Houston Aeros 1994-2013: Thank you for all the great memories and two decades of great hockey and entertainment.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jim Mill named Aeros GM (now with audio)

Here's the presser from the Wild:

SAINT PAUL/MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher today announced the National Hockey League (NHL) club has named Jim Mill Assistant to the General Manager. He will report to Fletcher and help oversee the day-to-day operations of the Wild’s hockey operations department. Mill will also serve as the General Manager of the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League (AHL).

“I am excited to add Jim to our staff,” said Fletcher. “His strong hockey background and extensive experience working in the American Hockey League will be a great addition to our team.”

Mill 41, (11/17/67), has spent the last 11 years working for the AHL. He joined the AHL’s hockey operations staff in 1998, was promoted to vice president in 2001 and was named executive vice president of hockey operations prior to the 2007-08 season. In addition to personally supervising some 100 games every season, Mill managed all facets of the league’s hockey operations department, including management of the AHL’s officiating program, recruiting, hiring and assigning on-ice officials to supplement those in the National Hockey League officials development program.

“On behalf of our teams and our Board of Governors, I would like to thank Jim for his 11 years of invaluable service and dedication to the American Hockey League,” said David Andrews, President and CEO of the American Hockey League. “We are elated to see a most deserving member of our organization get the ability to demonstrate his talents at the next level, and we offer our sincerest best wishes to Jim and his family.”

Mill also oversaw the league’s disciplinary process for fines and suspensions, and developed and executed the 1,160-game league schedule and coordinated the playoff schedules with all participating teams. He also served as the league secretary to the AHL Board of Governors.

A native of Hartford, Conn., Mill came to the AHL office after serving as assistant director of hockey operations at the East Coast Hockey League. He played four seasons as a goaltender in the ECHL (1992-96) and served on the executive board of the Professional Hockey Players’ Association. Mill also served as an assistant coach and director of player/community relations for Tallahassee (ECHL) in 1996-97. He played junior hockey for the renowned Springfield Olympics program in Enfield, Conn., and captained the varsity team at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., where he earned MVP honors in 1992.

He and his wife, Cindy, have three daughters. Mill will begin his new role with the Wild immediately.
I know nothing of the man other than what I just read here, but I'm personally crossing my fingers that the Aeros will not continue to have the absolute worst schedule in all the AHL with someone so well connected in and knowledgeable about the league on board.

Much more to come on this, no doubt.

Here's audio of the press conference introducing Mill.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Wild qualify 6 of 10 restricted free agents (updated)

As we've mentioned before, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents and the team loses their rights to a player if they are not given a qualifying offer by the deadline, which was today.

Here's the list of players who were qualified, with Aeros bolded:

C Kyle Brodziak
LW Robbie Earl
G Josh Harding
RW Danny Irmen
LW Benoit Pouliot
D Clayton Stoner

The Wild did not make qualifying offers to:
D Paul Albers
LW Riley Emmerson
LW Dan Fritsche
LW Peter Olvecky

Not entirely surprising on any front, though I always liked Paul and will miss his fantastic shot blocking. I thought they might keep Olvecky around, but I guess the new regime doesn't see a fit. Will add more later if clarity around the decisions is made public.

On Wednesday, NHL free agency begins. It's also Canada Day and really the most exciting day of the off-season, typically. Though teams are so burdened with salary cap issues, it will be interesting to see what GMs can pull off with such constraints. I, for one, take the day off and just follow the flow of signings and trades like a kid at Christmas, but I'm kind of a dork for hockey. :)

UPDATE: From Russo's blog, it appears the goal is to keep Olvecky but avoid having to sign him to a one-way (NHL-only) contract.

About Pouliot, Fletcher said: “We’re excited to see where he is come training camp. He’s had his ups and downs along the road, but (new coach) Todd Richards is excited about seeing him in camp. We want to see if he can push his career forward, take the next step. It’s up to him, but we want to give him that opportunity.”

He said not qualifying Fritsche and Olecky was a roster “flexibility” issue. About Olvecky, Fletcher said making him a qualifying offer might possibly have “made him eligible for a one-way contract. We wanted to keep the option open of a two-way contract.” So, by not qualifying him, Fletcher said he still held out hope that he could reach agreement on a two-way deal and keep Olecky in the fold. Fletcher said it was important for the franchise to have as much financial flexibility as possible heading into free agency.

And of no particular consequence to the Aeros but might be of interest if you were a fan of his, John Lammers has not been qualified by the Dallas Stars organization, so he, too, will become a UFA on Wednesday.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Getting to know the enemy: Logan Stephenson

I don't often run across other women who eat, sleep, and breathe hockey like I do, so when I "met" Su Ring, I knew I had found a soul sister. She's an executive producer for a TV station in the Seattle area, which is a hotbed of junior hockey, so she does lots of really excellent interviews with guys in junior but also keeps up with guys who have moved on.

