Tag: Milwaukee Admirals

Predators Sign Mueller to Another Two-Way Deal

As other veteran members of the Milwaukee Admirals move on to other destinations, at least one key piece of this past year’s puzzle is back for another go-around with the Nashville Predators organization.

Official as of Thursday morning, talented forward Chris Mueller agreed to a one-year two-way contract valued at $550,000 at the NHL level, $105,000 at the AHL level with Nashville. The significant change to the terms comes in the AHL portion, where Mueller nearly doubles his take-home pay from last year’s $65,000 at Milwaukee. Also, at the end of the contract Mueller becomes an unrestricted free agent who will be free to sign with any other team if he chooses. Mueller was an RFA going into this season.

To say Mueller was important to the Admirals over the past two seasons is a major understatement. Mueller played 73 games in Milwaukee last year, finishing fifth in the AHL with 32 goals. Mueller also led the Admirals with 60 points and was the team’s only All-Star. It was the second straight year that the Buffalo, New York native ranked on the top of Milwaukee’s scoring charts as Mueller posted 24 goals and 50 points in 67 games for the Admirals in 2010-2011.

Heading into 2012-2013 Mueller has 19 games of NHL experience, but has yet to record his first goal. However, Mueller does have three assists in those games. Not to bad for a player who went undrafted after his college years at Michigan State.

So Roundtable . . . How would you like to welcome back Chris Mueller? Is this finally the year he sticks on with Nashville full-time? Are you hoping this isn’t Mueller’s last year with the Predators organization?

Predators Ship Out Lindback and Wilson

As Friday wanes this is still no news on Milwaukee’s new head coach.

However, that coach to be named later will be guiding an Admirals’ team without another one of its key players as forward Kyle Wilson, who spent the majority of his 2011-2012 season with Milwaukee, was packaged as part of a deal that sent one of the NHL’s top backup goaltenders in Anders Lindback and a seventh-round draft pick to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The seventh-round pick in 2008 also played a pair of games in Milwaukee last season.

In exchange Nashville restocks its previously near-barren draft cupboard, snagging two second-round picks in the upcoming draft, plus a third-round pick in 2013 and journeyman goaltender Sebastian Caron.

The Lightning will still need to sign Lindback, who is an RFA, but it looks like Steve Yzerman found a potential long term No. 1 goaltender on the cheap. Personally I think Lindback is a diamond in the rough with all the potential to be a solid starter for years to come.

Here is Yzerman’s thoughts via NHL.com:

“We are very pleased to announce this trade today,” vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman said upon making the announcement. “We believe Anders will join the team and give us a nice lift at the goaltending position as we prepare for the 2012-13 season. He has the potential to develop into the No. 1 goaltender we covet.”

At this point Caron is heading toward unrestricted free agency. The 31-year-old saw just 135 minutes of NHL action last season, his first in the league since 2007. He appears just looks like a throw in piece. Perhaps this paves the way for Jeremy Smith to enter the NHL as Pekka Rinne’s new backup, which he has proven he’s ready to do.

Meanwhile, Wilson is set to earn $550,000 next season, but now gets a legit shot to return to the NHL on a full time basis. The former ninth-round draft pick go into five games with Nashville last season, and was one of Milwaukee’s best talents when he was down with the Admirals.

So Roundtable . . . What is your take on the Lindback/Wilson for picks trade? Certainly, Nashville needs draft choices, but this is a big piece to give up? Did Preds G.M. David Poile get enough in return? Will Jeremy Smith take over Lindback’s spot?

Fixing the Penalty Kill

30 games into the 2011-2012 season, the Milwaukee Admirals stand 19-10-0-1, having accumulated 39 points. It is enviable position to be in as the Admirals sit comfortably in the playoffs with games in hand on every other Western Conference foe (I will have more on this Friday).

But one statistic stands out as a major issue going forward for Milwaukee. The Admirals penalty kill ranks a surprising 26th in the AHL, successful only 77.8% of the time having allowed 28 goals–or nearly a goal a game.

Considering how stout Milwaukee is defensively, how tenacious the Admirals pressure the puck at times and the fact that Mark Van Guilder is one of the top penalty killers in the league, this statistic really stands out like a sore thumb.

The only goal Sunday came on the power play, yet on all accounts Milwaukee’s penalty kill was effective, killing three first period minors.

After the game I asked coach Ian Herbers what he thought of his team’s progress short handed:

“We’ve done pretty well overall, but we’ve just had a break down here and there,” Herbers said. “We’ve been okay, but the numbers just haven’t been good for us.”

