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What would a team of fifteen years of Syracuse Crunch All-Stars look like?

Well, it would look a little something like this.

Syracuse Crunch goalie Kristers Gudlevskis (50) salutes the fans after defeating the Rochester Americans in American Hockey League (AHL) action at the War Memorial Arena in Syracuse, New York on Saturday, March 26, 2016. Syracuse won 3-1.
Scott Thomas Photography

The AHL All-Star event is this weekend. Players, coaches, and fans will gather in Springfield, Massachusetts this year to celebrate the annual friendly contest that brings together stars from every team in the league. The Syracuse Crunch has three representatives this season: Coach Ben Groulx, goalie Connor Ingram, and forward Cory Conacher.

The Crunch is celebrating their 25th anniversary season in 2018-19. Personally, I’ve been following Syracuse for 15 seasons. I’ve seen the Crunch partner with three different NHL parent clubs: the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Anaheim Ducks, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Each organization has brought something different to the table in terms of ideal player type and development philosophy.

With the All-Star festivities kicking off this weekend, it was suggested by a Twitter follower that I put together an ultimate Syracuse Crunch All-Star roster. Given that it was much easier to recognize names from the past decade and a half, I limited myself to only that time period. I went through the AHL All-Star rosters of the past fifteen years and picked out the Crunch’s representatives. Once I was done, I had a list that looked like this:

Crunch AHL All-Stars

LW Center RW D G
LW Center RW D G
Mark Hartigan Alexander Svitov Joe Motzko Andy Delmore Kristers Gudlevskis
Joakim Lindstrom Derek MacKenzie Kyle Palmieri Filip Novak Connor Ingram
Yanni Gourde Dan Fritsche Brett Connolly Clay Wilson
Tyler Johnson Jonathan Marchessault Radko Gudas
Vladislav Namestnikov Cory Conacher Mark Barberio
Mike Angelidis Matt Taormina
Mitchell Stephens

Not bad, eh?

Obviously the goalies and the defense worked out rather well. Syracuse has only had two netminders get picked for the event in 15 years - Connor Ingram and Kristers Gudlevskis - so those two are the de facto goalies for this hybrid team. When it came to the blue line, I ended up with six players, which was fairly ideal. I decided to pair them like this:

Radko Gudas - Mark Barberio

Andy Delmore - Matt Taormina

Clay Wilson - Filip Novak

Gudas and Barberio were often partners in Syracuse, and their games clearly complimented each other at the time. I couldn’t resist putting them together again. I would have loved to see Delmore and Taormina play together, as I think Delmore’s offensively-charged game would have worked well with Taormina’s “I’m just good at everything, get over it” style. Novak and Wilson are the weakest of the six here, but Wilson could have easily carried Novak if needed.

My biggest challenge came with the forwards. Clearly there’s a glut of centers and not enough wingers to go around, so I had to get a bit creative and shift one player out of his natural position. Here’s what I came up with:

Mark Hartigan - Tyler Johnson - Cory Conacher

Joakim Lindstrom - Vladislav Namestnikov - Kyle Palmieri

Yanni Gourde -Derek MacKenzie - Jonathan Marchessault

Dan Fritsche - Mike Angelidis - Brett Connolly

A few thoughts:

  1. Sometimes players’ NHL potential/roles/longevity don’t line up with their AHL ones. Lindstrom never made it in the NHL, but netted 60 points in 49 games during the 2007-08 season when he played for the Crunch. Hartigan had 75 points in 49 games for Syracuse in 2005-06. These totals relegated Gourde to the third line (57 points in 76 games in his most successful season), even though it’s painfully obvious who has been more successful in their NHL career. His line placement here isn’t a knock on current Gourde at all, it just seemed natural considering where the other players were at when they were picked for the All-Star weekend.
  2. Conacher being on the first line might be a case of nearsightedness on my part, but...I don’t care.
  3. I argued with myself over the Palmieri-Marchessault-Connolly placement, and ultimately ended up looking at linemates and potential chemistry to place them. I also thought reuniting Pumpkin and Marshmallow was too irresistible to pass up.
  4. Angelidis was making this list somehow. Yes, I have bias. Yes, it’s obvious. No, it isn’t going away. Ever.
  5. Er...Sorry, Mitchell.

Well? How do you think I did? Feel free to tweet at me or leave a comment below!