She's the one who brought us Mitch Love's blog this past season. Great story here about how she came to know who Mitch was by singing the National Anthem for his former junior team, the Everett Silvertips.

Anyway, here's a great interview with a name Aeros fans have seen bounce around the league, but mostly from San Antonio, Logan Stephenson. Check it out. For the lazy folks out there, here's where he talks about Mitch and Houston:
KING 5: Mitch Love (former Everett Silvertip and KING 5 Hockey blogger) is playing in Houston because Constantine asked him to. This season, Constantine asked Mitch, who is a defenseman by trade, to play winger and he said "okay." That's gotta be somebody who commands respect, for you to completely change your game.
LS: Absolutely. But you know, Mitch turned into a pretty good winger. We play against them ten times a year almost. In the past 3 years, I think I've played that team almost 37 times. I've seen everything that guy has to offer and he's a pretty good winger. He does his job well.

KING 5: Have you guys ever scrapped?
LS: I don't think I've ever fought Love. I think I've asked him a few times. I think he's asked me a few times, but I don't think we've ever actually gotten into it. I'd have to think back. I don't think so. I told him last year, 'We've gotta get one in us.' But those things, you don't really put much stock in them. If they happen, they happen. He's a great guy. I've got a lot of respect for what he does and who he is but at any time if we need to swing, I think he'd be happy to help me out and vice versa.

KING 5: You're a big guy - 6'3" and Mitch is about 5'11".
LS: "Rocky"(Balboa) was 5'10", 5"11" and he (Mitch) has the same type of head that "Rocky" does, that hard friggin' head that you can't hurt. So, I may have a little size but he's got that rock-hard head.

KING 5: When you were with San Antonio in the AHL, was there any particular team that you enjoyed beating up on?
LS: In the American League it turns a little different. There's no beating up on anybody in the American League. Any given night, anybody can win, just because of the quality of the players. We never really picked on any teams in San Antonio. To be honest, we never really were that successful. But again, I'd have to say Houston. I've got to keep going back to the team that Love is playing with. Houston was probably a team I enjoyed playing the most, because I like their building. The fans were good. Not unbelievable but they're good. I like the building. San Antonio and Houston, that was our closest game and it seems like those were pretty passionate games and pretty aggressive games. I had a lot of fun playing them, too.
Good stuff. Keep up the great work, Su!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Draft Day 2: Two goalies!

Here's the run-down provided by the Wild of the kids they picked up today, some of whom are sure to spend some time in Houston. None this upcoming season, but all but the last two (born in '91) will be of age for the 10-11 season, though we won't likely see the college-bound kids for a while.

Before I get to that though, one note is that Chuck Fletcher has basically confirmed to Russo that Benoit Pouliot will be qualified. From his blog:
Russo: You won’t throw away Pouliot?
Fletcher: Absolutely not.
Now, I suppose that could be interpreted that he could be traded still... I guess it's not throwing away if you get something in return. But there ya go.

Okay, onto the new kids:

GOALIE Matt Hackett, 19 (3/7/90)
Posted a 34-15-3 record with a 3.04 goals against average (GAA), a .913 save percentage and two shutouts in 55 games with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in 2008-09. The 6-foot-2, 170-pound native of London, Ontario was the top ranked North American goalie by NHL Central Scouting. Hackett ranked eighth in the OHL in save percentage during the regular season and was named the Whalers most valuable player in the playoffs going 6-5 with a 3.01 GAA and a .930 save percentage in 11 contests. He is the nephew of former NHL goaltender Jeff Hackett.
NHL Central Scouting’s Al Jensen
“He has great potential, very good size, very poised. His angles, his net positioning are very good. He's a very smart goaltender with excellent net coverage.”

Plymouth Whalers’ goaltending coach Stan Matwijiw
“You look at Matt, and he’s a pure goaltender. He’s the type of goaltender that NHL teams are looking for. He’s big in stature and takes up a lot of net. He’s very fundamentally sound. The work that I’ve done with him is tweaking a thing here and there. He’s already had good instruction, with his uncle (former NHL goaltender Jeff Hackett).”

From The Goalie Guild site:
And just when you expect to see another “big” goalie get pulled out of Europe, Matt Hackett is finally taken by the Minnesota Wild. The #1 ranked North American goalie prospect had high expectations to be drafted sooner, but the deed is done and now he has work to do with the Plymouth Whalers. This is an all around steal at #77 for Minnesota.

Hackett’s pedigree is well-documented through his uncle Jeff, who also happens to be Matt’s hero and idol. Similar to Lehner and Lundqvist, Matt’s positioning and stance is similar to Jeff, with skating ability, reading plays and composure under pressure as his major assets.

Over the next few years Hackett needs to work on playing higher up in his crease and giving the shooter less time and space to work with. Movement wise, Hackett is fluid and confident and with a great 6-foot-3 frame, so he takes up a lot of space up high after he drops into the butterfly.