So Roundtable . . . Critique the Admirals’ penalty kill. Is it just occasional break downs causing issues, or are the problems deeper? What can attribute Milwaukee’s ineffectiveness short handed?

Kirk Muller Promoted to NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, Herbers Likely to Take Over at Milwaukee

Amid the pile of coaching changes announced Monday around the world of sports, it appears that Admirals coach Kirk Muller has been promoted to the head coaching job for the Carolina Hurricanes.

ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun reported through a confirmed source that Muller will replace Hurricanes bench boss Paul Maurice, who was in his second stint in Raleigh. Tsn.ca, which also employs LeBrun, also has the report on their website, but is vague at this point on specifics.

NHL.com originally reported that Muller was only rumored for the position, but has since confirmed that Muller will be Carolina’s new coach.

Muller leaves the Admirals after compiling a 10-6-0-1 record in just 17 games coached. Milwaukee is coming off of Muller’s worst weekend of guiding the Admirals as Milwaukee was swept in a pair of games at first place Charlotte (Carolina’s top affiliate), dropping a 3-2 decision Saturday night to the Checkers followed up with 5-1 drubbing on Sunday.

Certainly, there is some irony that these games will stand as Muller’s final contests with the Admirals prior to taking over as coach of the Hurricanes. Carolina was 8-13-4 and in last place in NHL’s Southeast Division prior to their midseason coaching change.

Ian Herbers will likely take over as Milwaukee’s head coach after two-plus seasons as the Admirals’ assistant coach. Milwaukee went 41-30-2-7 and 44-22-6-8 in Herbers’ two full seasons as Lane Lambert’s right-hand man, helping the Admirals reach the second round of the AHL playoffs in 2010-2011.

In other somewhat unrelated news, in the midst of a 5-9-1 slump the Washington Capitals have fired coach Bruce Boudreau and replaced him with former captain Dale Hunter. Hunter is the father of former Admiral Dylan Hunter, who retired from playing in the off season to pursue his own coaching career.

Who’s in/Who’s out? Gauging the AHL’s Western Conference Playoff Race

As of Monday, here is the current West Division standings with each team’s remaining games:

1) MILWAUKEE: 94 points, (Games Played: 73, record: 40-19-6-8).  Remaining Games:  vs. San Antonio, vs. Houston, vs. Peoria, vs. Grand Rapids, vs. Texas, at Peoria, vs. Grand Rapids.

2) Houston: 94, (GP: 76, 44-26-1-5). RG: vs. Chicago, at Milwaukee, at Chicago, vs. Oklahoma City.

3) Texas: 88, (GP: 73, 39-24-4-6). RG: vs. Chicago, at Oklahoma City, vs. Rockford, at Peoria, at Milwaukee, vs. Oklahoma City, at San Antonio.

4) Peoria: 83, (GP: 74, 38-29-2-5). GR: at San Antonio, at San Antonio, at Milwaukee, vs. Texas, vs. Chicago, vs. Milwaukee.

5) Chicago: 83, (GP: 74, 37-29-3-6). RG: at Houston, at Texas, vs. Houston, at Peoria, vs. San Antonio, vs. Rockford.

6) Oklahoma City: 83, (GP: 75, 36-28-2-9). GR: vs. Rockford, vs. Texas, at San Antonio, at Texas, at Houston.

7) San Antonio: 81, (GP: 73, 38-30-3-2). GR: at Milwaukee, vs. Peoria, vs. Peoria, vs. Rockford, vs. Oklahoma City, at Chicago, vs. Texas.

North Division teams that could prevent a crossover:

Hamilton: (third place in North Division) 83, (GP: 72, 37-26-2-7). GR: vs. Abbotsford, vs. Abbotsford, at Lake Erie, vs. Manitoba, at Abbotsford, at Abbotsford, at Manitoba, at Manitoba.

Toronto: 81, (GP: 74, 35-28-1-10). GR: vs. Syracuse, vs. Lake Erie, vs. Manitoba, at Lake Erie, vs. Rochester, vs. Abbotsford.

Grand Rapids: 80, (GP: 74, 35-29-2-8). GR: at Abbotsford, at Abbotsford, at Milwaukee, vs. Abbotsford, at Rockford, at Milwaukee.

Abbotsford: 78, (GP: 71, 34-27-4-6). GR: at Hamilton, at Hamilton, vs. Grand Rapids, vs. Grand Rapids, vs. Hamilton, vs. Hamilton, at Grand Rapids, at Lake Erie, at Toronto.

So which teams make the playoffs/fall out of contention?

