This past week I had the chance to sit down and chat with the voice of the Milwaukee Admirals, Aaron Sims. It was great to catch up with Aaron and get some of his perspective on this year’s off-season as well as his thoughts on the season ahead for the Admirals. Here’s a transcript of our conversation – as a Chatterbox containing the audio would have been roughly a half hour (we’re good at talking about things we like).
Daniel Lavender: First things first, the Admirals brand news logos, colors, and uniforms. What do you think?
Aaron Sims: I love the new logo. I love the new uniform. I love, and it sounds like I’m in the minority here from what I’ve been reading, but I like the M-A. I like that bone M-A. I think that’s really cool. I think it’s great. We spent nine years with the other one and it’s time for a change. I’m all for it.
DL: I think my initial impression when I looked at it all was, “yeesh,” but the more I actually looked at it… it wasn’t actually that different from what they just had.
AS: No. It’s what Harris [Turer] said, “an evolution.” Yeah, I like it. And then the response from like a lot of people, the [AHL], and all of that it has been really positive. That’s pretty cool to see.
DL: I thought the turn out for the unveiling event itself was great. There were tons of fans and the instant reaction to the logos was strong. That had to be satisfying to everyone involved in the re-design process.
AS: We had no idea. I asked them, “how many you think are going to show up?” And we really didn’t know. You just put it out there and, yeah, that many people showing up was pretty sweet. It was cool. I wish more former players could have made it but it was cool to have a few of the legendary guys: Phil Wittliff, Danny Lecours, and Fred Berry. I’d love to see a full blown Admirals Fest. That would be tough to do but it would be great to do I think.. June or July.. have as many people as you can come back.. I don’t know, teams used to do the old timers game, I’m not a big fan of that because those guys don’t want to get hurt and that’s the last thing anybody wants. Just to hang out and and make it like a baseball card type of thing that would be fun.
DL: In terms of this off-season’s moves it feels almost like a mass exodus of faces everyone is familiar with. Guys like Mike Liambas, Mark Van Guilder, Magnus Hellberg, Joe Piskula. What have you made of these moves?
AS: It’s just part of the thing. Year in and year out you kind of brace yourself for all of this stuff. I know Mike Liambas was a guy that didn’t necessarily want to go but he would have been foolish not to see what’s out there for free agency. Mark Van Guilder is at a point in his life where he gets to see the world. Everybody always talks about Nashville having to run it through the draft and all of that stuff. Every team has to run it through the draft. So then you piece the right free agents in there. I don’t know anything about Conor Allen but I’m anxious to see him. All I know is what I see in the numbers because we never see any teams out East. But I’m really excited and have been an admirer of Cody Bass for awhile. I’m really excited to see him on our team because he’s a tough guy, he’ll stand up for his teammates, from what I’ve seen – heard – and read he is a good man in the community. I’ve always like him. I’m really jazzed to see him. I’m anxious to see how Félix Girard progresses. If you think about it, we kept talking last year about a young team. They’re all going to be in their second year, so they’ll have a year of experience, and then you throw in an Allen.. Bass.. Jamie Devane I’m excited for. I’m looking forward to this. We’re in the [AHL]. If guys are here for two-years it’s a shock. To have those guys three, six, seven years is pretty amazing.
DL: It’s been fun seeing Nashville do a lot of the business in terms of bringing people to Milwaukee. Even Max Reinhart is going to be with us this season.
AS: That’s a guy, too. Max Reinhart is a guy I know they’ve liked for a long time. So you go down the middle and you think on paper: Colton Sissons – Bass – Reinhart – Girard. Then there’s Frédérick Gaudreau and Joe Pendenza. You gotta think that you’re feeling pretty good. Cody Bass is a good face-off guy, Sissons a good face-off guy, Girard is fantastic, so you have to feel pretty good about where you are in the middle I think.
AS: That’s the guy that gets lost. We keep forgetting about Miikka. He certainly didn’t have the year that he wanted to leading up to his injury but I’m anxious to see him. Because that’s a driven kid. That’s a kid that has had success here and is certainly a guy that factors into the [Nashville Predators’] plans somewhere along the way. I think having him back is going to be awesome.
DL: Dean [Evason] always calls [Salomäki] a bull in a china shop the way that he plays and I think that the moment he went out took a lot of the heart and soul of that team off the ice last year.
AS: Think about it. That day you lost your two top left wings. This is not a knock against Triston Grant, Rich Clune, or Mike Liambas -but- when that’s three of your four left wings that’s not.. and Triston had a wonderful year don’t get me wrong.. Rich Clune had a good offensive year too.. but it’s not the offensive game that Miikka could bring or Brendan Leipsic could bring.
DL: Is the age of the enforcer dead?
