In the month of December the Milwaukee Admirals experienced some serious adversity in the form of injuries and roster moves. In total, the Admirals experienced seven different injuries in the month. If that’s not bad enough November standouts for the Admirals, Viktor Arvidsson and Colton Sissons, were recalled by the Nashville Predators as they themselves were feeling the sting injuries. Sissons only just returned this past week to the Admirals. Arvidsson is doing so well it’s questionable if he ever returns to the AHL this season.
What all those struggles meant wasn’t just utilizing roster depth from the Admirals ECHL affiliate the Cincinnati Cyclones because they too were bit hard with the injury bug. Eric Robinson might be done for the season with a knee injury. Jaynen Rissling has been dinged up during his transition from defenseman to forward. Jonathan Diaby has missed a chunk of time due to injury and has only recently been activated by the Cyclones to return to the ice. That left Joe Pendenza and Garrett Noonan as options for recall. But that still wasn’t enough.
The Admirals needed to dip into their rolodex to find familiar names that could be inserted into the lineup from the ECHL immidiately. Zach Budish and Vinny Saponari were added. Then the Admirals took a new approach and brought in a duo from the Manchester Monarchs (ECHL), Matt White and Zac Larraza.
Through all this chaos, which is by far and away more gruesome than the roster turnover that appeared to cripple the Admirals last season and never heal properly, you’d imagine the Admirals month of December was abysmal. It wasn’t.
In December the Admirals played 14 games and ended the month with a 9-5-0-0 record that now sees them sitting in first place of the Central Division and in second place of the Western Conference standings. To be concise. The Admirals overcame adversity big time.
It’s funny to bring all this up because my “Admiral of the Month” Award is an individualistic nod. The reality is that this month had far more to do with a group of individuals, no matter who they were or where they came from, playing as a team – and a darn solid one at that. So, while I only divvy up the distinction to one player – make no mistake about it – everyone went above and beyond in December to put the Admirals in the great position they’re in despite all the bad luck on the injury front throughout the organization.
So, who to choose from then? There have been many outstanding performers in December: both Juuse Saros and Marek Mazanec in net have played insane and ended the month with a combined 2.35 goals against average and 0.923 save percentage. Frédérick Gaudreau, in a time when the Admirals needed someone to pick them up offensively, was Mr. Everything. Max Görtz exploded offensively and lead the team in scoring during the month with 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists). Kevin Fiala came to life and scored 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) in 14 games after having only scored 6 points (1 goal, 5 assists) from the previous 15 games. Félix Girard played high energy hockey not only game after game but shift after shift providing the Admirals a shutdown forward during a spell when Cody Bass missed the entire month due to an upper-body injury. Both Taylor Aronson and Jimmy Oligny were so outstanding to watch defensively the entire month and made countless contributions that won’t get recognized on a stat sheet. I could keep going on and on.
Choosing from that pack is immensely difficult for me. But I keep coming back to a player that after each game I found myself blown away by his progression from last season to this season and his ability to have stepped up into such a massive role for the Admirals when it was desperately needed. That man is one of the French Fries. That man is Gaudreau.
When you think back to last season about Gaudreau I have to imagine you, like myself, have a very foggy memory about the type of player that he was. He could rotate from center to the wing. Tended to play more on the wing. But was often a rotation player in a different sense as in the fact that he wasn’t a guy playing every single game for the Admirals. He ended up playing 43 games for the Admirals last season and 14 for the Cyclones in the ECHL. That’s a lot of healthy scratch action. And, gasp, on the season opener for 2015-16 in Chicago he was a healthy scratch again. It would be the last time he’d be healthy scratched so far this season.
Gaudreau eventually got going as the Admirals fourth line winger paired with fellow member of the French Fries, and penalty killing partner, Girard. Jump to the month of December and seeing the name “Gaudreau” penciled in as the first choice center night after night as well as being a key part and contributor to the Admirals top power-play group. This is where your jaw was supposed to have dropped.
In December, Gaudreau scored 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) while effectively assuming the role that Sissons had vacated here in Milwaukee when the team captain had been recalled to Nashville. It’s one thing to be presented an opportunity to succeed in an expansive role. It’s another thing entirely to actually go out and do it. Gaudreau went out in December, with a battered and stretched thin Admirals roster, and played his way to the top of the Admirals team scoring list this season all while working multiple roles exceptionally well.
Gaudreau always been a solid penalty killer. But to see his work rate and vision on the power-play has shown what a dynamic player he really can be. This past month he scored 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) on the power play alone. 3/5 of those power-play assists were primary assists. And, for a laugh with more special teams stats, he also had a primary assist on a shorthanded goal for Girard. He was everywhere. He was sharp. He was the heart and soul of the Admirals forward group at a time when they needed a boost. And that’s why, above so many other great performers, Gaudreau is my Admiral of the Month for December.
~Admiral of the Month Award~
October: Félix Girard
November: Viktor Arvidsson
December: Frédérick Gaudreau
Who do you feel was the Milwaukee Admirals top performer during the month of December? Was it Frédérick Gaudreau, Marek Mazanec, Max Görtz, Kevin Fiala, Juuse Saros, Félix Girard, Jimmy Oligny, or someone else? Answer in the comment section below.