BLOG: Aaron's Thoughts into the Season
This is the twelfth season for many in the Milwaukee Admirals front office, including me. We are so excited for so many reasons, the move to UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena being chief among them. With the move to the new arena and the Ads roster, this has the look of what could be a very special season.
It wasn’t that long ago the when Admirals parent club, the Nashville Predators, were not a team that spent to the salary cap. The team used grit, smarts, defense and goaltending to get into the playoffs but more often than not found itself bounced early.
After the disappointment of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, the lockout and a second straight season without a playoff appearance, Nashville made some changes. New coach Peter Laviolette reinvigorated the team, the style of play and the fans.
The last couple seasons the team has made a couple trades we thought would never happen. First, future star Seth Jones was dealt to Columbus for #1 center Ryan Johansen. Last summer, captain Shea Weber was dealt to Montreal for P.K. Subban. Two solid hockey trades where both teams received great value.
The trades, along with re-signing key players like Filip Forsberg, indicate Nashville is going all in on a long, long playoff run.
With the Preds in that mindset, the club has added some great depth to the organization and Milwaukee is the beneficiary. Players like Trevor Smith, Matt Irwin, and Harry Zolnierczyk. have played in the NHL. Mike Liambas is back and has a shot at making his NHL debut this season. Throw in prospects Vladislav Kamenev, Frederick Gaudreau, Felix Girard, Pontus Aberg, Trevor Murphy, Max Gortz and Juuse Saros. Then add players like Petter Granberg, Austin Watson and Adam Payerl, all of whom have played in the NHL before and are on NHL deals. Justin Florek has played in the NHL but is on an AHL contract. There are 15 players listed here who could help the big club if necessary.
That list of players plus some young, exciting athletes starting their pro careers have to give you a good feeling. I think all would agree this is the deepest this organization has been.
The puck drops on the season Saturday at San Antonio.
Five coaches in Ads history have won over 100 games in their career. Phil Wittliff, of course, leads the way with 378. Current head coach Dean Evason has 161 victories. Evason is 23 wins away from passing Claude Noel for second place on the Admirals list.
Phil Wittliff 378 wins
Claude Noel 183
Lane Lambert 178
Dean Evason 161
Al Sims 118
Some other milestones to look forward to this season:
Austin Watson needs 71 games to become just the third Admirals player in the AHL era to reach 300 career games with the team. Mark Van Guilder (383) and Scott Ford (378) are the others.
Watson needs 20 goals to pass Chris Mueller (87 goals) for second on the AHL list in career goals. Watson starts the season with 68 goals with the Admirals.
With 47 points, Watson would move into third on the Ads scoring list behind only Darren Haydar and Cal O’Reilly. Mueller currently holds the spot with 173 career points.
Watson will become just the seventh player since Milwaukee joined the AHL to play in parts of five seasons with the team (Van Guilder, Ford, O’Reilly, Jon Blum, Scottie Upshall, Anthony Bitetto).
Mike Liambas’ next penalty will move him past the 500-minute mark in his Admirals career. Liambas, who has 499 PIM, is 200 minutes behind all-time AHL leader Kelsey Wilson (699 PIM).
Pontus Aberg needs nine goals to become the 16th player in Ads AHL history to score 50 career goals.
Don’t forget to tune into Milwaukee Admirals Center Ice every Monday night at 6pm on Sportsradio 105.7 FM, The Fan.