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Admirals Stat-urday: The End of an Era

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The Admirals' run in the AHL ended on the ice last week and on paper this week.

The Norfolk Admirals salute the crowd at the conclusion of their final AHL game at Norfolk Scope  4/17/2015
The Norfolk Admirals salute the crowd at the conclusion of their final AHL game at Norfolk Scope 4/17/2015
John Malkowski/Courtesy Norfolk Admirals

1 The Norfolk Admirals' made it to the post-season just once in their three year affiliation with Anaheim. In 2013-2014, Norfolk entered the playoffs as the eight seed and made it to the second round before being knocked off in six games by the St John's Ice Caps (Winnipeg Jets).

2 Norfolk saw two head coaches behind the bench while affiliated with the Ducks, Trent Yawney and Jarrod Skalde. Only assistant coach Marty Wilford was behind the bench for all three seasons.

3 The Admirals went 104-99-13-12 in three seasons with the Ducks. In that time, Norfolk averaged just 2.44 goals per game and allowed 2.71 goals against.

4 While there were appearances by players across all three seasons, only four were "regular" roster players for the Admirals: Chris Wagner (194 games), Mat Clark (139 games), John Kurtz (204 games), and Max Friberg (138 games).

7 Captain Dave Steckel, an offensive "juggernaut" over last two weeks of the season, scored his seventh goal and added an assist in the Admirals' 5-4 loss to the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins) last Saturday in the season's final game.

10 Ten different netminders stood between the pipes for the Admirals: Viktor Fasth, Frederik Andersen, Igor Bobkov, Jeff Deslauriers, John Gibson, Brad Thiessen, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ryan Faragher, Jason LaBarbera, and Yann Danis.

12 Of the 28 players on the Ducks' current playoff roster, 12 are Norfolk Admirals' alumni.

15 With the sale and the move, the Norfolk Admirals end a 15-year run in the American Hockey League.

64 Since joining the American Hockey League, the Admirals' worst single season record and points total came this year with just 64 points, beating the previous points total of 65 back in 2007-2008.

299 Zack Stortini set the Admirals single season record for penalty minutes in 2013-2014.  It was the only single season Admirals' record broken while affiliated with Anaheim.

4,752 Average attendance over the regular season at Scope in 2014-2015. At its peak, average attendance with the Ducks' as the primary affiliate reached 5,451 in the 2012-2013 season.

--Just two days after celebrating winning the Calder Cup, the worst kept secret in Norfolk Admirals history came to pass-the Tampa Bay Lightning were leaving, and the Anaheim Ducks, by virtue of having no other place to go, would become the NHL affiliate for the 2012-2013 season.  This change was of course met with a great deal of anger and sadness, not so much at Anaheim, but because Tampa Bay was running out of town with a team that had won 28 straight and brought home a championship.  To be honest, it wouldn't have mattered who suited up for "Anaheim's" Admirals that first season-trying to fill the vacated shoes from the team before them was an impossible task.

Trent Yawney was a familiar sight in Scope, as was Marty Wilford.  That at least helped the fans transition between the teams.  When the Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay Lightning) returned to Scope for the first time that season, it was clear that fan support was split between the players who won the Cup the year before and the players wearing the logo.  At the conclusion of the game (a Crunch win) several Syracuse players gave the fans a salute from center ice.  This did not sit well with forward Patrick Maroon, and while I can't print what he actually said, the Admirals' players were not happy at the gesture.  Norfolk would miss the playoffs by just two points that year, with the season going down to the final weekend and the last game to decide the Admirals' fate.  Goaltender Frederik Andersen was the lone bright spot of the season, literally carrying Norfolk on his back and almost willing them in to the playoffs.

The   2013-2014 season had great promise.  Andersen would be manning the pipes, backed up by well-known rookie John Gibson, who  won a bronze medal at the 2013 IIHF World Championships, posting a 1.56 goals-against average and .951 save percentage and World Junior Gold.  Andersen would play just four games for the Admirals, finding himself recalled to Anaheim to back-up Jonas Hiller. John Gibson, in his first season as a professional, took on the mantle of the Admirals' starting goaltender, appearing in 45 regular season games going 21-17-4, with five shutouts, 2.34 GAA and .919 Sv%. He also appeared in six playoff games, going 4-2 with a 1.45 GAA and a .955 Sv% before being recalled to Anaheim to lend his help to the Ducks' in the playoffs.  The Admirals finished the regular season 40-26-3-7 and 90 points, good enough for the eighth and final playoff seed.  Norfolk knocked off the first place Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles Kings) in four games but were knocked out of the second round by the Ice Caps.  Highly touted prospect Stefan Noesen played in just two regular season games and four playoff games after sitting out with an injury the entire season.

The 2014-2015 season garnered a lot of excitement over the summer.  Trent Yawney, the "defense-first" coach, had been promoted to the Ducks.  Jarrod Skalde, seen as much more offensive minded, was promoted to head coach.  Prospects like Nic Kerdiles, Noesen, Andrew O'Brien, and Josh Manson were going to come in to inject speed and scoring to what fans had classified as "YAWNey" hockey, a moniker representing the low-scoring, defensive hockey played over the past two seasons.  Rather than a step forward however, the Admirals' offense took a step back, scoring about 40 goals less than the previous season.  Goaltending was a mess for both the Ducks and the Admirals, but Norfolk paid the price for (my opinion) the lack of depth at the position in the organization.  Jason LaBarbera, signed in the off-season, was set to split time with prospect Igor Bobkov.  In Anaheim it was supposed to be Gibson and Andersen fighting for the net.  Instead, Andersen came out strong early on and took the number one spot, and Gibson was sent down to Norfolk to get some playing time.  Gibson and LaBarbera would swap spots, and after a few games Gibson returned to Anaheim.  LaBarbera saw the bulk of the playing time and then the until the "worst case" scenario actually happened.