BOTTOM LINE: Hackett had an amazing season for the Whalers, but his bloodline with his uncle Jeff is a little over-hyped in my opinion. He still has impressive skills though, so he could impress you at training camp!

LEFT WING Kristopher Foucault, 18 (12/12/90)
Tallied 17 points (9-8=17) and 16 penalty minutes in 26 games with the Calgary Hitmen and Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in 2008-09. He added 16 points (11-5=16) in 18 playoff games for the Hitmen and was named MVP of the Eastern Conference final. The 6-foot, 202-pound left wing native of Calgary, Alberta was the 96th ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.
Calgary teammate of Carson McMillan, who will likely be an Aero this season.

RIGHT WING Alexander Fallstrom, 18 (9/15/90)
A senior captain at Shattuck St. Mary’s in 2008-09 led his team with 40 goals and 87 points in 52 games. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound right wing registered 67 points (20-47=67) in 62 games in his first season with Shattuck in 2007-08. He has committed to play at Harvard University this fall. The native of Gothenburg, Sweden was the 69th ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.

GOALIE Darcy Kuemper, 19 (5/5/90)
Posted a record of 21-25-8 with a 2.96 GAA, a .898 save percentage and three shutouts in his rookie season with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels. He ranked second among WHL rookie netminders in save percentage and wins and third in goals against average. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound native Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was the ninth ranked North American goaltender by NHL Central Scouting.

From The Goalie Guild site:
The Minnesota Wild secured their second solid goalie prospect of the day by choosing Darcy Kuemper early in the sixth round. Kuemper played an impressive 55 games for the Red Deer Rebels after taking over for Morgan Clark early in the season. He posted very respectable numbers for a rookie with a 2.96 goals against average and his size is a big asset, as he stands at 6-foot-4 and 193 pounds.
When Clark started to struggle, Kuemper took over thanks to some great enthusiasm and his efficient movement. His ability to save energy over the course of a game was one factor in his great work early in the season and even better as the season came to an end.
I actually got some great insight on Kuemper back in February when I found this video about his season. I’m impressed with his perseverance and his understanding of the duties he has as a starter in the CHL.
BOTTOM LINE: Kuemper is an awesome sleeper prospect and Minnesota becomes a winner in the Entry Draft for their informed goaltending decisions. Kuemper’s a keeper!

FORWARD Jere Sallinen, 18 (10/26/90)
Recorded three points (1-2=3) and 31 penalty minutes in nine games with the Blues Espoo of Finland’s Junior League. The 6-foot, 183-pound native of Espoo, Finland registered three points (2-1=3) and 31 penalty minutes in six games for Team Finland at the 2008 Under 18 World Hockey Championships in Russia. Sallinen tallied 30 points (11-19=30) and 94 penalty minutes in 36 games in the Finnish Junior league in 2007-08. He was the 73rd ranked International skater by NHL Central Scouting.

LEFT WING Erik Haula, 18 (3/23/91)
Notched 84 points (26-58=84) and 46 penalty minutes in 53 games in his first season with Shattuck St. Mary’s High School in 2008-09. He led the team in assists and ranked second in goals and points. The 6-foot, 170-pound native of Pori, Finland will play for the United States Hockey League’s (USHL) Omaha Lancers in 2009-10 and has committed to play for the University of Minnesota in 2010-11. He was the 57th ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting.

CENTER Anthony Hamburg, 17 (8/30/91)
Notched 99 points (29-70=99) and 76 penalty minutes in 70 games for the Dallas Stars AAA Midget team in 2008-09. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound native of Phoenix, Arizona led the team in scoring and assists and ranked tied for third in goals. He was selected by the Omaha Lancers in the USHL Entry Draft May 13.
Texas kid! How cool is that?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wild Draft Action Day 1; Kalus is back

The NHL entry draft started tonight with Round 1. Minnesota had the 12th overall pick but traded down with the Islanders for the 16th and a 3rd and 7th rounder.

Great move to trade down and get a third as the previous regime had traded away both the second and third round picks in this draft. We'll see tomorrow what they do with those (starting at 9 a.m. on the NHL Network).

With the 16th pick, the Wild picked puck-moving defenseman and Minnesota native Nick Leddy. Apparently head scout Tom Thompson loves the kid. Better be for good cause, because the Wild system needs to be developing scorers like nobody's business. But there's always free agency.

Leddy will be attending the University of Minnesota, so he'll be close at hand for the team as he develops through his college years.

In other news, Russo is reporting that Petr Kalus is returning to play for the Wild next season and will be at development camp in July. Presumably the new system the Wild is promising appeals to his hockey sensibilities better than Lemaire's system, but nothing is changing in Houston, so if he doesn't make the big club, does he bail for Europe again? We'll see!

Back on tomorrow with the remainder of the Wild's picks, who are more likely to spend more time developing in Houston than the first rounder.

