising scoring lines we'd have all year. But then his game slowly started to decline. During the month of November, his production fell slightly--in 12 games, he netted 3 goals and 2 assists. Then, his production faltered even more. In what was to become a bleak December, he played 13 games. During that time, he only netted a goal and 3 helpers.  So far this month, he's played 11 games, totaling no goals and 5 assists. It's great that Nicolas has settled in with his play-making abilities, but the Crunch could desperately use him more in the finishing role he held in the beginning of the season. Deschamps' current total of 22 points (8 goals, 14 assists) leads the team.

Let that 22 point high mark sink in a moment before I move on, would you?

Patrick Maroon (LW): Maroon was acquired at the end of November, a move that was made to try to give the Crunch a scoring boost. In 9 games with the Adirondack Phantoms, Maroon had scored 5 goals and 3 assists. In the almost two months since the trade, Maroon has scored 5 goals and 8 assists for the Crunch. Maroon came in after a bit of a shadowy dismissal from the Philadelphia organization and has since shown that he is willing to work hard for the Crunch and its fans. He is second on the team in points and his 10-goal total (5 for ADK and 5 for SYR) has him tied for the lead in goals scored.

Yes, you read that right, our two top scorers have only scored 10 goals each, with 5 of those goals coming when one of them was on another team. Yikes.

Josh Green (LW): Green is a player who probably would have better numbers in the AHL if it wasn't for the month he missed here when he was called up by your fine organization, so admittedly these are a bit skewed. Green has played 34 games for the Crunch so far this season. He has amassed 7 goals and 11 assists. He is currently wearing the "C" for our team, as captain DiPenta is out with what has been reported as a smushed nose. Ouch. Although I don't like the idea of passing the "C" around from player to player, it can be acknowledged that the move itself is deserved. Green played in his 300th AHL game last night, and has played in over 300 NHL games, so he has certainly been around the block a few times. He's a popular player with the fans because of his hard work.

Kyle Palmieri (RW): When Nick Bonino got called up, Kyle Palmieri became the Golden Boy of the organization in his place. His tenure with the Crunch was briefly interrupted by a call-up in November, where he scored his first NHL goal, and a bronze-medal effort for Team USA in the World Junior games during the month of December. Between those things, Palmieri has played 29 games with the Crunch, totaling 10 goals and 6 assists. He's one of the more exciting players to watch on the team, with his speed and deft puck handling. However, many Crunch fans wish he'd get back to the production rate he had at the beginning of the season. During the month of October, Palmieri netted 7 goals and 2 assists. Since then, his only full month with the Crunch has been marked with a lack of points. During January, I was surprised to find that he's only scored 1 goal and 2 assists. That total is consistent with the half-months he spent with the team, November (1 goal) and December (1 goal).

Maxime Macenauer (C): Macenauer has 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists) in 44 games with the Crunch. Honestly, that's about all I can say of him. He hasn't made me notice him at all. I have no idea how he regularly plays. The stats tell me that 2 of his 12 assists came during our win last night, so I suppose that's a mark in his favor. However, his .75-goal-a-month pace doesn't exactly knock my socks off. It's great he pitches in with helpers, but we could really use our "top" center as a scorer.

David Laliberte (RW): Laliberte was acquired in the same trade that brought Maroon to the Crunch. However, unlike Maroon, Laliberte's game has been interrupted by injury. Laliberte spent half of December and the first few weeks of January out with a bursa sac on his elbow. Having once talked to retired AHL D-man Dan Smith about the bursa sac in his knee that eventually ended his career, I can only imagine how painful that time must have been for Laliberte. He has 3 goals and 1 assist In 16 games with the Crunch. He shows a lot of effort, but we all wish he had more points for the hustle he puts out.

Nick Bonino (C): Two whole months are missing out of Bonino's AHL stats, given the time he spent with the Ducks this season. In the 17 games he's played with us, Bonino has amassed 4 goals and 8 assists. Before he was called up, he had 2 goals and 7 assists in 8 games. During the month of January, he's played 9 games and totaled 2 goals and 1 assist. Needless to say, we're hoping Bonino gets some of his shine back. We could really use his play-making ability back at par right now.

