Dear Nashville: This Isn’t The End, It’s The Start

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

I imagine everyone all of yesterday was a bundle of nerves and excitement. Game 7’s tend to do that. Game 7’s with implications the likes of which the Nashville Predators have never seen before just made it that much more intense. It would have been the first time in franchise history that the Predators made it to the Western Conference Finals. It would have been if not for laying an egg.

The Predators weren’t just beaten by the San Jose Sharks in last night’s Game 7 encounter they were soundly beaten. From the word “GO” the Sharks played at breakneck speed, flustered the Predators, created various mistakes, and seemingly punished ever mistake committed. It was bad. It was bad enough to make the very calm and cool Pekka Rinne snap and do this when he knew the hook, that he never deserved, was coming. The Sharks won 5-0 to advance to the Western Conference Finals where they will be playing against the St. Louis Blues for a chance to meet either the Pittsburgh Penguins or Tampa Bay Lightning in this year’s Stanley Cup Finals. The Predators off-season officially begins today.

It all hurts. It all hurts very bad and seeing existential comments made from Rinne after last night’s game doesn’t make it feel any better. Yet, similar to what had been an incredible regular season for the Milwaukee Admirals, one game or one series shouldn’t detract from the whole of a campaign that the team put together. Not many “experts” really had the Predators getting to far in these playoffs. The Predators proved a great deal of them wrong and were on the brink of the franchise’s first appearance in the Western Conference Finals. That’s a tremendous accomplishment. What should be lifting your spirits though is something I feel might be getting lost in all the immediate doom and gloom of a playoff exit. This really wasn’t the end for the Predators. This is really more of a sign of things to come.

It wasn’t that long ago when the Predators missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. While there have been some pretty good changes here and there the core of who the Predators are has remained the same since the bulk of those seasons into last night’s game. Out stepped Barry Trotz. In stepped Peter Laviolette and the return of playoff hockey and, more specifically, the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Last season the Predators ran into the buzzsaw of the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. This season the Predators battle through the Anaheim Ducks in a seven-game series before falling to the Sharks, once again, in a seven-game series. The final game to the Predators 2015-16 season was a clunker, yes, but the fight and pushes made resulted in the deepest playoff run in franchise history.

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch)

There are question marks made now. Certainly after last night’s game some will be looking at Shea Weber and pondering if the captain, who will be 31-years old at the start of next season, might be getting up there in age to be shouldering as much of the work load that he does. Rinne will turn 34-years old come the opening months of the 2016-17 season and his contract comes up at the end of the 2018-19 season. How much more magic does he have in the gas tank? With Colin Wilson putting together a great playoff run, after a rough regular season, is this off-season the right time to trade him with his value on the up? Filip ForsbergCalle Järnkrok, and Ryan Johansen are worthy of long-term contracts. How do they fit in with the financial landscape of the organization? With players such as Carter Hutton, Petter Granberg, Cody Bass, Gabriel Bourque, and Paul Gaustad all set to become free agents who stays and who goes? That same question cane be given to: Marek Mazanec, Stefan Elliott, Corey Potter, Taylor Aronson, Patrick Mullen, Jamie Devane, and Max Reinhart at the AHL level. There are plenty of moving parts in play, options of keeping certain pieces that worked, dropping others that didn’t, and strengthening what was already a very strong all-around 2015-16 for the entire organization.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

What is perhaps most important aren’t those question marks but rather the known knowns. The Predators are still a very young team and a team with plenty of upside that has it staying very young. Two players that probably speak best to just that were featured players late in the Predators playoff run in Viktor Arvidsson and Anthony Bitetto. Arvidsson by this point has done enough for most general fans in Nashville to see what he’s capable of from a sheer work rate standpoint. His motor is incredible and his work ethic isn’t limited to one-side of the puck, either. This was his second season coming to grips with the North American pro game. It was his first understanding the pace and quality of the NHL game. He hasn’t yet shown his sniper-like abilities that he displayed a season ago with the Admirals when he walloped 22 goals. He just turned 23-years old. There is far more to come. Bitetto had his cuppa coffee in the big time last season but this past year, aside from the conditioning assignment that allowed for the great feature photo that you see up top, was spent at the NHL level. Much of what I’ve watched of Bitetto hasn’t looked like the Bitetto I saw play in Milwaukee. That is until you watched him play Game 7 against the Sharks where he is actively swooping around and letting his escapability with the puck be seen while delivering a no-nonsense defensive game. Bitetto never seems to stop improving his game. If this past season with the Predators is anything to go by I expect him to make like his jump from the 2012-13 season into the 2013-14 season. He went from splitting AHL/ECHL time to really sharpening his skills, improving his off-ice fitness, and seeing the on-ice results in 2013-14 with a surging year where confidence flowed from him.

