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Matt Taormina voted winner of the AHL’s Eddie Shore Award

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The award for the AHL’s outstanding defenseman was voted on by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.

Graphic: Roland; Picture: Scott Thomas

Although we’ve already spent a lot of time here at Raw Charge lauding Matt Taormina’s efforts, it often feels like he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves outside of Syracuse. Yesterday he got recognized in a larger way by the league he plays in, and we couldn’t have been more thrilled for him. The American Hockey League awarded Taormina the Eddie Shore Award, an award voted on by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities. It recognizes the league’s most outstanding defensemen.

Taormina’s story has been one of the few truly consistent bright spots of the past seven months. In fact, his comeback story (of sorts) of his time in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization is one fans often talk about with pleasure. Taormina is one of the most genuinely nice, humble guys currently in a Crunch sweater and certainly deserves any recognition he might get for what he has done here, both this past season and during his total time within the organization.

Taormina has skated in 435 career AHL games with Syracuse, Worcester, Springfield, Albany/Lowell and Binghamton. He has 69 goals and 187 assists over the course of his AHL career thus far, totaling 256 points. He’s also played in 59 NHL games between Tampa Bay and New Jersey, during which he registered four goals and eight assists. He was named a 2016-17 First Team AHL All-Star earlier this week. He has been to three AHL All-Star Classics over the course of his career, representing the Crunch at the most recent two.

Taormina first arrived in Syracuse after signing a one-year two-way contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the summer of 2012. He skated in 55 games for the Crunch during the regular season, but struggles with his back kept his point totals on the low end. He was able to skate in all 18 of the Crunch’s playoff games that season, contributing 2 goals and 10 assists overall as Syracuse fell two games short of the Calder Cup championship. He made a name for himself in Syracuse during that time, both for his performance on the ice and for his leadership abilities.

Taormina returned to Syracuse in the following season, but the Crunch struggled early after seeing much of their talent from the previous season make the transition to the Lightning. At the 2013–14 trade deadline, Taormina was traded, along with Dana Tyrell, to the Columbus Blue Jackets organization. In exchange, the Crunch received Jonathan Marchessault and Dalton Smith. Taormina wouldn’t be gone for long, though. After a stellar season with AHL Worcester, he returned to the Lightning organization in the summer of 2015, and was again re-signed in 2016.

Since arriving back on the scene two summers ago, Taormina has continued to show why it was wise of the Lightning to reinvest in him. Taormina is one of those rare defensemen that can both score and protect, and he’s been invaluable to the Crunch’s special teams. Although he hasn’t played with the Lightning this season, he did skate in three Stanley Cup Playoff games for Tampa in 2016. Taormina has been an alternate captain in Syracuse for the better part of the past two seasons, showing game in and game out a tireless dedication to seeing the Crunch succeed. He was named a permanent alternate captain this past March after the Crunch restructured its leadership group.

As much as Crunch fans would like to see Taormina get another chance at his NHL dream, it has certainly been to Syracuse’s benefit that he’s been able to spend so much time with the Crunch this season. As Syracuse’s roster changed daily and as the transaction list grew longer, Taormina was by far the most stable force on the team. He’s had the Crunch on his shoulders for so long that it’s truly impossible to imagine where we’d be without him.

After his selection for the Eddie Shore award was announced yesterday, Taormina took some time to thank a variety of people on his Twitter. The tweets truly showed how grateful the modest defenseman was for the recognition:

Personally, I am completely thrilled for Matt. The 2013 Calder Cup final jersey that I have of his is one of the most prized in my collection. After that series, I knew there was no one better I could have thought of that embodied the kind of player a developmental team truly needs. He’s been a joy to watch and a boon for this team and this fan base.

Congratulations, Matty. You truly deserved this.