Pete's View - April 2012
Pete Michaud is The Voice of the Admirals. He brings 20 seasons of experience with the team to the airwaves in 2011-12. He has been the team's play-by-play broadcaster for each of the past 13 seasons. In addition to his work with the Admirals, Michaud also calls Norfolk Tides AAA baseball games.
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April 13, 2012
We're down to the final weekend of the regular season as I check in from Albany. The Admirals play here tonight before moving on to Binghamton tomorrow night and Adirondack at 5:00 p.m. Sunday. While the guys have already wrapped up the East Division, the Eastern Conference and the #1 overall seed, fans will, nonetheless, be watching and listening to the weekend's action with great interest to see if the club can continue a 25-game winning streak. The streak has been unlike anything we've ever seen. It's been amazing to be around.
Of course, the playoffs are right around the corner. We'll know after the weekend who the Admirals' first round opponent in a best-of-five series will be. The Admirals will have the playoff schedule here on their website as soon as possible, so keep coming back. Just judging from past experience, I'd guess most teams will open the playoffs with games on April 18 (next Wednesday) or April 20 (next Friday), so keep those dates free on your schedule. Since the Admirals have home ice, Saturday the 21st would also be a possible date for a home game at Scope.
We're all hoping for a dramatic change from playoff fortunes of the past. The Admirals haven't won a playoff series since 2004, and that was just a best-of-three series. Norfolk's last win in a playoff series of more than three games was in 2003, when they swept San Antonio in a best-of-five series, and the Admirals have never won a best-of-seven series in their history. Of course, no one with this current team had anything to do with any of those past playoff failures. Those notes are intriguing for fans and the media, but they mean nothing to the guys on the ice.
Congratulations to Admirals Head Coach Jon Cooper on being named the AHL Coach of the Year! It was one of those decisions we consider a 'no brainer.' Coop has done an amazing job! Despite just two years in the pro ranks, I'm sure he'll be drawing consideration for open NHL jobs in the near future.
Coach Cooper threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Tides' season opener on April 9th at Harbor Park. Several Admirals staff members came out to watch his toss, although they may have left disappointed. Coop tells me they were hoping to heckle him had he thrown a wild pitch, but the toss was a good one to the Tides catcher.
Coach Cooper, while a hockey guy at heart, still enjoys the national pastime. In fact, he tells me two of the most exciting moments he's ever encountered have come in baseball. He was about 25 rows up from the field by third base at SkyDome in Toronto when Joe Carter hit his dramatic home run to clinch the Blue Jays' World Series win over the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993. He was also in St. Louis when the Cardinals wrapped up a title over the Detroit Tigers in 2006. Coop relayed those memories when I had him on for an interview during the Tides game that night.
We also have to congratulate Mark Barberio and Cory Conacher for being named the AHL's Top Defenseman and Outstanding Rookie, respectively. Barberio has led all league blueliners in scoring just about from day one, while Conacher has blown away almost every other rookie in the league in scoring (aside from his own teammate, Tyler Johnson, who stands second) while standing near the league lead among ALL players in goals and points most of the year. If you don't know, Barberio is in the black jersey, while Conacher is in white.
Speaking of Conacher, it seems the 'honey badger' moniker has started to catch on. I've mentioned on the air how his teammates have taken to calling him by that nickname for his fearless, tenacious style of play. At a recent Admirals game at Scope, a few fans were showing Cory a 'honey badger' t-shirt they had in his honor. Conacher says he likes the nickname, which was first given to him to the team's equipment manager, J.W. Aiken.
Barberio, meanwhile, has had an outstanding season, being named an AHL First-Team All-Star in addition to being selected the league's Eddie Shore Award winner as the top defenseman. Barbs tells me that while the offensive numbers are great, he's more pleased with the progress he's made defensively in his own zone this season. Barberio is a big part of the reason why the Admirals now have the top-ranked defense in the Eastern Conference.
And on a final note, expect to see many of the players growing out their 'playoff beards' in the days ahead. Most will be hard pressed, however, to match Scott Jackson or Radko Gudas. Jackson has had his going since early in the season. In fact, Scott's facial hair has its own Twitter account (@JacksonsBeard)! Gudas decided to forego shaving only a month or so back, but has almost caught up to Jackson. You can decide for yourself who has the best beard. Jackson is the taller of the two on the left side of the photo.
Well, that's it for now. Tell all your friends, family, co-workers and strangers you meet on the street to come out for the games and support the team during the playoffs. The guys really do feed off the energy in the building. I certainly feel it during my broadcasts. Thanks to all of you for the support of the club through the season.
Well, that's it for now. Until next time, feel free to drop an email ( email@example.com) with any questions of comments, and make sure to follow me, @PeteMichaud2012, on Twitter. Take care and we'll see you at Scope for the playoffs next week!
April 3, 2012
Well, it's hard to believe that the regular season is almost over. The Admirals have just six games left, including tonight, before the playoffs begin!
