Summer Ramblings, Vol. 13

(Photo Credit: John Russell)

Hate Mondays? Here is a photo of Mark Van Guilder playing his first career game in the NHL to cheer you up! (Photo Credit: John Russell)

Happy Monday, Roundtable. The news-train remains a wee bit slow for the time being but there have been some happenings worthy of talking about.

~The AHL Schedule Due Date~

The wait for the American Hockey League’s schedule to finally be unveiled might be on the horizon soon. There typically is a wait for the AHL thanks in small part to a thing called the NBA (where they play hoop ball and basket slam n’ such). The good news there is that they released their schedule this past Wednesday. Expect a bit of a wait to cross reference dates between teams that share arenas, such as the Milwaukee Admirals and Bucks relationship, before the AHL schedule gets released as well. My expectation would be around the Labor Day weekend – or thereabouts.

~Cincinnati Cyclones Bring Back Two~

Last Thursday our pals down at the ECHL level brought back forward Byron Froese and defenseman David MacDonald on one-year deals. This means yet more of the the squad that made it all the way to the ECHL Kelly Cup Finals remains on-board for the 2014-15 season. Remember – goaltender and ECHL Kelly Cup MVP Rob Madore, who signed with the Milwaukee Admirals this off-season, should be the Cyclones starter in net.

The signing that excites me the most between those two is the re-signing of Froese. His offensive numbers in the playoff run for the Cyclones last season were fantastic: 25 points (8 goals, 17 assists) in 23 games. In 25 regular season games for the Cyclones he produced 21 points (11 goals, 10 assists) compared to his AHL numbers for the Rockford IceHogs, only 5 assists in 28 games. He’s still just 23-years old. With a steady enough run for the Cyclones again he could make a leap back up to the AHL ranks.

~ALS Ice Bucket Challenge~

The recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge movement has been wonderful. Not only for the fun of seeing people endure the ice bath but the charitable cause that originated it. So far, the Milwaukee Admirals as a group have been doing their part for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Here are some of my favorites that have been done so far: Roscoe, Mark Van Guilder and the entire Milwaukee Admirals front office, Scott Valentine, Colton Sissons, and Jonathan-Ismael Diaby.

Great stuff! And, with some of those challenged by those Admirals, we might still see a few more to come.

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The AHL’s Best and Worst Logos, Teams 10-1

Milwaukee Admirals 1980s

The Milwaukee Admirals IHL logo in use from 1982-1997 is still my all time favorite for any professional team in Milwaukee. Can anyone say throwback night at the BMO Harris Bradley Center?

What makes a great American Hockey League logo? It is history, style, colors, modernization, or none/all of the above? Today I will spell it out by choose the league’s top ten best logos.

The teams it won’t be are from Wednesday’s 30-21 list: Syracuse (30), Iowa (29), Hartford (28), Binghamton (27), Rockford (26), Bridgeport (25), Worcester (24), Albany (23), Texas (22) and Providence (21); and from Thursday’s 20-11 list: Springfield (20), Lehigh Valley (19), Adirondack (18), Hamilton (17), Chicago (16), Charlotte (15), Lake Erie (14), Norfolk (13), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (12), Manchester (11).

Without further ado, here are the AHL’s best ten logos, starting with number 10, the Utica Comets. Check back later for my five best and worst logos from AHL teams of the past, and analysis of all four Milwaukee Admirals logos, ranked best to worst.

Author’s Note: Separate points are listed for Artistry of the Logo (on a 1-5 scale), Team Name, Color Scheme; and Logo/Team Name History. All logos were gathered from Chris Creamer’s Sportslogos.net.

Utica Comets

10: Utica Comets: L: 4; N: 5; C: 4; H: 2

Kicking off the top ten best AHL logos is the Utica Comets, coming off their first AHL season. Despite a fairly short history in Utica, the Comets give a fresh look to one of the AHL’s most historic franchises (was formerly the Peoria Rivermen, Springfield Indians and Worcester IceCats to name a few of its stops). The crest itself is extremely sharp and modern, pulling in the green and blue in line with the recent version of their Orca-crested NHL affiliate Vancouver. The streaking hockey puck, with its Comets’ tail also looks cool. Overall, this is a great modern logo addition to the AHL. Bonus points are deserved for a much better look than the old Utica Devils.

Portland Pirates

9: Portland Pirates: L: 3; N: 5; C: 4; H: 4

The Portland Pirates were a tough team to place in this ranking, because I actually prefer the franchise’s former logo, which had a rounded head of a Pirate, complete with bandana, facial jewelry and a stick sword in its mouth. This is one of my favorite relics of the 1990s, when Barry Trotz coached one of the AHL’s top teams. The newer version did noticeably modernize the logo, with a tough Pirate holding onto a stick, with one eye looking back. The lettering, though excessive throughout both logos, is sharp and matches the Pirate’s motif and the vivid red and black colors.

Toronto Marlies

8: Toronto Marlies: L: 4; N: 4; C: 4; H: 4

Over the years Toronto, hockey’s heart, has been home to numerous professional franchises. One of my favorites from the Queen City is the Toronto Marlies, the current affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs, which practices in the same facility as its big NHL brother. I actually prefer the Marlies’ Maple Leaf crest and alternate crest to the current NHL version, as these harken back to an dressier older version of Toronto’s NHL team that really stood out. The fact that the team represents a nice homage to the famed former Toronto Marlboros, is an added bonus. Much like the Manchester Monarchs, this is a great way keep the two franchises tied together, but allows each to still stand alone.

