Palin, Johnson, Ford Lead Admirals Ship
Feb 1, 2011
by Jason Karnosky
Every successful American Hockey League franchise shares one common denominator—strong team leadership.
This is required to keep each team’s unique blend of highly touted prospects, free agent sleepers and savvy veterans all on the same page and working toward the same goals.
For Milwaukee guidance for the younger players comes in the form of three veteran defensemen—captain Brett Palin and assistants Scott Ford and Aaron Johnson, who are carry the letters for the Admirals.
“I think the three of us, Brett, Aaron and myself, are all different character guys, have different characteristics and different personalities,” Ford said. “But I think we blend well together. We’ve been able to keep the guys having fun, while working hard and getting better at the same time.”
Palin was an interesting choice as Milwaukee’s captain. Despite a pedigree that included an impressive AHL career and a leadership role with his prior club, the Abbotsford Heat, the Nanaimo, British Columbia native was new addition to the Admirals for the 2010-2011 season.
That fact hardly bothered Palin’s new coach Lane Lambert when the decision was being made to choose the player to provide direction for the Admirals on the ice.
“It was a very difficult decision (because) there was more than one capable candidate,” Lambert said. “But Brett’s been very good for our hockey team from a leadership standpoint.”
Dependability and consistency were two of the reasons why Lambert chose Palin to carry his club.
“For the most part Brett let’s his play do the speaking,” Lambert said. “He’s an example of a quieter leader, but he’s also a great example of a player who is consistent and brings his game every night.”
From day one with the Admirals, Palin’s teammates took notice of his presence.
“He’s done a great job as our captain,” Ford said. “He came in at the start of the year as a fresh face in the organization, but he’s learned about the new guys and learned about what we’ve been doing here for the last couple of years.”
“(On the ice) Brett brings it every night and always plays hard.”
Though Johnson knew of Palin’s leadership reputation prior to joining Milwaukee, he has been impressed from day one with his new teammate.
“Brett’s one of the great leaders in the AHL,” Johnson said. “I don’t think there is a better guy on this team that you could pick to wear the ‘C’. He’s an easy guy to follow and he’s makes our players accountable. That’s all you can ask for.”
For his part Palin isn’t the biggest rah-rah guy in the AHL. Instead, the 26-year old blue liner prefers to lead by example and to choose his words and speeches carefully for the maximum effect.
“I don’t always do what I want to do, but I always try to make sure that I’m prepared to play and lead by example on the ice,” Palin said. “Then if I see something, I try to talk with the guys about it and do some correcting in order to help our team’s success.”
As the second oldest player on the Admirals, Ford knows exactly the role he’s being paid to play as a mentor for the team’s younger core. But on the ice there is not a more steadying influence on the club than the seven-year AHL veteran.
“Fordo is rock solid every game,” Palin said. “He goes out there and wears his heart on sleeve and plays hard every night.”
2010-2011 has been particularity gratifying for the three year Milwaukee resident. Along with Palin, Ford is the only Admiral to have played in every game for the team this season. The former Brown University standout also leads the team in two of the all important intangible stat categories—plus/minus (+12) and penalty minutes (90).
As the third member of the Admirals' leadership triumvirate, Johnson brings the most impressive hockey resume. The former third round draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets played in over 40 NHL games last year with the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames.
“In my situation I always think defense first, but try to contribute offensively as much as I can,” said Johnson, who is a veteran of 225 NHL contests. “But I think the biggest thing for me is to try to bring the experience that I’ve had with other teams and in other leagues in trying to help out our younger group.”
Johnson leads all Admirals defenseman with seven goals and carries an impressive +7 rating.
“Johnny is a hard worker as well, but he brings more of an offensive side to his game,” Palin said. “But I think they are both doing a great job and both those guys are great players to have in your dressing room.”
Palin, Ford and Johnson’s work on and off the ice has brought the Admirals together as a team. It also has paid impressive dividends toward Milwaukee’s success throughout the first half of the 2010-2011 season, accumulating 60 points in 47 games to help Milwaukee to first place in the AHL’s Western Conference.
“Between the three of them, Palin, Ford and Johnson, and the other veterans that have also been here, most notably Steve Begin, they’ve done a tremendous job of leading our club,” Lambert said. “They all have a little bit different methods of doing it, but the group as whole has done a great job for our team.”
But for the Admirals remain in the pole position of the hotly contested West Division, where the top six clubs are separated by just two points, Milwaukee must remain a tight knit club. Palin expects nothing less from here on out.
“There is a lot of good camaraderie on this team,” Palin said. “The guys have come together really well, and I expect more of the same throughout the rest of the year.”