Chirping the Bench: Still in This Thing

Well, it's now two weeks since I called our playoff run D.O.A., but I gotta admit the Ducklings are still hanging in there. The Crunch has been finding ways to win as of late, whether it's in extra frames or fighting back from behind, both of which were practically unheard of only a few short months ago. Much like last year's team, a team that found its stride mid-March, this team seems to have finally formed an identity. Everyone is actually playing hockey.

Too bad it took them this long to figure it out!

I know a few people have been asking me to summarize our guys and what I see for them for next year, so I'm going to start doing that piecemeal during my next few posts. I'll start with the forwards today and do about half of them, and then finish that group my next update.

Record (W-L-OTL-SOL): 26-27-4-4

Divisional standing: 4th

Conference standing: 14th (same as last update, top 8 make playoffs)

Can the Crunch still make it?: Mathematically, the answer here is still yes, and it's looking slightly better with every win. The Crunch has 15 games left this season, which means we have 30 points still up for grabs. I'm still saying it's a safe bet to assume that a team will need at least 80 points to make 8th. The Crunch has 60 points. If we win 10 out of our final 15 games, we've got a pretty good shot, but it might take a run even better than that. The 3 points the Crunch got on 8th place Albany were huge this past weekend. We face the Devils only one more time this season, and that just happens to be the last game of the regular season in April. Clearly, the implications of that game could be rather interesting come April 15th. The Crunch will also be facing 2nd place St. John's one more time before the end, in addition to 10th place Adirondack 4 times, 3rd place Bridgeport once, 5th place Hershey once, and 6th Connecticut once. Needless to say, the battle ain't over yet.

Top producer: Patrick Maroon, 60 pts. (28-36), 4th in the league

Top goal scorer: Kyle Palmieri (32 goals, number one in the league)

Roster moves during the past two weeks:

  • Nate Guenin (D) was recalled to the Ducks, and ECHL player Ryan McGinnis (D) was added to the roster in response.
  • Andy Thomas (D) was signed to a professional tryout contract.
  • Ryan O'Marra (C) was recalled by ANA.
  • Marco Cousineau (G) was brought up from the CHL after a horrid performance by the loaned Antero Niittymaki Saturday night. Nitty did not dress for Sunday's game. Monday morning, the local paper published that Nitty suffered a groin injury during Saturday's game and is day-to-day. Nitty finished the game on Saturday as he struggled to give Iiro Tarkki his first night off in three games.
  • John Kurtz (LW) was recalled from the ECHL, presumably because of a still-unannounced Kyle Palmieri call up to the Ducks. Palmieri was a healthy scratch for Syracuse on Sunday. [Ed. Note: Palmieri is a backup if Corey Perry can't go.]

In case you missed it: Our broadcaster and media personality, Jason Lockhart, recently did a piece on Iiro Tarkki for theahl.com. You can find it here.

End of season reports: The Forwards, pt. 1

  • Nathan Smith: Smith hasn't played a game since November. He's been out with an injury. I honestly can't remember what it was, and a brief search didn't reveal anything. I highly doubt he's in Anaheim's future plans, but even if he was, the only thing I can tell you is that in 18 games this season he had 1 goal and 5 assists.
  • Rick Schofield: In 61 games played, Rick has 7 goals and 7 assists. His numbers might not be very high, but Schofield's talents lie outside of scoring goals. He's shown some fabulous puck handling as of late, and has proven that he can throw his 6'2" frame around effectively. He's a fantastic force to have on a checking line, and has developed a habit of pushing other players off their game. I could see another year or two in the AHL for Schofield.
  • Dale Mitchell: D. Mitchell is new to the team, a result of one of the two trades the Ducks made on deadline day. He hasn't played much here, only one game, during which he...um...recorded one shot and received two penalty minutes, or so theahl.com tells me. I really don't remember his game that day. D. Mitchell had been making his living mostly in the ECHL before the trade, so I'm not really sure what the Ducks have in mind for him. I'd assume that if he stays with the organization he will see at least another year in the AHL, if not two.
  • Jean-Francois Jacques: In 50 games with the Crunch, Jacques has 17 goals and 11 assists. Perhaps more importantly when looking at his future with the organization, Jacques has had multiple call ups to Anaheim this season. Unfortunately for Jacques, many of those call ups have been to burn off multiple-game suspensions. I could definitely see a future in the organization for him, but he needs to start being smarter with his game at the NHL level when he gets those kinds of chances. Jacques will be a UFA this summer, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Ducks offer him another year.
  • Brandon McMillan: McMillan still has another year on his entry level contract, so clearly he'll be in the organization next year. Whether he'll be up with the Ducks or back down in the AHL will probably depend largely on his summer preparation and his fall training camp. The way I understand it, McMillan was a disappointment for the Ducks this season, going 0-4 in 24 games before they sent him down to the AHL. McMillan has done better here, but has still struggled for stretches of time to find the back of the net. In 36 games with the Crunch he has 9 goal and 9 assists. The good news is that an improvement in his game has largely coincided with the Crunch's recent uptick in wins.
  • Luca Caputi: Caputi was brought to the Crunch in a trade of struggling scorers. Since that trade, Caputi has been making a crap-load of noise (and has become my favorite player). In 28 games he has 8 goals and 11 assists. He's a pretty flexible player who can be used on nearly any line, from scoring to checking. He has heart and is a clear leader on the team. Caputi will be an RFA at the end of this season. As much as I'd love to see him sign with whomever the Crunch has as a parent club next year, I personally think the Ducks would be crazy not to re-sign him. Whether he can find a place in Anaheim will depend on what he can do in camp next year.
  • Josh Brittain: Brittain is an enigma. He can have flashes of absolute talent, where he plays really amazing for a game or two, but then he disappears again or, even worse, does stupid things like spending the entire game in the box as he did this past Saturday. During that game, he was given a 5 minute major penalty, during which the other team scored twice. He has 1 goal and three assists in 27 games with the Crunch. I really wouldn't expect to see Brittain in the NHL any time soon. I'm honestly not impressed with his game. His inconsistencies make him a fairly dangerous player to have around.
  • Mark Bell: Bell hasn't played since Feb. 4th, where he went down injured and didn't return. In 35 games he had 6 goals and 10 assists. He'll be a UFA this summer, and I can't see the Ducks going after him again.

That's all for this update. I'll cover the rest of our forwards next time around. Most of the "meat" of the team will be covered there. Have a good two weeks, everybody!

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