San Antonio Rampage

7: San Antonio Rampage: L: 3; N: 4; C: 5; H: 4

Opinions tend to be varied on the logo/jerseys of the San Antonio Rampage. Some, like myself, love the ticked off, stampeding bull, bathed in silver and black (one of hockey’s best color schemes) for a nice match to the ownerships’ San Antonio Spurs of the NBA. Others find it bit too cartoonish. One of my favorite aspects of this logo, is that it represents a full-size bull in motion (note the dust cloud), with not just the head on the crest. Though Florida’s AHL affiliate has rarely had much success on the ice, at least the logo and jersey look stylish.

St. John's IceCaps

6: St. John’s IceCaps: L: 3; N: 5; C: 5; H: 4

It is easy to be partial toward the St. John’s IceCaps, one of the AHL’s most successfully run franchises located in near-isolation on the island of Newfoundland. The IceCaps, which borrow the primary colors of their NHL affiliate Winnipeg Jets, pull the off the grays and blues better than their parent club, and feature an Iceberg logo much more interesting than the Jets. Much like the moniker Penguins, IceCaps is a terrific hockey nickname and very appropriate for a sport played on a sheet of ice. Meanwhile, the lettering and slightly off center iceberg really standout, providing an effective modernist tone.

Milwaukee Admirals

5: Milwaukee Admirals: L: 4; N: 4; C: 4; H: 5

After a somewhat bland prior edition of its logo, the Milwaukee Admirals fired back with a radical new look for the 2006-2007 season. This decision was not without a bit of controversy as the new skeletal look had its share of detractors. However, the biggest issue facing the Admirals is that its alternate logo looks even better than its primary logo does, as it’s hard not to love a skeletal pirate, dressed in full Admiral garb with a peg leg, shooting a puck with his removed boney foot. The regular logo is just the head, but looks artistic with its black and Lake Michigan blue trim hat decorated with an always popular anchor logo. The way both of these logos, which are really without anything comparable in the AHL, look on either a blue or black jersey is really crisp, and are a major contrast to the bright yellow color of Milwaukee’s NHL affiliate, the Nashville Predators.

Oklahoma City Barons

4: Oklahoma City Barons: L: 3; N: 5; C: 5; H: 4

Even though the Oklahoma City Barons’ logo could be considered a bit bland like its NHL affiliate in Edmonton, there are many things that work well for OKC. First off the colors and name are a great homage to the Oilers without being a perfect match, giving each club its own identity. Second the oil derrick and waived line accents really work really well artistically. If I had one criticism it would be the unnecessary use of putting the name Oklahoma City at the top of the crest, but that does help Oklahoma’s oil Barons standout from the former Cleveland Barons.

Hershey Bears

3: Hershey Bears: L: 5; N: 4; C: 5; H: 5

Kicking off the top three best logos is the longest continuously operating member of the American Hockey League, the Hershey Bears. The Bears back up that history with a logo that has evolved over the years, modernizing with the times before settling in for the 2012-2013 campaign with a great throwback-styled log. It is certainly much improved over Hershey’s primary 2000s logo). The wording Hershey Bears is unnecessary here for Washington’s AHL affiliate, because what really steps to the forefront is the mean cocoa brown bear standing on top of a hockey stick. Bonus points are certainly deserved for a team making the city’s signature chocolate color work so effectively in jerseys and logos of its professional hockey franchise. The Providence Bruins could learn a lot from the look of this ferocious Bear.

Grand Rapids Griffins

2: Grand Rapids Griffins: L: 5; N: 5; C: 5; H: 4

The team that represents the best modern look in the American Hockey League is the Grand Rapids Griffins. First off, the choice of a Griffin as a mascot is absolutely inspired. This is a great alliterative moniker that is both fearsome and mythical. The nickname lettering itself is medieval cool. Note the selective placement of the city name Grand Rapids and the stylish diamond dotted “I”s in Griffins. Though this team has strong ties to its NHL affiliate in Detroit, it actually started as an independent franchise in the IHL. Despite some of its red and white alternate logos, Grand Rapids has managed to keep its iconic gold, blue, silver and red trim look that dates back to its inception.

Rochester Americans

1: Rochester Americans: L: 5; N: 5; C: 5; H: 5

My choice for the American Hockey League’s best logo was an easy one, as the Rochester Americans feature the AHL’s most historic logo and the oldest one that still in use. There is beautiful simplicity with the Rochester’s patriotic red, white and blue shield logo, which features scripted Americans lettering. Originally crafted for the 1972-1973 season, this iconic crest represents just the fourth logo in franchise history, and might stay that way for a while (Rochester’s shield crest itself as the primary logo on jerseys dates back to 1959-1960). If Buffalo’s AHL affiliate would ever decide to modernize a little bit, adding some shadowing would be an easy touch up for this logo. But even as is Rochester stands at the head of the class as having the AHL’s best logo, a far cry from its geographic rival Syracuse, which in my opinion has the league’s worst logo.

