Friday, October 12, 2007 

New Coach, New Captain, New Season

The Milwaukee Admirals had a large turnover during the off season including the loss of head coach Claude Noel. Noel finally got the call to the NHL, going to Columbus to be an assistant coach to his good friend Ken Hitchcock. Enter Lane Lambert. Lane was the Admirals assistant coach last season, and had been brought on board to follow up Claude if he should get an NHL position. A former second round pick of the Detroit Red Wings, Lambert played for 18 seasons including 283 games in the NHL. Admirals fans most likely remember him from the Cleveland Lumberjacks and Houston Aeros of the IHL days.

Assessing his team before the home opener, Lambert observed, "I think we've got a lot of tools to work with, it's just a matter of putting them in the right places. Rome wasn't built in a day, but we have the tools to work with, we've got some bullets."

The team's biggest asset at this time? Returning goalie Pekka Rinne, who moved one step closer to the NHL himself with the off season trade of Tomas Vokoun. Lambert observed, "Right now, our strength is goaltending. He played real well in Peoria, and he played well in training camp in Nashville as well. He's going to play a lot of minutes for us, in Peoria he kept us in the game when we weren't very good at the start."

Rinne welcomes the work, "You always want to be in (a leadership) situation, you always try to take a bigger spot on the team. I'm not too much of a locker room guy, yelling around, I just try to be a good example by working hard and playing well. "

He feels better after a full camp and off season to rest from the injury that cost him half of the season last year. Rinne welcomes the load being put on him this season as the team builds chemistry, "Players always want to be in a big role for their teams. I think always when you play goalie, you are under pressure. But I don't I don't see it as additional pressure. It's the same job I've done the last two years, I just have to try to play well."

When reminded that he is now one of the "old men" on the team, Rinne chuckled, "Not really, but we have a young team. This is my third year, so I think I've been the longest on the team though I'm only 24. It's a strange situation, but that tells you its a good team because players change: going up to the NHL and such."

New captain Alex Henry leads a blue line corps that is large: averaging 6'4" and 217 lbs. Joining Henry from last season is the massive Nolan Yonkman (6'6" 248 lbs). The new comers include Richard Steklik (6'4" 245 lbs), Cody Franson (6 '5" 219), Mark Matheson (6'2" 205), Alexander Sulzer (6'1" 198), Janne Niskala (6'0" 187). Lambert had this to say about his blue line corps:
"We do have some size back there, we do need to continuously work on our mobility back there. We have big guys, and we want to move the puck up to our forwards. We've got a lot of speed and we want to get the puck to them. We'd like to see them play physical."

One of the players counted on to help lead the team both on and off the ice this season is Rich Peverley, who led the team in scoring last season with 68 pts despite 13 games in Nashville. Peverley observed about the team's season opening loss to Peoria, "I think the first game was an eye opener for a lot of guys, their first game in the league and a lot of guys came over from Europe. That first game kind of burst our bubble and we realized we've got to be a better all around working team."

"Last year we were a little hurting for offense," Peverley continued, "this year they brought a lot of guys over from Europe and guys coming in on entry level contracts from college. They brought in a lot more talent, so I think our offense is going to be a bit more potent."