Fifteen with Harris Turer and Jon Greenberg

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

He’s a pretty good one. And Juuse Saros will be, too. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Last season here at Admirals Roundtable the feature interview series Fifteen allowed fans to get to know their favorite players off the ice that little bit better and to participate by submitting requests for who they wanted to hear from first.  Little did I expect that on a few occasions non-player personnel would be requested to have on. The goal during the season for me is to access the players in the short while that they’re around. And I’m happy to say that was accomplished last season. With the 2016-17 season creeping upon us I think now is the perfect time to launch Season 2 of Fifteen with some of those non-player requests that fans asked for.

When I turned up to the Milwaukee Admirals front office late last week I went with this intention in mind. Admirals Owner/CEO Harris Turer and President Jon Greenberg were both actually early requests in the feature last season but I felt obligated to get to the players first. Both Harris and Jon always make themselves available so this timing came well enough for us to do an extra interview on top of this one.

One of the things I often admire about the Admirals front office, for those that haven’t experienced it first hand, is that it is very much a family atmosphere. The whole group is really a nice reflection of its leaders from up top where hard work is done but done while loving the work that’s being accomplished. That same family atmosphere out of Harris and Jon can also be seen at any Admirals game you’ve attended. Some owners take the luxury box seat and avoid the crowds. The Admirals Owner/CEO and President are always seated with the fans and often wearing jerseys with their own names on them if you needed an added reason to stop by and say, “Hello.” It’s really been this way since the two joined forces in 2005. Perhaps after this interview even more moments of “Hello” will be done.

Cheers to both Harris Turer and Jon Greenberg for spending the time to conduct both sets of these interviews. Again, the behind the scenes activities leading into the Milwaukee Admirals 2016-17 season is by far busier than the hockey news cycle this summer may lure you to think. I appreciate the time afforded by both to take a break for a moment to chat.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Sitting Down with Harris Turer and Jon Greenberg

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

While the off-season news-wise hasn’t been all that eventful in regards to the organization there has still been plenty taking place behind the scenes for the Milwaukee Admirals. The franchise is set to reopen a history of hockey at what was once the fabled MECCA – now known as the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. The Admirals started playing playing hockey in that building in the mid-70’s before making the leap to the Bradley Center in 1988. The ol’ MECCA opened in 1950 and has seen its share of renovations and name changes over the years. The latest round of renovations though as substantial and come by way of the reunion of the Admirals and their former stomping grounds.

So, what is all happening behind the scenes and how are things progressing? Will the renovations around the concourse, as well as the construction of the locker rooms for both pro and youth hockey teams, be completed on-time? Where are we all going to park? And what will it be like going head-to-head with competition from across the street from the Milwaukee Bucks this season and beyond?

To answer those questions and more I ventured in to chat with Admirals Owner/CEO Harris Turer and Admirals President Jon Greenberg. This is the first of a two-part interview series I was able to conduct with the head of the Admirals front office with a Fifteen feature set for Monday. Originally the plan was for Fifteen only -but- we all enjoy talking about the business and the future of the Milwaukee Admirals. That allowed for this sit down with the two to learn more about where things currently stand at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena and how things are progressing.

Cheers to both Harris Turer and Jon Greenberg for taking the time to discuss everything connected to what has been a busy off-season of preparation on a whole new level for the Milwaukee Admirals front office staff. Fifteen with both Turer and Greenberg will turn up on Monday morning. Hopefully the 2016-17 AHL schedule won’t be too far behind that.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Ramblings, Vol. 47

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

October 29th will feature a night in Milwaukee with the Milwaukee Admirals and Milwaukee Bucks both in action in arenas separated by only West State Street. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Happy Friday, everyone. The work week has come to a close and the hockey off-season keeps inching closer and closer to its end as well. For example, the AHL’s schedule is due out in the near future thanks to the NBA officially unveiling their league schedule for the 2016-17 season last evening. While the Milwaukee Admirals are no longer tenants to an NBA arena there are still a few teams caught in that mix which forces the wait. That being said, both last season and the season prior both had the AHL schedule get released on the 27th of August. So, we’re almost in the good.

~Aww Shucks, There Go The Bucks~

 

While the wait for the AHL schedule to drop has been a lengthy one most fans have had their calendars circled for the home opener for a good while. The Milwaukee Admirals return to the ol’ MECCA, now known as the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, is on Saturday October 29th. What became known last night was that across the street at the BMO Harris Bradley Center is that it wouldn’t be the only professional sporting event taking place that date. The Milwaukee Bucks are set to play the Brooklyn Nets on the -exact same night- with the -exact same time- tag not attached to it because the Admirals will be playing an hour earlier on the evening.

While the AHL schedule isn’t out yet I have to imagine this will be the first of a few crossover moments between the Admirals and Bucks for the year’s to come. I’d also have to take a shot in the dark guess that this might be the first instance of the two teams playing at the same time in the same city since the Admirals’ Wilson Park days of the franchise.

