Tag: Lane Lambert

Beyond the Bradley Center: Turning Points and Paul Fenton talk

2012-2013 Milwaukee Admirals: 49 G.P., 23-20-3-3–52 pts., 128 goals scored, 142 goals allowed, 11th place in the Western Conference (3rd Midwest Division). Leading scorer: Taylor Beck (10 goals, 27 assists, 30 points). Best Recent Win: Feb. 17, 3-1 vs. Abbotsford. Worst Recent Loss: Feb. 16, Charlotte 8 at Milwaukee 2.

A handful of times during an AHL season, most teams get to enjoy 3-game-in-3-nights stretches where all three games are at home. For coaching staffs and players, these dates get circled on the calender as possible big weekends, or at least a chance to pick up some much needed points. This past weekend Milwaukee got through just fine, picking up a sliver of ground with four out of six points.

However, this weekend meant a whole lot more. On Friday Milwaukee staged a miracle comeback to steal a game away from San Antonio. Then on Saturday night in front of a large, and unlikely to leave early crowd, the Admirals posted a stinker losing 8-2 to Charlotte in a game that actually could have been much worse. Yet, Milwaukee turned things around one day later by beating Abbotsford 3-1, taking two big points from a team that also got pounded the previous night.

In hind sight games like these ones have the chance to stand out as “turning points.” The question is will we look back at this weekend and think this was where Milwaukee turned around the ship, or will we look back and think this is where it sunk?

In other news, ESPN.com and TSN reporter Pierre LeBrun put a nice plug in for Predators Assistant/Milwaukee Admirals General Manager Paul Fenton in a post about possible future NHL GMs on Friday:

4. Paul Fenton, Nashville Predators: A day-oner with the Preds’ franchise, Fenton was director of player personnel for the first eight years before being elevated to assistant GM in June 2006. Nashville GM David Poile has told me several times over the past few years that he believes Fenton has what it takes to be a good GM, and I wholeheartedly concur. Let’s face it: Fenton has been front and center in the organization’s drafting and developing of players, and if there’s a team that relies heavily on developing its own talent, it’s the Predators, who haven’t had the luxury to spend like the big boys. They do things the right way and they don’t rush talent. Fenton, 53, clearly has an eye for identifying and developing talent, and he’d make a fine GM.

I completely agree with this assessment and am actually surprised that his name hasn’t been mentioned more often for openings (of course unlike coaches, these openings don’t come around quite as often). While I am busy making plugs for team personnel, I think current Nashville assistant coach Lane Lambert is fully deserving of an NHL head coaching job, and I expect him to find one in the not-so-far future.

So Roundtable . . . A couple months down the road, will we look back at this weekend as a turning point? What are your feelings about Paul Fenton? Does he deserve a head G.M. gig in the NHL?

Admirals All-Star Snubs

At the All-Star break, Milwaukee sits in the top spot in the AHL’s Western Conference with 60 points in 47 games played.  (I do realize that San Antonio and Houston each have 60 points as well, but they’ve played 49 and 51 games respectively).

Yet the Admirals have just two players competing in the AHL All-Star festivities, forward Linus Klasen and goaltender Mark Dekanich.  I don’t want to take anything away from those two players earning such honors, but isn’t it strange that Milwaukee didn’t send one single defenseman to Hershey, Pennsylvania?

So what if the Admirals have allowed just 116 goals, best in the West Division and even lower than super stingy and boring Peoria at 122 (Got to love how much that 8-1 win Friday paid off in the AHL stat book).

So what if Jonathon Blum is 11th in the AHL in scoring for defensemen with 28 points?  (Snub)

So what if recently red hot Aaron Johnson has seven goals and a 225-game NHL pedigree?  (Snub)

So what if Roman Josi is one of the best young defenseman in the AHL, even though he missed seven games with an injury?  (Snub)

So what if Teemu Laakso has 16 points, is a plus 11 and spent significant time up with Nashville? (Snub)

Pretty ridiculous in my humble opinion.  What does coach Lane Lambert think?

“There are only so many players that can go off a team,” Lambert said.  “I do think there were some other guys that were deserving to go as well, but that’s the way it goes.”

Clearly, Lambert decided to take the high road.

My hope is that the Roundtable won’t.