So Roundtable . . . What is your pick for the AHL’s Best Logo and/or AHL’s Worst Logo? Where does Milwaukee’s logo fit? Is No. 5 too high, too low, or just right? If you could change the Admirals logo, what would you do?

The AHL’s Best and Worst Logos, Teams 30-21Teams 20-11.

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The AHL’s Best and Worst Logos, Teams 20-11

Milwaukee Admirals AHL 1

Prior to a radical change for 2006-2007, Milwaukee utilized this wordy logo from 1997-2006. Did you enjoy this version of the Admirals logo or were you glad to see it go by the wayside?

Today I’m tackling the middle ground of AHL logos, numbers 20 through 11 on a list of the best and worst of team crests. Wednesday saw Syracuse (30), Iowa (29), Hartford (28), Binghamton (27), Rockford (26), Bridgeport (25), Worcester (24), Albany (23), Texas (22) and Providence (21) knocked out of the running for the AHL’s best logo. Without further ado, here are the next ten, starting with number 20, the Springfield Falcons.

Author’s Note: Separate points are listed for Artistry of the Logo (on a 1-5 scale), Team Name, Color Scheme; and Logo/Team Name History. All logos were gathered from Chris Creamer’s Sportslogos.net.

Springfield Falcons

20: Springfield Falcons: L: 3; N: 2: C: 3; H: 2

After the famed Springfield Indians moved to Worcester in 1994, the AHL’s base received another franchise in the Falcons. Due to the trademark, and perhaps other reasons relating to the current Native American issues concerning the former University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux and current Washington Redskins, Springfield adopted the new moniker and a rather dull bird head logo with limiting colors. However, in later years the franchise adopted a much more interesting full bird crest grabbing a stick with its talons, plus a red and blue color scheme. Though the new team lacks the history and tradition of the earlier Indians, this logo keeps getting better with age.

Lehigh Valley Phantoms

19: Lehigh Valley Phantoms: L: 2; N: 3; C: 3; H: 2

I have always enjoyed the moniker for the Phantoms and how well this logo works with Philadelphia’s black and orange color scheme, even it is a bit on the darker side of team nicknames. Credit to the organization for getting rid of its 1990s lettering, but the big drawback here is simply the location name of Lehigh Valley. I’m not sure why this team can’t just be the Allentown Phantoms, but maybe that might help the new squad draw from a larger vicinity audience.

Adirondak Flames

18: Adirondack Flames: L: 3; N: 1; C: 2; H: 2

On lists of the best and worst AHL logos, I’m guessing that this new team’s support would be all over the map. Some like me, love Adirondack’s throwback to the older Atlanta Flames “A” logo, while others might find it a bit too simple and not terribly creative, like Calgary’s “C”, which I always thought looked better during the 1980s. What this logo does represent is the end of the four season run of the AHL’s distant Northwest outpost franchise, the Abbotsford Heat, which despite featuring a great nickname had an extremely plain logo. Bonus points here too for a terrific alternative flaming “A” logo.

Hamilton Buldogs

17: Hamilton Bulldogs: L: 2; N: 3; C: 3; H: 3

Hamilton was one of the hardest teams to place on this list. The Bulldogs logo itself is a bit on the bland side, though I enjoy the dog collar, sharp teeth, face wrinkles and roughed up bone. The background triangle crest seems a bit unnecessary, and again this logo is just a bulldog head, another drawback. However, the Bulldogs moniker is a great hockey nickname with a lot of history attached to it. Despite this I would rather the team be called the Hamilton Tigers, a throwback to a long-lost member of the NHL that featured extremely sharp yellow and black colors. Considering the fact that Hamilton is Montreal’s AHL affiliate, it is probably better that the AHL’s Bulldogs are not Black and Gold.

Chicago Wolves

16: Chicago Wolves: L: 2, N: 4; C: 3; H: 3

Originally, the Chicago Wolves ranked much lower on this list due to the simplicity of its creepy wolf head, stick and giant hockey puck logo. But delving deeper, this crest really deserves a better ranking when compared to its peers. The Wolves jerseys, which feature a vivid color scheme, proudly represent one of the AHL’s best modern franchises, born out of Chicago-area hockey fans’ desire to watch affordable professional games (the team posts terrific attendance figures during the frequent labor stoppages of the NHL). I am curious to see what the future holds for Chicago, its logo and its colors, especially if the decision is made to modernize the jersey and/or pull closer to its affiliate the St. Louis Blues, a bitter rival in this part of the country. That certainly didn’t work out too well for Calgary with Abbotsford in nearby Vancouver country.

Charlotte Checkers

15: Charlotte Checkers: L: 3; N: 4; C: 3; H: 3

The Charlotte Checkers represent another minor league franchise that moved up leagues, this time from the ECHL to the AHL. Interestingly, the Checkers have managed to one-up their NHL affiliate Carolina (which finished last in the Hockey News recent NHL logo rankings) with their sharp logo, fun nickname, and snazzy color scheme. What perhaps most impressive about the Checkers logo is how it emerged from the shadows of some truly awful prior versions dating back to the 1990s. I’m sure Charlotte still has its detractors, but I think this made for a great addition to the AHL back in 2010, and offered a close geographic rival for Norfolk.