The long story short here is that this little head-to-head between the Admirals and Bucks is the present and future of downtown Milwaukee. What’s ironic here in terms of actual business practices is that both would love to lean on casual fans to sweep on by and attend games – but now one will likely detract from the other in that respect. It would be in both organization’s best interests to minimize these head-to-head dates – especially for the Admirals once the allure of attending a new arena becomes a reality. Whether this means the Admirals shifting towards afternoon games on the weekend during conflict dates or not will remain to be seen. But, it’s either that or directly going head-to-head and seeing which fans cross West State Street to their respective homes. Uniquely that is a story behind the on-ice product that will be fascinating to see unfold if there are a solid number of conflict dates between the two teams.

~Cleveland Cavaliers On-Ice~

If that little NBA/AHL crossover discussion wasn’t enough there was the news this week that the 2015-16 AHL Calder Cup Champions will no longer be known as the Lake Erie Monsters but as the Cleveland Monsters.

On the surface, I’m a fan of that switch because that is where they play and it provides a better professional identity for the team to utilize the name of their city. What I am not sold on having Dan Gilbert’s ownership of the Cleveland Cavaliers as well as the Monsters mean having the exact same look. Because, at a certain point, why not rename last year’s Calder Cup winners the Cavaliers as well if their uniform update is meant to copy them anyways.

(Photo Credit: @monstershockey // Twitter)

(Photo Credit: @monstershockey // Twitter)

I suppose a throwback to the Cleveland Barons was simply out of the question. That’s a shame for purely nostalgic reasons. If anything this rebranding and new look is uniquely their own identity. I will give the Cleveland Monsters that. It’s not a very good one -but- it is all their’s now. They aren’t exactly the first team to really embrace the look or identity of their local NBA team. True. It’s just an odd mishmash. I do however look forward to the potential Cavaliers/Spurs and Monsters/Rampage crossover game that will need to take place twice this season – once in Cleveland and once in San Antonio. For a laugh. You can read more about the the updated look of the Monsters on Icethetics.

~Pre-Season~

I did some due diligence in sharing the news on social media but, for those that missed out, the pre-season dates for the Milwaukee Admirals are officially set.

Friday, Oct. 7 vs. Rockford: 7:00 pm CST (MSOE Kern Center)
Saturday, Oct. 8 @ Chicago: 7:00 pm CST (Triphahn Center Ice Arena at Hoffman Estates)

This is becoming a tale as old as time. The Rockford IceHogs at the Kern Center followed by a road game against the Chicago Wolves the next evening. The pre-season really picks up in Nashville with the Nashville Predators Rookie Camp on September 15th with a Rookie Tournament taking place September 17-20. The official Predators training camp begins on September 22nd and their official pre-season schedule is locked and loaded with the final pre-season game taking place the same night as the Admirals meeting with the Wolves.

How do you feel head-to-head competition between the Milwaukee Admirals and Milwaukee Bucks will impact both organization’s business?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Admirals Sign Mark Visentin to One-Year Contract

(Photo Credit: Todd Reicher)

(Photo Credit: Todd Reicher)

The Milwaukee Admirals have officially signed goaltender Mark Visentin to a one-year AHL contract this afternoon. Visentin was an invitee to the Nashville Predators Rookie Development Camp this Summer where he was reacquainted with goaltending coach Ben Vanderklok who he started his career with in junior hockey with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL.

Press Release via Milwaukee Admirals:

Milwaukee, WI—The Admirals announced today that they have signed goaltender Mark Visentin to a American Hockey League contract for the 2016-17 season.

Visentin, 23, spent last season with the Rockford IceHogs, where he accumulated a 4-6-2 record with a 2.60 goals against average, .906 save percentage and one shutout in 13 contests. The Arizona Coyotes first round pick in 2010, Visentin played two seasons with the Portland Pirates from 2012-14 and made his NHL debut with the Coyotes on April 12, 2014 against the San Jose Sharks.

Visentin played four years of junior hockey with the Niagara IceHogs of the OHL. He was named the league’s Goalie of the Year in 2011 after going 30-9-6 with 2.52 GAA and a .917 save %. The following year he led OHL goalies with 10 shutouts and a 1.99 GAA. The Waterdown, ON native played for Team Canada in the World Junior Championships in both 2010 and 2011, winning silver and bronze medals, respectively.

The Admirals will open up the home portion of their 2016-17 season on Saturday, October 29th at the UWM Panther Arena. The remainder of the schedule will be released later this summer.

