In a few weeks when I return from vacation, I will be putting a capper on Milwaukee’s 2011-2012 season for MilwaukeeAdmirals.com.
But for now just a few nuggets of thoughts:
1) As I stated yesterday, this season was remarkable, eventful and certainly dramatic. It was remarkable because I thought Milwaukee overcame a lot of adversity this season to again overachieve. It was eventful for a number of reasons, namely the hiring and subsequent midseason departure of a high profile coach in Kirk Muller and the growing pains of Ian Herbers as coach (who I thought did a fantastic job under difficult circumstances). As for drama, there was certainly no shortage: This season had some of the highest peaks and valleys ever witnessed, from the fast start, to the huge lull in the middle, to the incredible playoff run, to the thud finish against Abbotsford in the first round. Need more? How about winning the final game of the regular season to get into the playoffs, while your opponent, Charlotte, loses and falls one point short of a berth. That same team, the Checkers, lost three times in regulation to the Admirals in the season’s final two weeks. Flip just one of those games and Milwaukee is out and Charlotte gets in.
2) The Rockfordian dilemma. When I talked to Scott Ford before the playoffs, the team’s trials and tribulations with the IceHogs were still fresh on his mind. If Milwaukee played Rockford at .500 or better this season, the Admirals would be challenging Toronto and Oklahoma City for the top spots in the conference.
3) Milwaukee posted great records all season against Western Conference playoff teams. Hence why I thought if the Admirals could just make the playoffs, they would be a dangerous out.
4) The finish. Milwaukee’s run to the playoffs was the stuff of legends. 23 out of a possible 32 points to end the year showed just how badly the Admirals wanted to get the playoffs. After getting swept by Abbotsford, now the question is whether Milwaukee burned out by having to play playoff hockey for nearly two months just to get in.
5) Favorite Moments: Mine was Milwaukee’s 8-3 drubbing of Abbotsford in coach Ian Herbers first game. Yes the score doesn’t really tell the true story, but it was great to see the team give that kind of performance out for its new coach who took the job out of necessity. The Brawl, enough said, is a close second. Third would be the final game of the regular season.
6) Biggest surprise: I knew from game one that Victor Bartley was going to be good, but what a year from the player still classified as an AHL rookie.
7) Season’s MVP: Considering Jeremy Smith’s numbers, he is the easy and obvious choice. But my pick would be Chris Mueller, who led the team in scoring, added some huge goals, whose play did not drop off during the Admirals midseason funk, and who could always be counted on. Scott Ford’s leadership, especially his plus +24 season (tops by a large margin for Milwaukee) should not be underestimated either.
8) My 2012 Calder Cup pick: I am going to go out on a HUGE limb and pick Norfolk to win the Calder Cup. I have the “other” Admirals beating the Toronto Marlies to claim the title.
Thank you to all of my colleagues here at the Roundtable, especially Ryan Miller for another great season. Thank you to the Milwaukee Admirals players and coaches for their candid comments and willingness to talk with me this season. Thank you to the Milwaukee Admirals staff, especially Charlie Larson and Aaron Sims, for all of your help during the course of the year. Finally, thanks to our readers for making this blog one of the best in the AHL.