Lake Erie Monsters

14: Lake Erie Monsters: L: 3; N: 4; C: 2; H: 3

Lake Erie is easily one of the most controversial choices on this list, thanks to both its name and logo, but I have a soft spot for the Monsters. First off, the nickname comes from a great historical reference, Bessie, the alleged Lake Erie Monster. Second, the sharp eyes coming out of the water on the logo are quite intimidating. The big issues here are the excessive use of words on the logo (“Cleveland” was recently added, to go along with the original version), and the fact that this franchise replaced one of my IHL/AHL favorites, the Denver/Utah Grizzlies, whose nickname didn’t really fit in Ohio. Historically the Barons represent a lot of hockey history in the Cleveland area, but it was always a franchise that never lasted too long in town. Therefore, the Lake Erie Monsters make sense as a new face of hockey on the Cuyahoga.

Norfolk Admirals

13: Norfolk Admirals: L: 2; N: 4; C: 3; H: 4

Though Norfolk represents the AHL’s “other” Admirals for those of us that live in Wisconsin, this area is plenty deserving of also using the nickname considering its impressive naval history. There is also some fun franchise history here, as the Admirals were formerly the Hampton Roads Admirals of the ECHL, before becoming the Norfolk Admirals in the AHL. Norfolk’s logo itself has many pluses and minuses. The positives are its hockey puck cannons, bright colors, battleship and the five stars. The negative is the fact that there is just too much going on throughout this logo, despite all of its interesting elements.

Wilkes-Barre Scranton

12: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins: L: 4; N: 2; C: 4; H: 2

I might get some negative feedback for ranking the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, one of America’s favorite minor league franchises and mascots, not in the top 10, but there are some good reasons for its placement here. First, I’m guessing that most Admirals Roundtable followers don’t have to write out the mouthful name Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as frequently as I or any other AHL media member does. Simply put, it’s a pain, a 21-character pain that appears right on the logo’s crest. Second, there isn’t much creativity here since again the Penguins’ name is an exact match of its NHL affiliate in Pittsburgh. However, it’s hard to dislike the sharpness of this version of the Penguins, or its red and black, rather than black and gold, colors, and its mascot Tux. Bonus points are also deserved for some fun alternate logos.

11: Manchester Monarchs: L: 3; N: 4; C: 4; H: 3

The Manchester Monarchs are the perfect example of AHL team borrowing from its NHL affiliate in Los Angeles, but really making it work. First off, they are not the Manchester Kings, but rather the Manchester Monarchs, an alliterative name that means basically the same thing. That alone is brilliant. The second thing that worked here are the colors, as Manchester originally brought in the royal gold and purple long associated with Kings and Queens and its affiliate in Los Angeles. The Monarchs recently changed to Silver and Black to better mesh with the Kings, but it did take away a bit of this franchise’s uniqueness. The lion logo (king of the jungle) is also a perfect choice of mascot, but its drawback is that the crest is just a cartoonish head in place of what could be more. There still are positives in this logo, notably the cool lion mane, teeth, crown and sharp lettering. I just miss the old purple and gold.

The AHL’s Best and Worst Logos, Teams 30-21Teams 10-1.

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The AHL’s Best and Worst Logos, Teams 30-21

Milwaukee's Alternative Logo

Where would you rank the Milwaukee Admirals on a list of the best and worst logos in the American Hockey League?

The Hockey News is currently counting down its rankings of all of the NHL’s logos from worst to best. That concept inspired me to ask the question, what are the best and worst logos in the American Hockey League?

Certainly there are some great AHL jerseys, and some alternative choices that leave little to be desired, but what about just each team’s logos? The AHL has quite the electric mix of team logos and nicknames, from teams that follow strictly the lines of their NHL affiliates, to more cartoonish choices designed to attract family clientele to the rink on any given Saturday night. Some logos are fun, others historic, other hideous. These are my picks for the best and worst logos, starting with the league’s worst, the Syracuse Crunch, and working down to 21.

Check back on Thursday (20-11) and Friday (10-1) for the rest of the AHL.

Author’s Note: Separate points are listed for Artistry of the Logo (on a 1-5 scale), Team Name, Color Scheme; and Logo/Team Name History. All logos were gathered from Chris Creamer’s Sportslogos.net.

Syracuse

30. Syracuse Crunch. L: 1; N: 1; S: 2; H: 1

My pick as the AHL’s weakest team logo is the Syracuse Crunch, for pretty obvious reasons. Amazingly, the current version (unveiled in 2012) is actually better than the two prior versions, 2010 & 1999, which were hypnotic and not in a good way. However, the need for the word Crunch on the logo, plus the cape on “Captain Crunch” leaves little to be desired. Much of the issue here likely stems from the name Crunch, which despite being a nice hockey onomatopoeia makes it difficult to create a snazzy logo.

 

Iowa Wild

29: Iowa Wild: L: 1; N: 1; S: 3; H: 1

Originality points are certainly lost on the Iowa Wild, which simply borrowed an alternate version of their NHL affiliate Minnesota‘s logo in order to create one of their own. Though Iowa tends to be a rural state, it is not exactly the most “Wild”, so that tends to hurt this choice as well. Finally, the Wild’s logo respresents a unwelcome departure away from the Houston Aeros, which had one of the IHL‘s and AHL‘s best logos along with representing a cool homage to the city’s famed World Hockey Association franchise. Time will tell if the Iowa Wild’s logo will improve in future years and gain something else to distinguish itself from Minnesota, but at the present time this deserves to be near the bottom of this list. The best thing it has going for it? At least it is not the Iowa Chops.