Visentin was the second goaltender selected in the 2010 NHL Draft when he was drafted by Arizona Coyotes organization with the twenty-seventh overall pick. He made his NHL debut on 4/12/14 but unfortunately for the soon to be 24-year old goalie that was his one and only game played at that level. A series of ankle injuries have hindered his career which ended up leaving him in a similar position last off-season when he wound up signing an AHL contract with the Rockford IceHogs. He only logged 13 games in the 2015-16 season sporting a 4-6-2-1 record with a 2.60 goals against average, 0.906 save percentage, and a lone shutout.

The depth now at goaltender shouldn’t be all that worrying. Between the Nashville Predators potential back-up options, the Admirals options, and the ECHL there are five options to chose from: Marek Mazanec, Juuse Saros, Jonas GunnarssonBrandon Whitney, and now Visentin. It’s most likely that the latter two names will be the ECHL depth options but, with strong performances in pre-season camp versus the debutant to the North American game Gunnarsson, the options for the back-up role in Milwaukee just improved.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Making Sense of the Defense

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

A few days ago I was questioning whether or not the seventh choice defenseman for the Nashville Predators would be Petter Granberg or Stefan Elliott. Now it appears they will be fighting for the eighth choice option with the seventh now being Anthony Bitetto after yesterday’s free agent signing of veteran defenseman Matt Carle. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

In the past two days the Nashville Predators made moves to finally boost that defensive group of their’s. Relax, that’s the sarcasm that can be afforded when the top four defenseman on your team are: Roman Josi, P.K. Subban, Mattias Ekholm, and Ryan Ellis. With Petter Granberg being brought into the fold for two-years I felt that the matter of seventh choice defenseman could come down to him or potentially Stefan Elliott. Now that the Predators signed veteran defenseman Matt Carle I’m left thinking Anthony Bitetto is the odd-man out in Nashville -and- whether or not both Granberg and Elliott could be Milwaukee bound with first-year pro’s such as Jack Dougherty or Alexandre Carrier getting shipped to the ECHL all thanks to NHL overflow.

At this point in time the Predators current defensive group seems to be setting up with high-powered and full-throttled machines taking up the top two defensive lines with a good veteran presence mixed in as the third pairing.

Josi-Subban
Ekholm-Ellis
Carle-Weber

For those living under a rock, my apologies for not getting to much into it on this website’s end, but that Weber there is not -that- Weber. That would be Yannick Weber as the whole reason for getting Mr. Subban was trading long-time captain Shea Weber to the Montréal Canadiens straight-up. The -other- Weber signed a one-year deal on the first day of free agency and, to be honest, it was fairly quiet since that actually took place. That changed once Granberg and Carle were given the thumbs up.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The true loser and odd-man out in yesterday’s news was Bitetto who looked to be taking that left side role on the third defensive pairing with Weber for the 2016-17 season. When Granberg signed his two-year deal no one really bat an eyelid on the matter. Bitetto and Granberg were the surplus to requirements for the Predators last season and figured in here and there until Bitetto started to pull further ahead between the two. Bitetto was still in and Granberg was likely the best bet for seventh choice defenseman. That changed yesterday when a veteran defenseman in Carle, someone that operated with Predators head coach Peter Laviolette oversaw with the Philadelphia Flyers for three seasons (2009-12), signed as a free agent with Nashville. The move should mean that Carle bumps Bitetto down the pecking order where he was already last man on the “ice-time for defenseman” totem pole and into that cobweb collecting, NHL payday collecting, and suit wearing position of seventh choice defenseman. It’s simply the downside of being on the fringe to being part of -no arguments here- the best and deepest defensive group in the NHL entering this season.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Most may have understandably burned that last Predators playoff game from memory but my lasting image from that game, aside from wondering what happened with -that- Weber, was seeing a cool, confident, and aggressive Bitetto storming the ice. He looked to have really settled in finally and let loose. That made his contract extension all the better. Under my microscope here in Milwaukee Bitetto showed constant year-to-year improvements in his game as a member of the Milwaukee Admirals be it improving his professionalism by accepting a trip to the ECHL (2012-13), getting in better shape (2013-14), improving offensively (2013-14), and blending his game all together to be a complete defenseman (2014-15). Last season was his first full go at the NHL and, hey, there were speed bumps with signs of promise. Sounds familiar to a Bitetto I’ve watched previously. Allow him to access a seasonal performance and await to see his progression because he tends to make the necessary adjustments. Sadly, that’s going to be a bit more complicated now given he will need to do it from the outside in.

Where Bitetto loses out doesn’t stop purely on his playing time for this year’s Predators, either. The trickle down effect that the Carle signing has actually becomes an overflow in the talent pool that makes that two-way portion in Granberg’s contract make all the more sense for the 2016-17 season.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Last season the Predators felt fine and dandy with two surplus defenders waiting in the wings if needed. That eventually ended up becoming three with Granberg being snagged off waivers and then back to two once Victor Bartley was sent on and then cleared the waiver wire process to reach the Admirals. The Bitetto and Granberg “on the outside looking in” setup allowed for Bitetto to play 28 games while Granberg played 27 games. If needed the Predators can go right back to this well. Either that or they can now play with the concept of trusting Bitetto as a seventh man anchor in the event he is needed while allowing Granberg, on his two-way contract, to start the upcoming season in the AHL. This is where we reach an overflow problem.

