Admiral of the Month: February

(Photo Credit: Derek Sparta)

The Milwaukee Admirals wrapped up the month of February with a four-game road trip. It started with one of the best periods of hockey they had played all season followed shortly by about eleven periods of scrambled form and sheer confusion. The Admirals started the month by ending a six-game losing streak and going on a nice run by claiming wins in the next four straight. Then the doom and gloom of 2017-18 crept back in and they ended the month on a 1-4-0-1 stretch. “Up and Down” continues to be this season’s theme.

What was always going to need to happen along the way in February for the Admirals was seeing someone step up once Bobby Butler left for the 2018 Winter Olympics. I can honestly say this stretch of hockey was something I felt could be important on the entirety of the season because it forced others to step up while the team’s leading scorer was gone for multiple weeks. We’re nearly three-weeks on since Butler last played a game and he remains the team’s top scorer – tied now by Emil Pettersson. The Admirals went 5-6-0-1 (11 points, 0.458 points percentage) in February. It was the second consecutive month that the Admirals went below 0.500. They continue to get bitten within regulation. The Admirals have the eighth most regulation losses in the league this season and that is a sadly even split between the road and home ice. Travel along the way hasn’t been that kind, sure, but the growth from game to game and week to week just isn’t progressing for the team playing as a team. It often seems that just once the Admirals turn a corner they run full speed into a wall and fall down. It has been a harsh learning curve in that respect for many this season. Yet, with Butler’s absence, some players did really pick up the slack and start leading from the front with their work ethic and consistency. There were quite a few prime examples, in fact, yet the undeniable force during February for the Admirals was Frédérick Gaudreau. And he is The Real Estate Center’s Admiral of the Month for February.

It was said by Milwaukee Admirals head coach Dean Evason this month that the coaching staff challenged Gaudreau to be better. He’s simply not a player who often needs a reason to be motivated but it’s hard to deny the results.

“We challenged Freddy awhile ago. He was kind of in and out a little bit and we challenged him to be better and be one of our better players,” said Evason following the Admirals 5-4 shootout loss to the San Antonio Rampage on 2/14/18. “You don’t have to say too much to Freddy as far as challenging him because he’s going to go out and play and challenge himself to be better. He wasn’t happy with his game. Certainly he’s happy with his game, we’re happy with his game now.”

Gaudreau had 15 points (5 goals, 10 assists) in 23 games with the Admirals coming into the month of February. That’s certainly not bad given he had played in and out of the AHL with 20 games played with the Nashville Predators this season where he had scored 3 assists in the NHL. Yet, the Gaudreau from a season ago in Milwaukee didn’t quite seem there. That explosive element in attack to go along with all that smart defensive work and fast skating? It felt a bit lost even past a stretch of producing at a rate of 0.65 points per game. And then February happened. And “Freddy Time” was back. Gaudreau failed to score in all but a pair of the Admirals 12 games in February and wracked up 14 points (9 goals, 5 assists) to nearly match his point production that he started the month with.

Now, not to get lost in simply the scoring barrage that Gaudreau experienced in February, that isn’t all that he did well. Gaudreau is a first choice option for the Admirals special teams groups and is one of the most reliable forwards when it comes to defensive assignments. In a month where that wasn’t always the case it’s important to understand what a complete effort Gaudreau had all of February.

And Gaudreau wasn’t exactly alone in that respect. The Admirals team captain Trevor Smith took home CCM/AHL Player of the Week honors for a reason during February. He was right there with Gaudreau as a constant throughout the month for dependable work ethic across the ice. Smith had 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) in 12 games in February. Someone else who I often found impressive along the way was Justin Kirkland who, in the face of a bad stretch to end the month, showed his fight and will to compete by peppering on a game high 6 shots on goal and then bagging a late goal in Texas on Saturday night’s 5-2 loss. Not to mention, earlier in the month, Kirkland also was able to score his first pro hat trick in a 5-3 road win over the Rockford IceHogs.

What comes next for the Admirals is the make or break month of the season. March brings forth a hefty 14 games to be played and the Admirals, who are way on the outside looking in on the picture for the 2018 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs, need to start delivering results. They have put themselves in a large hole. But with some new additions and a familiar one in Butler on the way – it is time to see if a spark can ignite an inferno to get this team into the playoffs once again.

~Admiral of the Month Award~

October: Emil Pettersson
November: Anders Lindbäck
December: Anders Lindbäck
January: Bobby Butler
February: Frédérick Gaudreau

Who do you feel was the top performer for the Milwaukee Admirals during the month of February? Was it Frédérick Gaudreau, Trevor Smith, Justin Kirkland, or someone else? Tell me who your Admiral of the Month was in the comment section below.

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