Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
No matter how the AHL season concludes, we may always ask what could have been.
At this point, there is a lot of uncertainty: uncertainty about the AHL, and of course, so many other professional, minor and junior leagues. Rachel and I have just one game to recap in what could be our last Musings of the season, so I’ve structured this one differently.
I want to address something I’ve seen often on Twitter this week, we’ll provide our normal game recap and the typical musings, and that will be it.
By now, I think nearly everyone is aware of what’s going on in the AHL. As of Monday, the league is suspended until May at the latest. It seems likely the balance of the regular season won’t be played. Players have been told to go home, and, if the season resumes, it likely does so in the playoffs.
For as disappointing as this is, I hope we all agree how necessary it is.
Each league across the globe has different questions to answer. In Europe, concerns about promotion and relegation linger with different routes being taken. In the Czech Republic, the top team in the Chance Liga is being automatically promoted for next season—but in Sweden there will be no promotion or relegation, causing financial concerns for some clubs.
In Milwaukee, the Admirals have found themselves in a unique scenario. After season after season of good teams with no playoff success, the 2019-20 campaign has felt different. From the first drop of the puck, the Admirals have dominated every team they’ve played. I can’t think of a single point this season where fans or analysts were even looking behind Milwaukee’s shoulders because it didn’t matter. There was never really a debate that this was the best team in the AHL. In fact, Milwaukee was so good that an average month of February felt like the season had been turned upside down.
Should the season never resume, the Admirals won’t be deemed automatic champions, there won’t be a Calder Cup-winning game to watch on NHL Network and there won’t be any trophy to help distract Nashville fans from their own mediocre year.
It’s frustrating, undoubtedly, but who would want a championship with an asterisk anyway?
If the season does resume, Milwaukee still has just as good a shot at the Calder Cup, but what happens if they falter along the way? It will beg the obvious question: did a dramatic season suspension cool this team off and what would have been without this pandemic?
In a way, things aren’t any different than if the season hadn’t been suspended: if Milwaukee doesn’t head into the summer with their second Calder Cup, it will be a disappointment of unmatched proportions. It’s simply a matter of whether it’s at the hands of something uncontrollable or something unexpected.
To end on a more serious note, this season means so much to so many. As you await the return of league play or a dreadful announcement otherwise, I hope you think of some people. I hope you think of the ECHL players who received their last check of the season this week and who struggle to make ends meet at times anyway; I hope you think of people like Aaron Sims, the Admirals’ play-by-play announcer, who says it would mean ‘everything’ to call a Calder Cup victory for this team and,most importantly, I hope you think of everyone whose jobs and livelihood are in danger because of this—both those in the arena and outside it.
March 11 vs. San Antonio Rampage
Milwaukee’s offense exploded in an impressive school-day game performance. After a quiet first period, goals from Daniel Carr, Eeli Tolvanen, Cole Schneider, Mathieu Olivier, Anthony Richard and Michael McCarron led to the Admirals’ chasing the Rampage out of the building in front of a near-perfect game from Troy Grosenick.
Musings and Observations, courtesy of Rachel and Eric:
- Eeli Tolvanen has been rolling lately: three goals and two assists in five games in March. Even in a short season, he topped his goal and points total from 2018-19.
- I think we forget how Daniel Carr was initially signed to be a bottom-six option in Nashville. But, on a one-way contract, he’s been irreplaceable for Milwaukee this season. We’re curious how the next contract negotiation is handled.
- Anthony Richard might need a break like this. He scored on Wednesday, but it was on an empty-net. 14 goals and just 23 points in 60 games this year is the exact opposite direction of where the speedy winger was hoping to go in 2019-20.
- If the season is formally canceled, I wonder how much pressure Scott Nichol falls under to keep this roster together for another run next season. Some decisions have to be made, including those about Tommy Novak, Ben Harpur, Cole Schneider and Troy Grosenick.