My assumption for the Admirals defense for the 2016-17 season was for a very clear cut concept based on what head coach Dean Evason started to preach in regards to having three left-handed shooting defenseman paired with three right-handed shooting defenseman. For how the off-season looked up until Tuesday I felt confident that opening night at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena would look something along these lines (pun intended):

Oligny-Elliott
Irwin-Dougherty
Murphy-Carrier

Jimmy Oligny won’t have his line-y Corey Potter back from the end of last season but he should have someone just as capable in Elliott to play alongside as the top defensive pairing. While signed on as a two-way contracted talent it is most likely that Matt Irwin remains in Milwaukee for the bulk of the coming season and the eventual 29-year old should provide a great security blanket for the likes of a first-year pro such as Dougherty who did log game-time for the Admirals at the end of the 2015-16 season. Then comes a question of what to do with sophomore defenseman Trevor Murphy? Well, the recent Rookie Development Camp in Nashville conducted by Evason and the Admirals coaching staff seemed to indicate an answer to that question considering Murphy and incoming first-year pro Carrier were paired the entire camp and looked great together.

And this is where the curveball of overflow from Nashville changes things…

Now that it appears that the Predators defense has gone to plaid (cheeky joke inside of a joke) the potential overflow of talent topside can alter things quite drastically for the Admirals and for the incoming prospects set for their first full-season of professional hockey. Let’s assume that both Granberg and Elliott end up in Milwaukee and that the Evanson philosophy of pairing of left-handed and right-handed shots on defense remains. The Admirals likely slot Granberg with Oligny as a shutdown defensive line, Elliott with Irwin to have a balanced yet attack minded line, and then are left to decide between Dougherty or Carrier for Murphy’s linemate all while Teddy Doherty and Jonathan Diaby familiarize themselves with Skyline Chili in Cincinnati. Given Carrier’s form at Rookie Development Camp alongside Murphy I have a hard time seeing that dynamic get split up which would make Dougherty the man on the fringe.

Oligny-Granberg
Irwin-Elliott
Murphy-Carrier
(Diaby-Dougherty)
(Doherty)

If this all sounds dodgy: relax. This is just a potential scenario and one that may not even need to happen if the Predators hold true to having Bitetto and Granberg watching from the sidelines until they are needed like last season. After all, if the Predators want Bitetto and Granberg to be stationary and not playing but just be there in the off chance a rotation is needed? They showed they can be up to the task a season ago and can give it a fair go once again this season. There is just one thing that creeps into my head and it is this. The Predators paying NHL level money to Granberg to be a stationary eight choice defenseman while the option exists to pay him less while playing him in the AHL doesn’t quite fit their typical modus operandi… although Austin Watson was a rare exception to that last season.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Should Bitetto and Granberg end up falling into their roles held previously? It’s good. Should the Predators decide to go with Bitetto as that surefire fallback plan if someone gets injured and send Granberg down to Milwaukee to remain active? It’s good. At day’s end the beauty out of all of this defenseman madness is that the Predators have so much depth that it is almost problematic to try and figure out the best path for all parties to get set on the right course while maximizing team performance and career development for the prospects. Certainly Taylor Aronson and Garrett Noonan might have different opinions about how the thickening of glass ceilings at both the NHL and AHL level can hinder career progress. I’m hopeful that for Dougherty and Carrier’s sake that they don’t eventually find themselves this coming season, as first year pro’s, in situations that they shouldn’t be playing in with it then coming back as a year lost or not fully utilized.

The question of “whether the Predators will need an optional eighth defenseman in Granberg” will be one of those storylines to keep an eye out for once the pre-season starts up in late-September. It can go really two ways with possible repercussions that would not only impact the look of the defense in Milwaukee but also Cincinnati. Is there such a thing as having too much depth? Because I feel the Predators might test that boundary in 2016-17.

If you were in Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile’s shoes: would you keep Petter Granberg alongside Anthony Bitetto as defensemen in reserve or would you have Granberg start his season with the Milwaukee Admirals and have seven defensemen stationed in Nashville?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Patrick Mullen Signs with Dinamo Riga

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

The recent news of defenseman continues. This go-round it is actually a member of last year’s Milwaukee Admirals team finding a new home. Patrick Mullen has signed with Dinamo Riga of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

Mullen was acquired from the Ottawa Senators organization by the Nashville Predators in exhange for Conor Allen during the Admirals defensive re-organization last season. This was then followed by the acquisitions of Stefan Elliott and Corey Potter. From Mullen’s debut on 1/15/16 to the end of the regular season the Admirals put together a brilliant record of 25-10-1-2 from their final 38 games. Mullen contributed 14 points (2 goals, 12 assists) from 29 games with the Admirals in the 2015-16 season and held a plus/minus rating of +6 with 19 penalty minutes.