Tom Lynn's hockey Blog

Not much else to say but... "This is pretty good stuff."

Lynn talk about the draft here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A.S.S.: Men of their word

Sorry I've been so slow posting about this. I can't blame anything but sheer laziness and dead camera batteries.

Anyway, as you may recall, we had a bit of a wager on with our pals over at the Milwaukee blog, Admirals Short Shifts over the Milwaukee series, which the Aeros won in inspiring fashion.

The AHL season wasn't even over before the boys at A.S.S. ponied up the promised Beer Cheese Soup, media room cookies (though I hope these weren't actually from the media room, but they were still quite good Chocolate White Chocolate Chip cookies), and an Admirals puck autographed by the crew over there.

The tubs had the cookies in them. Those have since been consumed.

The T3I team has yet to duke out the division of assets, but since none of those hosers showed up at the Maple Leaf for Game ? of the Stanley Cup Finals when I brought the box, I claimed the perishables (which actually weren't too bad with the Blue Moon I was swilling).

Anyway, thanks to the boys in Milwaukee for holding up their end of the deal. You're stand-up guys and it was a fun time working with you all to bring great coverage to both our fan bases. And thanks to the Aeros for making sure we got some booty... in the pirate sense of the word, of course.

Don't forget the NHL Entry Draft starts Friday night on Versus and continues Saturday on NHL Network. Future Aeros start right there, folks! Along with free agency, it's as exciting as the off-season gets!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Oilers make it official: Daum stays in Springfield

Rob Daum, who took over for a very bad Springfield team last year, led the Falcons to a respectable 7-16-5 down the stretch.

For those efforts -- and that fact that he got backing from several Oilers prospects after changing things up a bit -- he will return for the 2009-10 season.

Here is the article from the Edmonton Sun.

No matter what you think of the job Daum did in Houston, he did not really get a fair shake in 2006-07. The team that year lost several players (including Wyatt Smith) very early in the year to NHL callups, but still competed for a playoff spot into the New Year. They were at or one game below .500 when Josh Harding was called up for the rest of the year leaving Miroslav Kopriva and Tony Quesada to mind the nets.

No coach wins with the team he had from mid-February on.

Mr. Daum, good luck in Springfield and here's to hoping the schedule maker gets an Aeros/Falcons matchup for 2009-10. I know it won't happen, but who knows?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Porking the Chops

While we've been understandably paying more attention to the happenings in Minnesota (and Houston) -- and me with Phoenix -- there have been some more strange things going on up in Des Moines with the non-existent Chops.

As you might remember, Anaheim suddenly ended its affiliation with the Chops, and it came out that the owners of the Chops had failed to make agreed affiliation payments to the Ducks. It also came out that the owners of the Chops used the franchise as a collateral for a loan in 2008, which is a violation of AHL rules.

And this week, the owners informed Des Moines officials that they want to sell the AHL franchise -- possibly to Dallas -- move the team out of Des Moines, then replace the team with a CHL franchise. Des Moines officials (and the people who operate the arena) aren't too thrilled by this plan, and for now, they plan to hold the team owners to a contract signed two years ago which locks the owners into a 10-year non-relocation agreement forbidding the team from moving during the terms of the lease. If the team were to move, then the county would be entitled to liquidated damages, which are currently listed at about $12.5 million.

I'm interested in seeing how this plays out as, it's possible, the AHL could be locked into 28 teams for awhile because of this. This ownership group has burned through two NHL teams in two years, and with the financial shenanigans involving them and the Ducks, I can see other NHL teams being a little hesitant to get into business with them. And I can see the AHL being hesitant to continue doing business with these guys, though, since the guys own one of the 30 AHL franchises, there's not much the AHL can do about it. And with Tom Hicks' financial problems, you've got to wonder if he would be willing eat the $12.5 million in liquidated damages along with the cost of purchasing the team.

But frankly, I've got no idea of what's going to happen with this team. That's the hockey business though, I guess. Fun isn't it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Aero Dynamics Auditions Announced

Along with the big coaching news from yesterday, there's more big news coming from the Aeros. The Aeros have announced that they will be holding the auditions for the Aero Dynamics on August 1, 2009, at the Park Shops Mall in downtown. You can find all of the registration info right here.

I've got a suggestion for the Aeros to use during the auditions. You know how the Texans and Rockets always have media people on the judging panels for their cheerleader teams? And then those media members give the teams some huge coverage? Well I'm volunteering to be that media member for the Aero Dynamic auditions. I think I have a good eye. I'm sure Fred will loan me a good camera. I'll be glad to write it up for T3I and post lots of photos.

And I know I'll be a good and fair judge.

So, Aeros, how about it? This sounds like a great deal to me.

Constantine and Staff to return in 2009-10

Here is the story.

(And an update ... Russo in MSP confirmed with Fletcher on his fantastic blog)


Constantine, 50, said he's talked to Chuck Fletcher, who took over as Wild GM for the departed Doug Risebrough, and the Aeros' coaching staff was lauded by the new boss and welcomed back for 2009-10.

