To all those looking forward to seeing NHL veteran Darren Van Impe play this upcoming weekend when the Crunch return home from their season long eight-game road swing, sorry, that opportunity won’t present itself. I guess it just has been that type of year.
Finally, after some encouraging play this past weekend, fans of the Crunch had something to pin their hopes on. Even though the club has only won twice in their last twenty games, they are currently on a two-game unbeaten streak. I know that may not seem too impressive, but I have two words: baby steps.
Every streak has to start somewhere and with Syracuse returning home for a couple of critical weekend contests; confidence has to be as high as it has been since the New Year. Especially since the team has been bolstered by the recent signings of defensemen Darren Van Impe, Paul Traynor and center Kevin Colley. Each player, over the last few contests, has seemingly found their niche with the club and the fans in Syracuse were anxiously awaiting their home debuts this weekend.
That was until the proverbial other shoe dropped after Saturday’s win in Hershey. The jewel of the new faces recently inked by the Crunch was on his way out of town. Darren Van Impe, with only six games under his belt, was returning to the big stage with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
When the announcement was made of his signing with the Crunch, I thought it just might be too good to be true. After all, he is a player who has appeared in 397 NHL over his career and one who’s forte may be his ability to play on the power play. Those types of players are not in abundance around the league.
Yet after failing to come to terms with the Islanders after appearing in 67 games last season with the Fish Sticks along with the Rangers and Florida, he went home waiting for the phone to ring and kept in shape by skating with a junior team.
It took just under half the season of staying at home for him to accept the Crunch’s offer of a Professional Try-Out contract and a paltry six games with Syracuse before more offers started rolling in. That should come as no surprise, after all he did record five points (1g,4a) in those six games and just last season he was traded once and claimed on waivers twice, proof that their is a demand for his type of talent.
So with other teams showing interest in the 29-year-old defenseman, Columbus showed no hesitation and offered him a one-way deal worth $256,000 for the rest of the season. Had they not he likely would have been scooped up by another NHL club.
The recent struggles, although the Jacket brass is still very pleased with their performance, of the three young blue liners currently skating with Columbus probably made the decision to sign Van Impe an easy one. With Doug MacLean now behind the bench, expectations in Columbus are higher than ever, with the playoffs a serious consideration. Starting three rookies on defense may make that proposition very difficult.
So off goes Van Impe, without even taking a shift in the old barn on State Street. The silver lining has to be that by adding Van Impe, the Jackets, barring injury, should be returning another blue liner to Syracuse. The likely choice being Paul Manning.
That may not seem like a good trade off to fans in Syracuse, but Manning has performed well during his stay with the Jackets and often when a player does return from the bigs, he returns a more complete player. Will that happen with Manning, time will tell. Let’s hope that is the case and the fans in Syracuse can keep this ball of optimism rolling along.