AS: It’s long gone. You have to be able to play. Rich Clune is always the one that said.. and he’s a good one to talk about that.. he knows the enforcer is a dying breed but you have to have a guy that can do it but he has to be able to play. A guy like Cody Bass and Mike Liambas who can play the game.. Clune.. Triston Grant.. can play the game. I’m anxious to see Jamie Devane because I don’t know if he was asked to do much more in Toronto and the way they were setup, the money they have, they just put down the Frazer McLaren‘s or the Colton Orr‘s and all these guys down there. Devane really got buried and I think he can play. I mean, he might be a fourth line guy at this level but maybe he’s a fourth line guy at the NHL level too.
DL: Let’s get to that dreaded Pacific Division. There will be less games played and a different way to run the points system as a result. Am I alone in saying it’s a mess?
AS: I have to watch what I say I guess but I’m anxious to see how the PHPA deals with it if they’re getting more money for less games if they’re still signing a $50,000 contract to play 68-games or 76-games. If it’s the same contract or if it’s $60,000 anywhere but California and you get $50,000 out there whatever the pro-rate is.
DL: This was always going to be a big scramble full of red flags like that.
AS: Yeah, but you know what it is alluring to a lot of people. Look at Joe Piskula. He’s probably going to play in San Diego this year, he is 30-years old, he’s going to play less games, probably going to make decent money, and he’s living in one of the great cities in North America – certainly weather-wise. I’m really curious how the kids in San Jose, these guys on minor league contracts, how they’re going handle housing out there. One guy can afford a two bedroom apartment in Worcester probably no problem. San Jose? It’s a little bit different.
DL: Harris Turer has been pretty outspoken during this whole ‘Bucks Arena’ thing that the Admirals are staying in Milwaukee no matter what. Do you think going back to a place like the ol’ MECCA is a good option?
AS: Yeah. It’s there. It will hold shy of 10,000. We’ll see. That’s an option. This Bucks thing isn’t dead yet. And they both have their charms. The neat thing about going back into the UW-Milwaukee Panthers Arena, using the proper name I guess, it would kind of be our’s. And there is something appealing about that. The Charlotte team did that. Charlotte’s going to a different arena an older arena this season because it is going to be their’s. Oklahoma City didn’t have the greatest success having their own arena. It was neat to have their own place but they didn’t have the greatest success in drawing fans to the game. Do you want to go a Friday night against the NBA team if you’re a minor league team? I don’t know. I guess it depends where you are but certainly Oklahoma City it didn’t work so well for them. I guess we shouldn’t shut the door on the new arena. I hear the other day they’re talking that ice might still be in there. So, who knows?
DL: The story I was following probably the most late in the season and into the off-season was the decision in net, Magnus Hellberg or Marek Mazanec. It went down and Nashville made their mind up by sticking with Mazanec over Hellberg.
AS: They did that a few years ago. It wasn’t new. Magnus is as good a teammate as there is but was just kind of inconsistent and everybody knew it. I know a lot of people on your site they say, well Hellberg was clearly the better one, no he wasn’t.. they’re wrong.. and no offense to whoever’s fake name I’m talking to. Skill-wise, Mazanec is the guy he just needs to harness it a little better. Goalies take forever to develop. The average one is like 27 or something like that. It takes goalies longer and there are fewer jobs. How many goalies have we had in this league that never really got a shot even though they were great at this level? A Mike McKenna, a Leland Irving… guys like that -that- were just really great goalies. But I hope Magnus is in New York, I hope he backs up Henrik Lundqvist and pushes Antti Raanta back like Scott Darling did.
DL: And all the while in the background was the guy who I think was up above them the entire time for Nashville, Juuse Saros. You mention goalies taking time to develop and my mind shifts to the career that Tim Thomas had. Goalies tend to hit stride very late in their careers. Saros has a lot of hype behind him and he is only 20-years old.
AS: They are excited about him. It’ll be different. They haven’t had a little goalie. I’m excited to see what he can do and I’m curious to see how it will play out. If one guy gets hot if they’ll ride him. Carter Hutton has another year under him. Pekka Rinne is going to be around for awhile if he is healthy. So does that mean Mazanec is the heir apparent to be a back up next season and Saros takes over here? What if Saros is lights out? It’s an interesting time. Pekka obviously knows Saros pretty well so we’ll see. I want to see how Maz comes back.
Massive thanks to Aaron for taking the time to sit down and talk hockey whilst in baseball mode. If you weren’t aware already Milwaukee Admirals Center Ice launched a Facebook page near the end of last season. That’s a great way to keep tuned to when Aaron will be on air as well as other Admirals news and updates. That’ll probably get buzzing soon because *drum roll* the summer is starting to come down the home stretch and the hockey season is ever closer.