If you’re a fan of the Milwaukee Admirals you had a double-dose of bad times yesterday. The Admirals, for whatever the reasons might be, still can’t solve the Grand Rapids Griffins or finding ways to win in the Van Andel Arena. The moment that the Admirals blew a third period lead and lost 2-1 the secondary blow came as the Nashville Predators made a trade that involved Vladislav Kamenev, Samuel Girard, and a second round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Admirals fans aren’t going to see Kyle Turris. There are no additional pieces entering the mix to replace the production of Kamenev or future work by Girard on defense. That is life in the AHL. Players arrive. Players leave. And, when they leave, the season continues and it’s on the coaching staff and remaining players to fill the gaps created by a parent club.
It stings now. It might take some time to work through new roles. But where there is a vacancy in a role as big as Kamenev was contributing in there are players getting the chance to fight for and contribute that much more than they already were.
It doesn’t take much more than to look at this season’s roster for the Milwaukee Admirals to know there are very good ingredients for success. There is a solid veteran leadership group. There were some good additions that worked around last season’s departures. And there were loads of returning talent that help make for instant chemistry from the get-go. That much has become immediately true. The Admirals started the season off with three road games and won them all while scoring 5 goals in each victory. As it stands, they are the AHL’s final team after two weeks of hockey to have an unbeaten record.
Tuesday morning at 9:00 AM CST will mark Game 3 in the Pre-Season Rookie Tournament. That will conclude the rookie slate of the schedule before the main camp begins on Thursday. And, with the wait before Milwaukee Admirals Training Camp gets underway, it feels overdue for a proper Admirals Roundtable Mailbag. Feel free to continually ask questions and have them added and answered below the jump.
Yesterday the Nashville Predators provided an update to defenseman Ryan Ellis. It wasn’t exactly ideal or uplifting news to hear. Ellis sustained a knee injury during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Finals and required surgery shortly after its completion. He won’t be ready for a return until late-December or early-January. While that might sound like a buzzkill as on-ice activities start brewing in Nashville it only highlights the biggest strength of the Predators organization: its defensive depth.
The mystery surrounding what on Earth was going on with Marek Mazanec has now been answered. Before that ever happened though the organization already made good on its promise to bring in three goaltenders: Anders Lindbäck, Matt O’Connor, and Jake Paterson. Mazanec would have offered a nice, stable, and reliable option for the Milwaukee Admirals. Mazanec also would have also been a decent enough fit for the third choice option in net for the Nashville Predators. It was evident early he wouldn’t be back. It was evident as the signings came around that the three don’t match Mazanec’s current comfort blanket feeling. Should Pekka Rinne or Juuse Saros suffer injury of any length during the 2017-18 season who really is that next man up?
Since the 2007-08 season the Nashville Predators organization was straightforward: Milwaukee Admirals (AHL) & Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL). That has changed this season. The Norfolk Admirals have become the new ECHL affiliate and that has pushed the Cyclones off to a new adventure as part of the Buffalo Sabres organization. In the past few seasons the Cyclones depth from Milwaukee hasn’t necessarily been the best. It’s already clear to see that the organization is attempting to make the first season with Norfolk on board as impactful as possible.
When the Milwaukee Admirals signedStephen Perfetto yesterday it raised a few questions among the readership of: what exactly does that mean and how would the lines look? Well, assuming that Frédérick Gaudreau sticks around with the Nashville Predators out of their pre-season training camp, Perfetto’s addition yesterday would mean that AHL group just received their prospective twelfth forward for the 2017-18 season. That is just enough to fulfill a complement of four forward lines. In short, there really is still much to be done to not only help the Milwaukee Admirals but the Norfolk Admirals in the ECHL.
Day 3 of 2017 Nashville Predators Rookie Development Camp is one that doesn’t feature on-ice practice. That isn’t to say the group in camp aren’t getting a day-off though as today will see everyone being active in the local communities. Being a pro on the ice is one thing. Being a pro off the ice is something completely different and something far more important.
That’s their plan for the day. And Day 4, tomorrow, will be back to practice sessions at Centennial Sportsplex for the final stop before the Future Stars Game held at the Bridgestone Arena Friday night. With this community day set I find it a nice time to give an analysis of some of my first impressions from the opening two days of on-ice practices.
Last night’s result was one that I have been dreading for awhile now. The 2016-17 season for the Milwaukee Admirals is over. It was my fifth around the team and fourth as Editor-in-Chief of Admirals Roundtable. It feels like the more I’m around the Admirals the more playoff exits such as last night sting. And this season it especially hurt to watch it finish so fast.
I said as much in today’s Chatterbox: this year’s team was a special one. While many get to view the on-ice product and talent associated on that level I’m fortunate to get to see that perspective as well as the behind the scenes views to get to know the team that little bit more. I always try to share that perspective as much as I can through interviews but lost in it can be some of the banter or other sights and sounds that come with being around a hockey team for a full-season up close.
This year’s Admirals team was a favorite of mine. The people associated with the team were all such good people and being around a group so upbeat like that is infectious. What you would hope for in an AHL affiliate is to create a positive environment for all the clashing of age, talent levels, personalities, and nationalities to come together and find a level of success through it. They came together immediately. It’s something that hasn’t always been true but you could see it quickly. And it’s why there were so few bad stretches over the course of this past season.
