I’ve had a busy couple of weeks since the season ended. Now, I’m finally sitting down to write my thoughts of the 2012-2013 season.
It was mentioned in a blog before the playoffs how hot the Admirals were down the stretch, 15-4-1-0, the best in the West in that span. They needed every point to sneak into the playoffs. I really thought something special was going to happen with this team.
There are some seasons where some friction is evident. Whether it’s between coaches and players or between players, it can be seen. That wasn’t the case this season, especially after the NHL resumed play.
Remember how we all thought some teams were going to dominate because they were dealt a tremendous hand by their parent club (looking at you Oklahoma City). It’s funny how some of these teams got much better when the NHL season returned (again, looking at you Oklahoma City).
Milwaukee began the season with a few guys that we thought would be in the NHL all season long: Gabriel Bourque, Jon Blum, Ryan Ellis. Chris Mueller was sure to get a look and some others would probably get a chance.
Players knew with the compacted schedule there would be more injuries, meaning there would be more call-ups. That was the case with the Predators. Six Admirals players (Bang, Bartley, Beck, Henderson, Rask and Watson) made their NHL debuts. In all, 14 players played for both Nashville and Milwaukee in 2012-2013.
Dean Evason and Stan Drulia are/were a fantastic pair. They worked so well together and with the team. You’d be hard-pressed to hear even one negative comment from the players about them. The boys were prepared. Practices were hard.
This entire blog could’ve been titled “How Awesome was Magnus Hellberg?” It is such a perfect microcosm of his season that he allowed goals on the first two shots he saw and finished the season with back-to-back shutouts.
We need to remember, though, that goalie Jeremy Smith held this team together for quite a while. While this team struggled to score, Smith was asked to shut down (or shutout) the opposition.
I spoke to a couple pro scouts about the Admirals when we were in Texas for the playoffs. They both liked the team, but thought that trading Michael Latta was a tough thing for the club. I agreed, but there were so many positives.
Zach Budish was really good when he joined the team. A smart, strong player, he may not have Latta’s nasty streak but he knows how to play.
Mike Liambas was a tremendous find. He’s the kid you want on your side, no matter what. The loyalty he gave, and received, in such a short amount of time is staggering.
The improvement as the season wore on from Mattias Ekholm and Juuso Puustinen was great to see. They were both big parts of the much-improved power play.
Cam Reid deserves a lot of credit for the success of the power play. It got better when the team applied the structure it always plays with to that part of the game, too. Credit coach Evason for wanting his players to play with some “improv” in their game, but also credit him for realizing it wasn’t working.
Joonas Jarvinen was mean on the ice. That’s a good thing.
This could go on forever, so I’ll say…finally, Scott Valentine, a very good defenseman, proved to be a very good forward. He’ll be working on both positions this summer.
This club sacrificed for the good of the team. If that meant playing out of a comfort zone, that’s what happened. That’s an indication you have a special team.
Unfortunately, the Ads ran up against a very good Texas Stars team and lost in a very entertaining series.
Next year’s team is going to be different, like it is every season. There are some key unrestricted free agents in the organization. Will late season additions Brad Winchester, Scott Ford and Joe Piskula return to Milwaukee?
We’ll look ahead to the 2013-2014 season in my next blog. This one is running long.
After the season Nashville had it’s probably not going to happen, but why isn’t Lane Lambert garnering more attention for any head coaching position? He had a .617 winning percentage in four seasons as head coach of the Admirals and graduated a plethora of players to the NHL.
New Nashville assistant coach Phil Housley was my position coach for a couple weeks in the summer of 1985. Doug Woog had a summer hockey school that was hugely popular at Wakota Arena in South St. Paul, MN. I grew up in neighboring Inver Grove Heights. Woog is a Minnesota hockey legend and was the head coach of the South St. Paul high school team. That summer, he had been hired to replace Brad Buetow at the University of Minnesota. Anyway, Woog had several former players help at his camp and Housley was one. As a defenseman, I got to work with Housley. I don’t remember him being there for the entire camp, though.
It’s so awesome that Mark Van Guilder signed his first NHL deal with the Predators. This was close to happening during this past season because Nashville was very interested in bringing him up and playing his smart, steady game. It didn’t happen then, but it could happen in 2013-2014.
Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, has a new charity. Follow on Twitter @HardingsHope.
Look for us at Summerfest and the State Fair this summer. We also have four 2-hour “Center Ice” shows on Sportsradio 1250, WSSP to keep you up to speed with what’s happening with the team on and off the ice.