So, that other league is playing again, huh?

As probably all of you know, that “other” league has decided to play again. AHL teams are being ravaged as we speak, but the great news for Crunch fans is that the over-all damage to Syracuse’s roster won’t be nearly as bad watching our team try to play hockey last night.

This is really, really good news.

According to multiple sources all over these great Internets, we’ll only lose two forwards (at most) and one defenseman. The defenseman is Keith Aulie, everyone’s pretty much known that from the start given his contract status. Although three other defensemen got invites to camp–Matt Taormina (who will need to clear waivers to return), Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas–none are expected to stay up there. This is a great opportunity to show TBL their stuff, however, and I especially want to wish Gudas the best of luck.

Note: D Evan Oberg, who did not get an invite to camp, will also reportedly have to clear waivers in order to play here again.

So, that’s the D. We’ll be fine. But where the forwards are concerned…well, that’s where things get a bit more dicey.

As of last week, most people (me included!) were assuming Crunch forward Brett Connolly was a shoe-in for one of the slots. Connolly spent 64 games with Tampa last season, but struggled mightily, scoring 6 goals and netting 11 assists. Many of my Tampa friends say he was snake bitten for most of the season and could have really used some AHL seasoning.

Well, he’s gotten that, and has played really well for Syracuse.  He’s second on the team right now in scoring with 15 goals and 18 assists in 36 games. Only Tyler Johnson, with 20 goals and 15 assists in 36 games, has more points. He’s impressed the fans here and was the only Crunch player to score in last night’s snoozer against the Rochester Americans.

However, despite these numbers, Connolly did not get an invite to this week’s training camp in Tampa Bay. While probably a let down for him, this doesn’t mean too much for the twenty year old in terms of Tampa’s confidence. It won’t hurt him to get some extra time here, and he’ll be that much more ready when it is his turn.  It’s nice to see Tampa committed to development like that, and to learn from what might have been a mistake last year.

The forwards who did get an invitation were: Mike Angelidis, JT Wyman, Cory Conacher, PC Labrie, and Tyler Johnson.  Notable absences from this list, besides Connolly, are Alex Killorn and Richard Panik. Also of note, Angelidis and Labrie will need to clear waivers before being sent back down to us.

So, who will be the lucky two forwards to draw the long straws and stay in Tampa? That’s the biggest question Crunch fans are waiting to hear answered. In my opinion, and believe me it kills me to write this, I think we’ve seen the last of Conacher. Conacher, with 12 goals and 16 assists for the Crunch, has been this season’s Kyle Palmieri in terms of dependability with a dash of flash. He’s been an absolute joy to watch, and deserves his chance as long as the brass in Tampa think he’s ready.

The other open slot…shit, guys n’ galls, I really have no idea. I know it won’t be Angelidis or Labrie, although it was fantastic of Tampa to invite the two guys who have been the heart and a soul of this group to camp. It’s a really nice reward for two players who probably won’t get more than a handful of call ups this year.

So, that leaves Wyman or Johnson…sort of. For most of the season, it was assumed that JT Brown was going to be a loss for us as soon as the NHL season started, but a broken collar bone has delayed Brown’s arrival in the NHL this year. How quick he recovers and gets back to form, and how well the player in his place performs, may decide things there. However, I selfishly would like Johnson to come back for a least a little bit more. I just like the kid. He’s peppy.

You can check out my partner blog, Raw Charge, for more training camp updates!

Of course, the Crunch isn’t the only AHL team going through this kind of awkward transition. All of the teams are facing the same situation in varying degrees. The Baby Sens, for example, saw their entire goaltending squad go to camp, in addition to most of their D core and a lot of forwards. I’m not sure how many players are slated to stay, but Bingo did better than we did last night, so…yeah.

Speaking of last night, obviously the depleted team we saw struggle to look like they weren’t skating through mud isn’t the team we’re going to be left with once everything is said and done. Everyone who will be back should be here by Friday, as long as the waiver Gods bless us.

Wow, this almost felt like a real entry!

Until next time, Crunchies. In Dustin (and Gudy) we trust!

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