Tag: Mark Dekanich

Preds Switch Lindback for Dekanich; Blum Recalled

Tuesday, February 22 proved to be a eventful morning in the Music City.

The Nashville Predators made a pair of in house transactions before most team employees had finished their morning coffee, first swapping goaltenders by recalling Mark Dekanich from Milwaukee to replace Anders Lindback, who was sent down to the Admirals.  This will be Lindback’s first assignment to the AHL, while Dekanich will be making his fourth trip up to the NHL this season.

From December 4 through December 17, Lindback was the hottest goaltender in the NHL, winning six of seven starts, including two shutouts, and allowing three or more goals just once.  However the Gavle, Sweden native has went cold of late in his limited action, losing four of his last five decisions, and getting lit up for six goals by the Chicago Blackhawks on January 16.

This will definitely be a conditioning assignment for Lindback, who needs some in-game action to re-find his talents.  He should get plenty of opportunities as the Admirals face a four game in five night stretch starting tonight in Houston.

On the other hand, Dekanich will be looking to expand on his one game of NHL experience and auditioning for a new contract next season.

Meanwhile, Jonathon Blum will be making his first career trip to the National Hockey League, confirming the rumors that were swirling around the internet yesterday.  Blum, who is tied for second in the Admirals in scoring, will try to help out a Nashville blueline that has been hit hard by injuries as of late, including Ryan Suter.  Suter, who logs around 25 minutes of ice time per game (second only to Shea Weber on the Predators), has been declared out for tonight’s game against Columbus.

This is a great opportunity for the 22-year old Blum to show something at the National Hockey League level, but I for one am surprised that Nashville chose him over Aaron Johnson, a player with an extensive NHL resume to his credit.  The Predators are in the midst of a dogfight in the Western Conference for a playoff spot, sitting in fifth with 70 points, but Nashville is just two points ahead of 11th place Chicago.

The AHL race is nearly as tight, with Milwaukee sitting in the top spot in the West Division with 71 points, but the Admirals are just four points in front of sixth place Oklahoma City.

So Roundtable, what is your reaction to these transactions?  Are you excited to see Lindback in the Admirals uniform, and how do you think Blum will fare up in Nashville?

Mark Dekanich Recalled to Nashville

Life got a little more difficult for the Milwaukee Admirals today.  Goaltender Mark Dekanich was called up this morning by the Nashville Predators for his third stint with the club.

As of present time, I am not sure what this all means. but I do know that there are a lot of rumors involving Predators backup goaltender Anders Lindback.  Lindback is a player a lot of teams are interested in (for obvious reasons:  he’s young, big but mobile and has a great record in relief this season), therefore something could be afloat for Nashville, especially with Dekanich joining the Predators as insurance.  At least three teams, including Toronto, Colorado and the New York Islanders are actively shopping for goaltenders.

Around the NHL, it looks like the Tomas Kaberle deal to the Boston Bruins is now complete.  Plus former Wisconsin Badgers goaltender Brian Elliott was traded today to Colorado for almost playoff hero Craig Anderson.

Lots of trade buzz today.  It should be fun to see how it all shakes out.

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?

ECHL to the NHL, Could Pickard be Next?

The American Hockey League, which is celebrating its 75th season, is justifiably proud of it role it plays in grooming players for the NHL.  But the league isn’t the only place where top-level caliber talent goes to develop the skills necessary to play on hockey’s biggest stage.

As of last count the ECHL has churned out 459 alumni who have played in the NHL.  Some of the names who have that have made that jump are pretty impressive, including Tim Thomas, Jaroslav Halak, Jonathan Quick, Tomas Vokoun, Ruslan Fedotenko, Joe Corvo, Rich Pevelry, and two Admirals from 2010-2011, Chris Mueller and Mark Dekanich.