 

Hartford Wolf Pack

28: Hartford Wolf Pack: L: 2; N: 1; C: 2; H: 1

There is not too much that is terribly unpleasing about the Hartford Wolf Pack fairly bland hockey logo and team name. The issue for me is what this franchise gave up in the process of returning to its original 1997 roots. From 2010-2013 the Wolf Pack became the Connecticut Whale, bringing back one of hockey’s best color schemes and an even better association with the former Hartford Whalers of the NHL, and even earlier the New England Whalers of the WHA. Sadly this was lost again in 2013 when the team transitioned back to a pack of wolves.

 

Binghamton Senators

27: Binghamton Senators: L: 1; N: 1; C: 3; H: 1

Taking its cues from its NHL parent franchise, the Binghamton Senators’ logo looks similar to Ottawa, if only a bit more cartoonish. The issue here is not the fact that Ottawa doesn’t have a great logo (I think it is middle of the pack for the NHL, Hockey News says 22nd), but why the moniker “Senators” for Binghamton? Simply put there isn’t much originality with this franchise, or with prior AHL teams in the city, but rather a strict association that dates back to Senators inception in New Haven back in 1992-1993.

 

Rockford IceHogs

26: Rockford IceHogs: L: 2; N: 2; C: 3; H: 2

The Rockford IceHogs and their pig biting a stick logo are slowly growing on me as the years pass by. It is a nice homage to the city’s former UHL franchise, while the color scheme fits nicely with its parent Chicago Blackhawks. If I were to make a change here, I would rather the team be called the Rockford Hogs, since I don’t really know what distinguishes an IceHog from a regular pig. The “IceHogs” funky cartoonish lettering is not all that great either.

 

Bridgeport Sound Tigers

25: Bridgeport Sound Tigers: L: 1; N: 4; C: 2; H: 2

I happen to be a big fan of the franchise name Bridgeport Sound Tigers (a nice allusion to the Long Island Sound) but this is one of the few redeeming qualities for Bridgeport’s choice of logo. Currently, the logo (which has changed little since its 2001 inception) seems very cartoonish, with just a tiger head and some vibration accents around it. The alternative logos are even worse. With some changes, this could easily move up the list, especially considering the creativity involved in the team name.

 

Worchester Sharks

24: Worcester Sharks: L: 2; N: 1; C: 3; H: 1

The next four choices all suffer from their strict associations with their NHL affiliate team names. For the Worcester Sharks, this logo choice really suffers since it is not even an actual coastal city, and I don’t think Sharks are particularly native to Massachusetts Bay, its nearest body of water. What this logo does have going for it is San Jose’s creative base logo and color scheme. I’m not sure why the triangle crest was left in either. Beyond that the Worcester Sharks’ logo just feels very average in the AHL. I kind of miss the old Worcester IceCats, which would be a nice moniker rival for the Rockford IceHogs, but had some of the AHL’s all time worst logos. I also miss the former Shark that played a Baron in Cleveland.

 

Albany Devils

23: Albany Devils: L: 2, N: 2; C: 3; H: 2

Not that there is anything wrong with a full association with a parent NHL franchise, but the creativity tends to suffer for all of the teams that fit in this distinction. For the Albany Devils, the creative “A” Devil logo almost works better than New Jersey’s “NJ” Devils logo (and much, much better than old “U” Utica Devils). Plus I would rather play for a team named the Albany Devils than the former Albany River Rats, which really felt like the minor leagues. However, the top of the “A” almost looks like a halo rather than a pitchfork, bringing up a look too similar to the old California Angels. How ironic.

 

Texas Stars

22: Texas Stars: L: 2, N: 3; C: 3; H: 3

The Texas Stars are moving up this list with the help of its parent franchise, which recently ditched much of its inherited look that Dallas brought south from Minnesota with a sharp new green color scheme and lone star crest last season. Texas still retains its old logo, and its name and crest fit very well in its home surroundings of Austin, the capital of the Lone Star State. There isn’t much here that is terribly original (other than the 3D inner star), certainly in comparison to the Texas secondary logo, but it does work well for the Stars.

 

Providence Bruins

21: Providence Bruins: L: 2; N: 3; C: 4; H: 2

Last on my run of four AHL mimicking franchises is the Providence Bruins, which inherited a logo and color scheme from its NHL affiliate Boston by simply cutting off the bottom right corner of the Bruins’ “Hub” B. The secondary/alternate logos seem to work better for Providence, which would make it stand out a bit more in the AHL. However, I certainly miss a previous version of this franchise, the Maine Mariners, which had a fun, if maybe a bit comical, look. The old Providence Reds also represent one of the league’s great historic franchises.

The AHL’s Best and Worst Logos, Teams 20-11Teams 10-1.

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Summer Ramblings, Vol. 12

Triston Grant (Photo Credit: Chris Jerina)

Triston Grant doing Triston Grant things like facepunching and punching people in the face. (Photo Credit: Chris Jerina)

The summer is starting to really drag on in the hockey news circle. Not a whole lot of real news, updates, or player movement going on. Is Scott Ford going to retire? Where will Scott Valentine or Charles-Olivier Roussel land? Will we see more additions to the AHL and ECHL rosters from the Admirals in regards depth and competition for when pre-season camp starts up? Lots of questions to be asked without real definitive answers just yet. All in due time I suppose.

