Today’s practice was going to be an intense one following last night’s game and subsequent interview with Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason. And was it ever. I’m not sure I can do justice do all that I saw but the image that sticks out to me is when the group was given its first water break. Everyone’s face was red. Everyone was breathing hard. Everyone was sweating buckets. They all looked like they had just completed a triathlon.
This practice may have been a long time coming. The message of the practice also may have been a long time coming. It wasn’t trying to single certain individuals out for mistakes but the collective group that keeps falling into bad habits and has for the last few weeks.
The Admirals at their official halfway point of this season had played the most road games and fewest home games in the AHL. Lost in that statement is the way that practices can really fluctuate and be diverted away in the form of travel days. From December to now the Admirals have played 24 games. Out of that stretch the Admirals have logged 16 road games and travel that spans Texas, Charlotte, San Jose, and Stockton.
Forget about the injuries that the Nashville Predators have had and the recalls up, down, and around. Forget about in-house injuries. Think of the mental strain from travel alone that the Admirals have battled the past seven weeks. When things aren’t going right in-game there isn’t much more left to do other than try and correct it in the next road game after a day’s worth of travel to get to it. Bad habits form. Bad habits of one individual can disperse into the rest of the group like a cold. No seriously devoted practice time? No serious solution other than miraculously curing it in the moment – in the game – where it manifested in the first place.
Watching today’s practice wasn’t fun. It wasn’t fun to spectate and -general consensus from everyone involved on the ice- it wasn’t fun to do. It was work. It was both a reality and gut check. Without naming names – it pushed sheer physical strain into mentally breaking down some individuals. Today was hard. It was very hard. But it was a necessary measure to get everyone on the same page.
I tried taking notes on what little of Evason’s pre-practice discussion with the team that I could hear. I feel it is probably a speech that is best left kept for the team. All I know is what I did hear was from the heart, it was from a place of being a team, and of reflection. This practice was intense and such that there will not be one held tomorrow. Instead, Evason asked the group to focus and reflect on themselves ahead of this weekend’s games.
The way that I saw all of today’s grinding practice was that the first period of Friday night’s game might be among one of the more crucial moments of the 2016-17 season for the Admirals. The message was sent today and it was sent in the most brutal of ways to get people to focus on what is most important: being a team. After the first few shifts we should all have a better idea of not -if- that message has been received but -how- it was received. It clearly was received today. How will the team respond to it? That’s my question that won’t have an answer until Friday night.
Following practice I had the chance to catch up with Evason to get his thought process for today and the look ahead for the weekend. I also chatted with several players courtesy of fan requests on Twitter. The players I spoke with were: Kevin Fiala, Matt White, Anthony Richard, Adam Payerl, Jimmy Oligny, and Marek Mazanec. Here is what everyone had to say following Wednesday practice at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
Comments on the comments? How do you feel the Milwaukee Admirals will respond Friday night? Was this approach from Dean Evason the right one to take? If the team plays how it did Tuesday night this weekend – what becomes the next step?
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