For those who enjoy following Admirals careers post-Milwaukee, such as I do, it might interest you to note that Mullen will not be the lone former-Admirals player at Dinamo Riga this coming season. Vinny Saponari, the Legend of Toe-Drag City, will also be there.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Järnkrok Signs 6-Year Contract with Nashville

CB-Jarnkrok-3714-1

In the spring of 2014 Calle Jarnkrok enjoyed a brief stay in Milwaukee. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Nashville Predators signed another Milwaukee Admirals alum long-term as today the team announced a new six-year contract for forward Calle Järnkrok.

Press Release via Nashville Predators:

Nashville, Tenn. (July 26, 2016) – Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced Tuesday that the club has signed forward Calle Jarnkrok to a six-year, $12 million contract. The contract will pay him $1.7 million in 2016-17, $1.8 million in 2017-18, $2.1 million in 2018-19, $2.2 million in 2019-20 and 2020-21, and $2 million in 2021-22.

Jarnkrok, 24 (9/25/91), appeared in all but one of Nashville’s 2015-16 regular-season games, more than doubling his previous career high in goals (16), as well as setting personal bests in assists (14) and points (30). The Gavle, Sweden, native also ranked second on the Preds in game-winning goals (4) a season ago, and saw his year-over-year average ice time increase by 3:17. In 167 career NHL contests since joining the Predators via trade on March 5, 2014, Jarnkrok has amassed 57 points (25g-32a) and played in all 20 of the team’s postseason contests, recording three assists.

Detroit’s second choice, 51st overall (second round), in the 2010 Entry Draft, Jarnkrok has represented Sweden in five international competitions in the last eight years, winning a gold medal at the 2013 World Championship and earning a bronze at the 2014 World Championship. Prior to making the jump to North America for the 2012-13 season, the 6-foot-1, 186-pound forward helped Brynas win the 2012 Le Mat Trophy as Swedish league champions on a team that also included Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm, and was a finalist for the 2011 Swedish league rookie of the year (won by Ekholm).

The 24-year-old came into his own in the NHL last season, scoring 16 goals and 30 points, and then added an assist in 14 playoff contests. It was Järnkrok’s second full season with Nashville after joining the franchise in the spring of 2014.

After being acquired in the trade that sent David Legwand briefly to Detroit, the Gavle, Sweden native dressed in six games for Milwaukee, scoring nine points including five goals. He had a goal and an assist in the Admirals’ three playoff games.

The trade another of the brilliant variety by Predators General Manager David Poile. In addition to the budding Järnkrok, Nashville also added a conditional second-round pick (Jack Dougherty). Legwand, Nashville’s first ever draft pick, played in just 26 total games for the Red Wings, making a limited impact on a team that barely squeezed into the playoffs. He then moved on to Ottawa later that summer and last year played in Buffalo.

So Roundtable, what do you think of Calle Järnkrok’s new six-year deal? Will the young Swede continue to develop making this contact a nice bargin, or will the tail end of it fizzle like Viktor Stålberg two years ago?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Ramblings, Vol. 46

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

A Petter Granberg sighting with cameo appearances from Vinny Saponari and Zac Larraza? This is photographic magic. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Happy Wednesday and a welcome back to Ramblings after a small break. A storyline I wanted to write about this week was just how painfully show the off-season has been in terms of roster movement for both the Nashville Predators organization as well as those due to sign elsewhere that played a part of the Milwaukee Admirals last season. Swerve, Petter Granberg ended up being signed yesterday to provide a slight bit of excitement in an otherwise dead quiet time.

When I brought up the Granberg news it was merely a reported news story. The official press release came an hour or so after that. To reiterate the details of that signing it is a two-year deal that is a two-way contract for the upcoming 2016-17 season worth $575,000 (NHL) and $175,000 (AHL). It then kicks up to a one-way contract valued at $650,000 (NHL) for the 2017-18 season.

As for everyone else in arbitration land? It’s still rather quiet. According to the Predators handy dandy off-season schedule the window for arbitration hearings is right now with a deadline for arbitration decisions on August 6th. I’m sure the Predators quiet off-season, outside of that one particular trade you might have heard of, points towards their goal of player retention. So, a quiet free agent market should mean the RFA’s that they had are being treated as their free agents. Of note for Admirals fans I suspect Stefan Elliott would probably be eyeing up a rather similar deal that came yesterday for Granberg given his numbers compared to that of Granberg’s. At the very least one of those should end up in Milwaukee to start next season.

