The Milwaukee Admirals have made it to the AHL All-Star break and another half-season is in the books. Where do the Admirals, the top prospect team for the Nashville Predators, find themselves at this point in their season and where do they go from here?
Before delving into the first half of this season, it is important that everyone understand the duality that often exists between professional teams and their farm systems. In most cases, minor league teams suffer at the hands of the success of the major league team. The inverse relationship can occasionally exist as well. The Grand Rapids Griffins are a great example of this. They have been a solid team in the AHL, while their parent club (Detroit) has struggled over the last few seasons. At the end of the day, the success of the parent club is always more important to the organization than the success of the minor league team.
With that all being said, the Milwaukee Admirals are doing quite well coming out of the All-Star break. While they did see a decline in the standings since their early season lead, they are only three wins out of first in the Central division. That isn’t a bad place to be while there is still a lot of hockey to be played. So what has been working for the Admirals? What could see improvement? And what has been flat out bad and needs to be addressed immediately?
Goaltending: Milwaukee’s goaltending has been the main reason that the Admirals are so close to a top spot. The Admirals have been led by Wisconsin native Troy Grosenick all season and he has been extremely solid. Grosenick, who was selected for the AHL All-Star Game, is currently ranked 4th in the AHL for goals against average with 2.37 after appearing in 25 games. He is also 5th in the league for save percentage at 0.921.
Goalie Tom McCollum hasn’t been bad either. In his 23 appearances he has a 2.78 goals against average and has only allowed three more goals than Grosenick has. The difference in his win/loss has been production by the Admirals in front of McCollum. It mostly hasn’t been there.
Anthony Richard: It’s probably no secret at this point that I am a huge fan of Anthony Richard and think that he is having a breakout season in the AHL. He still leads the team in goals (17) and is tied for second in total points (31). Richard has had tremendous speed and his shots seem to have more power behind them than last season. The one place I’d like to see Richard improve is his defensive play as he is currently sitting at a -3 +/-.
Penalty kills: Milwaukee leads the central division and are third in the entire AHL in penalty kill percentage (85.7%). The PK has been good about clearing the puck and minimizing shots on goal. With this being said, an equally important part is not taking the penalty in the first place. Milwaukee has only allowed 175 power plays, which is 13 less than the Iowa Wild who have the most penalties in the Central.
BONUS: Mid-season pick-up Cole Schneider was a mid-season pick-up from the New York Rangers organization in exchange for Connor Brickley. I may be speaking too soon, but in six appearances with the Admirals Schneider has 1 goal and 5 assists. Which rivaled Brickley’s production during all of his appearances with the Admirals.
Defense: Milwaukee’s defense in front of their goaltenders has been slightly lacking. There are currently three Milwaukee defensemen with a positive +/- rating (Duncan Siemens, Scott Savage, and Desmond Bergin). The three of them were mid-season additions to the Admirals through various means. Coach Karl Taylor spoke a lot at the beginning of the season about prioritizing checking vs. defense. This strategy has worked with varying success depending on the appointment. However, it is still probably the best option given Milwaukee’s comparatively smaller size.
Call-ups & injuries: What’re you going to do about this? It’s a part of being a minor league sports team. Eeli Tolvanen spent a few games in Nashville, Colin Blackwell & Anthony Richard both saw brief call-ups to the show. Nothing you can do about it but hope that you have the depth to replace their offensive power. Nevertheless, it can potentially hurt.
Powerplay woes: If you’ve read even a single one of my game recaps for the Admirals, you know that the powerplay has been a struggle for the Admirals. Their powerplay has been the difference between them being in 1st place in the Central and sitting three games back. They did see a slight uptick after three powerplay goals in their last game before the break, so they are currently sitting at 17.1% on the powerplay. This equals out to only 30 goals on the powerplay throughout the entire first half of the season. The powerplay seems to be an issue rippling through the entire organization.
All-in-all, the Milwaukee Admirals are not in a bad place. It is likely that the Predators are coming close to finalizing their roster to make their playoff run with (barring any further injuries). Which means that the Admirals team that we have now is probably the one we will have throughout the rest of the season. The Admirals’ goal now is to not repeat their second half performance from last season where they dipped so far down in the standings that a playoff run was numerically out of the question a few weeks before the end of the season arrived. With offensive players like Anthony Richard and goaltenders like Grosenick – I think they have what it takes. It also seems like Tolvanen is starting to settle into his game and may start producing at the levels expected of him.
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