MacGregor Sharp (C): MacGregor Sharp has an awesome, awesome name. If I decide to finally put my reproductive organs to good use and a boy springs forth from my loins, I'm going to name him MacGregor. However, and unfortunately, an awesome name does not translate to an awesome hockey game. This has shown more so lately, with Laliberte healthy, as Sharp has spent some of his time healthy scratched. In 39 games with the club, he has only managed 4 goals and 6 assists. Yes, that's right, he has less points than a player who has missed two months of games. Gah.

By the way, his name sounds even more awesome if you say it outloud in a British accent. Give it a try. You'll see.

Stefan Chaput (C): Stefan's last name is, believe it or not, pronounced Sha-poo. Chaput was acquired in yet another trade at the end of November. As you can tell, a flurry of moves were made then to try to boost the floundering Crunch. His totals aren't bad, but they aren't exactly remarkable, either. Chaput has played in 23 games for the Crunch. He has 7 points (3 goals, 4 assists) in a Crunch uniform.

John Mitchell (LW): Mitchell scored twice last night on an NHL player who had been sent down to Norfolk on a conditioning assignment. Good God, do we wish he'd do that more often. In 30 games with Syracuse, Mitchell has 4 goals and 2 assists. Yes, ladies and gents, he doubled his production last night at the expense of an NHL goalie. And they were beautiful goals, too. Where that's been all year, I couldn't tell you.

Matt Kennedy (RW): Kennedy has 4 assists in 25 games with Syracuse. That's about all I can say about him. His play has been pretty unremarkable since he was traded here in the middle of November.

Leigh Salters (LW): Our middle-weight enforcer and the only "tough guy" we have since Jon Mirasty was sent down, Salters finally lived up to his reputation last night. He dove into a fight that was quickly turning into a 2-on-1 (with the Crunch on the wrong end), sticking up for his teammate and showing that the Crunch at least had some kind of a backbone. However, Salters has been on the losing end of too many scuffles and face-washings to earn him a place in anyone's heart. In 32 games with the Crunch, Salters has 1 goal.

John Kurtz (LW): To be honest, I'm not really sure what Kurtz is here for. I guess he's just a placeholder when we need a body. He's been up and down all season between here and Elmira. In his 23 sporadic games with the team, he's garnered 1 assist.

Jon Mirasty (LW): Yeah, yeah, he's not currently on our roster. But I'm still following Jon on his adventures down in Elmira and I still, in the face of all logic, hold out hope that he'll one day return to the Crunch. In 16 games with the Crunch, Jon collected what was a team-high 72 penalty minutes. Most of those minutes were in defense of his team. His plus/minus was a -1, so despite what a few fans said, he wasn't any more of a defensive liability than many of our other forwards. Since being sent down to Elmira, Nasty has gathered 43 penalty minutes in 7 games. More importantly, he has also netted a goal, his first since November, 2007. Since the Ducks claimed to have sent him down to work on his scoring potential, this was fantastic news for those of us who want to see him back. (I say "claimed" because, as you all have seen, Jon Mirasty's scoring potential is the least of our worries) He appears to be doing what he should be doing. Many of the fans love him already. He's playing his heart out, as always, and getting minutes. He's doing what the Ducks wanted him to do, so we'll see if we ever get him back.

 

Well, there you are. The Syracuse Crunch in a nutshell, a very ugly nutshell that pretty much explains why our record is currently 16-21-1-4. This offense has left us with the second-lowest goal total in the league. When your top scorer has only netted 10 goals at the mid-way point, you know there's just something that isn't working. Until we figure out what that is and consistently fix it, we're just going to keep struggling.

Last night's game was, in short, a miracle. We still can't figure out how we won such a hard-fought game. I will say that JP Levasseur, who I said in my last report was better than his stats show, was fantastic in the win. He stopped 41 of 43 shots from one of the most potent offenses in the AHL and was a big reason we came away with the "W." 

At least life is never boring as a Crunch fan. Confusing, infuriating, astonishing, but never boring. 

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