(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
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.
Team History: It wasn’t until the 2000-01 season that the Norfolk Admirals joined the AHL, but they’re still an older franchise than eight others in the league. And while still relatively young, the franchise has seen considerable success. The franchise began as the affiliate for the Chicago Blackhawks and that partnership lasted seven seasons, but never produced a championship team — at least not for the Admirals. Over the years, the club produced a number of notables that would form the Blackhawks championship teams over the past decade, including Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford. Coincidentally, many former Admirals during the Blackhawks affiliate days would square off against former Admirals from the Lightning affiliate days in the 2014-15 Stanley Cup final. Players such as Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn played in Norfolk between 2007 and 2012. During the years as a Lightning affiliate, the Admirals went on one of the most unthinkable runs in professional hockey history. In a time of remarkable parity across the major and minor pro ranks, Norfolk rattled off an incredible 28 consecutive victories to close the 2011-12 season — they even won a 29th to start the playoffs. Unsurprisingly, that team went on to become the first Calder Cup champion squad in franchise history. The joy was short-lived, though. The very next season, the Lightning affiliation moved to Syracuse and the Admirals became home for the Ducks farm club. Only once has the franchise made the post-season since then, sneaking in as the eighth seed in 2013-14.
Logo History: The original Admirals moniker came from Norfolk’s naval history and the logo always represented that. The first logo, which was used for four seasons, was a simple blue and yellow logo with Admirals stretching across a circle. Inside the circle were five stars representing the five-star flag ranking of a fleet admiral in the U.S. Navy. Those five stars remained as a detail when the club altered its logo to begin the 2004-05 season.
The new logo maintained the original Admirals word mark but added a slight upwards curve. Instead of being atop the five-star circle, however, the logo was replaced with a battleship firing pucks from three cannons. For the final decade the team was in Norfolk — through three affiliation changes — the Admirals logo remained unchanged.
Current Logo: The San Diego Gulls logo makes use of a unique color scheme and is a great call back to the former ECHL Gulls. In fact, the logo hasn’t changed much since then, which is a good thing. One of the best things about the logo is that it takes an animal few see as a fierce mascot and actually makes the seagull look somewhat intimidating. Beyond that, there’s a very simple and subtle detail that makes the logo brilliant. While it’s not Hartford Whalers-hidden-‘H’ brilliant, the logo designer has to get a tip of the cap for the seagull hidden between the second ‘L’ and ’S’ in Gulls. It’s the little things that matters and that alone would makes the word mark that much better.
(All logos courtesy of Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net)