The ultimate goal remains the same every year.
While every team in the American Hockey League chases the Calder Cup, the Tampa Bay Lighting’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, are looking to rekindle the magic that took them to the league championship series in 2013. Less than three years have passed, but the memories of 2013 seem to be shrinking in the rear view mirror.
The Crunch will take their first step toward that goal when they open the 2015-16 on the road against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Saturday.
“It’s gone by fast, without a doubt,” said Crunch head coach Rob Zettler. “The people have changed except for a couple, but it does feel like a while away. I feel like we’ve learned a lot over these last two years, and we’re continuing to grow. The goal, as always, is to make the playoffs and win the Calder Cup.”
Crunch hang on for opening night win.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the victory. He didn't have a ton of work in the first half of the game, but made a handful of key stops at key moments in the second half of the contest to preserve the win, including a big glove stop at the end of the Third Period.
Click on any of the goals listed to see a GIF of the play.
LV Martel, (1) (Conner, Cousins), 16:31
It was kind of a tale of two games tonight, with Syracuse looking dominant in the first part of the game, only allowing the Phantoms chances on the odd unforced turnover and on the man advantage. They established a 4-1 lead in the Second Period and it had the look of a laugher, but they allowed Lehigh Valley to stick around and eventually spent the bulk of the Third Period protecting the dreaded 2 goal lead. They had a handful of very good forechecking shifts in the final frame to take some of the pressure off, but in the end it was a lot closer than it should have been.
Snap decision on this iteration of the Crunch is that they're very similar to last year's edition. Not surprising. They have decent speed but didn't look terribly threatening off the rush. Their bread and butter is still going to be the cycle and manufacturing those greasy goals, punctuated by the occasional laser beam from Marchessault (who was lethal tonight from the slot). With only one PP opportunity on the night, it's too early to judge if their extra man unit will be better than the travesty they called a power play last season.
As for the key newcomers, I thought Matthew Peca played a nice, responsible two-way game. He wasn't able to flash on the rush as I'd have expected, but I'm sure that'll come. Anthony DeAngelo got a helper for his first AHL point, but didn't get a chance to flash his offensive skill much in the game. Defensively, he reminds me a bit of Paul Ranger when Ranger was a rookie pro. That is to say, he's in the right zip code positionally, and even though he's not in perfect spots he's mobile enough to close the gap quickly. If he's anything like Ranger, he'll get sharper in that aspect as time goes on. Adam Erne had one very poor tripping penalty, but also showed a lot of the qualities that make him a valued prospect. He hits to hurt and he was very good on the cycle and on the forecheck in the Third Period as Syracuse was nursing the lead.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Tye McGinn to a one-year, two-way contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
McGinn, 24, skated in 51 games in the NHL last season, splitting time between the San Jose Sharks and Arizona Coyotes, posting two goals and seven points. The Fergus, Ontario native began the 2014-15 season with the Sharks, appearing in 33 games and recorded a goal and five points. After being traded to the Coyotes, McGinn recorded one goal and two points in 18 games.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Philippe Paradis to a one-year, two-way contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Paradis, 24, skated in 34 games with the Crunch during the 2014-15 season, posting eight goals and 15 points to go along with 49 penalty minutes. He ranked fifth on Syracuse with a +10 rating. Paradis missed the final three months of the season due to injury which he suffered in early February. Despite missing the final portion of the season, Paradis recorded a career-best eight goals in 2014-15.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Jeff Tambellini to a one-year, two-way contract, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.
Tambellini, 31, has skated in 242 career NHL games over six seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks, recording 27 goals and 63 points. The Calgary, Alberta native played his last NHL season with the Canucks during the 2010-11 campaign, posting career highs for goals (eight), points (17), plus/minus (+10) and shots on goal (114).
TAMPA BAY –The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed free agent defenseman Matt Taormina to a one-year, two-way contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced. It is his second stint with the Lightning.
Taormina, 5-foot-10, 185 pounds, played 76 games with the Worchester Sharks of the American Hockey League last season, notching 11 goals and 38 points. He led all Sharks defensemen for goals and points. Taormina’s 11 goals were also a career high in the AHL. He has played in 308 career AHL games with Worchester, Syracuse Crunch, Binghamton Senators, Lowell Devils and Albany River Rats. He has registered 42 goals and 159 points.
TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Mike Angelidis to a one-year, two-way contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Angelidis, 30, skated in three games with Tampa Bay last season, recording 12 penalty minutes. He also played in 64 games for the Syracuse Crunch in 2014-15, recording 20 goals and 38 points while serving as the team’s captain. Angelidis ranked third on the Crunch for both goals and points, while leading the team with 138 penalty minutes. He has been captain of the Crunch since the beginning of the 2012-13 season.
Earlier today, the Lightning's AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch announced the signing of minor league veteran defenseman Joey Mormina had re-signed a one-year contract with the Crunch.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have issued qualifying offers to five players, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today. Receiving qualifying offers were forward Carter Ashton, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Philippe Paradis along with defensemen Andrej Sustr and Luke Witkowski
The deadline for NHL clubs to issue offers is today. By issuing qualifying offers to the aforementioned players, the Lightning are given the right of the first refusal or draft choice compensation should the player sign an offer sheet with another NHL club.
Players not receiving a qualifying offer include forwards Cody Kunyk, Dalton Smith, and Danick Gauthier along with defensemen Mark Barberio and Daniel Milan. These five players are now unrestricted free agents.
TAMPA BAY –The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed right wing Mike Blunden to a one-year, two-way contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Blunden, 6-foot-4, 216 pounds, played in two games with the Lightning last season, recording two penalty minutes. He played in 33 games with Tampa Bay’s top minor league affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, in 2014-15, recording 13 goals and 22 points. Despite a limited number of games he ranked tied for sixth on the Crunch for goals.
One of the things we've seen repeatedly in the Yzerman-Murray drafts is the penchant to spend a pick or two on players with the potential to immediately impact the Syracuse Crunch. Twice Head Amateur Scout Al Murray has spent first round picks on older first-time draft-eligible players (Namestnikov and DeAngelo) that could be fast tracked to the AHL after just one additional junior season. With later round draftees Cedric Paquette and Henri Ikonen, Murray once again dipped into the 19-year-old pool, allowing Syracuse to benefit from them have quicker access to the professional development pipeline. We've also seen Murray draft three players that were basically draft-and-sign guys (Ondrej Palat, Kristers Gudlevskis, and Cameron Darcy) that were eligible to immediately slot into the AHL after being drafted. Gudlevskis (pictured) was drafted out of Europe, and while Darcy just wasn't quite ready last year, the expectation when he selected was that he'd transition immediately to Syracuse or ECHL Florida. In this article, I'll first highlight some of the one-and-done players from Pete Choquette's 2015 Bolt Prospects Draft Review, and I'll also throw out at least five players to keep your eye on in the later rounds as potential draft-and-sign guys that could help the Crunch this fall.