~The Importance of Veteran Leadership~

The last roster move that the Milwaukee Admirals made involved the free agent signings of goaltender Rob Madore and left-winger Triston Grant. Last issue of Ramblings I tapped into the signing of Madore and what that does for goalie competition this season. Today, I want to talk about the importance of having a player such as Grant back in town with the Milwaukee Admirals.

Last season the Admirals veteran core consisted of six players above the age of 26-years old: Scott Ford, Joe Piskula, Bryan Rodney, Kevin Henderson, Mark Van Guilder, and Francis Wathier. As of now, the Admirals currently have five: Rob Madore (26), Piskula (30), Van Guilder (30), Henderson (27), and Grant (30).

The youth of last year’s team, let’s just say players at or below the age of 22-years old who played a good chunk of games, stood at thirteen: Taylor Beck, Zach Budish, Magnus Hellberg, Scott Valentine, Patrick Cehlin, Marek Mazanec, Calle Jarnkrok, Charles-Olivier Roussel, Josh Shalla, Austin Watson, Miikka Salomaki, Filip Forsberg, and Colton Sissons.

That’s a hefty chunk of players but plenty who were around prior to last season. Of that list, guys such as Mazanec, Jarnkrok, Salomaki, Forsberg, and Sissons were enduring their first full-season of professional hockey in North America. This year’s Admirals group is going to be plenty green.

As the roster stands – the Admirals currently have sixteen players at or under the age of 22-years old set to play next season: Jonathan-Ismael Diaby (19), Filip Forsberg (19), Brendan Leipsic (20), Felix Girard (20), Mikko Vainonen (20), Colton Sissons (20), Pontus Aberg (20), Jaynen Rissling (20), Frederick Gaudreau (21), Jimmy Oligny (21), Viktor Arvidsson (21), Miikka Salomaki (21), Johan Alm (22), Austin Watson (22), Taylor Aronson (22), and Josh Shalla (22).

Making their full-season professional debuts in North America will be ten of that sixteen. As I said before. It’s a rather green team for the 2014-15 season. And that is precisely why a signing of Triston Grant is brilliant.

If the veteran leadership and presence conducted from team captain Scott Ford is lacking entering this year’s campaign your replacement leaders will be guys such as Grant, Van Guilder, and Piskula. Those three alone could potentially be your captains this season – with young candidates such as Watson, Sissons, or -dark horse pick- Anthony Bitetto also in consideration for alternate captaincy roles. It’s the way that they conduct themselves on and off the ice that make a difference. With a team that is stacked with green players it’s going to be vital to get veterans, such as the three mentioned, stepping up and taking the rookies under their wing immediately. The sooner the rookies get acclimated to the ice, the AHL level, the locker room, city, you name it — the better.

I have a very strong gut feeling that the Milwaukee Admirals you see on the 2014 side of the calendar will be nothing close to as good as the one that closes out the season. It’s an inexperienced team for the AHL level but a highly promising one for the Admirals 2014-15 season and the Nashville Predators future.

Having Grant, someone that spent two seasons in the system back in 2008-10, is going to be a great complement to the current cast. His last two-seasons have been with the Grand Rapids Griffins where he played 126 games, scored 26 points (10 goals, 16 assists), and gathered up a rocking 299 penalty minutes. Not to mention that 2012-13 Calder Cup he won. His role as a leader on the team is going to be one of the key points to this young Admirals squad being all the wiser as the season crawls through the schedule.

Who would you pencil in as the captains of your current Milwaukee Admirals right now? Do the Admirals need to bring in more veterans or are you confident in a young and talented group such as they have at the moment?

Posted in Ramblings | 5 Comments

Summer Ramblings, Vol. 11

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The BMO Harris Bradley Center has been the home of the Milwaukee Admirals since 1988. With the Bucks search for a new arena in the works – what will become of the Admirals home? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The news has remained fairly slow to this point. That being said, there are two talking points that I would love to bring up.

~The Expiration Date of the BMO Harris Bradley Center~

As I’m certain all of you know by now, the Milwaukee Bucks are under new ownership and the NBA would very much like to see a brand new arena that is up to snuff with their league standards. This is a talking point that I have wanted to discuss for awhile but keep waiting for more details to come out eventually. So far though it has been fairly slow. It seems as if it’s a matter of time before an actual proposition comes out as to (1) where this new arena will be build (2) when it will be expected to be operational (3) and what impact it has on the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

I’ve heard plenty of rumblings in regard to the location for this new arena. Could it be placed near Miller Park? Lakefront? The Grand Avenue Mall location? …no seriously, tear down Grand Avenue Mall and put it there.

It’s a fascinating topic. One with major implications on far more than just the professional sports teams that are looking to inhabit it. I’m really curious to hear your takes on this issue. Where should this new arena be? What would be an ideal location for this venue in Milwaukee?

~Milwaukee Admirals Goaltending Battle~

When the Milwaukee Admirals signed Rob Madore a couple weeks back – I was through the roof. This was a goaltender who had a stunning playoff run within our system in Cincinnati of the ECHL (though, not under contract to us). He didn’t allow the likes of Magnus Hellberg playing alongside him at that level to throw him off. If anything – he flourished in the competition for the net. And that is precisely what you need system-wide. Competition.