Safely in:  Milwaukee, Houston, Texas, Hamilton.  Milwaukee’s favorable schedule should result in the Admirals reaching the top spot, followed by Houston and Texas which could easily flip-flop.  With eight games left, Hamilton should grab the North’s third slot or second slot barring a disaster against Abbotsford, a team the Bulldogs play four more times this season in a bizarre case of scheduling.

Bubble teams that will make the playoffs:  Chicago, San Antonio.  I still see five West Division teams getting into the playoffs.  The veteran Wolves, which tread water all season, should squeak in as the last team out of the West.  Whether that means Chicago will face the top of the West Division or the top of the North, neither opponent will be too thrilled for that match up.  The Rampage face two critical games at home against Peoria this week.  With regulation wins in both of those games, San Antonio could basically punch its playoff ticket.

Teams that will have their playoff bubble burst:  Peoria, Oklahoma City, Toronto, Grand Rapids, Abbotsford.  In the case of Oklahoma City, their demise has much to do with having key personnel up with Edmonton.  I wonder why the Oilers’ leadership doesn’t wish for those players to get some AHL playoff experience.  Peoria, which recently led the West Division, is in the middle of a March swoon.  The Rivermen need a last stand at San Antonio and hope Milwaukee coasts in their two contests with the Admirals.

As far as Toronto and Grand Rapids, the Griffins have six games remaining, including three games against Abbotsford and two at Milwaukee.  Grand Rapids could make some noise with a full roster, but I see them running out of games.  With Toronto missing key personnel, I see the Marlies falling short despite a favorable schedule in the final stretch.

The Heat are most intriguing team of all.  Abbotsford still has nine games remaining, the most of any AHL team, including eight against fellow North Division bubble teams (Four games against Hamilton and three against Grand Rapids).  The Heat sit five points below the Western Conference’s current playoff number, but with a hot finish Abbotsford could easily catch the pack.  The Heat are certainly a team to keep an eye on, even if the Admirals haven’t played Abbotsford since the ninth game of the season on October 30.

So Roundtable, which teams do you think make the playoffs and which teams end up just short?  Am I underestimating Peoria, Oklahoma City, Toronto or Grand Rapids?

I give Milwaukee a 75% shot of finishing first in the Western Conference.  Is that number too high, too low, or just right?  How many points will it take to clinch the top spot?

How do you see the Admirals finishing out their remaining schedule?

Admirals Sweep the Shootout, Outlast Oklahoma City 4-3

With a chance to retake first place in the West Division, Milwaukee’s normally dormant shootout skills caught fire Tuesday night, going a perfect four-for-four against Oklahoma City to deliver a 4-3 home win.

Admirals shooters Mark Santorelli, Mark Van Guilder, Gabriel Bourque and Ryan Thang all converted, while goaltender Jeremy Smith stopped two of three Oklahoma City attempts to preserve the victory.

With the two points, Milwaukee moves back into first place at 89 points.  The Admirals now sit one point clear of Houston, which lost 3-0 to Texas tonight.

Riding a fast start, Milwaukee opened the scoring 14:34 into the hockey game.  Off a transition pass from Teemu Laakso, Ryan Thang’s bad angle shot from the bottom of the right face off dot caught goaltender Jeff Deslauriers sliding and squeezed through the five-hole.

“It was quick little regroup play,” said Thang at the first intermission. “I beat their defense back up the ice, but I got a little lucky with the shot.”

In the final minute of the first period, Oklahoma City countered after Thang took a slashing penalty.  On their fourth rebound opportunity, Anthony Aiello scored into a wide-open Milwaukee net.

The Admirals regained a one-goal advantage seven minutes into the second period on a brilliant play from Roman Josi and Chris Mueller.   Off a breakout Josi found Mueller at center ice with a step on Aiello.  With a tape-to-tape 100-foot stretch pass, Josi sprung Mueller on a breakaway.  Mueller finished off the play with a brilliant deke.

Seven minutes later the Barons again tied the game, this time with a deflection goal by Andrew Lord.  Lord, who dressed for a pair of games with Milwaukee earlier this season, had his first AHL goal of 2010-2011 find twine off of goaltender Jeremy Smith’s mask.

Milwaukee countered yet again at the 17:38 mark of the second period, this time on the power play.  After Josi busted his stick, Andreas Thuresson found Kelsey Wilson alone in front of Deslauriers.  Wilson tucked a backhand shot through his legs, through Deslauriers’ wickets and across the goal line for a 3-2 lead after 40 minutes.

Pressing in the third period, Oklahoma City peppered Smith, finally scoring on a five-on-three power play in the last four minutes.  Mark Arcobello scored the tying goal on one-timer off of a cross-crease pass from Brad Moran.