Which Admirals players do think deserve to be lacing up their skates in Hershey this evening?

Admirals Road Trip Lessons

During the life of a hockey season, there tend to be a few turning points, positive and negative that have an effect on the course of a whole campaign.  During the Admirals 10-game November road swing, a couple of major momentum shifts occurred.

Milwaukee started off the trip hot, then went ice cold in the middle, but finished the trip strong.   In the process, the Admirals became a better team now than they were prior to leaving Milwaukee for an extended period of time.

So what do the players and coaches think were the lessons from the trip?

Coach Lane Lambert:

“I think the biggest quality we took from the trip was our ability to learn from adversity, and for us to overcome and come together as a group.  During the middle the trip we went through a bit of a tough patch, but I thought our leadership really showed through.  It was a learning experience for us to go through that adversity, but adversity can make you stronger if you go about it in the right way.  I think we did a good job of (dealing) with it.”

(Now Nashville) goaltender Mark Dekanich:

“Anytime your on the road for such a long period of time like that it brings guys together.  I think it’s a good experience especially for the younger guys, who are playing in their first year as a professional, to get to see how the veterans handle themselves on the road and to see what we need to do to be successful.  There was a lot of ups and downs during the trip, but I think we did a fairly good job of managing that.  We were 5-3-2 on that than 10 game swing, which is not too bad.”

Defenseman Scott Ford:

“I think anytime you go on the road for such a long period of time, it gives your team a chance to jell together and kind of learn a little bit about each other.  You spend a lot of time together, eat meals together and get to know each other more on a personal level, so that can help you jell as a team.  I think we saw that with this trip.”

Grading the Admirals Through the First Quarter of the Season

Offense (B-): Clearly, coach Lane Lambert has some work to do with Milwaukee in making the Admirals a more dangerous offensive hockey team.  Other than Linus Klasen and a few other players, Milwaukee isn’t blessed with an abundance of firepower.  Therefore the offense has to come by way of committee effort–a Nashville trademark.  Prior to the road trip, the Admirals got goals from players on their top three lines, but that dried up some in Texas and Oklahoma.  Milwaukee averages 2.55 goals per game, which is not going to cut it long term.

Defense (B+): This might have been the hardest grade for me to judge. 90% of time Milwaukee has really impressed me in their own end, preventing their opponent from getting quality scoring chances against.  Allowing just 2.36 goals against per game is a testament to the Admirals efforts in the defensive zone.  However, lapses at bad times have proved punishing for Milwaukee.

Goaltending (A-): If this only had to do with the performance of Mark Dekanich, I would state it as an A or A+, but No. 2 slot has hardly been reliable so far for Milwaukee.  It’s nice to see Jeremy Smith picking up some much needed wins for the Admirals, but Milwaukee really needs Chet Pickard to elevate his game to the higher level he seems more than capable of reaching, but for some reason hasn’t found yet.

Special Teams (C-): Carrying a power play ranked 20th in the AHL at 15.8% and penalty kill ranked 18th working at an 82.1% efficiency just isn’t going to cut it long term.  The power play in particular went cold as the Admirals headed south on the road.  For a team that struggles at times to score goals, special teams could prove to be a decisive weapon for Milwaukee competing against more offensively gifted clubs.

Final Grade (A-): Milwaukee has far exceeded my expectations through the first quarter of the season, which is a credit to Lambert efforts and the efforts of the team as a whole.  The Admirals were a young and unproven club to start the year, but prior the extended road trip the club was starting to form solid identity as a tough team to play against.  But don’t mistake young and unproven for a lack of talent.  There is plenty of talent in Milwaukee to build a winning hockey club, and so far Lambert has the Admirals heading in the right direction toward to a berth in the AHL playoffs.

So Roundtable, What are your grades for the Admirals so far?

Five Things I’m Thankful For

1) The Admirals Team Speed.  During my preseason chats, a one word description from defenseman Scott Ford on his early impressions of Milwaukee really stood out.  The 2010-2011 Admirals would be–Dynamic.  It was a surprising thought, but watching Milwaukee play that is exactly the description I have for team so far.  The youthful Admirals play an up tempo, high speed game that is a joy to watch when it is all on the same page.  Sure Milwaukee suffered through plenty of growing pains in the early going, but when everything is clicking, the Admirals pack a high octane punch.