I still very much see the goaltending cycle as follows: Marek Mazanec as the Admirals first choice, Hellberg as back-up, and Madore as the lead man for the Cincinnati Cyclones in the ECHL.

What I will say about that lineup though is that it does have parallels to last season with Scott Darling waiting in the wings at the ECHL level. Darling was supposed to be at that level, worked hard, and made the most out of an opportunity through all the injuries at the goaltending position. Pekka Rinne, knock on wood, should see a whole lot more of the ice this season in Nashville. But you never know if Hellberg has a repeat of last season with injuries or if Mazanec gets dinged up along the way. Depth is great. Quality within that depth is even better. And that is precisely what Madore will be to the Admirals this season.

How do you see the Milwaukee Admirals goaltending panning out this season? If Rob Madore continues his playoff form – could he push one of the two properties of Nashville in net down to the ECHL?

Posted in Ramblings | 5 Comments

Ads 2014 Preseason Slate Set

MVP Preseason

Admirals forward Mark Van Guilder battles in front during 2013 preseason action at the Kern Center.

Are you ready for the puck to drop on the 2014-2015 Milwaukee Admirals season?

Look no further than October 3, 2014, when Milwaukee will host rival Rockford in their only home warm up test, 7:00 PM at the Kern Center on the campus of MSOE. The following night you can make the short trip down the road to West Meadows Ice Arena in Rolling Meadows, Illinois as the Chicago Wolves will welcome Milwaukee at 7:00 PM.

Milwaukee’s regular season home opener is set for the following weekend on Friday, October 10th, though the opponent, like the rest of the schedule, is still TBD. That is just over two months away!

So Roundtable . . . Are you, like me, counting down the days until October 3? What roster battles are you looking forward to at Admirals training camp?

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Summer Ramblings, Vol. 10

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Simon Moser has yet to reach a contract with any professional hockey clubs in North America. Has he turned into the 2013-14 version of Daniel Bang? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Top of the mornin’ Roundtable. Let’s dig into our weekly column with something out of the rumor mill.

Simon Moser, who has yet to find an NHL or AHL contract, is possibly heading back home to Switzerland with SC Bern. A news story on Swiss Hockey News has a quote from the Olympian and former Predators property:

“It looks like, I will start the season with SC Bern. I have not given up hope that there will be a spot for me in the NHL, but at the moment the rosters are almost full and as I was told, they do not have enough confidence in me that I could start in the NHL right away.” ~Simon Moser

With the Nashville Predators stocking up on forwards this off-season a spot for Moser just isn’t feasible. His NHL competition in Nashville right now would be Gabriel Bourque, Taylor Beck, Rich Clune, and Calle Jarnkrok. Add to the prospects that are filling up in Milwaukee and you’re left without much choice but to say, “pass.” Especially when you go deeper into the thought process from both sides of the table.

The Predators did tender a qualifying offer to Moser. He would have made league minimum. Yet, according to this article on that front, the two seem to disagree with where Moser is at as a player:

“To probably play almost a whole season again in the AHL, I view as a step back, which is why I will surely start in Bern. I will see what is going to happen the next one or two months, maybe an opportunity will arise, but otherwise I am sure I will make progress here in Bern as well.” ~Simon Moser

The story goes on to say that he was told by Nashville that they think he will be an NHL player – but probably in one or two years. If that really is the case, I hope that Moser isn’t taking that as a personal jab at his playing ability as much as he should the current state of the Nashville system. There just isn’t a place for him right now.

I feel that Moser showed great spells of form last season. He was well-rounded on both sides of the puck and produced 26 points (8 goals, 18 assists) with the Admirals in 48 games. He missed time for the Olympics, NHL duty with the Predators where he recorded a goal and an assist, and he was also injured in the late stages of the AHL season.

There are a few ways to view this. (1) At 25-years old, do the Nashville Predators really see Moser’s ceiling getting any higher than what it was last year? (2) For Moser, would accepting league minimum for a two-way contract really hurt your chances of earning an NHL roster spot with an excellent showing at the AHL level? (3) Remember Daniel Bang? He was in this exact same situation one year ago and opted to join Lausanne HC in Switzerland. Similar player in my book. Potentially a similar outcome with both joining the NLA.

It’ll be worth keeping an eye on the Moser situation. I’d expect him to be joining SC Bern for the 2014-15 season, though. It’s all a matter of time.

Should Simon Moser remain in North America even if it means another season of AHL hockey? What is Moser’s ceiling? Is last season about as much as you would expect out of Moser and would Nashville be best off by not having him on-board?

Posted in Ramblings | 1 Comment

Admirals Sign Rob Madore and Triston Grant

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Rob Madore, who featured in the Cincinnati Cyclones 2014 Kelly Cup run, has inked an AHL contract with the Milwaukee Admirals. (Photo Credit: Cincinnati Cyclones // Facebook)

For those of you that became Scott Darling fans last season, that were bummed out to hear that he had signed a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks organization, and wondered who could be that third-man in when it came to the Admirals goaltending situation – great news! Today, the Milwaukee Admirals have announced the signing of Rob Madore to an AHL contract.

