2014-15 Milwaukee Admirals Report Card

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Milwaukee Admirals provided lots of ups and downs during the 2014-15 season. Unfortunately they did so in that order with a franchise best start to a season followed by their first season without playoff hockey in thirteen years. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

This was a very Jekyll and Hyde type of season. The Milwaukee Admirals opened their 2014-15 season by setting a franchise record for a best ever start with a six-game winning streak. Things were really looking great up until December rolled around. There was a seven-game losing stretch and the team pulled a 3-6-2-1 record in the month.

I remember around that time thinking it was just a dip. A small slide that the Admirals needed to go through to better themselves in the long run. January seemed to prove that right because the team rocked a 10-2-0-0 record with a franchise record nine-game winning streak. They were out in front of the Midwest Division and capped off the month by shutting out the Grand Rapids Griffins 4-0 on the road.

When trying to pinpoint where things really trended as badly as this season went I ended up coming to the date, February 15th. The Admirals lost two key components to their team, injuries started to hit within the Nashville Predators organization, and the roster change-over that happened seemed to give the Admirals difficulties. Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. The Admirals went 4-14-5-3 after that date and wound up not making the playoffs for the first time since the franchise’s debut season in the American Hockey League of 2001-02.

The frustrating part about the end to the season was how often good efforts or performances were squandered in a matter of a few moments. There would be a mistake, defensive lapse, goaltending mishap, or something as wacky as a bad bounce. That span from February 15th saw the Admirals battle through a game that was decided by a single goal thirteen times. Think about that for a moment. That’s a difference between playing playoff hockey and watching playoff hockey on a couch. Frustrating. That’s perhaps another understatement.

While it’s tough for everyone to miss out on the playoffs that doesn’t by any means make this season a complete write-off. Lots of players left a good first impression and some familiar faces put some solid stamps down.

This report card is purely my grading and assessment of those who played for the Admirals this season. In my grades for last season I made the cut-off for earning a grade at twenty-games. Anything less was an incomplete. I think I’ll hold to that.

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The Memes of Admirals Roundtable

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

This is Austin Watson in his natural habitat. I figure it best to put this here because he’ll be front and center for a lot of his meme faces. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

For those who follow what I do on Twitter than, mostly, this post shouldn’t be anything all that new. When I get rolling into game mode I’ll launch a barrage of pop culture references that take you from Bruce Buffer, to Doctor Who and Supernatural, to SpongeBob and The Simpsons, and so on and so forth. Then, when it comes to the Admirals team itself, I craft a few things off my phone from pictures either the team photographers have snapped or from fan submissions. Often times it is those candid fan photos that just make me laugh and -well- I can’t help it. I make a meme out of it.

I was asked to bundle up all the memes that I created during the course of this past Admirals season by some folks though. So this one is for you! Hey, it is Monday so we could use the laugh.

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Nashville Sign Kristian Näkyvä to Entry Level Deal

(Photo Credit: Peter Skaugvold)

Ladies and Gents, please give a warm welcome to Finnish defenseman Kristian Näkyvä who just entered the Nashville Predators system today on a one-year entry level contract. (Photo Credit: Peter Skaugvold)

You know what the Milwaukee Admirals lacked this season? Finns. There was only one player from Finland on the roster this season and that was Miikka Salomäki. He was surrounded by a gaggle of Swedes with last names ending in berg. Well, good news Miikka! The Nashville Predators may have just added a second Finn into the fold for next season by signing free agent defenseman Kristian Näkyvä to an entry level contract.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tennessee (April 24, 2015) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Friday that the club has signed free-agent defenseman Kristian Näkyvä to a one-year, entry-level contract.

Näkyvä, 24 (11/18/90), played his first season with Lulea of the Swedish Hockey League in 2014-15, tying for the league lead among defensemen in goals (10), tying for fifth at the position in points (29) and ranking eighth in assists (19).

Prior to joining Lulea, the 6-0, 190-pounder spent three seasons with JYP of the Finnish Elite League, ranking among the Top 10 blueliners in points in both 2012-13 and 2013-14 while winning a league title in 2011-12.

A native of Helsinki, Finland, Näkyvä played his junior hockey in the Espoo Blues organization, captaining the club to a junior league title in 2008-09 while winning the Raimo Helminen Award for having the best plus/minus (+32).

I would have wagged my finger and made mention that not all entry level contracts guarantee that the player will jump the pond and arrive in North America, Max Görtz, but this is a one-year deal. That pretty much tells me he’s an Admiral next season. When you think about what that means for everyone else it makes competition for an AHL spot potentially even tougher than it was this season… or does it?