"I am looking forward to relaxing this summer after a long season, and I am looking forward to continuing our staff's work with the Aeros next year," said Constantine

Assistants Troy G. Ward and Luke Strand will return to work with Constantine next season.

In addition to the playoffs, the Aeros are 83-60-4-13 under Constantine, including a 46-25-3-6 mark at Toyota Center.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gulutzan hired to coach Texas Stars

The Dallas Stars have hired Glen Gulutzan, who was previously the coach of the ECHL Las Vegas Wranglers and saw a great deal of success as the only coach of that team since its inception.

Here's Dallas Stars beat reporter Mike Heika's blog post on the matter with links to various places and some background.

Here's the Wranglers' press release.

Also, Paul Jerrard will join him as the Stars' assistant coach, having been with the Stars in Iowa and sticking around as an assistant to the Iowa Chops. Lucky him to escape that fiasco with Anaheim dumping their affiliate.

More wrap-up from Constantine

Don't miss this great continuation of O'Donnell's "exit interview" with Constantine.

Topics covered include:
  • Constantine's season MVPs
  • Mitch Love's contribution on and off the ice
  • Justin Falk's impressive climb up the depth chart
  • Max Noreau's future as an NHL defensemen

NHL wins as Red Wings lose

Last Friday's incredible Game 7 was the most watched hockey game on TV in 30 some years.
That stats is almost as mind-blowing as was the third period in the Penguins 2-1 winner-take-all win.

In an era were hockey is having a hard time drawing the common sports fan, the NHL struck gold in a Game 7 situation featuring the Evil Red Army against Sid the Kid and his boy band compadres.

Boy no more, Sid, despite not really doing anything offensively, got the job done and sent the city of Pittsburgh into further debt by forcing the town to host a wild and crazy Stanley Cup parade Monday.

As a Red Wings fan, I will be the first to say that the Penguins deserved the cup. After losing the first two games of the series, they (statistically/historically) had a 1-percent chance of winning the whole deal, and they did so by outworking the tired and injured Detroit hockey club.

Hopefully this series was a good enough to get people to stop thinking about how ridiculous the league looks in the midst of this whole Phoenix Coyotes fiasco. Even though my team lost fair and square, I am still happy that I got to watch a lot of great hockey this spring.

Looks like Marian Hossa did too, but I digress ....

And The Coyotes Stay in Phoenix...For Now

The bankruptcy judge in Phoenix ruled late on Monday night that the June 29, 2009 deadline set by Jim Balsillie for the transfer of ownership of the Phoenix Coyotes to him did not allow enough time for the court to handle all of the complex issues that needed to be settled in the case, so the judge rejected the proposed sale of the franchise from current owner Jerry Moyes to Balsillie.

It is late, I've been sick, and I don't see much else out there on this yet, so it's hard for me to provide much analysis on the basis of an Associated Press article. But the one thing that I found interesting was this: the judge didn't care about the argument from the NHL (supported by all of the other major professional leagues) that its own internal rules were paramount above all else, and that allowing this sale to Balsillie would set the stage for mass franchise relocations across the country. The AP quotes the judge as saying that "Financially challenged sports teams have the same rights and obligations as any business" when it comes to bankruptcy.

From reading that statement (and the entire article), I get the feeling that the only thing that kept the Coyotes from relocating to Hamilton was timing in that the judge did not feel he had enough time to get all of the matters settled -- primarily the problems with the 30-year arena lease -- in the time desired by Balsillie.

It should get fun as the onus is now on Gary Bettman and the league to put up or shut up. I'm going to have to see some more in-depth stuff tomorrow, but the team is still in bankruptcy, and that means the judge is still in control of everything, and there is a plan from the NHL that if an auction that would keep the team in Phoenix does not come in at a price that would set the creditors whole, then the NHL will hold a second auction that would allow relocation. So I don't see that judge letting Gary Bettman get by with a sweetheart deal to one of his buddies.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Wild hire head coach, fire Aeros GM

Russo is reporting that Todd Richards has been offered the Wild's head coaching job, to pretty much nobody's surprise. The team announced they will be introducing the new coach Tuesday at noon in Minnesota.

Richards was the coach of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (and took them to the Calder Cup Finals last season) when the Wild's new general manager, Chuck Fletcher, was the GM of the WB/S Penguins. So they have a good relationship already.

Richards' style is billed as up-tempo, go-go-go, which will probably blow the minds of most anybody whose been watching the Wild and the suffocating defensive style Jacques Lemaire brought to the table. (Then again, how much go-go-go talent was he provided by the organization? And how much will Richards really have to work with?)

The first bit of fallout from this was the firing of Tom Lynn, Wild assistant GM and GM of the Aeros. He was basically, along with the coaching staff in Houston (particularly Troy Ward), the architect of the Aeros, so his departure means the trickle-down effect will likely keep rolling ever closer to Houston.