I think part of what was as crushing as being eliminated from the playoffs last night for the Admirals was realizing that group of people likely isn’t coming back next season. At first glance, there are 14 players that are at the end of their contracts with the completion of the 2016-17 season: Derek Army, Justin Florek, Frédérick Gaudreau, Jonas Gunnarsson, Mike Liambas, Marek Mazanec, Andrew O’Brien, Adam Pardy, Adam Payerl, Stephen Perfetto, Rick Pinkston, Mike Ribeiro, Mark Visentin, and Matt White. As great as it would be for those names to return the chances of so much as half of those names coming back are slim. The off-season coming up for the Nashville Predators and their AHL affiliate could very well be a busy one. Whether it be positive or negative isn’t known yet. What is known is that this year’s group was positive and deserved more than to be swept out of the playoffs. It’s sad that it ended early but those who were part of this year’s team all became better for having been part of it.
For all the players who took the time out after practices and games to provide interviews here on Admirals Roundtable: thank you for doing so. For the coaching staff and more associated around the team rinkside – Dean Evason, Stan Drulia, Scott Ford, David Rook, Scott Nichol, Ryan Costello, Doug Agnew, Jason Nordby, and the Equipment Crew of Kris, Adam, and Q – thank you for your time, the banter, and the insight.
Of course, thank you mentions wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the entire Milwaukee Admirals front office. This season was an adventure for the entire staff of the Admirals behind the scenes as they all embarked on this new adventure with the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. It was always going to start as an adventure with Year-One featuring growing pains and learning experiences that all can be improved over time. I greatly enjoyed the return to the MECCA this season. I know it will be even better over time through fan feedback and the years of improvements still to come to renovating the classic venue which immediately felt like -home- for the Admirals this season.
And now to end on the personal note. I’ve had moments this season where I slipped away from the byline. There was a reason for doing that. This past season was quite possibly my last. It has been an immensely draining season for myself behind the scenes and one that has had me mentally burned out. I’ve been chasing a dream since I was 14-years old. I turn 29-years old this July and have spent the last five seasons with the Admirals living out my dream. Yet, reality has kicked the crap out of me all season long and the need of full-time work has taken over the hope for full-time work. I’ve lost the hope for full-time work. I really have. And while I’ve treated Admirals Roundtable as a full-time job for these past four seasons – it was never meant to be treated as such. If there was a happy medium? That would be great -but- I still need to detach and find it. If this season really was the last for me? It was the last season for me. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish. I can’t think of anything more I could have done or things I would do differently. I am forever grateful to everyone who I’ve come across on this journey. I have met such great people and it is those relationships that have made my pursuit of this dream of mine even more of a dream worth chasing.
I suppose the end message here is that I don’t know what the future holds. Not for exactly what the Milwaukee Admirals will look like for the 2017-18 season or if myself will be there to cover it. I do know that the ride that was the 2016-17 season was a great one. I want to thank everyone for being part of it. This has been a hugely memorable one for me. And that’s courtesy of all of you.
Do the Milwaukee Admirals miss the services of Pontus Åberg? No. Do the referees in charge of the series matter? No. Do the calls being made in this series go firmly against the Admirals? No. Do the Admirals trail the Grand Rapids Griffins after the first leg of the best of five series? Yes, and they are one more defeat from a third successive playoff exit by way of sweep and eleven consecutive playoff defeats.
Anyone who has followed this year’s Admirals closely can say that the team is a special one. There is a great balance of quality leadership and great young talent all meshed together. When all pieces to the puzzle come together the Admirals can be a devastating team to play against through their high speed and skill level as well as being physical on defense with great goaltending to support it.
The Admirals are not down 2-0 to the Griffins in this opening round best of five series because of any one specific loss of those great attributes. There have been times when Marek Mazanec has really shouldered the weight in net. There have been smart defensive reads that have been very disruptive against Griffins attacks. And the Admirals offense has shown moments where they can be relentless.
Why the Admirals aren’t making a dent on the Griffins comes down to momentary lapses in all of those great attributes not coming good as well as the Admirals doing the number one thing that they couldn’t allow the Griffins to do in this series in order for them to have success. The Griffins are under the Admirals skin.
With any divisional match-up there are great rivalries founded on the constant battles held throughout a season. While there is great turn-over in the AHL many divisional rivalries can really last out down to how strong the affiliate clubs are for so long. That’s what the Admirals and Griffins has been with the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings both scouting, drafting, and developing so well for so long. In part, this rivalry comes mainly down to sheer dominance and having the say of who is superior. The other part comes from something the Griffins excel in: talking, talking, and more talking.
Whether it be Tyler Bertuzzi, Mitch Callahan, Colin Campbell, Joe Hicketts, or Dylan McIlrath – the Griffins talk a ton after a whistle, in scrums, at face-offs, and around the bench. That nature of their team has been blatant since the 2015-16 season. It worked then. It works now. And the Admirals play up to it by disregarding what it is they do well to play into the Griffins antics.
As all of the talking gets played up what the Griffins get to do is allow their skill players and veterans to dictate and pace the game. The Admirals are fighting a different battle on the ice and losing the most important one. The style in which the Griffins play, to me, is never one that will win a Calder Cup because a far more heads-up and mature team will come in, ignore the talking, and play their own game much like the Lake Erie Monsters did a season ago. The Admirals need to be that team. But they aren’t right now. They are letting the Griffins pull their strings time and time again.
The great news that shouldn’t be lost one bit by how the first two games of the series played out is this: the Admirals host Game 3 on Wednesday night at 7:00 PM CDT. This series isn’t over. The Admirals are still as special of a team as everyone knows that they are and can be. They just need to smooth out a few areas of their game and -most importantly- kill the talking with deafening silence. The Admirals chirp back at the Griffins banter needs to be voiced by the scoreboard and the fans at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.
For the Admirals to put everything together and take Game 3 provides them the exact same atmosphere, ability, and opportunity in Game 4 on home ice. That is when this series sees pressure sway but that can only truly happen if the Admirals let go of the talking, let go of the post-whistle run ins, and stick to their strengths. The Admirals are still alive in this series. It is on them to keep it that way on Wednesday night.