What an amazing run it's been for the guys over the past two months, winning 22 straight games entering tonight's clash at Scope against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. That's the longest run in North American pro hockey history. Enjoy it while it lasts. This is unlike anything anyone has ever seen. We all know winning streaks eventually end, but whenever this does come to an end, I hope the fans will give the Admirals a standing ovation at the end of the night, if the streak ends at home.
Most of the players and staff have a few superstitions that become more and more noticeable as a long winning streak continues. For me, it's the green jacket! I have a green sport coat that I started wearing just as the Admirals started threatening several AHL records, right around game 14 or 15 of the streak. Since the team won, I've continued to wear it. Even if the magical run were to end before this homestand concludes, I might have to stay with it, seeing that this is Masters week in Augusta!
Speaking of The Masters, here's a little hockey lingo you might not know. Whenever a player has the worst plus/minus rating on a team, guys always say something like "He's got the green jacket," or "He's the leader in the clubhouse." Why? Well, a bad plus/minus would be something like -15, which would be GREAT at most golf tournaments. And, of course, the green jacket is symbolic of the winner of The Masters. Just for your information, the man currently at the "top of the leaderboard" with the worst plus/minus rating in the AHL is a guy in Hamilton with a -29 rating. Strangely, there isn't really any term for the guy with the BEST plus/minus. That, by the way, would be our own Pierre-Cedric Labrie, who is at +31, which would be a new AHL Admirals record. Maybe we should say he'll have to go back to the "Q School" after this year. "Q School," or qualifying school, is where a golfer goes to hopefully win back his PGA Tour playing privileges after a bad season. +31 is terrible in golf, but great in hockey! And if you're new to hockey and don't understand the plus/minus, it's very simple. It's a difference in goals scored by your team versus the number allowed by your team when a specific player is on the ice, not counting power play goals. In the case of Labrie, the Admirals have scored 31 more goals than they've allowed when Labrie is on the ice, aside from power play goals. That gives him a +31 rating. The higher your 'plus' number, the better. A big number with a 'minus' before it is bad.
While the Admirals' offense is getting lots of credit, I think the defense has really been an even bigger key during the 22-game winning streak. Norfolk has allowed just 34 goals in the 22 games. That's only about 1-and-a-half a contest! The Admirals now rank 3rd in the AHL in defense. Guys like Mike Kostka, who has a rating of +26 in just 46 games in Norfolk, and Jean-Philippe Cote, who rates at +22 in just 52 games, have been huge keys to the run.
Offensively, what's made the streak so incredible is that the team is being carried, in large part, by rookies. Tyler Johnson, just named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Month for March, Richard Panik, Ondrej Palat and Cory Conacher, just to name a few, have had great success during this winning streak.
Speaking of Conacher, I've had some folks ask me why Cory hasn't been recalled for at least a game or two by the Lightning, especially now that he's been signed to an NHL contract by the Lightning. Cory recently signed a two-year, two-way contract with Tampa Bay, but it doesn't begin until the start of next season. Conacher is playing the remainder of this year on an AHL contact, and players cannot be called up to the NHL unless they are under an NHL deal. That's been great for us this year, but I'm sure Cory will get a real shot to make the big club out of camp next season.
Many of you have heard me mention on the air that Conacher is a distant relative of Hockey Hall of Famers Lionel, Charlie and Ray Conacher. Lionel Conacher was Canada's greatest athlete in the first half of the 20th century. He was not only a Hockey Hall of Famer, but an accomplished star in football, baseball, boxing, lacrosse and several other sports. Charlie and Ray are also in the hockey Hall of Fame.
Cory Conacher isn't the only member of the Admirals who has a family connection within the game. Our defenseman, Jean-Philippe Cote, is the son of Alain Cote, who played for the Quebec Nordiques from 1978 through 1989. Before making the NHL, he played 36 AHL games for the Hampton Gulls in the 1977-78 season. Unfortunately, that was the season the Gulls suspended operations 46 games into the season. The head coach of that Hampton team was…John Brophy! It's funny how things go full circle.
In another interesting connection, among Alain Cote's teammates with Quebec in the mid-'80s was none other than Brent Ashton, the father of former Admiral Carter Ashton. Brent played 14 years in the NHL with eight different teams, but his best years came with Quebec, Detroit and Winnipeg. Isn't it interesting that Alain Cote and Brent Ashton, teammates more than 25 years ago, would find their sons playing as teammates for at least part of the season here in Norfolk?
On a closing note, I wanted mention Eric Neilson of the Admirals, who has been named the club's 'IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year' award winner for his charity work in the Hampton Roads community. Many of you have also heard Eric handling a bit of color commentary with me during some road broadcasts. Here's a shot of 'Neiler' and I in the press box at the Glens Falls (NY) Civic Center when the Admirals recently played the Adirondack Phantoms.
Well, that's it for now. Until next time, feel free to drop an email ( firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions of comments, and make sure to follow me, @PeteMichaud2012, on Twitter. Take care and we'll see you at Scope soon!
View February and March 2012 editions of Pete's View
View December 2011 and January 2012 editions of Pete's View
View October and November 2011 editions of Pete's View