The Milwaukee Admirals 3-2 defeat in overtime last night on home ice against the Grand Rapids Griffins is a difficult one to take on many levels. It ends the 2016-17 season on an all to familiar note here with the Admirals but also one that stinks of last season when the Griffins got the better of an Admirals group that could have displayed that little bit more that they know they can show.
Above all, and what sticks with me, is that this year’s Admirals team was a special one from the beginning. It gelled immediately. There was this wonderful blending of veteran leadership, high level skill, size and grit, players on the cusp of being NHL talent, and prospects that came more and more into their own. Beyond all of that: this was a Milwaukee Admirals team filled with tremendous people.
I want to say, in my four seasons here on Admirals Roundtable, going into the locker room after that loss and seeing the team is the most difficult thing I’ve had to see. They were heartbroken. They knew this year’s team deserved better than what it had just been dealt. All the individual stories. All the ups-and-downs as individuals. The team coming together and battling for seven months. Gone. It all stopped in its place after a best of five series in three games.
A lot can be said of the Admirals playoff track record. Their last victory in the playoffs came four-years ago today when the Admirals defeated the Texas Stars 2-0 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center with Magnus Hellberg earning a 23-save shutout. The Admirals would lose the next two games of that series to be eliminated from the 2013 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs. Ever since? The Admirals were swept by the Toronto Marlies in 2014. They failed to make the playoffs in 2015. They were swept by the Griffins in 2016. And have been swept -again- by the Griffins in 2017. The Admirals have lost eleven consecutive playoff games – and that will carry into their next playoff series in the future with a chance to become even uglier.
What I very much hope that fans realize is the big picture that comes with AHL hockey and the Milwaukee Admirals. Would it be nice for the players, the coaching staff, and the fans to celebrate a Calder Cup? Absolutely. Is that the grandest prize of them all to win? No, but the AHL being a league of constant learning and development affords the opportunity to gear players and coaches alike towards an eventual end goal of being Stanley Cup caliber talent. Every season is different. Every series is different. And every game played is different. With these playoff losses and early exits come disappointment but also opportunity to learn and to grow. The Admirals may not have much to show for the immense amount of work that they’ve put in these last few seasons but all you need to do is look at the Nashville Predators to know that the Admirals are very much not failing in their mission of preparing players for the NHL futures they aspire for.
This third straight playoff exit by way of being swept? It sucks. It hurts. And it’s a shame when asking the “what if” of it all. But the platform for future success is there. The Predators and Admirals are joined at the hip for a further five-seasons. What the organization is doing is striving for the future. It’s built for the future and starving for top to bottom success in the years to come. The Predators haven’t won a Stanley Cup in their history as a franchise yet. The Admirals haven’t won a Calder Cup since 2004. The reason for optimism that both can change that in the coming years far outweighs the thought that both will continue to be stuck in place. The Admirals being eliminated in the 2017 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs could be a factor in helping both accomplish just that. There are lessons to be learned from many because of it. And the experience is important.
Comments on the comments? What does the future hold for this Milwaukee Admirals team? Should the organization look to bring back as many of the puzzle pieces as possible for the 2017-18 season?
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