Madore was phenomenal during the Cincinnati Cyclones Kelly Cup playoff run this past season. In 24 playoff games he won 14 games, posted a 2.29 goals against average, a 0.930 save percentage, and took home the MVP honors for the playoffs – becoming the first man in ECHL history to win it on the losing side of the Finals.

In addition to that news, the Milwaukee Admirals have also signed Triston Grant to a one-year AHL contract. Grant was a member of the Admirals from 2008-10. In those two-seasons he produced 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists) and amassed 389 penalty minutes. Last season with the Grand Rapids Griffins he played 51 games, scored 16 points (6 goals, 10 assists), recorded 103 penalty minutes, and had a plus/minus rating of +6. At the age of 30-years old he brings much needed veteran experience to an incredibly young 2014-15 Admirals roster.

Also worth noting, for those still awaiting Scott Ford news, the addition of Grant could be a boost for one more season. The two are best buddies after all .

What are your thoughts on today’s signings by the Milwaukee Admirals? What does the addition of Rob Madore mean for Magnus Hellberg?

Posted in News | 9 Comments

Summer Ramblings, Vol. 9

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Filip Forsberg is one of a few players on the outside looking in when it comes to making the starting Nashville roster. If he doesn’t make it – is it such a bad thing? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The news front hasn’t exactly been as booming as it had been when David Poile made four-signings in one-day last Tuesday. That doesn’t mean we can’t keep chatting up what those moves mean for Nashville and Milwaukee, though.

The Predators have added James Neal (trade), Olli Jokinen (free agent), Mike Ribeiro (free agent), Derek Roy (free agent) during this off-season. The moves have not only made a solid impact on the team’s top two forward lines but also the trickle down effect that has on the entire system. According to Thomas Willis of Predlines, this is what a potential 2014-15 Nashville Predators forward line combination could look like:

James Neal-Mike Ribeiro-Craig Smith
Colin Wilson-Derek Roy-Olli Jokinen
Viktor Stalberg-Calle Jarnkrok-Matt Cullen
Eric Nystrom-Paul Gaustad-Gabriel Borque

I feel like that is a pretty safe bet. The talking point I heard a fair bit of when it came to the Ribeiro and Roy signings was the immediate impact it has on the likes of Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons, Miikka Salomaki, Filip Forsberg, and Austin Watson. In my book, Calle makes the NHL roster over Colton to start the season. And the latter should all probably find themselves in Milwaukee barring outrageously good pre-season showings. Also, this shouldn’t be viewed as a set back for the young guns in any way shape or form.

Sissons made a great first impression with the Admirals as a 20-year old first-year pro: 62 games, 44 points (25 goals, 19 assists), 8 penalty minutes, and a plus/minus rating of -3. He also played a grand total of 17 games in the NHL while producing 4 goal (1 goal, 3 assists). If he has lost out on an NHL role for the Preds to start the season he instantly becomes the Admirals top-line center and will be tasked with playing a multitude of roles and different game situations. He will turn 21-years old in November. Sissons could still benefit from another year of AHL duty. In doing so, the Admirals will also benefit from his all-around services from the center position.

Salomaki and Forsberg are two of the young wingers that can make a push for NHL spots right now. If I had to pick which one is the more NHL ready prospect – I would side with Salomaki over Forsberg. Salomaki didn’t just lead the Admirals in scoring last season with 50 points (20 goals, 30 assists). He also displayed a tremendous ability to make quick plays and play physically along the boards. Those are the types of abilities that would make him useful right now in Nashville on the lower-tier forward lines. Forsberg’s defensive abilities can still use some honing in upon and, as skilled as he is, he probably could use a full-season to display consistency on the offensive side of the puck. Filip, who will turn 20-years old in August, can show his brilliance in spurts. To see him lay it down game after game, think Jarnkrok last season after his acquisition from Detroit, is just what it takes to get to the NHL.

Another name that kicked up during discussions I’ve had or read with the Predators off-season is what it means for Mr. Watson. My answer? It is very important to remember where he finished last season. He was on a scoring binge and really found another gear in the latter stages of the regular season. Why? Because he was no longer playing center – he was playing on the wing. I project Watson, at best, to be a useful third or forth line winger that has that scoring touch you want from a lower-line forward but best of all a good defensive mind on his shoulders. He was too slow on the ice to maintain centering a line combination of himself with Salomaki and fellow Finn Joonas Rask last season. I think him moving on the wing allows him to better focus on the ice and move around a lot more freely. Watson’s focus this season should be to pick up where he left off and on being a solid winger in Milwaukee with a chance to get an NHL call up – something he never earned last season.

Lastly, I can’t help but applaud the Predators on signing guys such as Jokinen, Ribeiro, and Roy on one-year deals. They are all low-risk players with affordable contracts that can be dealt at the trade deadline should the Preds be sellers by then. They managed to cash in on Martin Erat and David Legwand for young prospects the previous two-seasons. Literally the worst case scenario from the free agent signings made by Poile is a venture back to the trade market that has produced for him Forsberg and Jarnkrok. It either works for this season with the veteran forwards or it works down the road with youth under head coach Peter Laviolette – something he tends to handle rather well.

Thoughts on the battle for NHL positions in Nashville? Is Calle Jarnkrok a lock or could we see him back in Milwaukee? Are there any other deserving players that should be under consideration by the Predators for NHL spots?

Posted in Ramblings | 2 Comments