Choppy Seas Forecast for the Norfolk Admirals

cupajoe.jpegWe in Washington know well what restlessness within an American Hockey League franchise can spawn when a parent club poorly feeds the farm. In 2005, the Hershey Bears had had enough of the meager support provided by the Colorado Avalanche, and fresh from missing the AHL postseason in unheard-of consecutive seasons, they welcomed George McPhee’s affiliation idea that spring. Today the reigning Calder Cup champs, whose lineup the past two seasons has been a marvelous blend of AHL vets and Caps’ high draft picks, are poised for another lengthy post-season run.
One of the Bears’ main rivals, the Norfolk Admirals, most certainly did not want to see their seven-year affiliation with the Chicago Blackhawks end. But it does, at the conclusion of this season. This week the Blackhawks announced the termination of their tenure in Tidewater. Beginning next season, they’ll affiliate with the new Rockford Icehogs (Ice . . . Hogs?), who’ll compete just 60 miles from the Windy City.
While the Hawks have been futile on the ice in recent seasons, the Entry Draft compensation for it has been substantial: a litany of talented draft picks, among them Cam Barker, Brent Seabrook, Jonathon Toews, Jack Skille, Jake Dowell, Dave Bolland, and 2007 Hobey Baker finalist Nathan Davis. In fact, the Hawks announced Thursday afternoon the signings of WCHA standouts Skille and Dowell and their immediate assignment to Norfolk. The Hawks have drafted very well in recent years, and most league observers see the club — not unlike the Caps — benefitting soon from it.
Norfolk AdmiralsFor Admirals’ fans, however, the stunning and jarring affiliation news this week is a very rude eviction notice: from prospect penthouse to outhouse, as their parent club beginning next season is virtually certain to be the seriously draft-challenged Tampa Bay Lightning. Hockeysfuture recently updated its NHL organizational rankings for prospects, and the Bolts delivered little beyond static electricity coming in at no. 27. Among Hockeysfuture’s list of top 50 prospects, the Bolts scored only one, goaltender Riku Helenius, at no. 41.
Recently, too, OFB shared with our readers the Hockey News‘ Future Watch rankings for NHL clubs. Tampa came in dead last at no. 30.
That’s two leading independent arbiters of young hockey talent surveying central Florida recently and telling folks to avert their eyes of youngBolts. Norfolk is very much a military town, and our brave and selfless servicemen and women deserve far better in their R&R options.
During their affiliation with Chicago, the Admirals won two division titles and made the playoffs every year. Tampa’s AHL affiliation the past three seasons? The current last-place Springfield Falcons. They’ve never qualified for the AHL postseason with Tampa’s talent. Yikes.
This bit of candor about the plight of the Tampa farm I found on a web page devoted to the team’s prospects:

“From the Springfield press to the fans — it seems like people are by and large unhappy with the Lightning organization.”

I asked Bears’ beat reporter Tim Leone of the Patriot News about this affiliation shakeup, and he noted that years back Tampa actually enjoyed success with its minor pro affiliate in Atlanta. “Tampa Bay obviously hasn’t had much success in the AHL, but it’s not for lack of trying,” he told me. “Jay Feaster has made seemingly decent offseason moves, but they just haven’t panned out.”
“I’ve got to think they’ll put a good foot forward in Norfolk. Funny, when the ‘Ning started out, they always had powerhouse teams in Atlanta [of the International Hockey league].”
Beginning next season, it will be a lot easier for Caps’ fans to monitor the prospect assets of division rival Tampa with manageable drives north and south. And gloat afterward.

This entry was posted in American Hockey League, Chicago Blackhawks, Entry Draft, Hershey Bears. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Choppy Seas Forecast for the Norfolk Admirals

  1. odessa steps says:

    Hockey people here are very unhappy about the switch. The Hawks are admittedly not the best-run franchise, but they have always stocked the team with talent.
    Given the often-tenuous state of the team here, I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if they were gone in two years.

  2. Vogs says:

    I agree with Odessa. Even with the good talent the Hawks supplied, the Ads haven’t been a terrific draw at the Scope. Put that Springfield team in there and the building could be empty — and then vacant — in no time. I wonder why the Hurricanes haven’t made a bigger push to make Norfolk their own AHL affiliate.

  3. Gustafsson says:

    I had the same thought, Vogs. Norfolk is not that far away from Raleigh. Certainly would be easier than Albany. Perhaps they will try to make a change with Chicago pulling out.

  4. odessa steps says:

    Attendance has been up and down at scope this year. Some of the games vs Hershey have sold out the building. But I went to a game a few weeks ago vs Bridgeport and it was back in the 6-7,000 range.

  5. sk84fun says:
    “The Norfolk Admirals will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. Thursday at Scope at which they are expected to announce the Tampa Bay Lightning will be their new NHL affiliate”

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