Jonathan DiabyGarrett NoonanJohan AlmJaynen Rissling, and Mikko Vainonen are the only guaranteed defensemen that will be back next season. The signing of Näkyvä could signal the end of the road for Anthony BitettoJoe PiskulaTaylor Aronson, or Jimmy Oligny. Now, when reading those names, who would you pick as the odd man out? I’d hate to speculate (so allow me to speculate) but Oligny is the odd man out in this situation with Näkyvä, also a left-handed shooting defenseman, now in the mix. This being pretty much the first of many off-season moves to be made system wide I suppose we should all just kick back and wait to see what happens next.

Thoughts on the signing of Kristian Näkyvä? What does his inclusion to the organization mean to some of the defensemen in Milwaukee or Cincinnati? Who do you think ends up getting let loose as a result?

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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The Best of Chatterbox, Season 2

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

There have been some memorable quotes from the Milwaukee Admirals 2014-15 season. What is your favorite? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Once again, it has been a blast providing you with the soundbites from the Milwaukee Admirals this season. In Season 1 there were some entertaining moments and quotes. In Season 2 I think you’ll have noticed things tempered in that respect. There have been some interview bombs, yes, but I think this past season in Chatterbox simply tells the story of the Admirals hockey season that was. It was the best of times it was the worst of times! That whole jazz.

Small tip. I’ve tried this season to limit the massive bulk audio posts as best I can because, with lots of clips in one post, it seems like this website messes up slightly with so many open audio players on all at once. If this happens to be the case here. Simply refresh the page and give it another go from where you left off.

That all said, sit back and listen in on the soundbites of the Admirals 2014-15 season. This is the best of Chatterbox Season 2.

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Admiral of the Month: April

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Good Guy Jon Greenberg handing out the final Admirals Roundtable monthly award… ok, it was the AHL All Rookie Team award but still. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

All this doom and gloom over the Milwaukee Admirals regular season ending without any playoff hockey and I forgot to divvy up the final monthly award. There were only seven games in the month of April and the team ended it with a six-game losing streak. It wasn’t exactly pretty. Even so, I think the award race for the month could be given to three different Admirals. My choice though? Viktor Arvidsson.

Arvidsson rejoined the Admirals from the Nashville Predators for the final month of the AHL season. In the last seven games the Swede tallied 4 points (3 goals, 1 assist). The biggest thing for me though was that he registered a whopping 36 shots on goal. Can’t say he wasn’t trying, right?

With the season done Arvidsson’s statistics can kind of stand out. He recorded the most shots on goal in the entire AHL this season with 272 in seventy-games. The next closest to him in that respect was Jonathan Marchessault of the Syracuse Crunch with 257. One more little gem, because Aaron Sims brought it up at season’s end and I thought it was fun, Arvidsson managed to set an Admirals AHL shots on goal record set by Curtis Murphy during the 2003-04 season.

The other two players I felt were worthy of the last Roundtable monthly award were Austin Watson and Colton Sissons. Watson posted 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists) and Sissons 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists). Both were leaned on quite a bit down the stretch and responded well. Watson set a career high for goals in a season and Sissons became the first Admiral in AHL history to record back-to-back seasons of 25 goals to start his career.

Other Admirals in March: Pontus Åberg, 4 points (0 goals, 4 assists)… Triston Grant, 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist)… Mark Van Guilder, 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists).

~Admiral of the Month Award~

October: Brendan Leipsic
November: Magnus Hellberg
December: Marek Mazanec
January: Viktor Arvidsson
February: Colton Sissons
March: Colton Sissons
April: Viktor Arvidsson

Who was your pick for the top performing Admiral in the month of March? Please write a comment down below as to who and why.

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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Admirals Roundtable’s Question of the Day

(Photo Credit: Vaughn Ridley)

This is Connor McDavid. He doesn’t play for the Milwaukee Admirals. I suspect you all already are aware of that. (Photo Credit: Vaughn Ridley)

Firstly, a massive cheers to the Milwaukee Admirals and Buck Bradley’s for last night’s Nashville Predators viewing party. Lot of good fans were on-hand. Favorite of mine included someone wearing a Darren Haydar Predators #54 jersey that was autographed. I cut loose after the second period and, needless to say, that was a good call. That game almost lasted as long as the pub was scheduled to be open until. Shame that the Predators are now down 3-1 in the series but I still am optimistic about things. I feel out of all opening round series they’re currently playing the biggest and closest chess match there is.