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

Elsewhere there are other signs similar to this. Miikka Salomäki just stamped down his first full-season in the NHL and he hasn’t yet shown his knack for scoring just yet. Similar story to Arvidsson and similar age, 23-years old. Colton Sissons is a natural leader with strong two-way ability. He split this past season between the AHL (38 games) and NHL (34 games). If he gets the chance to play for the Predators consistently next he should really start showing more of what fans in Milwaukee have come to know him for. Also, Sissons was voted by his teammates to be the alternate captain of the Admirals in 2014-15 at the age of 20. He was voted by his teammates to be team captain of the Admirals in 2015-16 at the age of 21. He is 22-years old today and seems primed at some point to take the role Mike Fisher holds today. Oh, that Filip Forsberg kid. Remember him? Yeah, he’s a kid still at 21-years old. He’s spent the past two-seasons playing every single game of the regular season and scored 127 points (59 goals, 68 assists) in that time. Those other stud defensemen by the name of Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm are all just 25-years old.

The short of it: everyone on the Predators are still pretty darn young with a capacity to keep getting better. Experience the likes of which these past two playoff runs have provided are invaluable in the growth of these young players to take further steps forward in the coming years.

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

Speaking of which, the next coming years for the Predators are in equally good hands thanks to solid drafting and developing. Of all those names mentioned up top not once did I bring up players such as: Kevin FialaVladislav KamenevYakov TreninJuuse Saros, or Pontus Åberg. There is a kid out there named Justin Kirkland who, if signed to an entry level contract this off-season, could instantly be an impact player in the organization learning the pro game in Milwaukee before transitioning up to Nashville. I don’t care who is at fault in the Jimmy Vesey saga anymore but, whoever it was, I’d like to thank them for allowing the Predators and their savvy scouting department to actually have a first round draft pick this season. In due time, perhaps look at that draft selection versus Vesey and see who gets on better? Worries over Weber’s game last night still in your mind? Well someone like Jack Dougherty is in the pro game now, he turns 20-years old later this month, and can develop to be yet another solid weapon for the already loaded Predators blueline. Trevor Murphy just cranked out his first pro-season at the age of 20 and the more I think about him the more I think about another Predators defenseman who played for the Windsor Spitfires. Not the biggest guy on the ice but a shot that will make you promptly ignore that.

Was the ending to the 2015-16 season tough? Yes. The Predators didn’t win a Stanley Cup. The Admirals didn’t win the Calder Cup. And the Cincinnati Cyclones didn’t win the Kelly Cup. Was 2015-16 a failure? No. And, over the next few years, it might prove to have been just what everyone needed.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Best Game of the 2015-16 Season

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The 2015-16 season provided its share of incredible games and moments for the Milwaukee Admirals. They came away with 48 wins this season which was the most the franchise has ever accumulated in a 76-game AHL regular season. Along the way there were a few games where they really had to earn those wins. They might not have always been the prettiest of games but -man- were they thrillers.

My choice for the “Game of the Year” goes to a mid-December meeting against the Manitoba Moose. There is something about these woeful teams in recent years, Iowa Wild as an example, matching up very strongly against the Admirals. Usually that results in a tight gripping struggle of a game. This on the other hand was just a roller coaster.

You can’t sum it up any better than Admirals broadcaster Aaron Sims when he simply said, “This game is crazy.” That quote came after Jimmy Oligny scored to make it 4-3. The game was yet to see the hat trick for Chase De Leo of the Moose followed by the game-winning goal by Pontus Åberg that was masterfully setup by a pass from Adam Payerl with only 32.8 seconds seconds remaining in regulation. Zac Larraza capped off the festivities with an empty net goal for his first career AHL goal that cemented the game as a 7-5 Admirals win. It wasn’t always pretty… but what a game.