Overtime saw bizarre string of four minor penalties in quick succession, resulting in an extended period of four-on-three and five-on-three power play time for Milwaukee, but the Admirals only managed a couple of marginal chances to leave the game tied at three after 65 minutes.

Despite allowing three goals on 38 shots, Smith was superb.  But the Admirals netminder saved his best save for the overtime, stretching across for a highlight reel right leg stop on a three-on-one in the first minute of overtime.

Smith now has 12 wins this season and sports a record of 12-6-2.

“The win felt really good for our team,” Smith said.  “We really stuck with it and played well tonight, but were not thinking of anything else other than finishing in first place.”

With Nashville’s 3-1 win over Edmonton tonight, the Predators organization went 2-0 against the Oilers organization on Tuesday.  Thanks to the one point gained, the Barons move up to 82 on the year to take over solo possession of fourth place in the West Division.

Milwaukee continues the home stand Friday night with their final regular season meeting with Chicago.

Tonight’s Admirals lineup (starters in ALL-CAPS):

Goaltender:  JEREMY SMITH

Defense:  AARON JOHNSON-BRETT PALIN

Roman Josi-Teemu Laakso

Grant Lewis-Scott Ford

Forwards:  KELSEY WILSON-MARK VAN GUILDER-ANDREAS THURESSON

Dylan Hunter-Mike Bartlett-Ryan Flynn

Gabriel Bourque-Chris Mueller-Ryan Thang

Brock McBride-Connor Shields-Mark Santorelli

Injury updates:  Forward Steve Begin is getting close to returning according to coach Lane Lambert.  Both Mark Dekanich and Linus Klasen remain a long distance away from returning.

Some questions for discussion:

1) With 10 games to play in the regular season, has Milwaukee finally found some playoff security with win 38 of the year?

2) Would Oklahoma City be a favorable match up for Milwaukee in the first round of the AHL playoffs?

3) Tonight was an on/off night for the Milwaukee power play.  Are some of the missing go-to scorers, Jonathon Blum, Blake Geoffrion and Linus Klasen, holding the special teams back?


Geoffrion’s Big Night in Buffalo

It might be time for Admirals fans to start facing the facts.  Forward Blake Geoffrion may not be coming back to Milwaukee.

Through his first nine National Hockey League games Geoffrion was slowly finding his footing, scoring three goals and four points while logging the fewest minutes of any Nashville player.

Then came Sunday’s game at Buffalo.  Despite pocketing goal number four in the first period off a lucky deflection, Geoffrion and the Predators trailed Buffalo 3-1 with under three minutes remaining in the third period.  Yet, Nashville coach Barry Trotz continued to show confidence in the 2010 Hobey Baker winner.

At the 17:33 mark, Geoffrion stuffed in his own rebound past goaltender Ryan Miller to make it 3-2.  One minute later Trotz again put Geoffrion out for a crucial face off, which Geoffrion won back to defenseman Cody Franson.  Franson let a point shot blast go that Geoffrion tipped out of the air and past Miller to give the Brentwood, Tennessee native his first NHL hat trick and more importantly, tie hockey game at 3-3.

To add some icing to the cake, former Admiral forward Martin Erat scored the game-winner 27 seconds into overtime to give Nashville an improbable win at a crucial point in the year.  With the two points the Predators are back in the playoffs, tied with Chicago and Los Angeles for the fifth spot in the West with 86.

“Obviously we needed those points with the playoff race going on,” Geoffrion told NHL Live! Monday afternoon.  “We’re just happy to get the two wins (against Buffalo and Detroit) and come back home to Nashville.”

Geoffrion credits his time in Milwaukee for preparing him to be an impact player in the NHL.

“The Predators’ theory is that the road to Nashville is through Milwaukee,” Geoffrion said. “I am very thankful for the coaches and the people who’ve helped me get to this point in my career (playing in Nashville).  Hopefully I won’t let them down.”

To watch Blake Geoffrion’s highlight reel against Buffalo, click here.

To read my feature on the impact that former Admirals players like Blake Geoffrion are having in the NHL with Nashville and with other teams, click here.

To read my story on Geoffrion and other former Wisconsin Badgers who changed teams around the NHL trading deadline, click here.

A First Place Battle Royale with Houston

At several points this year, I made note of various points in the schedule as games of significance for the Milwaukee Admirals.  However, tonight at Houston I get to be selfish as this game means little in the playoff picture.  With one loss neither team loses much ground.

