Admirals Ready to Get Started
Oct 8, 2010
by Jason Karnosky
A season after squeaking into the playoffs and giving the West Division champion Chicago Wolves all they could handle in a seven game series, the Milwaukee Admirals return eager to the start the 2010-2011 campaign.
The club went through a significant transition during the off season, evolving into a younger and more up-tempo version of its previous self.
Though guiding that type of team might seem like a daunting task, Milwaukee head coach Lane Lambert is optimistic about pushing the new look Admirals.
“There is a lot of change over toward young players and that helps because we are going to be hungry and play with speed,” Lambert said. “But being a young team isn’t a bad thing. Instead it’s a good thing because the guys are going to work to get better every day with their eyes on the big prize, which is to get to the National Hockey League.”
Offensively, the Admirals return just two of their top ten scorers, defenseman Jonathon Blum and forward Andreas Thuresson.
However, Milwaukee’s strength will be its blueline. Along with Blum, the Admirals defense may feature Alexander Sulzer (who has yet to be assigned to the club), Teemu Laakso, Brett Palin (acquired from Abbotsford), and a pair of ex-Chicago Wolves defenders, Grant Lewis and Scott Lehman.
Anchoring that group will be the veteran stability of Scott Ford, a stay at home defender who is a rock on the point.
“I think we just need to get off to a good start,” Ford said about the upcoming season. “We’ve had a lot of success here the last few years, but in order for us to win a championship it starts from day one. We are really focusing on detail and playing hard-nosed hockey.”
Ford is looking forward to the style of game the young Admirals will play.
“We’ve got young guys who can skate and are quick, so we are going to be exciting and dynamic,” Ford said.
With such an inexperienced club, Ford knows the presence of team’s veterans will be that much more important in helping out the younger guys, especially during the frequent transaction days that occur during the middle of the season.
“We understand that is part of being a professional, that there is a lot of turnover from day to day and week to week,” Ford said. “The best thing we can do as players is to come to the rink and work every day. If you are doing the right things, that’s when you are going to move on to the next level.”
A couple of the fresh names on the club to pay attention to this season are former WCHA rivals, Ryan Flynn and Blake Geoffrion. Flynn, who graduated last season from Minnesota looks to make an impact as a checking forward.
Geoffrion, who won the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top college hockey play with Wisconsin last year, wants to play big minutes with Admirals in 2010-2011.
However, the training camp roommates will face an adjustment period playing a full season at this level according to Ford.
“Sometimes the guys that are the best players in junior or in college have to be checkers when they move up to this level,” Ford said. “There is obviously some frustration involved, but you see the players who can persevere and learn to adapt to different situations . . . those are the players who are most successful and who are able to stick around the longest.”
With such a young club, predicting Milwaukee’s season is a difficult task. However, if the Admirals come out of the gates strong, another post season berth looks well within reach.
“It’s really too early to tell (the direction of our team),” Lambert said. “It is going to take a good 20 to 25 games to get our guys to play the way we want them to. From there we will evaluate where we are and where we sit.
Scouting the rest of the West Division
The West Division remains the AHL’s toughest a year after the four teams made the playoffs and none of the seven teams finished with a losing record.
By reaching the Calder Cup finals Texas returns as the division’s highest profile team. Following close behind them are the Chicago Wolves, a 49 game winner a season ago. But Lambert believes the race will be wide open this year.
“There are some clubs who have made some moves during the off-season to improve their teams,” Lambert said. “San Antonio is one, Peoria is another one, and the Chicago Wolves are another one. All those teams are little older and a little bit more experienced. But there are others like Texas who will have a lot of players back from a team that made it to the Finals last year.”
In addition, Oklahoma City enters this season as an expansion franchise in the AHL, affiliated with the Edmonton Oilers. With the youthful Oilers in a full-scale restocking mode, the Barons will be an interesting team to keep an eye on.
A Quick Look Around the Rest of the League
Defending Calder Cup champion Hershey, and 52 game-winner Hamilton, should remain among the AHL’s elite teams.
But a couple of clubs that missed the playoffs that look primed for a resurgence are Grand Rapids and Providence. The parent clubs from each team, Detroit and Boston respectively, dealt with significant injury issues a season ago, therefore their underachieving seasons are unlikely to repeat.