Close Contender: 2/12/16 vs. Rockford: Frédérick Gaudreau scores his hat trick goal with the Admirals net emptied and extra attacker on with 47 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime. Kevin Fiala scores a beauty midway through the overtime period to pick up the 4-3 win.

Other Admirable Mentions (listed in order of appearance): 10/20/15 @ Iowa… 11/11/15 vs. Lake Erie… 11/24/15 vs. San Antonio… 12/21/15 @ Rockford… 1/30/16 vs. Grand Rapids… 2/5/16 @ Bakersfield… 3/3/16 @ Lake Erie… 3/11/16 vs. Iowa… 4/9/16 @ Charlotte…

As far as the last of “Best Of” goes there is still the Best of Chatterbox as well as the Admirals Roundtable’s Final Report Card for the 2015-16 Season. Those will be coming up shortly.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Best Goal of the 2015-16 Season

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

(Photo Credit: Stephanie Moebius)

This is the toughest of the tough as far as selections go. The Milwaukee Admirals scored 227 goals in the entirety of the 2015-16 season. There have been some incredible ones too and from various individuals. I will always say that this past year’s Admirals team was a special one. What you’re about to see should put a stamp down on that.

Out of every goal scored this season the one I kept thinking about as the one that raised and set the bar for all goals that came after it was Frédérick Gaudreau‘s incredible Peter Forsberg level one-handed goal scored against John Gibson of the San Diego Gulls on 11/21/15. You get an Assist of the Year level feed from Viktor Arvidsson that zipped clean past Matt Bailey to the tape of Gadureau, who was in stride, and then we were witnessed to the start of Freddy Time. What a goal and really a moment the stands out on what was a truly special season for the undrafted free agent that wound up doing so well he earned an entry level contract with the Nashville Predators.

Unlike previous editions of “Best Of” I simply can’t ignore that there were other goals scored that were too good to simply just lump into the Admirable Mentions list. My competition for this year’s pick came down to the winner against these following goals which I will list in order of how I rated them relative to Gaudreau’s goal: Matt White @ Bakersfield (2/5/16), Vladislav Kamenev vs. Rockford (11/28/15), and Stefan Elliott vs. Grand Rapids (3/29/16). Those were all brilliant and worth mentioning as some of the high-end goals of this past season.

Other Admirable Mentions (listed in order of appearance): Max Reinhart vs. Lake Erie (11/11/15)… Gaudreau vs. Texas (12/6/15)… Kevin Fiala vs. Rockford (12/18/15)… Félix Girard vs. Manitoba (12/19/15)… Jimmy Oligny vs. Manitoba (12/19/15)… Pontus Åberg (12/19/16)… Fiala vs. Grand Rapids (12/29/15)… Fiala vs. Grand Rapids (1/30/16)… Jamie Devane vs. Grand Rapids (1/30/16)… White vs. Charlotte (2/16/16)… Max Görtz vs. Manitoba (2/20/16)… Fiala vs. Charlotte (3/19/16)… Reinhart vs. Grand Rapids (3/29/16)…

Tomorrow in “Best Of” will feature the Best Game of the Admirals 2015-16 Season. Which game did you feel was the most exciting game of this past season?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in Feature | 4 Comments

Best Save of the 2015-16 Season

(Photo Credit: John Saraya)

(Photo Credit: John Saraya)

The goaltending for the Milwaukee Admirals this past season was outstanding. Marek Mazanec put together his best wire-to-wire season of his North American playing career while newcomer Juuse Saros looked and played nothing like a 20-year old newcomer.

When it comes to all the saves that these two made this season there could only be one worth of this distinction. Frankly, I don’t know if I’ve seen a save made by an Admirals goaltender that was better than it too! The Date: 1/22/16. The Location: Cleveland… aka Lake Erie… aka Cleveland where the Monsters play. The Victim of Theft: Nick Moutrey. The Robber: Mazanec.

Alright, first of all it is sad that the Lake Erie Monsters didn’t provide more to that save than they did. The highlight itself occurs at 1:14 in the video highlights and is just the overhead camera at real speed. Blink too fast and you’ll miss all that just happened.