Of the five most recent former-ECHLers who got their NHL shot, three spent time with the Cincinnati Cyclones.  Recently I asked Cyclones coach Jarrod Skalde who are the next players from Cincinnati who could make the move up to the NHL:

Skalde: Right off the top, I would have to say our goaltending.  If you look at Chet Pickard, you see a talented, talented kid.  He’s had some struggles up in Milwaukee, and that’s part of the reason why he is here now.  But he works extremely hard.  He understands where he’s at and what he has to do to get out of here and back up to Milwaukee and hopefully in the future with the Nashville Predators.  Chet’s a pleasure to have down here in Cincinnati.

Another guy is Marc Cheverie with the Florida Panthers organization that is in the same boat.  He is a top prospect that is in the ECHL right now trying to figure out his game.  They are two guys that complement each other very well and share the same vision and same focus of wanting to get up to the National Hockey League.

There you have it, Pickard and Cheverie.  With the Florida Panthers looking to unload Vokoun at some point, Cheverie looks like he might have the easier road of moving up.

(For more on Cincinnati’s role in the Nashville Predators/Milwaukee Admirals organization, check out my feature story here)

So Roundtable, Is there a player on Cincinnati who could eventually play in the NHL?  Is there an alumnus of the ECHL on Milwaukee who could make the jump?

Taking a Look at Milwaukee Alums who are playing/have played with the Nashville Predators in 2010-2011

With Nick Spaling finally getting over the hump and scoring his first NHL goal, I thought it would be worth taking a look at the progress of some of the Admirals who have played with Nashville so far this season, but also who have spent time in Milwaukee.

Spaling hasn’t had much puck luck in the NHL, as it took 50 games to get over the hump against the New York Islanders.  On a 5-on-3 power play Spaling setup on the right side of the net.  A couple of nice passes later and Spaling had himself a gaping net.

“It was a pretty nice play and they set me up pretty good there,” Spaling said.  “It was a wide open and I just had to put it in.  I was pretty lucky to get that one.”

(Check out the rest of his post game conversation here)

It is now going on two weeks and Mark Dekanich has yet to get a start with Nashville during his second stint with the club in 2010-2011.  The problem has been the unbelievable play of goaltender Anders Lindback.   Lindback has two shut outs in a row, and those starts weren’t even his best so far.  Last Wednesday Lindback shut down Detroit for a 3-2 Nashville win, making 15 saves in a third period dominated by the Red Wings.

Dekanich looks likely to get in goal for his first NHL game sometime this week as Nashville faces three games in four nights starting tonight at home against San Jose.

Fellow Scandinavians, Teemu Laakso and Linus Klasen, have each played in one game a piece with the Predators and both have yet to record a goal.

Of the other players who skated with Milwaukee in 2009-2010 and are currently with Nashville, Cal O’Reilly has six goals and 18 points, Colin Wilson has six goals and 12 points, Cody Franson is off to a great start with 4 goals so far and Alexander Sulzer has yet to score in 12 games of NHL action.

Stay tuned later this week for my feature on the relationship between Nashville and Milwaukee in the Predators organization, and in January for my piece on the success of Milwaukee developing NHL talent.

Comparing College Hockey to the Pros

The first few years that college hockey players play professionally have a tendency to be either feast or famine.  Some players like Jonathan Toews, Joe Pavelski, Zach Parise, Blake Wheeler and Dany Heatley adjust their games quickly to pro level, while others like Kyle Turris, Kevin Porter, Ryan Duncan and T. J. Hensick struggle adapting their games to the faster professional pace.

Current Nashville Predators goaltender Mark Dekanich is a player that has had lot of success in his young professional career.  Dekanich’s success came after he excelled playing four years of Division 1 college hockey at Colgate University.  The 2005-2006 season was the Raiders’ best of the past decade, as Dekanich, then a sophomore, backstopped Colgate to ECAC regular season championship.

Recently Dekanich chatted with me about the differences between playing college hockey and professional hockey:

Which is more difficult, playing college hockey or professional hockey?

