There are quite a few fun happenings going on in the North American hockey world right now. Both the NHL and AHL are currently in the midst of meetings. The NHL has already made a splash by altering their overtime format for next season: three-on-three overtime for the full five minute overtime period. And the AHL is currently doing their annual meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona.
I don’t know if the NHL’s new overtime will instantly be mirrored in the AHL for the coming season but I’m sure that will be a discussion brought to the foreground quickly. At the moment, the AHL is divvying up the awards more than dissecting anything game changing just yet.
Speaking of which, for those that missed the news on our Facebook page, the Milwaukee Admirals received an AHL award for earning an outstanding 94.6% season ticket renewal rate last season. If the Admirals main source of revenue is ticket sales I say job well done – and also that you fans are pretty phenomenal in your own right.
~Q&A with Kristopher Martel~
We are now very close to the 2015 NHL Draft. With that in mind I reached out to one of our Nashville friends Kristopher Martel to chat about the Predators, recent news, and more. Not familiar with the lad? Well, when he isn’t introducing head coach Peter Laviolette to new technology, Mr. Martel does lots of work covering the Nashville Predators – such as writing for Fox Sports and his ye olde blog known as The Predatorial which produces its very own podcast. Here’s his answers to a few of my questions.
Admirals Roundtable: Firstly, you have the chance to trek to Milwaukee this past playing season alongside both Justin Bradford and Robby Stanley. What did you make of the city and the Admirals experience?
Kristopher Martel: It was an absolutely fantastic experience. I probably would have enjoyed it a little better if I wasn’t on a diet at the time, but regardless of the food I wasn’t able to eat my time there was amazing. The people were extremely pleasant and the Admirals staff and players were more than accommodating for whatever we needed.
AR: As an outsider, I’m actually curious what you thought of the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Good? Bad? In need of knocking down for that brand spankin’ new Bucks arena?
KM: I liked the Bradley Center, but at the same time you could definitely sense its age. If Milwaukee were to get a brand new arena and the Admirals were to become a tenant, it would serve both the team and the city in more ways than one. There’s only so much you can enjoy from a nearly 30 year old arena.
AR: With your up close view of the Admirals did any particular players stand out for you?
KM: I was pleased with the performances of both Viktor Arvidsson and Kevin Fiala. True shocker there, right? Both players ended up earning playing time in Nashville before the end of the regular season and they’ll likely continue to see time there in the upcoming season as well.
AR: The recent news of Juuse Saros signing his entry level contract seems to suggest Magnus Hellberg’s time in the organization is done. What is your take on Hellberg and would the Nashville Predators be right to choose Marek Mazanec over him?
KM: To be fair, the comparison between Hellberg and Mazanec is oddly similar to that of Craig Smith and Colin Wilson. With Smith and Wilson, my guess is only one of the two will be in Predators gold next season. With Smith – and Mazanec in this case – you’re going to see the consistency season in and season out. With Wilson – and equally Hellberg – you may not see the same consistency, but the promise of great future seasons after a fantastic regular season this year is there.
What the Predators are doing here is textbook. Sign the consistency long-term, but avoid the potential for risk. Do I blame them? Not at all. Hellberg will be a good goaltender wherever he goes, I just don’t think it’s with Nashville.
AR: How excited should Milwaukee fans be for Saros’ debut season in North American? Will he be as good as advertised?
KM: Whenever it comes to goaltenders, and defensemen for that matter, I always stress patience while waiting for them to develop. Saros has the potential to be the next Pekka Rinne for the Predators, but it’s not going to happen overnight. My feeling is that next season will be a bit rough for Saros, but the promise will show in his outings.
AR: The Predators look as if their main goal will be to keep as many parts that made them successful this season as possible. Is that the right strategy and can it be done?
KM: Absolutely. I think they’ll be able to keep the pieces they want and jettison the rest. Nashville’s plan was never to keep every single piece of the puzzle from last year. If they wanted to, they could easily keep every piece from last season. However, that’s not going to happen.
AR: Which players in the organization do you expect to be in a different uniform next season?
KM: I think players like Gabriel Bourque and Taylor Beck will be in different sweaters next season. Not for a lack of talent, but they don’t exactly fit Peter Laviolette’s system. As well as the previously mentioned Colin Wilson. The roster will be a little different, but not too different.
AR: It may not have ended as it started but it was still a really great season for Nashville. What needs to be done, added, or subtracted to put the Predators over the top for a Stanley Cup run next season?
KM: Nashville needs to find that elite top line center. With the plans for Mike Ribeiro potentially up in the air, it increases the need to address that problem sooner rather than later. Everywhere else, I think they’re set. However, that center position needs to be addressed now.
AR: With the NHL Draft this weekend what do you think the Predators should be looking for?
KM: Defensemen. Imagine that? Most years you wouldn’t be seeing me say that, but with 12 defensemen drafted in the past five drafts and only one – Seth Jones – seeing any type of significant playing time for the Predators, it’s time to re-stock the cabinet.
What are your A’s to my above Q’s? Are you expecting a quiet off-season from the Nashville Predators? Should they be active in the trade or free agent market? Will there be any moves made by them at the upcoming NHL Draft? Speaking of which, what area on the ice do the Predators need to look at in the draft?