Nothing has been said yet about what is to become of Kevin Constantine and his staff. Some conjecture is that his style is too defensive and won't prepare the kids here for Richards' style. I tend to disagree with that perspective, however, as I think the tools KC is giving these guys translate into any system. Every hockey player needs to be detail-oriented and defensively responsible. If you watched the Stanley Cup Finals the last couple of weeks, that was clear, right?

Things should start to shake out pretty quickly now. The entry draft is less than 2 weeks away and free agency is right on its heels, so AHL ringer types of guys should start getting signed and we can start to see the team unfold. Of course, Tom Lynn's replacement will drive that aspect of the signings, so that hiring is one we'll be keeping a close eye on and keep you posted.

Exciting times for the Wild organization, top to bottom.

Friday, June 12, 2009

And The Phoenix Coyotes...Oh, To Hell With It, There's Still No Ruling

And the soap opera that is the Phoenix Coyotes will continue just a little while longer. The bankruptcy court judge -- who had earlier said he would hold a hearing regarding the possible relocation fee that Jim Balsillie would pay to move the club to Hamilton -- issued a statement yesterday that he will not hold a hearing regarding the relocation fee and will instead issue one ruling on all matters that were heard by the court earlier this week.

There are two possible explanations for this: one, the judge has decided that the team can't move without NHL approval, so the relocation fee issue is moot; or, two, the judge did a little research and discovered that relocation (or indemnification) fees are not allowed under U.S. law -- for which Balsillie would owe a big debt of gratitude to one Al Davis. And indeed, looking at past NHL relocations, it has been determined that all indemnification fees paid were voluntary. And also of importance, the last time a NHL team invaded the territory of another NHL team, an indemnification fee was not paid.

The NHL expanded in 1993, and one site of the expansion was a place called Anaheim which was part of the territory of the Los Angeles Kings. The Walt Disney Company paid $50 million for the rights to the expansion franchise, and Michael Eisner, the man who was running Disney, refused to pay an indemnification to Bruce McNall, the owner of the Kings. To make up for this, the NHL gave McNall half of the $50 million expansion fee. And McNall has confirmed that this is what happened.

All of this would play into Balsillie's contention that he is not legally obligated to pay a territorial rights or indemnification fee. And all thanks to the NHL's own ineptitude.

The NHL is now claiming that, if Balsillie's court bid fails, that it will hold an auction to be supervised by the bankruptcy court for the franchise. Only qualified bidders will be allowed, and to be a qualified bidder, the bidder must agree to keeping the team in Phoenix. A $10 million deposit deposit and bids must be submitted to the court by August 10, with the auction on September 10, and the bids must be in $2 million increments.

The NHL has declared that $120 million will cover most of the team's creditors. But if the NHL does not get a bid that good to keep the team in Phoenix, it will hold a second auction for the purpose of relocating the team, and they will allow Balsillie to enter that auction.

The judge has not indicated when he will deliver his ruling, but it is expected to come before June 22, which is the date that Balsillie has indicated is his drop dead date.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Irmen and Lundy interview

Here's a nice little article with some post-season wrap-up by Danny Irmen and Bryan Lundbohm. Some great quotes about the playoffs, Game 7s, how the season ended, and what's next.

It's Official in Dallas: Tippett Out, Crawford In

The Dallas Stars made it official today. Dave Tippett has been fired, and his replacement is Marc Crawford, former coach of the Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, and Los Angeles Kings.

New Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk said he was brought in to making some sweeping changes and move the team in a new direction. Keeping Tippet would have made for an incremental change, at best. And as for why the team refused to confirm the firing yesterday, when it was first reported by TSN, you can blame Tippett. He asked the team to hold off the announcement for a day, and the team honored his request.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tippett Gone

It is being reported that former Houston Aeros head coach Dave Tippett has been fired by the Dallas Stars. Tippett has coached the Stars for the past six seasons, and he came to the Stars from the Los Angeles Kings, where he was an assistant coach. The Stars missed the playoffs this season for the first time since the team moved to Dallas. Tippett coached the Aeros to the 1999 IHL Turner Cup.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

And The Phoenix Coyotes Go To...Who Knows Yet?

There is not expected to be a final ruling on the Phoenix Coyotes situation today, but based on the line of questioning by the judge, and some of the statements he provided, it's looking like the NHL is currently positioned to end up as the loser.

The Judge didn't buy the NHL's contention that it has received "four expressions of interest" for the club: "This old judge is not that excited about expressions of interest," the judge told lawyers for the league according to the Toronto Globe and Mail. "You either make an offer or you don't."

The Judge also called bull on the NHL's contention that the move could wreak havoc with sports leagues and their various rules, and he used as support the midnight move of the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis.