Instead the Admirals and Aeros are playing to one up each other for first place in the West Division.  I am aware of the fact that Milwaukee has played four less games, which is crucial at this point in the year, but for one night these two clubs get a winner take all chance to battle for the top of the mountain  (Knowing the AHL, Houston will win tonight in a shootout or in overtime, making this a three point game and leaving the two squads tied).

But perhaps the most ironic twist of fate for both clubs comes after this game.  Each team’s next two games are against the San Antonio Rampage.  Milwaukee plays a pair at San Antonio on Wednesday and Friday, while Houston gets a home and home with the Rampage on Saturday and Sunday.

Currently San Antonio sits as the last team out of the Western Conference playoff picture, in sixth place in the West Division with 76 points.  Therefore Tuesday’s sparring partners could help out each other’s playoff hopes with wins over the Rampage.

So Roundtable, How much stock do you put into this one game, a winner take all contest between Houston and Milwaukee for the West Division lead?

Despite rooting against the Aeros tonight, will you be sporting fighter plane jerseys this weekend as Houston faces San Antonio?

Blake Geoffrion in Nashville Update

Blake Geoffrion was a healthy scratch for the first time in his brief NHL career last night against the San Jose Sharks.

I am not sure what exactly that means for Geoffrion’s time in the Music City, but in this case I believe it had to do more with Nashville’s opponent San Jose (one of the NHL’s fastest teams) than coach Barry Trotz tweaking with his lineup.

In five games of action so far in Nashville, Geoffrion has two goals, while playing an average of 7:58 of icetime.  Geoffrion’s first goal came off of a feed from fellow ex-Badger Ryan Suter.  Two nights later Geoffrion scored his team’s game winner in a 3-0 victory over the Western Conference’s top team, Vancouver.

“Its been a dream come true playing in the National Hockey League,” Geoffrion said. “Now that I’m here my new goal is to try to stay here as long as I can, whether that’s 10 games or 10 years.”

For more on Geoffrion’s time in Nashville, check out my feature on Madison.com, which includes the stories of other former and current UW players that were moved around the trade deadline.

Later this week I will also have a feature on Milwaukeeadmirals.com on the stories of former Admirals who are now enjoying successful careers in the National Hockey League, including Suter, Shea Weber, Colin Wilson and Sheldon Brookbank of the Anaheim Ducks.

Grant Lewis Sparks Milwaukee’s 6-1 Victory Over Oklahoma City

Remember those early season troubles with Oklahoma City?  Consider them a thing of the past.

Grant Lewis carried the day for Milwaukee, racking up a three point night as the Admirals completely shut down the Barons with a 6-1 victory Wednesday’s night.

Things didn’t look good for Milwaukee in the early going as Oklahoma City center Milan Kytnar opened the scoring just 1:29 in.  But the Barons got into penalty trouble from that point forward and Lewis took over.

First Lewis helped setup Gabriel Bourque’s power play goal five minutes in.  Then in the final minute of the first period, Lewis doubled his goal total with a power play tally.  52 seconds later Ryan Flynn picked up the back breaker for the Admirals, giving Milwaukee a 3-1 lead with just five seconds left in the opening stanza.

Milwaukee added three more goals in the second period for the final margin of victory.  First it was Ryan Thang, then Lewis scored his second of the game, and finally Andreas Thuresson closed out the scoring.  The Admirals coasted home from there with a rather uneventful third period.

After a rough first AHL start in Milwaukee on Tuesday, goaltender Anders Lindback had a solid night in between the pipes for the Admirals, stopping 32 of 33 shots.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee lit up longtime NHL netminder Martin Gerber with four goals on just 17 shots, before chasing him out of the net in the second period.

Tonight marked the Admirals first action against the Barons with Zack Stortini in the line up, but the heavy weight goon was quiet against Milwaukee.  Stortini picked up just one minor penalty for tripping late in the first period.  However, that penalty resulted in the Admirals’ second goal.

Along with Lewis, Milwaukee got multi-point nights from Roman Josi (2 assists), Blake Geoffrion (2 assists), Ryan Thang (1 goal, 1 assist) and Gabriel Bourque (1 goal, 1 assist).

No Linus Klasen in the line up proved no problem for the Admirals offensively on this two-game southern swing.  Milwaukee racked up 11 goals in the back to back games.

With the win the Admirals actually gained some separation in the Western Conference race.  Milwaukee moved up to 75 points on the season, which is four in front of second place Peoria.

The Admirals return home Friday for another clash with the Chicago Wolves.  It is Milwaukee’s only home game in their next five contests.

So Roundtable, what do you think of the outstanding night from Grant Lewis?  Could he a be a solution to Milwaukee’s power play struggles, or was tonight’s effort just a fluke?