I hate writing entries like this. It's so much more depressing to put the Syracuse Crunch's problems down in black and white, but here it is: We're losing ground fast, and it isn't pretty.
This team, a team that used to find ways to win, are now finding ways to lose. A lot of ways to lose.
I'm going to need to keep this brief, because I'm afraid of blowing things out of proportion. I don't want my gloom-and-doom to come across as end-of-the-world depressing. So, let's get right to it.
What exactly is going on here?
1st opinion: Too many eyes and minds on the NHL
This is kind of a mishmash of a few opinions out there. I've heard it said by Raw Charge's own Cassie that Crunch players are now so busy thinking about getting the attention of the Tampa Bay Lightning that they're not paying attention to things down in Syracuse. The little things are going by the wayside. Those messy goals that can sometimes win hockey games aren't happening because players are trying too hard to get that precious call up. Since the Crunch started to fall apart right around the time that the NHL returned, I can see some sense here.
2nd opinion: The boys are trying too hard to impress the home crowd.
This one actually came from Coach Jon Cooper himself, in an interview this past week. He thinks the players want to impress all of us here in Syracuse, leading to players trying too hard for the pretty goal or the impressive save. As in the first opinion, the little things that hockey players can do to force wins aren't being done. The irony here is, of course, that fans would be more impressed by a winning record at home than any number of fancy goals or saves.
3rd opinion: No one is doing their job
Exhibit A: Defenseman Radko Gudas is spending more time flailing his mitts than defending our net. I suspect he's frustrated and angry and isn't dealing with it the right way, but, as a fan, I just wish he'd get over it. Yeah, it was cool the first few times he fought to protect our scorers, and I still love that about him, but turning into a pissed off goon just because the team isn't winning isn't what I want to see. He's so much better than that.
Exhibit B: Defenseman Dmitry Korobov is suddenly a giant defensive liability. He's been on the ice during so many goals lately, watching seemingly helpless as the puck goes in, that it's almost pathetic. Although I can't point to very many who could use a swift kick, Korobov is definitely in need of one.
Exhibit C: The absolute inconsistency of Crunch goaltenders Dustin Tokarski and Riku Helenius. I love goalies. I always have. I generally defend them to the death, and, granted, with the way our D has just been letting shooters walk up to our net, I can't-and won't-blame the goalies totally. But we've seen both of these guys play amazingly well and amazingly bad, sometimes in the same game.
Exhibit D: Our forwards aren't scoring. Syracuse has been outscored 22-14 in their last five games. They might be generating shots, but very few pucks are going in... All while opponents are lighting the lamp at the other end of the ice. Granted, that says a lot about our D and our goalies, too, which brings me back in a circle to my original point. No one is doing their job.
4th opinion: It's all, it's everything
I'm leaning towards this one, folks. It's a poisonous brew that the coaching staff hasn't figured out the cure to yet. These guys are so talented, and it's almost as though that fact is blinding them to the things they need to do to get out of this slump. Everyone needs to change. It isn't just a matter of one issue, like cliques, which is what plagued the Syracuse Crunch last year when we were affiliated witht eh Anaheim Ducks (and what I suspect is still causing havoc for that team as now in Norfolk). It's everyone, it's everything.
Maybe a trade would help? I had hopes that Alex Killorn's call up would open some eyes, but judging by the lack of quality shots in Sunday afternoon's loss at Adirondack against the Phantoms (one goal on 43 shots, while the Phantoms scored 6 goals on 26 shots), it's probably going to take more than that.
I hope they figure this out soon.
Transactions of note:
2/10/2013: Alex Killorn (C)...Recalled from Syracuse to Tampa Bay
2/10/2013: Dana Tyrell (RW)...Loaned to Syracuse from Tampa Bay
02/9/2013: Alex Hutchings (LW)...Reassigned to Syracuse from Florida (ECHL)
Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 26-14-2-4
Place in the conference standings (top 8 make the playoffs): Fourth place
Place in division standings: Second
Top scorer: Tyler Johnson, 22-19-39
Top scoring defenseman: Mark Barberio, 6-22-28
Top defenseman, +/-: Radko Gudas, +23
Top rookie: With Alex Killorn recalled, the honor now goes to J.T. Brown, 6-11-17
Game attendance: 2/4: 5,994; 2/8: 4,896; 2/9: 5,987
Shameless self promotion: I was interviewed by a great source for AHL news and views, the Power Play Post Show, this past week. If you want more insight into Tampa's farm team, as well as some things from elsewhere in the league, give it a listen!