(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)
The San Diego Gulls are preparing for the inaugural season, but it doesn’t appear as if it’ll be an incredibly successful one for the Gulls.
San Diego is inheriting the former Norfolk Admirals, which would have been quite the story were these the Admirals of the early-2000s. Unfortunately, the Admirals of the past eight seasons haven’t quite been the same club. Sure, the change in affiliation from Chicago Blackhawks to Tampa Bay Lightning to Ducks has had something to do with it, but the Gulls roster hasn’t been a top for any of its three seasons as the Anaheim affiliate.
In 2014-15, there was realistically only one team worse than the then-Admirals — the 50-point, basement-dwelling Iowa Wild. But no team was as offensively stunted as the Admirals, who scored only 168 goals over the course of the season, and were it not for netminding efforts Jason LaBarbera the season could have been much, much worse.
There are some new pieces that should make fans in San Diego feel a bit more hopeful, however. Anaheim scooped up Chris Mueller, Harry Zolnierczyk, Joe Piskula, Shane O’Brien and Matt Hackett this off-season, who will fight for starts in the AHL with either John Gibson or Anton Khudobin — whichever doesn’t land an NHL backup gig this season.
Mueller is coming off of a 40-point campaign with Hartford, which would have tied him as the leading scorer in Norfolk this past season, while Zolnierczyk’s 44 points would have made him the team leader. Piskula, 31, and O’Brien, 32, are veteran presences — and the only players to have celebrated 24th birthdays — on a very young D-corps that includes Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour.
Realistically, things can’t get much worse for the franchise after what was their worst season since affiliating with the Ducks. Or we hope not, at least. Read more