Alright, let’s just point out the obvious. This is not “Season in Review” material. In fact, this isn’t even Predators organization related. Instead I want to ask you folks a question that struck me the moment the 2015 NHL Draft Lottery went down.

Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel will be the prizes of the 2015 NHL Draft but it’s pretty clear that McDavid is the favored of the two. When the Edmonton Oilers lucked out on winning their fourth draft lottery in five years it poses a question that should have other teams in the NHL looking into their proverbial wallets.

Would you be willing to trade the number one overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft or part ways with one of your recent first overall selections?

When the lottery was decided the name Eric Lindros was trending on Twitter for quite awhile. While most pointed to his decision stand off on the Quebec Nordiques in the 1991 NHL Draft I instead thought of the repercussions of what trading him away did for the Nordiques franchise. Look at what became of the eventual franchise known as the Colorado Avalanche after the Lindros trade and look at what became of the team that had acquired him.

While supposed generational talents come along every so often, McDavid has been hyped for some time now, it poses a question of value and quantity over quality. The Oilers haven’t had much of either in a long time despite their top draft selections which could mean a haul for either Taylor HallRyan Nugent-Hopkins, or Nail Yakupov won’t give you the kickback as a trade for McDavid would. Could it be possible for the Oilers to pass on this year’s top pick, settle on those aforementioned named, but better their team by claiming a big time price tag attached to McDavid’s name? Highly unlikely, but -if they did- the right package back could set their ship pointed in a direction they’ve not been pointed in for decades.

The more likely alternative here is the one I look forward to actually seeing play out. If McDavid is in who should be on the move and where’s that kid going to go? If you look at the names above the likely man McDavid would directly replace would be Nugent-Hopkins as a center. Last season he produced 56 points (24 goals, 32 assists) in 76 games for the Oilers. I’d go as far to say he is the most consistent member of their first overall selection club and should be worth the most on the trade market. To boot, his contract isn’t all that bad and carriers into the 2020-21 season. He could bring in some nice pieces to the Oilers mix to make them better in the long run as well. The question is who would be gunning for him and what sort of ransom would the Oilers be asking in exchange?

I was mystified when the Oilers won yet another draft lottery but it does present an interesting situation in which I feel someone will need to jump ship and the Oilers are the guys holding all their cards as a result of this position of draft power. Recent history has shown that they simply don’t have a clue at structuring a team for success but the ability to change that is there with the right move. The question is, do you trade that first overall pick or send one of your former first overall selections away? I’m pretty sure at least one of those could become a reality. And, as Oilers assistant general manager Bill Scott said at the draft lottery, you never know what can happen.

Put yourselves in the Edmonton Oilers camp for a moment. What would you do in their position? What deal would you make and what would you be looking to acquire for either the top overall pick in this year’s draft or one of your former top draft selections?

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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The 2014-15 Milwaukee Admirals Season in Pictures

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Milwaukee Admirals season opener started with a massive bang from lots of the new names we were introduced to this year. How nasty was Pontus Åberg’s debut goal? (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

This season has provided some outstanding photos. The Milwaukee Admirals photography team this season has consisted of Scott Paulus and Jeff Hanisch. In addition, there have been some nice contributions from the opposition side as well. Here is a look back on the Milwaukee Admirals season in pictures.

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The Universal Language of Hockey

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Milwaukee Admirals have had nine different players born outside of North America play for them this season. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Typically when European hockey players make the leap to North America the first obstacle that comes to mind is adapting to a new style of play. There is an adjustment period, sure. The rinks are smaller which amplifies the pace of everything taking place on the ice. In places such as Sweden, Finland, or Russia the rinks can be that slight bit longer and wider which provides more freedom to skate and and stickhandle. Some make the adjustment quick. Some struggle. And some end up making the leap straight back to European ice.

This season the Milwaukee Admirals had four players making their North American debuts: Pontus ÅbergJohan AlmViktor Arvidsson, and Kevin Fiala. They were surrounded by players such as Magnus HellbergMiikka Salomäki, and Marek Mazanec who have worked through the adjustment process with the Admirals previously. Getting used to the game alone is a hefty process with varying individual results. Getting used to life away from the rink is a different process entirely.

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2015 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs Set

OpeningBracket-1415-1

Place your bets! …please don’t but guess away please! (Photo Credit: AHL)

The 2014-15 AHL regular season officially came to an end today and now the first round playoff matches are set. The Manchester Monarchs and Utica Comets are the top seeds of their respective conferences. As far as what was decided Sunday night the Portland Pirates survived a thriller of a game to secure the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Toronto Marlies took down the Chicago Wolves to claim the seventh seed and push the Amtrak Rivals down to the eighth spot in the Western Conference.

