Time to re-start the ‘Checking In With _____’ series. Let’s start with Admirals play-by-play extraordinaire, Aaron Sims.
Admirals Roundtable: Of course Texas was the number one seed in the playoffs, but if the Admirals had won in overtime in Game 1, do you think they could have advanced in the playoffs?
Aaron Sims: A game one win could’ve done the trick. Goals were definitely at a premium in the series. Nihlstorp and Magnus Hellberg were both tremendous…only twelve goals were scored in the series. Aside from losing game one, the losses of Brad Winchester and Mike Liambas to injury hurt Milwaukee’s chances. Those were two important players. It’s hard to make up for such strong, aggressive players on the forecheck. Throw in Winchester’s offensive ability and his loss hurt the team. I give the coaches credit for trying Mike Moore at forward in the last game to try to add a little strength on the forecheck. While Mike probably had the most ability and speed to be a force on the forecheck, he didn’t have the experience. Texas was a good team. I’m a little surprised they didn’t go deeper in the playoffs.
AR: You have mentioned on the Admirals Center Ice radio show how great the locker room was this past year. What is it that makes a good locker room, and why does it make such a difference?
AS: Players respected the coaches and the coaches respected the players. That became more evident as the season wore on after veterans like Scott Ford, Winchester and Joe Piskula were added. When the veterans feel comfortable with their roles, that rubs off on the other players. Winchester, in particular, was tremendous at passing on tips to the younger players. The credibility from the leadership group was terrific. Because everyone respected one another, the guys were more comfortable filling certain roles to help the team.
AR: How have you passed the time during this off-season? Did you do any travelling? What’s keeping you busy?
AS: I’ve spoken to quite a few clubs and groups around the Milwaukee area about the Admirals. (A quick plug, if anyone has a Rotary, Kiwanis, church club or group and needs a speaker, I am available.) My wife and I took a trip to the Grand Canyon in May. Also, I am finishing up my tenth season with the Madison Mallards baseball team.
AR: I understand you’re from Minnesota, and were a big North Stars fan growing up? Who were your favorite players when you were young?
AS: I loved the Minnesota North Stars. There is an Ikea where the old Met Center used to stand. I loved Bobby Smith. He was a tremendous playmaker. I played defense when I was young and I wore #2 because I was a big Curt Giles fan. Giles coached Zach Budish when Budish was in high school. I also loved Willi Plett, Basil McRae, Jon Casey, Neal Broten, Stew Gavin, Gordie Roberts and many others. The first game I attended was against Detroit and Lane Lambert was a rookie forward for the Red Wings.
AR: At what point did you realize that play-by-play was something you wanted to do? And what was your first play-by-play gig?
AS: I’ve wanted to be a play-by-play announcer since I was eight years old. I used to bring my tape recorder to games in high school and record play-by-play for my friends on the team. At Winona State I did football, basketball and baseball. I moved to LaCrosse, WI to do play-by-play for the Onalaska high school hockey team.
AR: What are your thoughts on the moves that Nashville has made so far this summer?
AS: I like what Nashville has done. They got a couple heart-and-soul guys in Nystrom and Hendricks. They’ll be able to fill third and fourth line roles better than a rookie. I say that because so often teams recall guys and put them in a role they are unaccustomed to. How many times do you see a top AHL scorer go up and be put on a fourth line? This happens with nearly every team. If you need a tough guy, call up a tough guy. Nystrom and Hendricks will fit in well. Cullen still has some game left. He’s a very smart player. I love the Stalberg signing. He seems to be a player who is ready to break out into a more prominent role. Certainly, we hope he is. We all saw how sharp Carter Hutton can be when he played for Rockford. If nothing else, he can hold a spot until Hellberg is ready to move up.
AR: We see a lot of other teams spending some big money on AHL free agents. Mike Santorelli is going to get $250k if he plays the full season in Utica. Alexandre Bolduc and Mark Mancari will earn $550k between them in Rosemont. The Wolves just signed Corey Locke. The Predators haven’t signed anybody close to that kind of money. Do you think this new bit in the CBA that has led to this increased spending has the potential to shift the competitive balance in the AHL? Or do you think that Admirals will be just fine with all of the home grown talent they’ve drafted and developed?
AS: There will always be a few teams that will pay a lot for, let’s call them 4-A players…guys who are tremendous in the AHL but, for some reason, haven’t stuck in the NHL. The AHL is still, primarily, a development league. The majority of NHL teams will not sign players for big money to play in the AHL unless they think they can help them at some point. Plus, who can say whether a guy getting paid a lot of money is better than a second year guy? I’d put a player like Austin Watson up against nearly anyone in this league. The big money guys can add depth and talent, but they may be in the way of a prospect.
AR: When you start to think about possible line combinations for this season, do you get excited about the personnel that we’re likely to have in Milwaukee?
AS: The signing of Bryan Rodney leads me to believe that the Admirals will have at least one elite offensive defenseman this season. If Rodney sticks in Nashville, I would think Ellis or Ekholm will be in Milwaukee. I’m very excited to see what Joonas Jarvinen does this season. Piskula, Ford and Valentine will ensure a really solid defensive corps. The additions of Stalberg, Nystrom, Hendricks and Cullen likely mean Watson starts the year in Milwaukee. It could, I stress could, mean the same for Taylor Beck and Filip Forsberg. There are a lot of forwards in Nashville. A full season from Zach Budish and Joonas Rask will be fun to watch. Mark Van Guilder, Kevin Henderson, Mike Liambas…we’ll always get maximum effort and smarts with them. I’m anxious to see Sissons and Salomaki. Hellberg has the potential to be the best goalie in the AHL this season.
AR: We saw the coaches sign contract extensions last week. What is it that makes Dean and Stan such great coaches?
AS: Dean and Stan have a great deal of respect for the players. They’ve both been in the players skates. They understand when a player needs a day off and wen he needs to be pushed. They preach a smart, detailed game. They do their homework on the opposition. They are extremely straight-forward and honest with players. They hold players accountable. Teaching sessions never belabor a point. They keep their emotions in check in public. It bothers me when people get upset that coaches aren’t yelling and screaming on the bench. You don’t do that on the bench…that’s like spanking your child at the grocery store. If you rant and rave in public, that attitude/mood sets in with your team during the game. You don’t want that to happen.
AR: And finally….your twitter account says you are the lead singer of the band Chili Sabotage. Think we’ll see you guys play after a game in the east atrium sometime?
AS: The singer needs to be better, but I hope it happens one day.