2) Mark Dekanich’s Goaltending.  There has something in Mark Dekanich’s eye this season, a look of determination that says the puck just isn’t getting by him.  At 24-years old the maturing goaltender is off to a fantastic start, allowing just 21 goals against in his first 13 games of action.  Even more impressive is the work load Dekanich has taken on.  Playing nearly every night in Milwaukee, Dekanich has been between the pipes in all but one of his team’s wins.  If Dekanich continues at numbers in the ballpark of his current pace, expect interested calls from NHL teams to start raining in Milwaukee’s ears.

3) The Wow Factor of Linus Klasen. On opening night it didn’t take long for me take notice of Linus Klasen on the ice—about one shift.  From that point, Klasen has been joy to watch and follow.  Every time the puck is on his stick, it seems like some electric is about to happen.  Perhaps Klasen in Swedish means instant offense, because that is exactly what the 24-year old has provided for Milwaukee this season.

4) The Candor and Color of Coach Lane Lambert.  If there is one person qualified to be annoyed with me this season, it would have to be Lane Lambert.  But credit to the Admirals coach, he has put up with my questions no matter what mood he is in, including the days where Milwaukee’s practices were driving him crazy.  All kidding aside, I really appreciate how generous Lambert and all of the Admirals players have been with their time and their comments.

5) Admirals Fans. Through the first quarter of the season, Milwaukee’s faithful supporters have been a pleasure to interact with.  I love seeing your comments, your thoughts and your critical assessments.  It makes churning out my weekly posts that much easier.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Round Table faithful.

So Roundtable, Regarding the Milwaukee Admirals, what are you most thankful for?

Linus Klasen Looking to Reignite His Offense Against Lake Erie

Despite scoring eight goals in his first 11 games with Milwaukee, Admirals forward Linus Klasen is hardly content with his performance so far.

“Of course I am happy with my production so far, but I am never satisfied,” Klasen said.  “I am going to keep working every day to try to keep producing even more.   If you get satisfied, that’s when it can turn around on you really fast.”

The gifted Swede, who is scoreless in his last two games, hopes to reignite his offense this weekend against Lake Erie, a team that is missing its top goaltender.  Longtime NHL veteran John Grahame is currently up with the Colorado Avalanche with starter Craig Anderson injured for an indefinite period of time.

Speaking of the Monsters, this weekend Milwaukee will see a team that has a lot of similarities to themselves.  Lake Erie is a young and dynamic squad that is growing in confidence with every game.

“Grand Rapids and Lake Erie are both very good teams and fast teams, so we will be challenged (this week),” Milwaukee coach Lane Lambert said.

Several names on the Monsters should be familiar to Wisconsin hockey fans.  Lake Erie’s fifth leading scorer is former Badgers forward Matthew Ford.  At least three other Monsters played for the University of Minnesota, including R. J. Anderson, Ryan Stoa and Mike Carman.

How Milwaukee Can Beat Chicago

When the puck drops Sunday afternoon at the Bradley Center, Milwaukee will try to do something that they haven’t all season—beat Chicago.

In the three prior meetings with the Wolves, the Admirals have found three different ways to drop games.  It started with a 3-2 loss in overtime at home on October 15, then a 3-2 shootout defeat the next night in Chicago, and finally falling 4-3 in a regulation decision on October 24 at Allstate Arena.

For Milwaukee coach Lane Lambert, the first step toward knocking off Chicago starts with better netminding.

“We have to get good goaltending,” Lambert said. “I feel like we should have won two out of the three games against the Wolves, but we didn’t get saves when we needed them.”

Lambert also believes that a consistent effort against Chicago will go a long way toward getting that first win against last year’s West Division champs.

“We have to string a full 60 minutes together against them,” Lambert said.  “In the past we’ve had lulls and it hurt us on the scoreboard.”

Newly acquired Steve Begin, who played his first game with the Admirals against Chicago agrees with Lambert, but also believes Milwaukee needs to pay more attention to the little things.

“We made a lot of mistakes in that game,” Begin said.  “But we can beat them if we skate for 60 minutes, have good communication on the ice and take care of the details.”

November’s Only Home Stand Looms Large for Milwaukee

Brace yourself Admirals fans:  Milwaukee’s schedule is about to take another nasty turn.