Thankfully, sort of, I used my incredible ability to film that very save from two other angles using *drumroll* my iPhone pointed at my laptop which was streaming AHL Live. Hey, it’s better than nothing. Which would be a down right shame. What Mazanec did on this save was magic: Angle #1 and Angle #2.

Consider the situation. This play was a two-on-none from the bottom right wing. Derek DeBlois was the puck carrier low wing. He skated in quick, sent a pass for Moutrey who was all alone at the top of the crease, and Mazanec made the point blank save. If that wasn’t spectacular enough the initial save was made with the cuff of Mazanec’s glove and sent the puck flying up straight into the air where Mazanec quickly spun-around and made a no-look glove save behind his back as Moutrey skates behind him looking for a possible rebound. It was ridiculous.

Admirable Mentions (listed in order of appearance): Saros (11/11/15)… Saros (11/18/15)… Mazanec (11/27/15)… Mazanec (11/28/15)… Mazanec (12/6/15)… Saros (12/28/15)… Saros (2/21/16)… Saros (2/21/16)… Saros (4/15/16)…

Tomorrow in “Best Of” will feature the Best Goal of the Admirals 2015-16 Season. Out of all the goals scored this season which one was the most spectacular?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Coyotes Approved by AHL for Tucson Move

(Photo Credit: Stefanie Poteet)

(Photo Credit: Stefanie Poteet)

This story has been developing in the background rather quickly and today saw an official announcement. The AHL’s Board of Governors has unanimously granted conditional approval of the transfer of ownership of the Springfield Falcons AHL franchise to the Arizona Coyotes including the relocation efforts from Springfield, Massachusetts to Tucson, Arizona for the 2016-17 season.

Press Release via AHL:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … Convening today in Chicago for its Spring Meeting, the American Hockey League’s Board of Governors unanimously granted conditional approval of the transfer of ownership of the Springfield Falcons AHL franchise to the National Hockey League’s Arizona Coyotes, as well as the relocation of that franchise from Springfield, Mass., to Tucson, Ariz., beginning with the 2016-17 season.

Should all conditions of the transaction be met, the Coyotes’ AHL franchise will begin play this fall at the Tucson Convention Center Arena.

The Board of Governors is also currently reviewing an application for the transfer of ownership and relocation of the Portland Pirates AHL franchise from Portland, Maine, to Springfield, Mass., for 2016-17. It is expected the Board will reconvene to vote on that request within two weeks.

Founded in 1936 and now with franchises in 30 cities across North America, the American Hockey League serves as the top development league for the players, coaches, managers, executives and broadcasters of all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and for the 15th year in a row, more than 6 million fans have attended AHL games in 2015-16.

This likely sets the stage for another one of those lovely AHL realignment efforts with a new team joining the Western Conference’s Pacific Division. If I had to hazard a guess, considering the Springfield Falcons were an Eastern Conference team, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to finally kick the Charlotte Checkers out of the Western Conference and make the two AHL teams swap conferences.

As always, the AHL is an ever changing landscape so this probably isn’t going to be the last bit of news regarding teams moving around. This especially is becoming more and more true with many NHL teams wanting their AHL affiliates closer to home. Considering the Milwaukee Admirals and Nashville Predators have been paired at the hip since the Predators franchise came into existence it makes you wonder if that shift in business practices would ever see a change closer to Nashville. Could the Predators swap out the Admirals as the AHL affiliate for say the current ECHL affiliate the Cincinnati Cyclones down the road? The term “The Road To Nashville Goes Through Milwaukee” is spoken quite a lot from everyone topside in Nashville. I have to believe the long standing bond between the two is pretty safe… for now.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in News | 2 Comments

Best Hit of the 2015-16 Season

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

BASS SMASH. (Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

Something that I was excited about coming into the 2015-16 season was that the Milwaukee Admirals were getting bigger boomers into the mix. Yes, the likes of a Mike Liambas, Rich Clune, or Triston Grant are fun and all but, as a group, more size was needed. Enter this season where the Admirals outfitted guys like Cody Bass, Jamie Devane, and Adam Payerl to grind the opposition up along the boards… and occasionally through the glass.

I’ve had the chance to see some pretty flashy goals watching the Admirals. There have been a few great fights, too. But I don’t remember a time where I froze up on press row more than when I realized that Bass checked Zach Palmquist through the glass. It wasn’t that the glass shattered. Bass effectively hydraulic pressed Palmquist into the glass and punched him through it. That panel exploded and left a Palmquist sized hole in it. These were the remains of that panel. RIP Panel.