Oct 31 and Nov 1, a Friday and Saturday, saw the Admirals playing at scope.  LaBarbera was between the pipes for both games, both wins.  After Saturday's game, he got a phone call that he was to report to Anaheim to back up Gibson as Andersen was feeling tightness.  LaBarbera arrived in Colorado to meet the Ducks, got about an hour of sleep, only to find out that he was starting his third game in three nights due an injury Gibson sustained.  "Barbs" would pull out the win for the Ducks and find himself on the roster for several weeks.  But wait, it gets better.

Igor Bobkov, once a highly regarded prospect, just plain stinks at the AHL level.  Ryan Faragher, playing in the ECHL, was recalled to Norfolk to back-up Bobkov.  "Bobber" would get three straight starts, but would fail to impress upon management that he was able to carry the load.  "Barbs" broke his hand in Anaheim, and the Ducks were forced to recall the only goaltender under contract, Bobkov.  The bare cupbords in Norfolk forced the Admirals to sign veteran Yann Danis to a Professional Tryout contract.  Danis played ten straight games and eleven total for the Admirals, stabilizing their fall in the standings and posting a 5-6-0-2 record, 2.72 GAA and .914 SP.  His last game with the Admirals was a 3-0 shut-out and he was released the next day.

Ilya Bryzgalov.  Signed by the Ducks to get Bobkov the heck out of Anaheim.  Played two games in Norfolk before suiting up for the Ducks.  LaBarbera returned to Norfolk, as did John Gibson, coming off a groin injury.  So, fans thought, now that it's Andersen and Bryzgalov in Anaheim, Gibson stays in Norfolk, right?  Wrong.  Andersen got hurt again, but short term.  Gibson was recalled.  Bryzgalov on waivers, elected not to report to Norfolk and parted ways with the Ducks.  LaBarbera was recalled, then returned to Norfolk to finish out the season.  Ryan Faragher became LaBarbera's back-up, with Bobkov, in the final year of his contract, left alone to play in the ECHL for the remainder of the year.

So how about those prospects?  Stefan Noesen made it through four games in October before being sidelined yet again, not seeing the ice until February.    Max Friberg got injured on his first shift in the first game of the season and didn't return for almost two months.  Nic Kerdiles made it through the majority of the season but went down with a concussion at the beginning of February and didn't return until the final two games of the regular season.  Josh Manson played just 36 games for the Admirals, Chris Wagner just 48.  The roster got to be so depleted that Coach Skalde was dressing defensemen as forwards just to be able to play.  He couldn't sit players because he didn't have anyone to replace them with.

Dany Heatley.  Played 25 games for Norfolk, scored two goals and five assists.  Don't think I need to go in to much more here.

The Admirals would finish 27-39-6-4 with just 64 points, the worst in franchise history.

--Now, about the sale of the team and the move to San Diego.  It's a business transaction.  It makes sense for Anaheim.  Can't fault the logic. Coach Skalde was fired (or mutually agreed to go his separate way), so there will be a new coach next year. There is some help coming in the form of prospects, and hopefully the Ducks can find some players who can put the puck in the net.  Ryan Faragher is a good up-and-comer, but Anaheim is going to have to restock the cupboard with goaltenders.

In my opinion, the only thing Anaheim should have done differently regarding the move had to do with how it handled PR with Norfolk fans.  No one in the Ducks' organization made it a point to thank the city or the fans, instead it felt like management had moving vans running in the parking lot for the past few months.  In fact, the Admirals received better recognition and send-offs from opposing teams!  In the final game against the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins, the scoreboard at Mohegan Sun arena showed the Admirals' logo and a thank you. Play by play announcers and sports writers alike from opposing teams all made it a point to bid a fond farewell to the team. They were small gestures, but compared to that of Anaheim, well, I think it speaks volumes about the management and ownership.  I'm not sure anyone there even knows how to spell class.

--Finally, I want to extend my thanks to the Editors and readers of Anaheim Calling.  It's been a privilege to contribute each week over the past few years.  I greatly appreciate having a forum to express my thoughts and opinions, and even more so want to thank everyone who read and contributed feedback.  The Ducks have great fans; SMART fans who often times would seem to know more about running a hockey team than Anaheim management.  I wish everyone good luck, and I sincerely hope some serious work goes in to retooling the affiliate roster for next year in San Diego.  There are some great players coming your way, a lot of heart.  Management owes it to both the players and the fans to take care of them.

It's been a fun ride, but only because of everyone here.  Thank you!

Follow me on Twitter: @VAPuckhead

[Ed. Note:  This is the one time I feel comfortable speaking for the entire AC community, editors, staff, readers, past and present, when I say my sincerest thank you to all of our friends in Norfolk who helped keep us up to date with the goings on with the prospects in Virginia.  In addition to Scott's comprehensive and consistently awesome Stat-urday posts, we have to thank Shawn Dulin, especially for keeping the site full of content during the 2013 lockout.  Also big thanks to Kim Peacock and Carolyn Duncan for their contributions to AC's Admirals coverage over the past three years.  Really the only negative of the move from a Ducks' fan perspective is that it had to come at the expense of AHL hockey in Norfolk.  You guys got jerked around a lot in these last few years and it's not really fair. Thanks again for your support and good luck in the ECHL for the coming years. -CK]