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Syracuse Crunch week 22: Acceptance

Wherever this season takes Crunch fans next, it's just time to buckle in and try to enjoy the ride.

Syracuse Crunch Matt Taormina (6) celebrates Richard Panik (14) overtime goal against the Adirondack Phantoms in American Hockey League (AHL) action at the War Memorial Arena on Saturday, March 1, 2014. Syracuse won in overtime, 5-4.
Syracuse Crunch Matt Taormina (6) celebrates Richard Panik (14) overtime goal against the Adirondack Phantoms in American Hockey League (AHL) action at the War Memorial Arena on Saturday, March 1, 2014. Syracuse won in overtime, 5-4.
Scott Thomas - central New York photographer and used with permission

I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.

~Benjamin Franklin

To say that the Syracuse Crunch has failed this season would be untrue. Although the Crunch's playoff hopes are just that--hopes--they're not impossible hopes. As of this moment in time, with 21 games left, Syracuse is 14 points out of a playoff spot. They have 42 points left to grab. It's not probable that they'll make it, but it is still possible.

However, it might be accurate to say that they have found 100 ways to do it wrong this season. As a result, Crunch fans have been taken on a wild ride, and the emotions felt by all throughout the course of the season have been very similar to how people handle grief and/or large upsets in their lives. According to Wikipedia, the Kübler-Ross model of grief, otherwise known as the five stages of grief, is:

the series of emotional stages that someone experiences when faced with impending death or other extreme, awful fate. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

So, how have the fans of Crunch demonstrated this model this season?

Stage one: Denial

Back on November 10th, 2013, it was reported with giddy excitement that the Crunch was back on top of the East Division again. They were second in the Eastern Conference and their record was 9-3-1-0. Things were traveling along fairly smoothly. Then Tampa Bay suffered a huge loss during that game in Boston and things started to crumble with the Crunch. Recalls were made, then made again. Syracuse suffered their own share of injuries, with the most grievous happening to forward Vladdy Namestnikov.

Syracuse fans had seen this before, however; recalls are nothing new to an AHL fanbase, and Crunch fans trusted that the depth in the system and Tampa's concern with their farm club's welfare would pull the team through. Things would be fine. Sure, the team probably wouldn't fair as well in the standings at first with their entire first line either injured or called up, but things would be okay.

It was all going to work out. It really was.

Stage two: Anger

Unfortunately, following that November high was a December that, hands down, was the lowest point of this season. The Crunch only managed two wins. Because of that, Syracuse fell from first in the East Division to fifth in a month in a half. They tumbled to eleventh in the Eastern Conference from second. Crunch fans weren't just blue; they were red, too. Red with anger.

Some fans proposed tearing the team apart and trading them all. Some muttered about promoting all of the Florida Everblades or the Brampton Beast, the Crunch's two organizational farm clubs, and replacing most of the Crunch with players who would (probably) put forth a consistent effort. Others shot out at the Tampa Bay organization. Anger was the order of the day, anger stemming (mostly) from being so puzzled over how such a promising season could be going so wrong.

Stage three: Bargaining

Some things that were (possibly/maybe/probably/never) said following one of the most abysmal Decembers in Syracuse Crunch history:

-"Maybe if they just can get some consistency going, the season would be all right!"

-"Kristers Gudlevskis is the AHL Player of the Week this week...maybe it'll all be okay now. He can save us, right?"

-"I would give my life savings for some blue line help. Then I know the team could figure it out!"

-"I would give anything for the Crunch to win just a couple of games against Binghamton."

Stage four: Depression

Once fans realized that bargaining wasn't going to work, their moods started to fall. Anger was fading into the sort of sadness that only pictures of kicked puppies invoke. This depression was helped along by one of the most absurd moments to have happened to a professional hockey club. The following is from Raw Charge's recap of Syracuse's Week 19, which will always be remembered as one of the craziest in Crunch history:

A local high school hockey coach got the chance of a lifetime this past weekend when the Crunch called him to see if he would be their back-up goalie for the day. John Parks, assistant coach of the Christian Brothers Academy hockey team, was tapped for a one-day amateur tryout contract with the Crunch and backed up the team during their afternoon matinee against Norfolk.

He's 46 years old. He was paid $300 and got to keep his game-issued jersey.

To say that Crunch fans were depressed during that week would probably be an understatement. They were incredulous, too, but they were mostly depressed. The goaltending situation was up in the air, the Crunch was hovering between thirteenth and fourteenth place in the fifteen-team Eastern Conference, and the end of the season just seemed either too close or too far away, depending on one's perspective.

Speaking of the end of the season...

Stage five: Acceptance

Something happens in the final stages of a season where a team has found 100 (or more) ways to do it wrong. Whether the team itself turns a corner or not, whether personnel moves are made to help support the team or not, or whether fans just start to look forward to the end, eventually supporters just come to accept whatever happens next.

In the case of Syracuse, it could be that things just got so absurd that it was just easier for fans to throw up their hands and relax than to be stressed and depressed.

Thankfully, the boys themselves have made it a little bit easier for fans to accept where this season will go. Syracuse is not out of the playoff race yet. The Crunch recently won four games in a row, giving the team their second-longest winning streak of the season (the longest was five games won between October 19th and November 1st). Tampa sent down Anders Lindback for a conditioning assignment this past week, generating a fair amount of excitement about seeing NHL talent in the War Memorial.

Playoffs or not, the regular AHL season has about 1,260 minutes left for the Crunch to play. There will never be another Crunch team that's exactly like this team, for better or for worse. The NHL trade deadline is this week, and it could very well be that some Crunch guys might be moving to another team. It might also be possible that Syracuse's roster will be added to.

It's time now to accept. We might only have another month and a half of hockey left for this season, Crunch fans. Try to enjoy it.

Latest Stats for the Syracuse Crunch:

  • Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 22-23-4-5

  • Place in the conference standings (top 8 make the playoffs): Eleventh

  • AHL Playoff Primer for 2014
  • Place in division standings: Fifth

  • Top scorer: Vladislav Namestnikov, 15-19-34
  • Top scorer still active with the team: Cedric Paquette, 14-19-33
  • Top scoring defenseman: Dmitry Korobov, 2-18-20

  • Top defenseman, +/-: Jean-Philippe Cote, +7

  • Top rookie: Cedric Paquette, 14-19-33

Other Syracuse Crunch Player notes/transactions:

-Dan Milan (D) was recalled from Brampton of the CHL to Syracuse

-Allen York (G) was released from his PTO

-Vladislav Namestnikov (C) was recalled to Tampa Bay

-Anders Lindback earned a shutout Friday night vs. the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, stopping all 30 of the shots he faced

-The Crunch leads the AHL in shutouts with eight

-Four different Crunch goalies have recorded shutouts this year: Cedrick Desjardins, Kristers Gudlevskis, Allen York, and Anders Lindback

-With two assists Friday night, Richard Panik has had 21 multi-point games in the AHL

-Syracuse is 18-2-2-3 when scoring first

-Dana Tyrell had his first multi-goal game since Oct. 5 Saturday night (2g)

-The Crunch won in OT for the first time this season Saturday night

-Mike Angelidis saw his season-long five-game scoring streak (1g, 4a) end Sunday

-The Crunch saw their five-game point streak end Sunday

Syracuse Crunch media highlights:

Syracuse Crunch vs. WBS Penguins (February 28th, 2014) (via Syracuse Crunch)

Syracuse Crunch vs. Adirondack Phantoms (March 1st, 2014) (via Syracuse Crunch)

Week 22 with Anders Lindback (Feb. 27, 2014) (via Syracuse Crunch)