Admirable Mentions (listed in order of appearance): Taylor Aronson hip checks Dennis Rasmussen (11/20/15)… Aronson stands up Radek Faksa in open ice (12/6/15)… Jimmy Oligny polishes off Eriah Hayes (12/15/15)…

Tomorrow in “Best Of” will feature the Best Save of the Admirals 2015-16 Season. What is your pick for the best save of the Admirals season and who made it: Juuse Saros or Marek Mazanec?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in Feature | 1 Comment

Best Fight of the 2015-16 Season

(Photo Credit: Jamie Wahl)

(Photo Credit: Jamie Wahl)

The Milwaukee Admirals season is over which means the start of end-season material here at Admirals Roundtable. This week will be “Best Of” Week which will cover: Best Fight, Best Hit, Best Save, Best Goal, and Best Game. As always, I encourage everyone time chime in and get their say or recommendations in via the comment section. Considering the fight pool this season was pretty cut and dry. I’ll take this first one head on.

There wasn’t a more jaw dropping fight this season than the moment Jamie Devane knocked out Daniel Maggio. It may not have been the fight itself that made it the top scrap of the season as much as the uppercut finish. There haven’t been many legit KO’s that I can remember in recent Admirals history. Devane provided one that will be hard to forget.

Before going anywhere else, because it is worth talking about, Maggio was clearly hurt from this fight. He was knocked out cold, staggered back, and needed assistance to get off the ice. He would miss the next five-games for the San Antonio Rampage but did carry on with the rest of the season. Actually, he wound up taking eight more fighting majors by the end of the season. So, all is well in Maggio-land.

Admirable Mentions (listed in order of appearance): Cody Bass vs. Brett Gallant (11/6/15)… Devane vs. Oleg Yevenko (11/6/15)… Trevor Murphy vs. Colin Smith (1/16/16)… Jimmy Oligny vs. Ryan Craig (1/22/16)… Devane vs. Nick Petrecki (2/27/16)… Bass vs. Gallant (3/3/16)… Bass vs. Emerson Clark (3/5/16)… Bass vs. Kurtis Gabriel (3/11/16)… Vladislav Kamenev vs. Danny Kristo (3/20/16)…

Tomorrow in “Best Of” will feature the Best Hit of the Admirals 2015-16 Season. What is your pick for the best hit of the Admirals season?

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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Pontus Åberg; Battle Ready

(Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua)

(Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua)

One of the real bright spots for last night’s Nashville Predators viewing party at Major Goolsby’s was the pleasantly surprising developments that took place in pre-game warm ups. Pontus Åberg was on the ice. Mike Ribeiro wasn’t. That wasn’t anything too special right away considering Åberg looked set to make his NHL debut in Game 1 against the San Jose Sharks only to be healthy scratched right at game-time. This time it was different. Ribeiro stayed a scratch. And the Predators second round draft pick from the 2012 NHL Draft, 22-year old Swede Åberg, was announced to the lineup for his NHL Debut.

As much of a shock as it might feel for some in Nashville, probably more so for the casual fans tuning in for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it shouldn’t be. To make your pro debut in a playoff scenario where the team has their back up against the wall in a 2-0 series hole speaks volumes that far exceed the player himself. The foundation of the Predators is build upon by successful scouting, drafting, and developing. When you pause to look around the people Åberg suited up with it all makes sense. The profile of the game is bigger. The moment of making your NHL debut is huge. But, at the end of the day, Åberg found himself in a lineup with four players that he suited up with in Milwaukee last season or even this season. It just becomes the same old game at that point.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The confidence of the Predators coaching staff to make a lineup change of a veteran in Ribeiro for an NHL debutant in Åberg says an awful lot about their trust in the developmental process. Åberg has playoff experience but, when you look back on his professional or senior level playing career, the bulk of that has come in his native Sweden. Including last night’s 4-1 Predators win in which he debuted Åberg has played in a total of 30 playoff games since the 2011-12 season: 13 games with Djurgårdens IF (SHL and Allsvenskan), 13 games with Färjestad BK, 3 games with the Milwaukee Admirals (AHL), and 1 game with the Nashville Predators (NHL). Prior to last night’s game his only North American playoff playing experience came in the recent weeks leading up to his debut when he and his Admirals teammates were swept in the first round of the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs by the Grand Rapids Griffins. So, if you were thinking the decision of Åberg over Ribeiro was a matter of big game experience – you would be wrong. It was less to do about that and far more to do about the player that Åberg has become in the space of his first two full-seasons of North American hockey playing in the AHL with the Admirals.

