I’ve been asked lately who I think is going to win the Calder Cup: Manitoba or Hershey. I’m not sure. I saw Manitoba four times and haven’t seen Hershey since June 2006. On paper, I like Manitoba because of the team defense. However, this young goalie for the Bears, Michal Neuvirth, has been magnificent. He’s a rookie this season and has been getting the chance to shine since Simeon Varlamov received the same break with parent Washington. Neuvirth split time with Nashville draft pick Jeremy Smith a couple seasons ago with OHL Plymouth before Smith won the job, leading to Neuvirth being moved to another team.
If I had to choose, though, I’d say Manitoba. I like their grind-it-out style. Obviously, the style has worked well in the postseason. Plus, the roster is littered with winners such as Mike Keane and Jason Krog.
One thing is near certain…this will be the best-attended Calder Cup Finals in AHL history.
Counting goalies, 379 players have been on the ice in the 2009 Calder Cup playoffs. Do you know who is tied as the 9th leading scorer out of that 379: 42-year-old Tony Hrkac. The Admirals legend scored 4-10-14 in 19 games with the Aeros this spring. Hrkac will turn 43 on July 7. One of the gentlemen tied for 16th in playoff scoring is Manitoba’s Mike Keane. Keane has scored 4-7-11 in 16 games for the Moose. He’s celebrating his 42nd birthday on May 29th, the day before the championship series begins.
Four of the past seven Calder Cup champs are former IHL franchises (Chicago won twice, Houston and, of course, Milwaukee). Manitoba could make that five of eight with a series win over the Bears.
Admirals head coach Lane Lambert was a member of the Calder Cup winning Adirondack Red Wings in the 1985-86 season. Others on that team: Adam Oates, Bob Probert, Basil McRae and former Admirals goalie Mark LaForest.
Lambert’s predecessor as Admirals head coach, Claude Noel, won the Calder Cup as a Hershey Bear in 1979-80 while former Admirals assistant coach Todd Richards was on the Springfield team that won the title in 1990-91.
By the way, I’m pulling for Pittsburgh to win the Stanley Cup because I like Ray Shero. The former Admirals G.M. has made some gutsy moves near the trade deadline the last two seasons that have worked out incredibly well for his team. Last year it was acquiring Marian Hossa from Atlanta. This year it was firing head coach Michel Therrien and replacing him with Dan Bylsma.
I love the fact that the Chicago Blackhawks made a long run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. A successful franchise in Chicago is essential for the league. That said, I wasn’t rooting for them. My Minnesota North Stars fandom wouldn’t let me.
Nearly all of the Admirals players have headed home for a quick break, then it’s off to the training room for next season. Mark Dekanich and Cody Franson will be living and working out together in Nashville this summer.
Until next time…Go Admirals!!!