Dekanich: “In college we had a lot more to do.  We practiced everyday just like we do now, but after practiced we had to go home and read for class, write papers, prepare for tests and do other things like that.  It is actually less work as a professional.  When were done at the rink, we’re done for the day, so after that I have to go home and try find something for myself to do to pass the rest of the day away.”

What are some some of things you learned from your college experience that paid off during your time as a professional?

Dekanich: “There were a lot of things I had to learn like living on my own.  That helped prepare me for things like cooking for myself now that I play pro.”

To read more from my interview with Dekanich, check out my feature on the netminder on MilwaukeeAdmirals.com.

So Roundtable, this year’s Admirals feature several ex-college players, such as Blake Geoffrion, Ryan Flynn, Chris Mueller, Scott Ford, Grant Lewis, Mike Barlett, Mark Van Guilder and Ryan Thang.
Which players have adjusted their games the best to the professional level, which are still a work in progress, and which are too early to tell?

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?

Three Things Milwaukee is Doing Well, Three Things the Admirals Need to Work on.

Three things Milwaukee is doing well:

1)  The play of Mark Dekanich.

Off to a blazing start, goaltender Mark Dekanich is clearly the MVP of the Admirals in the early going this season.  In 11 games of action, Dekanich has allowed just 16 goals, while racking up eight wins against just two losses.  His statistics are staggering, headlined by a goals against average of 1.48 and a save percentage of 94.5, which are far and away the best in the AHL.  The only issue between the pipes that Milwaukee has faced so far is that Dekanich can’t play every night.

2) Turning defense into offense.

Prior to season Milwaukee’s strength appeared to be its defense.  Through the first 15 games this season the Admirals blueline has been stout, limiting quality scoring chances against.  But the Admirals defense is also keying an impressive transition game.  Jonathon Blum, Roman Josi, and Teemu Laakso represent three of the best two-way defenders in the AHL, and all three are off to great starts.

3) Balanced Scoring.

Sporting a balanced offensive attack is pivotal to success in hockey, especially at the AHL level.  Teams that feature only one scoring line usually go haywire in the middle of the season when NHL teams are forced to make significant injury call ups.   So far Milwaukee has found a nice balance on the score sheet, getting offensive contributions from each of its first three lines.  Linus Klasen remains the focal point with eight goals and 14 points, but Milwaukee features 12 players with five points or more through the first 15 games of the season, making the Admirals a tough team to matchup against.

Three things the Admirals need to work on:

1) Improve special teams.

Through 15 games, Milwaukee stands tied for fifth overall in league points, sporting an impressive 9-3-3 record.  But the special teams have lagged behind during the Admirals fast start.  Milwaukee owns a decent power play, ranked 14th and clicking at a 17.6% clip.  But strangely the penalty kill has lagged behind.  The Admirals rank just 17th overall, successful at killing penalties 82% of the time.  In order to remain among the league’s elite teams, Milwaukee must improve on its special teams play.

2) Find a solid No. 2 in net.

It seems inevitable that Mark Dekanich will get a well-deserved NHL shot, whether with Nashville or via a transaction to another team.  But even if Dekanich stays in the AHL all season, Milwaukee still faces seven more occasions of three games in three nights, including two on the upcoming Texas swing.  With a win in his first start this season with Milwaukee, maybe Jeremy Smith can be the solution to the Admirals backup goaltender quagmire.

3) Get Blake Geoffrion on the scoreboard.

No player in Milwaukee faces a microscope quite like Blake Geoffrion, who got off to a slow start.  But Geoffrion showed signs of figuring things out prior to getting knocked out of Milwaukee’s 4-1 win against Chicago on November 7 (Geoffrion hasn’t been back in game action since).  When he does comeback, getting that first goal should spark a surge in Geoffrion’s offensive game.

So Roundtable, what do you think are Milwaukee’s strengths and weaknesses in the early going?