~Rebrand-iversary~

I touched on it very briefly on social media the day of but wanted to expand on it even more today. It’s now been beyond a calendar year since the Milwaukee Admirals rebranding took place with the new logos, colors, and uniforms. I asked through a poll what the initial thoughts or grades were from you fans about the new look at that came back with 70.43% out of 230 votes as an A. Now that it has been a year I’m curious how you feel it has held up.

My initial reaction to the look wasn’t enthusiastic. I loved the previous look with the playful logo and simple color palate. After really looking at the uniforms and how the logo really played into all previous Admirals logos that came before it? I was won over. After watching them on-ice for an entire season? I’m completely sold. I still love that the Admirals are one of these rare breed AHL teams that have their own unique identity opposed to teams that borrow from their NHL parent clubs.

With the AHL rule changes coming in this season that will see the Admirals uniforms switch from white to navy after the Christmas break I’m also reminded that the alternate uniform being baby-blue delightfully neutral. If I had any complaint to last year’s rebranding though? It was the Admirals alternate uniform being exactly the same as it was with the exception of the paint bucket tool splashing navy where the black was – as well as inverting the colors on the name and number font to give broadcasters headaches everywhere. It’s not that it is a bad uniform, it was highly popular, it’s just that if you were going to do a rebrand with new logos you really should stay true to that and not keep some inbetweener such as the current Admirals alternate. If the new rule change means adding more color to the home team uniforms? I say an upgraded baby-blue alternate would be a welcome complement to the AHL’s rule change.

That’s enough polls for one post I’d say. Until the next Ramblings (or preferably a news story) I wish you all a pleasant Wednesday. If it has been a rubbish work week, good news, there are only 94 days (3 months, 2 days) until the Milwaukee Admirals home opener at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. …we’re slowly getting there.

~UPDATE~

The Nashville Predators decided to up the tempo of enthusiasm by officially re-signing Calle Järnkrok this afternoon as well as sign free agent defenseman Matt Carle.

Järnkrok’s deal is incredibly team friendly: six-years, $12 million contract. The breakdown of the contract goes: $1.7 million (2016-17), $1.8 million (2017-18), $2.1 million (2018-19), $2.2 million (2019-21), and $2 million (2021-22). For further discussion on the deal I suggest giving Jeremy K. Gover‘s story, here, a read.

As for Carle? That’s a story worth covering in full for tomorrow because there is now a bit of a stacking up of defensive players topside that might be trickling down to Milwaukee that might also detour prospective talents down to the ECHL. I’ll leave that as a teaser for now.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Granberg and Predators Agree to Two-Year Deal

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Perhaps #5 will make a return to Milwaukee for the 2016-17 Milwaukee Admirals season. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The Nashville Predators have reportedly avoided salary arbitration with Petter Granberg by agreeing to a two-year contract this afternoon. The terms of the deal via Tim Wharnsby state that it is a two-way contract for at least the first year of the deal which will be worth $575,000 (NHL) and $175,000 (AHL) with $300,000 guaranteed for the 2016-17 season which then kicks up to $650,000 (NHL) for the 2017-18 season.

Granberg’s 2015-16 season was an eventful one considering all the unexpectedness that came with it for him. He was hampered by injury prior to the start of the season which is likely why the Toronto Maple Leafs wanted to see if he could reach the AHL to start the season before migrating back topside. That never happened as the Predators managed to claim him off of waivers, send him on a conditioning assignment to the Milwaukee Admirals to provide him his first game-action of the season, and then bring him up for the rest of the season.

Considering Granberg’s NHL experience this time last year was 8 games I feel last year was a slight shock to the system given his situation. He probably should have been in the AHL to start the season just to get his legs properly back under him but couldn’t due to the waiver wire process needed to get there. His role soon became being an alternate, or healthy scratch, with the Predators defense. He played 27 games last season for the Predators, so his wealth of NHL experience has certainly grown, but I would argue that Granberg was never playing at his full potential given all that last season threw at him.

I don’t anticipate Granberg will be with the Predators at the start of the 2016-17 season but fans in Nashville shouldn’t take that as a knock against Granberg at all. If he does make the team out of camp? That’s fantastic. It really is. But, given the Predators depth up top, Granberg isn’t exactly going to be bumping anyone of that defensive six-man lineup out for playing time. Does he get ice time over Yannick Weber? I don’t know about that.

Should the Predators need that flex-defenseman that is busy cultivating cobwebs while wearing a suit and watching from afar? Granberg has experience doing that from last season and can fill that role if needed. That role likely gets filled by either Granberg or possibly Stefan Elliott once he gets a deal hammered out with the organization. Between those two Elliott is the type of defenseman more suited to the way the Predators play and also has more NHL experience. The seventh line of defense in Nashville should come down to those two with the odd-man out heading to Milwaukee.

