Our friends at Admirals Short Shifts, who became wonderful frienemies during our playoff runs last season, have kindly provided us with a look at the state of the Ads as we approach a two-game series here in Houston this weekend.
ASS's very own Ryan Miller (not the goalie) put this together, while I provided them with a (much less thorough) Aeros update for their site. Here we go:
When you last saw the Admirals, it was game 7 of the divisional semi-finals, as the Aeros were victorious in the game (don't forget -- it was John Royal's presence in Milwaukee that put them over the top!).
What has happened since then for the Admirals? Not nearly the makeover that Houston has gone through. And just looking at the roster, you'd think that the Admirals should be a little bit better than 6-6-1-2. But there are two things that have kept the Admirals from being better -- The Nashville Predators, and goaltending.
The Predators had a slew of injuries that have led to more callups in the first month of the season than in all of last year. Chemistry has been hard to find, as coach Lane Lambert has had to shuffle his lines a lot more due to roster changes than in previous years. There was one 12 hour period where he lost three forwards -- Peter Olvecky and Andreas Thuresson to callups and Ryan Maki to a broken leg. Oh, and they had to fill a roster for a game that night in Rockford.
The other thing that is stunting the Admirals growth is their goaltending situation. Mark Dekanich was our #2 guy last year, and actually had himself a nice season in the games that Drew MacIntyre didn't play in. Drew signed with the Atlanta organization, and Dekanich has been thrust into the #1 goaltending slot with less than spectacular results so far.
As of Wednesday night, Dekanich ranks 42nd out of 50 goaltenders (with at least 300 minutes played) in the statistic of save percentage. We have seen soft goal after soft goal, and seen a goaltender that does not look comfortable in the crease. Dekanich has given up a first period goal in all but one of his starts so far this year, and the Admirals have spent a lot of the season playing catch-up as a result.
While Dekanich has been getting the majority of the minutes, rookie (and former 1st round pick) Chet Pickard has started only three games so far. Game 1 was a disaster, game 2 was a solid win, and game 3 was a game where he was beaten by some tough deflections. While his play is improving, Dekanich's doesn't seem to be, and it wouldn't surprise us if you'll see him one night this weekend.
But that's not to say that there aren't things that are going right for the Admirals. Center Cal O'Reilly is back and picking up right where he left off. Peter Olvecky has been a great addition so far, and frankly, I'm surprised that he hasn't spent more time in Nashville. He has shown that he has the ability to shift into a gear that most skaters don't have, and there have times where he has been the best player on the ice.
If he could do that 5 shifts a game, he'd be in Nashville. Defenseman Robert Dietrich has shown some great strides, and is deservedly now a major part of the power play.
Ryan Jones has fallen out of favor with Nashville for some reason, and for now, that's our gain. While he hasn't been lighting up the scoresheet, he continues to be a presence/nuisance in the crease area. He still draws a ton of penalties, and the goals are going to start coming again.
There may also be help on the horizon -- The Houston Aeros fans may be the first AHL fans to see Preds rookie Colin Wilson play at this level. Wilson has been recovering from a groin injury, and Preds coach Barry Trotz has said that when Wilson is ready to play, he'll spend some time with Milwaukee to get himself conditioned. Now the Ads are on a 6 game Texas trip, and it's entirely possible that we won't even see him play in Milwaukee. But we'll see how things go.
The Admirals have played the least amount of games in the league, and the least amount of home games too. So while it's tempting to hit the panic button after this ho-hum start, we need to keep reminding ourselves that it's a loooooong season. A strong showing in Texas over the next two weeks will go a long way in getting things back on track.