Record-setting group to reunite on Saturday
Norfolk hockey fans remember the remarkable 2011-12 AHL season, when the Admirals won 28-straight regular season games en route to the Calder Cup Championship. While backroom deals altered the fate of hockey in Hampton Roads in the coming seasons, fans remember that group fondly. Several players from the “We Are Young” days are headed back to Norfolk. They’ll be signing autographs Saturday from 5-6:30 P.M. at Waterside, which has become a major partner for recent Ads news. Let’s take a look at the players and how they’ve fared in the years since raising a banner in Norfolk:
Cory Conacher: The undrafted forward out of Canisius College couldn’t stop scoring, and ended up winning AHL MVP. Conacher eventually made his way to the NHL, where he was (in)famously traded for Ben Bishop. He played with SC Bern in 2015-16, which also included ’12 Ad Trevor Smith. Conacher is back with the Lightning organization for 2017-18.
Richard Petiot: The addition of Petiot is somewhat comic, but in a good way. Petiot played for the Ads, but only for six games. He was most often found on the concourse, signing autographs. Petiot would go on to play one more season in the AHL, with the St. John’s IceCaps.
Mark Barberio: Barberio was the offensive-minded defenseman who would go on to win the Eddie Shore Award that season. Barberio would find his way to the NHL, playing parts of the past seasons with Montreal, Tampa Bay, and Colorado. While he’s never matched his AHL numbers, he has morphed into a decent possession player.
Jon Cooper: All he tends to do is win. Last season with the Lightning marked the first full season since 2007-08 that Cooper has missed the playoffs as head coach. A mid-year hire in 2010-11, Cooper came in and got the Admirals to the playoffs. No one was prepared for the record-setting streak the next year, which helped propel Cooper to his current position as Head Coach of Tampa Bay. Strangely, Cooper is one of the longest-tenured coaches at his current stop in the NHL.
JP Cote: The midseason addition played with an edge, and brought stability to the blueline. Alongside his solid defensive play, Cote recorded 15 points in 67 regular season games. Cote did catch the bad side of Ads fans in the next season, when he delivered illegal hits to both John Kurtz and Jesse Blacker. Cote currently plays in France.
Radko Gudas: A hard-hitting, penalty-killing machine with a bit of a scoring touch, Gudas was another fan favorite. The Czech defenseman has spent the past four-and-a-half seasons in the NHL, with Tampa and the Flyers. Gudas is known more for his hits than his play, which is unfortunate. He has subtly become a very solid defenseman in an oft-maligned Flyers blue-line.
Tyler Johnson: While Cory Conacher was generating all the buzz in 11-12, Tyler Johnson decided to go ahead and play really well anyway. TJ won the AHL MVP in 12-13, and then became a national star with the Lightning. While everyone was focused on Steven Stamkos, Johnson combined with fellow ’12 Ad Ondrej Palat (and Nikita Kucherov) to create a stellar line in the 2014-15 playoffs. Johnson is currently a restricted free agent with the Lightning.
Alex Killorn: The Harvard product made his debut late into the season and proved to be an immediate impact. With 12 points in 17 games, he was incredibly important to the postseason run. Killorn has been with the Lightning organization his entire professional career.
Mike Kostka: Kostka was a midseason acquisition who was quite instrumental in the Admirals winning a championship. After coming to Norfolk from San Antonio, Kostka put up 32 points in 52 games from the blueline during the regular season. That defense was pretty stacked. Kostka most importantly did this:
Kostka’s played some in the NHL, though he’s mostly stuck in the AHL. He was last on the Stockton Heat.
PC Labrie: PC always struck me as kind of a goofy dude, though one with an edge. Labrie only played 6 games in the playoffs, but did contribute some with 26 points in 64 games. He would go on to make his NHL debut with the Lightning. PC’s made most of his hay in the AHL, in recent years with the Rockford IceHogs. Good news! Labrie is back in the Admirals food chain, signing with the Nashville Predators. It’s unlikely he’ll make it to Norfolk, though.
Michel Ouellet: A player with considerable NHL experience, Ouellet was part of the Admirals’ outstanding depth in 2012. He put up 31 points in 55 games, helping to add some secondary scoring to the team. Ouellet went on to play two seasons in the LNAH.
Ondrej Palat: A lot of Steve Yzerman’s rests on finding Palat in the 7th round and Johnson as an undrafted free agent. Palat wasn’t quite the offensive weapon he is now–he had 30 points in 61 games-but he did contribute in the playoffs with 9 points in 18 games. Still, this was a lot compared to his relative draft position. After the magic ’12 season, Palat would go on to explode in the NHL, and he is currently an RFA with the Lightning.
Richard Panik: Panik was the highest drafted Lightning player on the team, and therefore, more might have been expected of him. He had no idea he was going to be outperformed by two sub-six-foot dudes who weren’t drafted. Panik wasn’t a slouch: 41 points in 64 games, good for fifth on the team, and a pretty important post-season goal:
Panik would go on to play for the Lightning and Maple Leafs, and he’s currently with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Alex Picard: In some ways, the forward Alexandre Picard is a bust. He was drafted 8th overall in 2004, ahead of players like Drew Stafford, Alexander Radulov, Corey Schneider, and others. He also had the misfortune of being drafted by a Blue Jackets organization which did not have its course set anywhere in particular. Picard managed 25 points in 42 games, but lit it up during the playoffs. Picard recorded 16 points in 18 games and won the playoff MVP award. Picard would play the next four seasons in the Swiss league, and spent last year in the Extraliga.
The players listed here are not the entire roster, of course. Many other players contributed to the success of the Admirals in that season. It’s still great to see so many of the people and players responsible back in town to celebrate what was a revitalizing season of hockey in Hampton Roads. Julien BriseBois and Steve Yzerman can chill at home, though.