The Syracuse Crunch had a poor regular season, finishing 34-39-4-3 while giving up 272 goals which was the second most in the AHL. Defense and goaltending were the two major problems, while the offense was mediocre at best.
Stressing the atrociousness of the Crunch defense this past season is the fact that just one player – Dylan Reese – managed to have a positive plus/minus rating. Reese finished the season, however, with the New York Islanders after a deadline day deal.
Between the pipes, Dan LaCosta and Kevin Lalande were expected to compete for the starting job. Lalande was injured early and LaCosta was given the reins but he struggled out of the gate and recorded his worst season statistically at any level. Lalande, on the other hand, managed to have a fairly good season on a poor team.
The 2009-10 season for the Crunch also featured a hefty amount of player movement as the organization parted ways with former first-round pick Alex Picard as well as veterans Reese, Pascal Pelletier, Mathieu Roy and former World Junior star Stefan Legein.
The Springfield Falcons will replace the Syracuse Crunch next season as the Blue Jackets top minor-league affiliate.
Maksim Mayorov, LW
6’2, 213 lbs
Acquired: 4th Round, 94th Overall, 2007
Besides Chad Kolarik, who only played for the Crunch after the NHL trade deadline, Mayorov was the leading point getter of those who can still be considered Blue Jackets prospects. Normally, that would be a great sign, yet the big-bodied Russian was unable to improve much upon his rookie season in North America. He scored 17 goals for the second consecutive season while adding 15 assists – one more than his 2008-09 total. Mayorov went through his struggles, but managed to end the season on a three-game point steak in which he recorded nine points (six goals, three assists). He’ll get a long look at Blue Jackets training camp next season, but will need to be more effective in using his 6’2 frame if he is to earn a role in the bottom two lines.
Brent Regner, D
6’0, 170 lbs
Acquired: 5th Round, 137th Overall, 2008
Given the circumstances surrounding this year’s Syracuse Crunch, it’s rather difficult to label Regner’s rookie season as a disappointment. Regner stepped into the Crunch line-up coming off of a 2008-09 WHL campaign in which he was near a point-per-game defenseman. Regner managed 20 points in 50 games this season while finishing with a -13 rating. His difficulties in his own zone led him to view from the press box at times throughout the season, but with a year under his belt, he’ll likely be given more offensive freedom next season and perhaps the chance to run the power play.
Kevin Lalande, G
6’0, 175 lbs
Acquired: Trade with Calgary
Lalande started and finished the season rather poorly, but had a tremendous two-month period mid-season in which, combined with LaCosta’s struggles, he was able to assume the starting role with the team. Up until January, Lalande had a save percentage below .900 and a GAA well above 3.00. He managed to find his game for the next two months, however, posting a 2.24 GAA and a .926 save percentage over that time. He finished the year much like he started but would post reasonable numbers, going 25-24-2 with a 2.86 GAA and a .912 save percentage. Lalande will likely spend much of next year in the AHL with Springfield.
Dan LaCosta, G
6’2, 194 lbs
Acquired: 3rd Round, 93rd Overall, 2004
This was supposed to be the year that LaCosta would finally emerge as an NHL-caliber goaltender. He played twice for the Blue Jackets last season and even earned a shutout. With added experience, LaCosta was expected to be an important part of any success the Crunch would have this season, yet he was unable to gain any steam as the season progressed and would end the year as the backup to Lalande. He finished the year with a 3.96 GAA and a .882 save percentage, while going 7-15-1. LaCosta is a restricted free agent, and with his performance this season, it’s unclear whether or not the Blue Jackets will re-sign him.
Jonathan Sigalet, D
6’1, 199 lbs
Acquired: Trade with Boston
Sigalet showed some promise in the 19 games he played with Syracuse last season, registering 11 points to go along with a +13 rating. This season, however, like much of his teammates, Sigalet struggled. He recorded just 19 points in 68 games. Despite the lack of points, he was able to score eight goals, including four on the power play, and he finished the season with a -2 rating, which was the best plus/minus of any defenseman on the Crunch. Sigalet is still under contract for next season, and should get a legitimate look in Blue Jackets training camp.
Tom Sestito, LW
6’5, 209 lbs
Acquired: 3rd Round, 85th Overall, 2006
Sestito managed to score a career high in goals with 10, despite missing two months to injury. His career thus far has been plagued by injury and he played in a career-low 36 games this season, yet he was having one of his best seasons statistically with 17 points, all while continuing to play the role of an enforcer for the Crunch. He finished the year with 138 penalty minutes. Sestito, if healthy, could be a decent addition to the fourth line of the Blue Jackets.
Tomas Kana, C
6’0, 202 lbs
Acquired: Trade with St. Louis
Kana spent the first 18 games of the season with the Peoria Rivermen. He had just one assist in those 18 games, and was unable to find a permanent role with the team. After being sent to Syracuse after Columbus acquired him, he was able to find a role on the top two lines and went on to score 15 goals in 50 games. He would also add 13 assists to give him a total of 28 points. The main problem with Kana was his late-season struggles, as 10 of his goals were scored in his first 23 games with the Crunch. He would score just five in the next 27 games. Kana will likely be given a chance to be a top offensive threat for Springfield next season.
Grant Clitsome, D
6’0, 208 lbs
Acquired: 9th Round, 271st Overall, 2004
For a ninth-round pick, Clitsome has already surpassed expectations. He even managed to get into 11 NHL games this season, recording his first career goal, while adding two assists. His consistent play with a defensively-challenged Crunch team warranted the call-up. Clitsome was just a -7 on a team filled minus players. Clitsome also added 20 points in the 64 games he played for the Crunch. He’ll certainly be considered when NHL training camp rolls around next season.
Nick Holden, D
6’4, 200 lbs
Acquired: Undrafted Free Agent
Holden wasn’t able to improve much on his impressive rookie season in the AHL, but he was able to prove himself as a steady defenseman at the AHL level. He registered 23 points in 68 games. The second half of Holden’s season was much more impressive than his first half; he was a -16 before the New Year in just 25 games, but managed to finish the season as a -9. Holden is behind a few defensemen looking to make the jump to the NHL next season, but if he can continue to work on rounding out his game in the AHL, he may get his shot in a year or two.
Chad Kolarik, RW
5’11, 185 lbs
Acquired: Trade with Phoenix
Acquired at the deadline for Picard, Kolarik had a very strong finish for the Syracuse Crunch. He managed to score 15 points in just 17 games to give him a total of 50 points on the season. Kolarik showcased a great shot with Syracuse, scoring nine times on just 37 shots. His defensive play isn’t strong enough to land him a role on the bottom two lines of an NHL team, so if Kolarik is to be a successful NHL’er, it’ll likely be because he has earned a scoring role.
Jordan LaVallee, LW
6’3, 225 lbs
Acquired: Trade with Atlanta
LaVallee had a rather decent season for the Crunch. His biggest asset is his physical play and toughness, but he also managed to record 32 points in 78 games. However, he has been unable to improve on his 2007-08 season with the Chicago Wolves in which he scored 20 goals, and has actually regressed offensively. He’ll likely be back next season playing in Springfield.
Michael Ratchuk, D
5’11, 186 lbs
Acquired: Trade with Philadelphia
Ratchuk was expected to bring offense from the back end to the Syracuse Crunch, but more often than not he found himself sitting in the press box. Ratchuk’s early-season struggles were most prominent in the month of November in which he was a -8 through four games and was providing no offense whatsoever. He only managed to get in to 40 games this past season, scoring three goals and adding eight assists. Ratchuk will have to work diligently in the offseason to improve his game in all aspects if he is to be a force on the Falcons blueline.