As many of you know, the coaching situation down in Syracuse became a a problem mid-season last year. The Crunch wasn't doing very well, and the fans were responding in the way the fans always - and I mean always have - by raining loud boos down to the players, both during and after the games. We didn't do crazy things like fling garbage onto the ice. There were no reports of fans approaching players and being jerks after the games. Yet, there was one or two reports of fans having rough words with Coach Holick after a game, but beyond that the fans were just making themselves heard in a way team after team has had to deal with.
Holick, for some reason, took issue with the booing and apparently the potential it had to...hurt the players' feelings. I kid you not. He then vented his spleen to the local media about it, causing an uproar amongst fans who felt he should be worrying about the cause of the jeers, as opposed to the jeers themselves.
All this doesn't even take into account his growing ineffectual coaching style. Anyone watching this year's team could tell there was something off. The same plays were being run, to the same failed results. The players were running into each other so much they were starting to look like a circus act. The team didn't seem to know what to do when a play went wrong.
Holick's unemotional bench stance during games wasn't helping any. It was painful to watch the guys mill around during time outs and watch Holick just stand there, chomping on a stick of gum like it was the last piece of Juicy Fruit he'd ever see. The fans wanted some kind of reaction to reassure us that leadership was present, and we certainly weren't getting it.
Needless to say, it was a relief this past week when news came down that Holick was, in effect, being shoved laterally to the side and, what's more, slightly behind a new, hopefully more effectual coach. The results, we think, have been very positive and a great indicator of things to come!
Record (W-L-OTL-SOL): 17-15-3-2
Divisional standing: 4th (only thing that's been consistent all season...)
Conference standing: 12th (one down from last update, top 8 make playoffs)
Top producer: Patrick Maroon, 39 pts. (16-23), 8th in the league
Top goal scorer: Kyle Palmieri (21 goals), 23rd in the league
Roster moves during the past two weeks:
(hold onto your hats, this is gonna be a long one)
- Nicolas Deschamps (LW) was traded to the Toronto organization in exchange for Luca Caputi (LW)
- Matt Smaby (D) was added to SYR by ANA
- Jean-Francois Jacques (LW) was returned to SYR by ANA, then recalled by ANA, then suspended by the NHL and sent back to the AHL on the next plane
- Kyle Palmieri (RW) was recalled by ANA and remains there
- Iiro Tarkki (G) was recalled by ANA, but thankfully was returned to SYR before the Crunch had to play again
- Andrew Gordon (RW) was assigned to SYR from ANA
- Marco Cousineau (G) was signed to a PTO and remains with the Crunch
- Kyle Cumiskey (D) was recalled to ANA from SYR and remains there
- Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers (G) was recalled to ANA and remains there
- Mark Fraser (D) was assigned to SYR full time after passing through waivers at the end of his conditioning assignment
- Matt Keetley (G) was signed to a PTO, but was released when Tarkki was returned
- Ryan McGinnis (D) was loaned to Florida of the ECHL, to make room for Smaby/Fraser
- Nick Schaus (D) was loaned to Elmira of the ECHL to make room for Smaby/Fraser
- Josh Brittain (LW) was assigned to Elmira of the ECHL
In all of that movement, we also welcomed our new head associate coach, Trent Yawney. Yawney comes from a long line of playing, AHL coaching, NHL assistant coaching, and scouting with the Ducks organization. Upon arriving in town, the Ducks tried to make it clear that he was not replacing coach Holick, that Holick would still have a voice on the staff. Indeed, he would have a voice as an associate coach, but Yawney was given final say on all decisions.
No matter how the brass want to put it, a message has been sent here.
Yawney has stressed two major things in his ascent to power in Syracuse:
- He was signed with the strict instruction to get this struggling squad in the playoffs, that this team has the talent to be there and shouldn't be on the outside looking in at this point. (Are you listening, Holick?)
- His first order of business is to look at the Crunch's defense, a squad that was 29th in the league in goals against upon his arrival. He knew the team could score, but it doesn't really matter how many goals you score if the other team manages to score one more than you do.
If you'd like, you can listen to Yawney talk about his new situation on the Score 1260, Syracuse's local AM station that covers the team. His interview is podcasted here. Our owner, Howard Dolgon, also had an interview with them last week about this situation. The link to that audio is here. The Syracuse Post Standard did an interview/story with Yawney, and although I hate to direct traffic to those people, I suppose it's a necessary evil right now. You can read that coverage here. All of the links should open in a new window. If the podcasts don't work right, you can go to the Score's podcast page and scroll to the right ones. They should be around for the next few days.
Although I haven't seen Yawney in action yet, the Crunch's three away games under him have had extremely positive results. The Crunch won the first two convincingly, pulling out a strong 5-2 game against the Baby Sens Friday night and a shootout win (with ECHL'er Cousineau in goal for both games) against the Albany Devils Saturday. Sunday, the Crunch managed to extend their game against the Worcester Sharks to another shootout, where they went six rounds but couldn't pull off a perfect weekend. However, the Sharks were held to 24 SOG, the Devils got only 2 shots off during the first period, and the Sens only had two double-digit periods for SOG. The defense was visibly improved, at least according to the score sheet.
The scoring was also impressive this past weekend. On Friday, five different players combined for the win (Brandon McMillan, Luca Caputi, Mathieu Carle, Patrick Maroon, and Jean-Francois Jacques). Saturday, recent ECHL call up John Kurtz netted his first of the season, while McMillan grabbed his second of the weekend. In the SO, Maroon, Caputi, Jacques and Dan Sexton all scored to nab the win for the Crunch. Sunday, Caputi grabbed another goal, as did Peter Holland. Sexton and Holland scored in the SO in the losing effort.
That's quite a nice variety of names who were motivated to shoot and score this past weekend. For a team without the services of Bonino and Palmieri, this is a really, really good thing. Clearly, Yawney won't, and can't, come in and fix everything over night, but he's off to a pretty good start. The players seem to be excited about this chance to start fresh, and the fans are more than happy to see where this is going to go.