In the month of November the Admirals have just three measly home games and none past this Sunday’s game meeting with Chicago.  Therefore this week’s matchups—games against Rockford on Wednesday, Peoria on Friday, and the team’s fourth meeting of season with the Wolves on Sunday—represent a vital stretch for Milwaukee to gain significant points in the AHL standings.

“We would really like to get the month off on the right foot considering we’re going on the road for the next ten games,” Admirals coach Lane Lambert said.  “That’s the general objective for these next three games—for us to have a strong start.”

The other key to this week’s contests is that they are West Division games played against Milwaukee three closest geographic rivals.  Currently, the Admirals sit in sixth place in the West, chasing both Chicago and Peoria.  Milwaukee could move up the ladder by claiming four or more points on the week.

Obviously, the first days of November is far too early in the season to start worrying about Milwaukee’s playoff positioning.  But a couple of big home wins this week would make life a lot less stressful on Lambert’s crew as the Admirals head south for the latter half of the month.

So, Roundtable:  How many points do you think Milwaukee will get out of these next three games?  Would anything less than four be considered a disappointment?  Why?

Milwaukee Journeys to Abbotsford to Face a Familiar Foe

There is one team in the AHL not like the others—the Abbotsford Heat.

Located just over an hour’s drive east of Vancouver, British Colombia, Abbotsford is most geographically isolated city in the AHL.  The nearest league city to the Heat is Winnipeg, Manitoba, which is located three Canadian provinces further east, or over a day’s drive by bus.  (Check out the Map of all the AHL team locations here)

Therefore when teams travel to Abbotsford, it is often for a two-game stint in order to reduce travel expenses.  This weekend Milwaukee has unenviable task of making the western trek.

But what makes this year’s trip even more peculiar is that it represents the final meetings between Milwaukee and Abbotsford this season.

“There’s parts of our schedule I don’t like, and parts I like, and it’s going to be that way every year,” Admirals coach Lane Lambert said.  “It’s bizarre that we play the same team four times in the first month of the season and then we don’t see them again.”

So far the Admirals have burned the Heat, winning both of their home games by a combined 9-3 count. Milwaukee has counted for half of Abbotsford’s losses so far this season.

“Obviously we’ll be very familiar with each other by the time the final buzzer goes next Saturday,” Lambert said.

Speaking of familiar, one player on the Heat Admirals fans should recognize is former Wisconsin Badgers defenseman Joe Piskula.

After playing five games in the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings in 2006-2007, Piskula’s career stagnated with the Manchester Monarchs.  The Antigo, Wisconsin native is hoping a change of scenery to the Canadian Northwest may reinvigorate his once promising career.

So what do think Roundtable?  Should the AHL balance the schedule out more?  Or does the league’s special case of Abbotsford make the scheduling quirk ok?

Managing Three Games in Three Nights

One of the few drawbacks of playing hockey in the AHL is the occurrence of three game stretches played in three nights.  As marquee draw in many of the league’s markets, maximizing the amount of weekend dates is a must.

How a coach like Milwaukee’s Lane Lambert handles the three in three can make or break a season.

“In the games we as coaches have to manage our players and manage our ice times a little bit more,” Lambert said.  “We also have to look at potentially putting other players into our lineup and switching it up a little bit over the course of the weekend.”

October 23-25 marks the first of eight of those such occasions for Milwaukee on the schedule, with a road game at Grand Rapids, home game against Abbotsford and a road game at Chicago.  Managing goaltenders properly is perhaps the most difficult variable Lambert has to deal with during the long weekend.

“We will play both goaltenders,” Lambert said.  “As far as how the rotation goes I haven’t decided yet, but (Mark) Dekanich will start in Grand Rapids and we will go from there.”

As stressful as a three in three can be for a coach, it can be exhausting for a player.  College teams only play a long weekend during the conference playoffs in a best two out of three situation.

Therefore it will be a big adjustment for rookies like Blake Geoffrion.

“Three games in three nights is something I have to get used to,” Geoffrion said.  “It requires recovering properly so you can play at your best each night.”

So Roundtable, I ask you, what do you think Milwaukee should do to maximize their chances for success this weekend?  Rotate the goalies or stick with the hot hand?  Change up the lineup every night or stick with what is working?