You would be hard pressed to make a bigger introduction to a new team, new fan base, or -simply- new country better than the way that Åberg did last season. In the first period of his North American playing career he scored a spectacular solo goal. He slashed through several members of the Charlotte Checkers before dusting off a goalie who almost single-handedly eliminated the Admirals in the first round of the playoffs the year prior – Drew MacIntyre. You could watch that goal over and over again and still make the same face that Brendan Leipsic is making as he goes to celebrate with Åberg in the corner. It was brilliant.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

It would have been fantastic if the debut season in North America could have shined that bright every night for Åberg and the Admirals in the 2014-15 season. It would have – but life at the developmental ranks isn’t without its immense learning curves and struggles. Åberg was off to a great start in his first season as a member of the Admirals. He scored 19 points (13 goals, 6 assists) in his first 27 games. He then proceeded to slow way down at the turn of the calendar to only muster up 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists) from his last 42 games of the season. The Admirals weren’t all that sharp around him either, mind you, as the team missed out on the Calder Cup Playoffs that season for the first time since the Admirals inaugural season in the AHL – a streak that spanned twelve consecutive playoff appearances – gone. The Admirals finished in last place of the Midwest Division with a record of 33-28-8-7 (81 points, 0.533 points percentage).

If there was any saving grace to the Admirals final few games of the 2014-15 season it was when head coach Dean Evason really started to challenge players to compete more at the finish line. Åberg rose to the challenge as he notched 4 assists in the Admirals last 4 games of the season including ripped 17 shots on goal in the final month. The precision of his shot wasn’t quite there, 1 goal from his final 31 games, but the fire from earlier in the season was reignited. That attitude carried into the off-season and followed into the 2015-16 season.

There could have been some early concerns, both on Åberg’s part as well as those watching him, that he again wasn’t quite finding the back of the net to start this season. October came and went without a goal to stretch his goalless drought in the AHL to 14 games. The first game of November comes and, with a primary assist from fellow Swede Max Görtz, that goal finally came. Now would be the fun opportunity to cheat time a bit and jump to the end of the regular season to cite that Åberg ended up being the Admirals top goal scorer with 25 goals from 74 games.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

The goal scoring feat for Åberg was great but that alone isn’t something that sees a player elevated to debut in the middle of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The precision element to his game this season was a very real element to his improvement. In 2014-15, he scored 16 goals from 158 shots on goal. In 2015-16, he scored 25 goals from 159 shots on goal. The precision spills across from shooting to other avenues of his game. His passing was smarter. His overall defense and work on the back-check was more attentive and provided a more detailed touch to his already talented offensive skill set. By the end of the season he was being double-shifted by Evason, à la Taylor Beck, and was eating up the minutes while providing the Admirals an absolute maximum on offense. In the Admirals last 21 games of the regular season Åberg scored 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) while being held without a point in only 5 games. He was becoming Mr. Everything and was the hottest Admirals forward entering the playoffs.

I already explained at length why the Admirals playoffs were what they were. It’s unfortunate that the Admirals 2015-16 season ended as quickly as it did. The team went from the bottom of the division to winning a division title for the first time in five-seasons and were the second best team in the Western Conference entering the playoffs. If you wanted to find a specific player that summed up the Admirals headache inducing match-up against the Griffins it would be Åberg. He had 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) in 10 games against the Griffins this season which includes them shutting him out offensively in the three-game playoff series. That doesn’t make Åberg bad. That doesn’t mean Åberg cooled off. That’s just another feather in the cap of a Griffins team that is supremely polished.

