The mystery surrounding what on Earth was going on with Marek Mazanec has now been answered. Before that ever happened though the organization already made good on its promise to bring in three goaltenders: Anders Lindbäck, Matt O’Connor, and Jake Paterson. Mazanec would have offered a nice, stable, and reliable option for the Milwaukee Admirals. Mazanec also would have also been a decent enough fit for the third choice option in net for the Nashville Predators. It was evident early he wouldn’t be back. It was evident as the signings came around that the three don’t match Mazanec’s current comfort blanket feeling. Should Pekka Rinne or Juuse Saros suffer injury of any length during the 2017-18 season who really is that next man up?
This saga has finally come to its completion. Marek Mazanec has officially signed with HC Slovan Bratislava in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). In the release from the Slovakian club it states a mutual terms of release between Mazanec and the Nashville Predators after having signed a new one-year, two-way contract at the end of July.
Last season, I broke a rule of mine that was an important one for myself. When I started at Admirals Roundtable I didn’t want to be anything more than the byline. I had written on a few occasions how difficult things were becoming behind the scenes. I was mentally burned out. After spending five seasons around the Milwaukee Admirals it felt like I needed to hit the reset button on my career aspirations.
As I’ve continued getting things published here throughout the off-season, attending Nashville Predators Rookie Development Camp, revamping the website’s look and functionality, and making business partnerships for the 2017-18 season – I’ve been receiving a lot of “are you back” questions. The simple answer is: Yes. The more complex answer involves me breaking my rule again. I need to tell my story.
If you were to look over the Milwaukee Admirals run under head coach Dean Evason you would see a rather successful regular season squad that has yet to escape the first round of the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs. The playoff run in the Evason era is 1-12 with three successive exits via sweep and an eleven game losing streak. The Admirals last playoff win came against the Texas Stars on 27 April, 2013. They won 2-0 behind a 23-save shutout by Magnus Hellberg and received goals from Austin Watson and then team captain Mike Moore. Watson wasn’t the only current Nashville Predators player on the roster for that last playoff win for Admirals. Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm were both active in that game.
What can standout from the playoff exits that followed is the team’s youth and veteran leadership structure sometimes not providing for the greatest of on-ice consistency. In the season after that last playoff win, 2013-14, the captain was Scott Ford and his alternates were Joe Piskula and Mark Van Guilder. 2014-15, the Admirals went with Piskula as captain and saw a then 20-year old Colton Sissons join Van Guilder as an alternate captain. The Admirals streak of twelve consecutive playoff appearances ended that season. 2015-16, Sissons would be made team captain with a veritable hodgepodge of alternate captains behind him in a season where he played 38 games in the AHL and 34 games in the NHL.
Establishing a core leadership group comprised of veteran talent started last season with the arrival of Trevor Smith. He was on top of a leadership group that had many other solid and established players behind him: Cody Bass, Harry Zolnierczyk, Adam Pardy, and Mike Liambas. While some of those names have either moved on or are still free agents the process of keeping a veteran leadership group has remained a focal point for the Admirals. And it is almost already solidified after yesterday’s signing of Bobby Butler.
The Milwaukee Admirals have signed Bobby Butler to a one-year AHL contract for the 2017-18 season. The 30-year old right winger is a three-time AHL All-Star and won the 2011 AHL Calder Cup with the Binghamton Senators. He has spent his past two seasons playing abroad in Sweden and Russia.
It might not be as complicated as the Marek Mazanec saga but Jonas Gunnarsson has just been loaned to HV71 from the Malmö Redhawks in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). Gunnarsson has signed a two-year contract with Malmö in January 2016 months prior to officially signing with the Nashville Predators. His loan with HV71 will last until 31 October, 2017. The SHL season starts league play on 16 September, 2017.
Since the 2007-08 season the Nashville Predators organization was straightforward: Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) & Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL). That has changed this season. The Norfolk Admirals have become the new ECHL affiliate and that has pushed the Cyclones off to a new adventure as part of the Buffalo Sabres organization. In the past few seasons the Cyclones depth from Milwaukee hasn’t necessarily been the best. It’s already clear to see that the organization is attempting to make the first season with Norfolk on board as impactful as possible.
The Milwaukee Admirals have signed Trevor Mingoia to a one-year AHL contract for the 2017-18 season. The 25-year old right winger played the best part of last season with the Atlanta Gladiators of the ECHL and, similar to recent Admirals signing Angelo Miceli, was part of a trade that put him into the clutches of the Norfolk Admirals. While both are under contract to Milwaukee it is likely both start next season in Norfolk.
Around this time a year ago one of my biggest concerns heading into the season was the Milwaukee Admirals defense being too young and too inexperienced. And that was with Matt Irwin likely in the fold at the time. At the moment, the elder statesman of the Admirals defense is 24-year old Jimmy Oligny who suffered ligament damage that required season ending surgery in April. Despite that, the defense really should be one of the least concerning elements to the Admirals efforts in the 2017-18 season. Yes, they might be young -but- they’re a year better off than a season ago and last season proved rather well for that group.
And then there were four! The Milwaukee Admirals have announced this afternoon that they have signed goaltender Jake Paterson to a one-year, AHL contract for the 2017-18 season. Paterson joins a goaltending depth group that now features Marek Mazanec, Anders Lindbäck, and Matt O’Connor. Paterson spent all of last season in the ECHL with the Toledo Walleye where he was the league leader with 34 wins.