The primary issue appears to be relocation fees, with the judge seeming to agree that, if he approves the move, Jim Balsillie will have to pay the NHL a relocation fee on top of the $200-plus million he has already bid for the team. The NHL has claimed in papers that the relocation fee should be $100 million. Attorneys for Balsillie argued that that fee is too excessive, and that if that is what the NHL should charge, he will drop his bid.

The Judge stated that the relocation fee must be resolved, and it must be resolved in a manner that protects the interests of the creditors. A fee that is too excessive could cause Balsillie to drop out, and if there are no other legitimate bids -- which there do not appear to be -- the creditors would be harmed by having the NHL continue to run the team out of Phoenix. The Judge has asked the parties involved to settle this issue.

And so the matter continues.

My End Of Season Aeros Awards

For the mothership today, I handed out my end of season awards to some of the Aeros, and I give just a glimpse into why it's going to be an eventful off-season. And note, these are just my picks. Andrew, Heather, and Fred had nothing to do with my picks, so don't take it out on them if you don't like what I decided on.

So go over and give it a look. Thanks.

And The Phoenix Coyotes Go To...

Quick note: for those who are tired of this topic, hang on, the mothership should have an Aeros post later today that I will link to over here. Now on with, to me, the fun stuff...

The parties to the mess that is the Phoenix Coyotes will be convening inside a Phoenix courtroom today, and it's just possible that the bankruptcy judge will make some kind of decision that might determine the fate of the team. The Toronto Star says that the judge is faced with making a decision that has Jim Balsillie easing creditor debt versus his reluctance to buck the tradition of sports that has the leagues being the rulers regarding where franchises are located: "(If) Judge Baum is focused on helping creditors, (it) means Balsillie should win," says Penn State law professor Stephen Ross. "But many judges are reluctant to challenge the tradition of sports, which helps the NHL."

One of the mistakes I've been making is that I thought the focus of this case, and the one true precedent, was the one involving Al Davis and the NFL where Davis won the right to move the Raiders to Los Angeles without NFL approval. But it just so happens that there this is a case that is even more on point -- and one which I should know since I'm such a baseball fan. But in 1970, on the literal eve of the regular season, the Seattle Pilots of the American League were relocated to Milwaukee, WI where they became the Milwaukee Brewers. The Pilots were put into bankruptcy by their ownership group, and Bud Selig moved in and purchased the team while it was in bankruptcy.

The Pilots owners were losing money, and they struck up a deal to sell to Selig and his partners for $10.8 million. Local officials in Seattle objected to the deal, and they tried to stop it. The owners then put the team into bankruptcy protection and argued that the deal should be approved because it would pay off the creditors -- does that sound kind of familiar? The NHL argues that the one difference is that the American League supported the move, to which Balsillie has responded that the American League only approved of the deal after the bankruptcy court judge approved of the plan and had instead insisted the team had to remain in Seattle.

I'm not the judge, and what I say has absolutely no power. But I've thought from the get-go this is a loser for the NHL. I understand that they're trying to protect the integrity of the league constitution and by-laws, and that they're trying to prevent the chaos that could result in teams constantly relocating, but I've thought ever since this thing ended up in bankruptcy court that the league was going to lose because the judge's primary concern is the setting whole the creditors, not protecting league constitutions. And frankly, if bankruptcy court judges can go about voiding union contracts, then they can go about approving this deal. (I also feel good about this as it seems there are a lot of bankruptcy experts who agree with what I think.)

(A side note, for anyone interested in reading more about the Seattle Pilots, then allow me to recommend Jim Bouton's groundbreaking Ball Four, which was about the season he spent between the expansion Pilots and the Houston Astros.)

And Gary Bettman really needs to be careful regarding the arguments that he is pushing before the Court. For instance, over the weekend, the NHL filed papers in which they questioned Balsillie's integrity, noting that Balsillie recently settled with Canadian and American securities regulators regarding allegations that he and others backdated stock options at Research In Motion with Balsillie and his fellow company officials paying more than $70-million (Canadian) to settle the allegations.

Now the reason that Bettman might want to be careful with this argument can best be summed up by one name: William "Boots" Del Biaggo. Boots recently pled guilty to falsifying documents to obtain $100 million in fraudulent loans, and that he did so by way of a Ponzi scheme. Boots used these loans to purchase a $25 million stake in the Nashville Predators. Now the Predators were actually supposed to be purchased from Craig Leipold, current owner of the Minnesota Wild, by one Jim Balsillie. But when Balsillie started making plans to move the Predators to Hamilton, Bettman and the league stepped in to stop the deal and to broker the deal which allowed Boots to become one of the owners.

If Bettman wants to keep pressing the integrity issue at Balsillie, then any attorney who knows what he's doing will certainly push back with Boots Del Baggio, and I can guarantee that that attorney, and the judge, are going to know what exactly Bettman and the league knew about Boots, and when they learned it.

