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Best of luck, Skittles

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With Kristers “Skittles” Gudlevskis moving onto the Islanders organization, Alex says goodbye.

Scott Thomas

To say that I had mixed emotions when news broke on Saturday that Kristers Gudlevskis had been traded to the New York Islanders organization would probably be an understatement. To be frank, crushing sadness warred with elation.

I was horribly upset that I would never get to see him play in a Syracuse Crunch uniform again, but I was also happy for him. I have high hopes that he will be allowed a fresh start with a new organization that will hopefully utilize him more fairly than the Tampa Bay Lightning ever did.

Gudlevskis’ story is well-known. He was a 2013 fifth round draft pick by the Lightning. He is the only player to have suited up in the NHL, AHL, ECHL, IIHF World Championships, and the Olympics in the same season. His ceiling seemed endlessly high, and at one point it seemed like he was most certainly headed for full-time NHL duty. But over his past four seasons with Syracuse - and within the Lightning organization - his career trajectory took several hits.

Gudlevskis was saddled with a rough Syracuse defense for at least two out of his four AHL seasons. He was also bounced between the Crunch and the Lightning for a good chunk of the past two seasons so that Andrei Vasilevskiy could get in quick punches of development time. During those times he was bouncing around, his playing time in both leagues was erratic, leading to long stretches (for a goalie, anyway) where he just wasn’t playing. Despite those stretches, he was unfairly expected to play at a high level once he was finally allowed ice time again.

No one deserves to be treated as a pawn in someone else’s development. No one deserves to feel like they’re just a faceless placeholder. No one deserves to be expected to perform at their highest level after being treated so carelessly.

As this past season wore on, first Adam Wilcox and then Mike McKenna took over the net for Syracuse. I have absolutely nothing against either of those players. It caused me a lot of heartache to say goodbye to McKenna just this past weekend. However, despite Gudlevskis’ apparent position on the outside, the man I nicknamed Skittles (because I am terrible at pronouncing things) never lost his passion for this team. He still wore the Crunch’s uniform proudly, and was very, very emotional after that final game 6 in Grand Rapids.

Skittles, I want to tell you something. I’ve said it before, but I want to reiterate it now, just in case:

You are an amazing goalie that deserved better from the organization that drafted you. Don’t you dare let yourself think any differently. Be happy. Be healthy. Be fulfilled. Kick some ass.