With all things in order, and the dust neatly settled from the regular season, here is the opening round match-ups for the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs.

~Western Conference~

(1) Utica Comets vs. (8) Chicago Wolves
Game 1 – Apr. 22 – Utica @ Chicago, 7pm CST
Game 2 – Apr. 24 – Utica @ Chicago, 7pm CST
Game 3 – Apr. 29 – Chicago @ Utica, 6pm CST
Game 4 – May 1 – Chicago @ Utica, 6pm CST
Game 5 – May 2 – Chicago @ Utica, 6pm CST

(2) Grand Rapids Griffins vs. (7) Toronto Marlies
Game 1 – Apr. 25 – Grand Rapids @ Toronto, 2pm CST
Game 2 – Apr. 26 – Grand Rapids @ Toronto, 2pm CST
Game 3 – Apr. 29 – Toronto @ Grand Rapids, 6pm CST
Game 4 – May 2 – Toronto @ Grand Rapids, 6pm CST
Game 5 – May 3 – Toronto @ Grand Rapids, 4pm CST

(3) San Antonio Rampage vs. (6) Oklahoma City Barons
Game 1 – Apr. 23 – San Antonio @ Oklahoma City, 8pm CST
Game 2 – Apr. 25 – San Antonio @ Oklahoma City, 8pm CST
Game 3 – Apr. 29 – Oklahoma City @ San Antonio, 8pm CST
Game 4 – May 1 – Oklahoma City @ San Antonio, 8:30pm CST
Game 5 – May 2 – Oklahoma City @ San Antonio, 8pm CST

(4) Rockford IceHogs vs. (5) Texas Stars
Game 1 – Apr. 24 – Rockford @ Texas, 8:30pm CST
Game 2 – Apr. 25 – Rockford @ Texas, 8:00pm CST
Game 3 – Apr. 29 – Texas @ Rockford, 8:00pm CST
Game 4 – May 1 – Texas @ Rockford, 8:00pm CST
Game 5 – May 2 – Texas @ Rockford, 8:00pm CST

~Eastern Conference~

(1) Manchester Monarchs vs. (8) Portland Pirates
Game 1 – Apr. 23 – Portland @ Manchester, 6pm CST
Game 2 – Apr. 25 – Portland @ Manchester, 6pm CST
Game 3 – Apr. 26 – Manchester @ Portland, 4pm CST
Game 4 – Apr. 30 – Manchester @ Portland, 6pm CST
Game 5 – May 2 – Portland @ Manchester, 6pm CST

(2) Hershey Bears vs. (7) Worcester Sharks
Game 1 – Apr. 24 – Hershey @ Worcester, 6pm CST
Game 2 – Apr. 25 – Hershey @ Worcester, 6pm CST
Game 3 – Apr. 29 – Worcester @ Hershey, 6pm CST
Game 4 – Apr. 1 – Worcester @ Hershey, 6pm CST
Game 5 – May 3 – Worcester @ Hershey, 4pm CST

(3) Hartford Wolf Pack vs. (6) Providence Bruins
Game 1 – Apr. 22 – Providence @ Hartford, 6pm CST
Game 2 – Apr. 25 – Providence @ Hartford, 6pm CST
Game 3 – Apr. 26 – Hartford @ Providence, 6:05pm CST
Game 4 – Apr. 28 – Hartford @ Providence, 6:05pm CST
Game 5 – May 1 – Providence @ Hartford, 6pm CST

(4) W-B/Scranton Penguins vs. (5) Syracuse Crunch
Game 1 – Apr. 24 – Syracuse @ W-B/Scranton, 6:05pm CST
Game 2 – Apr. 25 – Syracuse @ W-B/Scranton, 6:05pm CST
Game 3 – Apr. 29 – W-B/Scranton @ Syracuse, 6pm CST
Game 4 – Apr. 30 – W-B/Scranton @ Syracuse, 6pm CST
Game 5 – May 2 – Syracuse @ W-B/Scranton, 6:05pm CST

There you have it! The opening round is a best-of-five format before shifting to a best-of-seven in the conference semifinals. One thing that is bugging me while looking at these fixtures is… isn’t the opening round format meant to be the choice of the top seed either playing the first two games at home or last three games at home? What’s up with Monarchs/Pirates, Wolf Pack/Bruins, and Penguins/Crunch?