As Åberg arrived to join the Predators for the second round playoff series against the Sharks it was his first career NHL recall. There are now several “Black Aces” up with the Predators and for nearly all of them this time isn’t exactly about getting on the ice anywhere near as much as it is simply taking in the environment and experience. At the AHL level, you see so many college and junior playing kids turn up at season’s end to get that taste of what life at the pro level is about. That’s really what being a Black Ace is more than anything. It’s a look past that glass ceiling that so many players are knocking on repeatedly to see if anyone is still paying attention. Nashville pays attention and their developmental process screams it. All you need to do is look over their roster and count down all the players that are there that played in Milwaukee. Åberg did more than take in the environment last night. He participated in it. That shouldn’t be surprising. Look at that Predators team and look at those Admirals teams of the past. It truly is a play together, learn together, win together mentality. Åberg is just the latest example of that.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

Posted in Feature, News | 4 Comments

The Black Aces Descend Upon Nashville

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

There have already been two members of the Milwaukee Admirals who joined the Nashville Predators during their second round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks. Both Pontus Åberg and Marek Mazanec were summoned ahead of that series and were with the Predators in San Jose in the first two games against the Sharks.

Now that the series is moving to Predators HQ in Nashville a lot more names have officially surfaced as joining the Predators playoff cause: Kevin Fiala, Vladislav KamenevFrédérick Gaudreau, Stefan Elliott, and Corey Potter.

Fiala was the Admirals leading scorer this past season. He scored 50 points (18 goals, 32 assists) in 66 games. He played 5 games for the Predators this season and scored his first career NHL goal on 1/14/16 on the road against the Winnipeg Jets.

This past season was Kamenev’s first full campaign in North America. He spent the entirety of the 2015-16 season playing center and produced 37 15 22 in 57 games which puts him at the third highest points per game ratio of Admirals who played more than 50 games this season. He missed time due to his participation in the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championships where he was the captain of Team Russia and earned silver while producing 6 points (5 goals, 1 assist) in 7 games.

Gaudreau was the true feel good story of this past season for the Admirals. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Admirals back in 2014-15 where he split time between the AHL and ECHL totaling a combined 18 points (9 goals, 9 assists) from 57 games between the Admirals and the Cincinnati Cyclones. This season Gaudreau performed so well that the Predators couldn’t ignore his abilities and signed him to a two-year entry level contract. Gaudreau scored 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) in 75 games and represented the Admirals in the inaugural AHL All-Star Challenge where he won the championship game with the Central Division All-Stars.

Elliott and Potter were part of the Admirals major defensive shake-up at the middle stages of the season which also included Patrick Mullen being brought on-board. The three brought experience as well as right-handed shots from the back end for the Admirals that really boosted the team down the stretch as the team went 25-10-1-2 from their debut on 1/15/16 to the end of the regular season.

Be sure to keep updated with Admirals Roundtable through social media platform of your choice: follow along Twitter, like us on Facebook, get photo updates on Instagram, and listen along on SoundCloud.

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The 2015-16 Milwaukee Admirals Season in Pictures

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

While going over the “Thank You” column that I wrote the night of the Milwaukee Admirals playoff exit you probably thought I forgot some people: the photographers. Well, that’s just simply not true because this post is entirely a massive thank you to the photographers who have once again captured so many incredible moments this season.

The main man that heads up photography for the Admirals is Scott Paulus. When he’s not with the Admirals he is more than likely helping out the Milwaukee Brewers as pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. This opens up the window for people such as Stephanie Moebius, Jeff Hanisch, and Sara Stathas to showcase their great eye around the rink.

Someone else that deserves an Admirable mention is Jamie Wahl whose photography often ends up being used by your’s truly to craft the various memes or reaction faces that you see used on Admirals Roundtable’s social media. Her work was even brought up by Jimmy Oligny during his Fifteen interview in regards to this photo of Taylor Aronson.

There are then several great photographers that have made contributions this season in the Admirals season either from the road or abroad. Ones who I certainly feel are name drop worth include: Christina Shapiro (Texas Stars), Todd Reicher and Greg Hamil (Rockford IceHogs), Mark Newman (Grand Rapids Griffins), Ross Dettman (Chicago Wolves), Reese Strickland and Ted Sandeen (Iowa Wild), Andre Ringuette and Sarah Fuqua (2016 IIHF World Juniors), John Saraya (Lake Erie Monsters), and Gregg Forwerck (Charlotte Checkers).

In order of how they appeared. Let’s look back on the Milwaukee Admirals 2015-16 season in photos.

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