Where this deal works best for me is in that last paragraph. You have depth. You have competition for ice-time. And it creates a situation where Nashville and Milwaukee are going to benefit. What will be great for Granberg is that he is now heading into a season and situation fully fit and aware of what he’s getting himself into. If he earns his place in Nashville? He stays his course from a season ago. If he ends up in Milwaukee? He gets to build himself back up while being the top option for a recall in the event of an injury. Granberg isn’t the prototypical Predators style “join the rush” defenseman. He’s more of a stay at home defenseman but was tasked with learning the Predators system a season ago on the fly and at an NHL level – which he barely played at previously. He’s had roughly a year to digest it. He’s healthy. He’s capable of bouncing between the NHL/AHL now this season. This should be a year to really see just what sort of defenseman the Predators really picked up off of waivers a season ago.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Kevin Fiala & The Waiting Game

(Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua)

(Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua)

Rather than go the Ramblings route today I want to hit a topic that came up numerous times during my Nashville trip: Kevin Fiala.

As I’ve learned in my recent time covering the Milwaukee Admirals sometimes just saying that name is all you have to say. The reactions and range of opinions about Fiala shoot wildly across the board. People are high on him and think he’ll do real well when he gets unleashed into the Nashville Predators forward group. Other people don’t think he has enough going for him to be an NHL talent and already have looked past him for other shiny objects that Milwaukee is polishing to make even shinier.

During my recent trip to Nashville fans and fellow media colleagues asked me about Fiala a great deal. Questions such as… Will Fiala make the Nashville Predators opening night roster? Would Fiala playing more in the AHL this season than the NHL be considered a failure? Is his immaturity still cause for concern? …all came up. Allow me to get your Monday off right by tackling the question to end all questions in my small little working bubble: Fiala?

~The Waiting Game~

For those that don’t follow along with the Birthday dates for players it is worth doing this topic this week. After all, these are the last few days where we can consider Fiala as a teenager. He will be turning 20-years old on Friday and that age is a rather important one for quite a few points I’ll be making along the way.

(Photo Credit: Marissa Baecker // Shoot the Breeze)

(Photo Credit: Marissa Baecker // Shoot the Breeze)

This season with the Milwaukee Admirals there will be a drafted by Nashville rookie class that features three 20-year olds: Alexandre Carrier, Justin Kirkland, and Anthony Richard. All three of these players just completed lengthy junior careers. Carrier played 242 games with Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL), Kirkland played 199 games with the Kelowna Rockets (WHL), and Richard played 232 games with Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL). For the sake of added comparison the Admirals will also feature a rookie in the form of the undrafted 22-year old defenseman Teddy Doherty who played 144 games with Boston College (NCAA).

Fiala, as stated, will be entering the 2016-17 season as a 20-year old. Unlike the names mentioned above this will be his second full-season of professional hockey in North America and that comes after a 2014-15 season where he effectively played half a season with the Admirals. Prior to that he managed to play 37 games of professional level hockey at the top flight in Sweden with HV71. Fiala’s junior playing career ended when he was 17-years old. That junior playing career is dispersed from Swiss (Uzwil, Rheintal, ZSC, and GCK Lions) and Swedish (Malmö Redhawks and HV71) junior programs as well as the junior national team.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Allow me to now pull this all together now. Fiala’s first true stationary proving ground with a consistent coaching staff to allow him to make mistakes, learn, and grow hasn’t exactly come until his leap directly to North America where he has now been since mid-January 2015. While Carrier, Doherty, Kirkland, and Richard have had similar surroundings and relatively the same teams as they progressed towards their professional playing careers… Fiala has been jumping ship upon ship upon country after country and yet another team change. Were he in the North American setting from the word “GO” this likely would be debut season of pro hockey. What often gets overlooked, beyond his age, is actually the route he’s taken to get exactly where he is and how unstable that process is by comparison to your run of the mill CHL drafted player.

Kevin Fiala celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime on the road against the Lake Erie Monsters on 4/1/15 by screaming at Andrew  Agozzino.

Kevin Fiala celebrates his game-winning goal in overtime on the road against the Lake Erie Monsters on 4/1/15 by screaming at Andrew Agozzino.

Moments that come to mind with Fiala range anywhere between his goal against the Texas Stars where he deked Jamie Oleksiak out of his skates before patiently out-waiting Jack Campbell for a deadly solo goal – and then him flipping off the Lake Erie Monsters bench, getting a game misconduct, and a subsequent two-game suspension from the AHL. So you get anywhere from talent to immaturity. It’s not even as if it was his first run in against Lake Erie, either. In his short AHL career he went after the Monsters under their AHL affiliation with the Colorado Avalanche (2014-15) and the Columbus Blue Jackets (2015-16). During his entry to the North American scene he felt the need to celebrate a game-winning overtime goal, on the road in Cleveland, by screaming into Monsters’ alternate captain Andrew Agozzino‘s face. Then team captain of the Admirals, Joe Piskula, needed to step in and wedge him aside. It was a microcosm of just what this young Fiala was all about. His competitive spirit is his often his best and worst attribute. It gets him on the scoresheet. It gets him in the penalty box. In the grand scheme of things – these instances don’t happen every single game but they do happen here and there. Learning to tone down the negativity of Fiala’s aggressiveness without detracting from what makes him -him- is, has, and likely will be a coaching point for the years ahead. The key here for everyone is this: patience. I’ve often cited a need for patience in regards to Fiala both for the fans and for Fiala himself. Amusingly it is for the exact same reason, too. You can’t be caught wanting so much so soon.

