The best team ever in hockey history last season were moved out-of-town after winning last seasons Calder Cup in the AHL.
On June 14, 2012 Tampa Bay announced their separation from the 2012 Calder Cup champions in favour of the Syracuse Crunch. Shortly afterwards Norfolk announced a 5 year deal with the Anaheim Ducks.
Essentially both NHL teams swapping affiliates for the 2012/2013 onwards.
To give you a little reminder of how good that Norfolk team was last year here are some pretty startling facts.
Set a professional hockey record for the longest winning streak,
winning their 28th consecutive game on April 15 against the Adirondack Phantoms, 4-2 in regulation.
The winning streak translated into a deep playoff run for the Admirals, where they would win 15 of 18 playoff games, including back to back four game sweeps in the Eastern Conference and Calder Cup Finals.
Regular season record was 55-18-1-2.
Lead the league in goals scored with 273, were 2nd best in goals allowed and finished with a goal difference of 93.
So how would this “old” Norfolk team fare under the guise of the Syracuse Crunch this season?
Syracuse don’t really have much pedigree when it comes to success in the AHL. Making the 3rd round just once and that‘s the furthest they have ever been. In last year playoffs they fell in first round, after making the post season for the first time since 2007/08.
In terms of personal, around a 1/3 of their championship team has gone. These are made up by 5 guys within the Tampa Bay organisation and 3 signings including Dmitry Korobov, who was picked up from Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
I’ve no idea what the expectations were for Syracuse but they have come blasting out of the gates this season. Looking scarily as good as Norfolk last season in the early running.
Currently sitting 1st in East, 2nd in League and continuing to find the net with ease it seems, as they are 2nd in the goals for column.
The very impressive rookie from last year Cory Conacher, continues to set better than a point per game pace as does Tyler Johnson. You could argue that Conacher would be playing for Tampa Bay if a lockout wasn’t in effect but hell you could make that case for every team right now, Edmonton for example.
Goaltender Dustin Tokarski has also continued last years impressive form. Just a 1.89gaa in 10 starts with a .917sv%.
More worrying for the opposition is that guys like Ondrej Palat who scored 30 points in 61 games last year, have stepped up, almost matching Conacher in points.
Alex Killorn and Richard Panik are also making big contributions and are names to watch out for as the season progresses.
So going into Friday night’s game (30/11), Syracuse have a record of 12-3-1-1 and are 5-1-0-0 in their last 6 outings.
Could they match anything close to what Norfolk did last season? The simple answer is no in my opinion. That team of 2011/2012 was head and shoulders above everyone else and this year the AHL is much, much stronger. Also how many teams ever find that special chemistry again?
However despite most of the team having to up-sticks, get moved into new houses and used to new surroundings, the core of the team have come through that adversity, gelling with 8+ new team-mates and you can argue have thrived on this new challenge.
Even if they fail to come close to what Norfolk achieved in the way of records last season, if they were to win the Calder Cup this time around, then that would be a far bigger accomplishment given the circumstances.
It could really be the strangest but best defence of the Calder Cup by a core group of players in the history of the AHL.