Happy Monday, folks. There’s a few topics that I’d like to discuss today and hear your responses to. First things first – how about an update?
The AHL Calder Cup Finals started up and each of the first two games went into overtime with the Manchester Monarchs outlasting the Utica Comets. You can watch the game highlights for both of those contests right here: Game #1 and Game #2. The next three games of the series take place in Utica: Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. If Utica is to win this year’s Calder Cup they’ll need to do so on the road in Manchester come Game #6 or Game #7.
Scott Ford vs. Gary Steffes is going very much to my liking. The series is tied at 2-2 with the Allen Americans sneaking out Game #4 in double overtime over the South Carolina Stingrays. It was the first game of that series in South Carolina and the next two go down in Ford’s new chicken & waffle haven: Tuesday and Wednesday. As you know, that Wednesday game will be the first elimination contest for this year’s Kelly Cup Finals. Should it go the distance to a Game #7, please do, it will happen in Allen this Sunday.
Speaking of Steffes, his 2014-15 season continues to be spectacular as the Americans push on in the Kelly Cup Finals. In all competitions (meaning ECHL regular season with the Allen Americans, PTO stint with the Milwaukee Admirals, and then ECHL playoffs with the Americans) he has scored a whopping 91 points (60 goals, 31 assists) in 94 games. If he isn’t in the AHL full-time next season something is wrong. And, hopefully, a spot could be made right here in Milwaukee. He did get to know the coaches and players that will be back for 2015-16 right?
~The New Bucks Arena~
I wanted to wait a slight bit in the off-chance that this suddenly went bust. It has been a few days now and, so far, it is still on. The funding for the new Milwaukee Bucks arena was approved last Thursday and the details that come with that is that it will cost $500 million dollars with taxpayers paying for half of that cost. It’s essentially the first big step of many before any sort of physical ground gets broken.
Not going into complete and annoying political mode (that’s not what this website is for) I’ll simply say that I think this is good in the long term for the city of Milwaukee. There is much more than an arena going up and the new facilities should be fantastic. Pair that with a fresh new look for the Bucks themselves and it is a pretty exciting time for those that are fans of sportsketball.
About those of us that aren’t sportsketball fantastics, that appreciate a sport that doesn’t need a timeout to gauge every other in-game scenario because pre-scouts and game plans are worthless, media timeouts, officials timeouts, timeout, foul, free throw, timeout, 30-second timeout, repeat, etc… there is still not much to go on.
The beauty here is in the now. The pressure was purely on the Bucks to save their franchise by getting a new arena. That mentality means being self centered and focused on them and them alone. The arena has now been given the greenlight as far as the financials are concerned. Now comes a passage of time worth settling in for with the Bucks ownership creeping that much closer to chat with fellow occupants of the BMO Harris Bradley Center about potentially partnering up at the new arena.
I still question the Admirals involvement and I say that on the simple basis of money. New arenas cost big dollars and there comes a cost of being one of these new tenants in a new facility such as this. In the short term, I feel the more cost effective (for the Admirals ownership) and fan friendly (per ticket pricing) option is the UW-Milwaukee Panthers Arena. It will need some upgrades here and there but those shouldn’t hurt the wallet as much as a new arena could. In the long run, the Admirals could probably join the new arena but I would be curious on their perspective should the business model of operating out of the ol’ MECCA prove to be more successful. That’s an option that can’t be gauged properly unless they actually go across the street from the Bradley Center but I think it is one worth trying unless the Bucks are willing to help the Admirals out and make joining this new arena as easy and ‘nickel and dime’ free as possible.
The new arena has been greenlight. Now comes plenty of other news items to keep an eye out for to see what goes on downtown and just whether or not the Admirals are in those plans. Whether they are or not I still view the future of the Admirals really positively either way.
~The Hellberg Dilemma~
The Nashville Predators agreed to a new one-year two-way contract with Marek Mazanec a month ago. And then a day later the Admirals signed Brandon Whitney to an AHL contract with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL in-mind.
This of course sends the mind into a frenzy all because of two players: Magnus Hellberg and Juuse Saros. Hellberg, like Mazanec prior to his new contract, is a restricted-free agent (RFA) this off-season. Saros is another Finnish goaltending prodigy that the Predators organization has found in the draft and all eyes are set on just when he’ll make his debut on North American ice as a pro. This all comes with one spot open right now in the Nashville Predators organization in net and it is the secondary choice goaltender in Milwaukee at the AHL level.
What is important to remember are the following key factors: Hellberg is an RFA and the last date to tender him a new deal is June 30th, Saros has been drafted by the Predators but hasn’t signed his entry-level contract as of yet, and the NHL Draft (and the trade madness that comes with it) takes place June 26–27th.
There’s still lots of ways for this whole situation to transpire and I genuinely get the impression that Saros is being given one more year in Finland with Hellberg set to return, like Mazanec, on a one-year two-way contract. This can all change with a draft day trade mind you. And that’s when things should come into a bit better focus.
On Nashville’s side of things the signing of Whitney by the Admirals seems to be a direct shot at the ECHL. It’s just not competitive enough for the likes of a Saros to battle in were it down to him, Mazanec, and Hellberg in the AHL and ECHL level for the 2o15-16 season. If Mazanec, Hellberg, and Saros were the minor league plan then there was never a need for a Whitney signing. That of course happened which means things are really cloudy – mostly in part of Saros not having signed his entry level contract yet. If he signs one it’s a ticking clock. Max Görtz probably knows what I’m talking about.
It’s irritating to be sitting and waiting for this story to play out. All the goalies mentioned above have their great upside and would do well for the Admirals next season. It just feels as if someone is due to be forced out for a lower end draft pick in a nothing trade. In three weeks at the NHL Draft that may well become a reality. Or *drum roll* Saros stays in Finland and Hellberg sticks around and the Admirals goaltending duo of last season returns. Clutching at thin air as to what will happen at this point but those last two options feel the most likely right now.
Do you feel like Nashville’s intent to retain most of their players extends to their prospect pool that played in Milwaukee last season? Which Admirals players do you feel aren’t coming back next season? How will the goaltending situation work itself out? Should Nashville make a trade at the NHL Draft that sends away Mazanec or Hellberg?