Well, per the AHL press release, the phrase “unless building availability dictates otherwise” is the key there. If I’m the lower seed in any of those match-ups I’d be fairly frustrated if there is a game five scenario because there is a massive advantage given to the high seed to start and end a playoff series on home ice. While that doesn’t sound like anything that new, it’s how any best-of-seven works, the team selection of home ice for two games to start or three games to end the series can play a big role in how a series plays out. Interestingly, as you can see in the schedule, some teams elected to get those home games first and take the risk of three road games to end the series. Most tend to elect for the final three games of the series on home ice. Is that any different than having two games to start the series and one game for the crucial deciding game five? To me it is because you get home ice momentum at the start and for the finish which otherwise wouldn’t be the case – and isn’t for teams who can actually use their playing facility on a scheduled date for a game.

That was a weird things for me to see and I’d love to see some of those series go the distance to see some of the banter that gets raised from such questions I posed above. Could be a difference. Could be no difference what so ever. Either way it should be fun to kick back and see if it actually has an impact.

I’m not sure who you folks have taking the Calder Cup this season but I’ve got my mind made up already. I think the 2015 Calder Cup Finals will be between the Griffins and Monarchs with the Midwest Division leaders from Grand Rapids taking their second championship in three seasons.

Who do you see advancing from the opening round? Do you have any favorites to win it all now? What is your predictions for the Calder Cup Final and pick to win?

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Thanks From Admirals Roundtable

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The year may not have ended the way it started but that didn’t stop the Milwaukee Admirals from taking to center ice to salute the fans in their last home game of the season on Friday night. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Milwaukee Admirals 2014-15 season officially came to a close this weekend. While it is sad that playoff hockey will not be happening it was a year of learning and growing that I feel can be a big boost for so many players on the Admirals team moving forward. There will be some departures from this year to next year, sure, but there will also be plenty of returning faces. I think the nucleus that returns will be stronger and smarter thanks to the ups and downs of this past season. And that makes me optimistic and excited about what could be in-store for the team later this fall.

I want to thank all of you great fans who have taken the time to make what I get to do so much fun. This was my second season operating Admirals Roundtable and third season following the Milwaukee Admirals from up close. To share my passion for this sport and team with fellow fans has been so fantastic. I love that this community that I’m part of is as savvy and hilarious as it is. It makes doing what I do that much more rewarding.

Get ready for a long list because there are some specific people I would like to thank for their contributions and comradery this season: Charlie Larson of the Admirals front office for taking time out to help set up interviews with coaches and players throughout this season. Aaron Sims for always being there to provide his help on plays or notes from the road while also being the brilliant broadcaster that he is (if you haven’t liked the “Admirals Center Ice” Facebook page please do). Dave Boehler (did you know he has a blog?) for once again being my pal up on press row this season and for all the banter we’ve had. Mario Tirabassi for being a great addition to Admirals media scrums this season. Jason Karnosky for his contributions to Admirals Roundtable throughout the season. Nashville friends such as Justin Bradford, Kristopher Martel, Robby Stanley, and Jeremy K. Gover for laughs and insight of all things Predators this season. The people of Predlines (Mark Carson Harris and Cutler Klein) for allowing me to chip in there earlier this season and chat Admirals hockey. Fellow AHL Bloggers Stephen Meserve of 100 Degree Hockey and Jack of Comets Army for their contributions to “Scouting the Enemy” this season. And, most importantly to me, my family and friends for all their love and support as I continue living out my dream covering a hockey club such as the Admirals.

Lastly, because some confessed as being readers this season, a massive thank you to all players of the Milwaukee Admirals this season. I can’t say enough of how much I appreciate the time you’ve taken out after a game, practice, or pre-game session of two touch soccer to have conversations with me. Thanks for your time, honesty, the laughs, and incredible work on and off the ice this season.

What’s on tap for Admirals Roundtable now that the season is over? Plenty. In the immediate future there will be a new feature story up Monday morning and then a decent amount of season recap material in the days after. I also plan to keep you all up to date with 2015 Calder Cup Playoff news as things move along. When off-season moves come I’ll be right back at it to provide the updates, as well. I plan on keeping things continuously moving still. So keep staying tuned and adding your commentary.

Again, thank you all so much your contributions as readers to Admirals Roundtable. This website is here because of fans and continues to exist because of you fans. Thanks for making this yet another great year for myself following the Milwaukee Admirals and being able to write, report, and be the dork that I am. Cheers.

Be sure to follow Admirals Roundtable on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and see our photos on Instagram.

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