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Aligning the Future

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

Although the 2012-13 American Hockey League regular season does not commence for another week, Syracuse Crunch general manager Julien BriseBois already appears to be in mid-season form.

In recent weeks, BriseBois has been busy, working diligently to finalize the Crunch roster in order to give the club, which last season took the ice as the Norfolk Admirals, the best chance of repeating as Calder Cup champions.

Throughout that process, though, it seems as if BriseBois may have had too much of a good thing.

With the organization's depth the highest it has been in years, BriseBois had little choice on Tuesday but to assign defenseman Daniel Milan and goaltender Pat Nagle to the Florida Everblades of the ECHL.

On Thursday, BriseBois stated in an email that there were simply too many players ahead of both Milan and Nagle in terms of depth to keep each of them on Syracuse's opening night roster. However, he said he believed the assignments would ultimately benefit both players, at least at the start of the season.

"At this juncture, it would have been hard for them to get the playing time they need right now to grow as hockey players," BriseBois said. "We felt it was best for them to go to the ECHL right away in order for them to establish themselves as strong contributors for the Everblades."

Prior to the season, BriseBois stacked the Crunch blueline with added depth brought in by players such as Dmitry Korobov, Jared Nightengale and Matt Taormina, simply for the reason of "making an already-strong position even stronger."

But even with that, the assignments of Milan and Nagle are perceived to be just a short-term objective for the organization, seeing that both individuals are expected to continue to improve and play at the AHL level sooner rather than later.

Until then, each will have an opportunity to earn top minutes, which would perhaps accelerate their development and afford them the chance to gain a lot of necessary experience to improve as hockey players.

For Nagle, the role in the ECHL is nothing new after he finished the regular season with a 2.87 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage before leading the Everblades to a 2012 Kelly Cup championship last season.

Although Milan will be playing in his first season in the ECHL, he just as much has an opportunity to improve on his two goals and 11 points in the QMJHL last season, where he split time with both the Moncton Wildcats and the Victoriaville Tigres.

In addition to assigning Milan and Nagle to the ECHL, BriseBois also took care of some housekeeping issues, as he signed Taormina, Evan Oberg, Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Mike Angelidis to AHL contracts.

If anything, the decision came more out of necessity in the form of an insurance policy, in that all four of those players had been signed to NHL contracts. However, due to the ongoing Collective Bargaining discussions, each would have had to clear waivers had they not cracked the Lightning's NHL roster out of training camp, thus making them susceptible to be claimed by other teams.

Instead, all will remain as Lightning property, but with so much NHL-caliber talent expected to be playing in the AHL this season, BriseBois again stated that the presupposed competitive nature of the league in 2012-13 is sure to only help the prospects improve.

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