(Photo Credit: Christina Shapiro)

(Photo Credit: Christina Shapiro)

If opening night hits and Fiala isn’t part of the Nashville Predators roster it should not be looked at in any way shape or form as a failure. Fiala playing 2.5 years of AHL level hockey by age 20 isn’t a failure… it’s ahead of the curve. What makes it all the more better is connecting him towards the style that Nashville want him to play, at an AHL pace, to make that eventual arrival something a bit more polished that if he was fed to the lion’s den that is the NHL. Only a few true elite level talents excel or impress at ages 20 or younger at the NHL level. To expect Fiala, and his non-traditional path to reach the NHL in the first place, to be one of these talents isn’t exactly a fair viewpoint to hold – eleventh overall draft selection or not.

The more I value or look into what a Fiala in the NHL could be early on in his playing career the more I start to think of a Conor Sheary of the Pittsburgh Penguins as an example. They are both undersized wingers with great skating ability and tremendous creativity when on the offensive side of the puck. Sheary spent a full four-years at UMass-Amherst before a season and a half of significant AHL playing time put him towards a path to a Stanley Cup at the age of 23-years old. He’s four years older than Fiala with a knowledge of the North American game and his organization’s style rooted into him. Good things don’t happen in a flash because of draft selection placement they happen with adherence to the developmental process. Which is precisely why last season was just what Fiala needed.

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

The 2015-16 season gave Fiala just about every single obstacle that you would want a 19-year old that’s adjusting to becoming a professional hockey player that you could want. He built himself up to make the Predators out of pre-season camp. He arrived at pre-season camp and was swiftly cut with a massive talent pool making sending him to Milwaukee seem like an easy option. People might not remember this but Fiala wasn’t alone in missing out on that Predators opening night roster last season. There was a bloke named Miikka Salomäki that started his 2015-16 season in Milwaukee before working himself back into the Nashville spotlight. Things worked out well for him after that but not so much for Fiala who really was experiencing being cut from advancing to a team for the first time in his playing career. This defeated feeling trickled to the ice… the goals, the scoring touch, and explosiveness to his game disappeared into the battle going on inside his teenage mind. The suspension seemed to act as the firm slap he needed to wake up – and he did. Fiala would go on from not having scored a goal until the Admirals sixteenth game of the season to leading the team in overall scoring by season’s end with 50 points (18 goals, 32 assists).

Along the way there were mistakes, sure. His plus/minus of -19 stands out against his offensive output but his defensive ability is slowly improving. His intensity to compete can often overwhelm his better judgement and it can lead to unnecessary trips to the penalty box. These are poor characteristics, yes, but things you’re likely to hear from with a player that has been dropped into deep water. Placing a player at an age of a junior level talent into a professional vortex and you have the ultimate stress test to see just what sort of product you selected with that first round draft pick in 2014. And you know what? He, much like the Russian youngster drafted in the round after him by the Predators, both survived that test last season.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

What fans should be anticipating for the 2016-17 season out of Fiala is a much looser, relaxed, and confident person on and off the ice. There were so many question marks and unknowns facing him when he arrived in mid-January 2015. The North American game was far different than he anticipated but now has a solid grip to just what is needed from a winger roaming North-South rather than coasting along the wider rinks that Europe feature. Living conditions and the knowledge of where to be comfortable and enjoy himself in Nashville or Milwaukee are taken care of. For some, this will be their third season playing alongside Fiala at the AHL level. Questions of who he’s playing alongside and how he can play with those players are answered.

This coming season for Fiala is going to be one in which he gets to be himself in North America, relax, and simply go to work – for really the first time since he arrived. Whether he’s competing at the NHL or AHL level that mentality and statement doesn’t change. The questions have been answered and replaced by new challenges that the previous year presented. The surrounding field competition now takes a backseat to competing against himself.

What the Nashville Predators organization has done is set Fiala up for a season where he is now settled into a comfort zone with his surroundings and can firmly compete against what he accomplished in 2015-16. What Fiala accomplished was being the top scorer on an Admirals team that ended the regular season off with a record of 48-23-3-2 (101 points) to clinch the franchise’s first divisional title since 2010-11. It is simply an exciting thought to me that the real message here could end up being, “top that.” If there were any challenge to set in front of Fiala before properly unleashing him at the NHL stage – it’s that.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in Feature | 1 Comment