It was also reported that the owners of the CFL's Toronto Argonauts are interested in purchasing the team, and that they would keep the Coyotes in Phoenix. But from what I've read, only an idiot would believe that -- so I guess that means Bettman has either fallen for it or else he's lying. In fact, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail, these guys want to move the team to Toronto.

So later today, maybe, hockey fans might have some idea of what is to become of the Phoenix Coyotes. I've been wrong, often, but I think the law is in favor of Balsillie.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Meanwhile...An Update on the Phoenix Coyotes

Actually, there's not much to update as we're still waiting on the court date, but...some of the Canadian papers have been digging through all of the documents and papers filed by the NHL in support of their effort to take control of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Among those documents is the NHL Constitution. And the constitution has what has been dubbed the Doomsday Clause which says that upon the unanimous consent of all of the league members, the NHL can be dissolved. So while I haven't read the briefs that have been filed, I'm taking the filing of this document to mean that Gary Bettman is threatening to destroy the NHL if he doesn't get to keep a badly failing team in Phoenix.

And in other papers filed by the NHL, Gary Bettman argues that he has four ownership groups that are prepared to purchase the Coyotes, including the owners of the CFL's Toronto Argonauts, Jerry Reinsdorf, the minority owner of the Coyotes, and a Phoenix businessman who prefers to remain anonymous. And all of these groups want to keep the team in Phoenix.

Bettman argues that the bankruptcy shouldn't be approved because Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes didn't try hard enough to find a legit buyer for the franchise. This of course, contradicts what Bettman said in an e-mail to Moyes back in April in which he said it was proving difficult to find a new owner for the team.

But how about that Doomsday Clause? Seriously, it just seems like the NHL just keeps attempting to commit suicide. There's Gary Bettman, who has got to be the worst commissioner in the history of sports yet has a firm grip on his job. There's bad TV contract after bad TV contract. There's the glowing puck. There's the fact that Los Angeles and New York City have two teams, but Toronto has only one, and don't forget that lockout that shut down the entire sport for a year, but which seems to have failed in its goal of providing economic certainty for all teams.

My first love is baseball. And baseball will always be my number one sport. But I've always liked hockey, since I was a mere kid at the time of the original Houston Aeros, and since I've been covering this version of the Houston Aeros I've become a huge fan as I've gotten to know what great guys the players are and just been around. And it almost kills me to watch the NHL go on constant self-destruct mode.

I might not feel this way if it weren't for what Houston went through with losing the Houston Oilers despite supporting what was often an awful product, but it just seems to me that the Canadians, the people who love this sport more than anyway, have to suffer with a lack of big league franchises in their national game while teams fail year after year in Atlanta and Phoenix and Tampa and Miami, but Winnipeg and Quebec City and Hamilton deserve the teams more than the States do.

So perhaps it would be best for the NHL to exercise that Doomsday Clause. Then maybe some competent people could come and run things. Though I somehow suspect that, like the cockroach surviving the nuclear war, Gary Bettman will survive everything.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Few Quick Notes From Minnesota Way

Just a few notes for those of you who don't read the links to Russo...

But according to Russo's sources, Kevin Constantine is still in contention for the Minnesota Wild's head coaching job. Of course, new GM Chuck Fletcher is waiting for the Penguins/Red Wings to finish up so he can check with their assistants, but I wasn't expecting Constantine to still be one of the finalists.

Russo also reports that the Wild shopped Benoit Pouliot around the league last off-season, but that they couldn't find any takers.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Playfair named Abbotsford Heat coach; Marlies coach not renewed

Here's the goods from theAHL.com on the assignment of Flames associate coach Jim Playfair as the head coach of the Abbotsford Heat.

The quote that amused me was:
“I am looking forward to stepping back behind the bench as the head coach,” noted Playfair. “My goal is to create an identity both on and off of the ice for our players, the fans and for the City of Abbotsford. Abbotsford will be a difficult place for our opponents to play.
Uh, yeah because it's two time zones away and way out in BFE.


In related-but-opposite news, Toronto Maple Leafs Overlord Brian Burke announced that he's not renewing the contract of Marlies head coach Greg Gilbert.

2009-2010 Aeros Roster

We'll keep this page updated through the summer as guys are signed or sign elsewhere, so by season's start (which is earlier than last year, apparently) we'll have fairly accurate picture of the core of the team.

UNDER CONTRACT (aka Your 2009-2010 Houston Aeros)

  • Morten Madsen - One more year on his deal with the Wild before he's a RFA (restricted free agent, which means essentially that his current team--the Minnesota Wild--will have right of first refusal at the end of next season).
  • Matt Kassian - One year on his deal before he's an RFA.
  • Cody Almond - As he just signed a few weeks ago, he's got all three years of his entry level contract to play out. It's doubtful that he makes the big club, so expect to see him as an Aero.
  • Carson McMillan - Like Almond, is just getting done with his Major Junior career and has his full entry level contract remaining. Again, expect him to be an Aero.
  • Brian Kaufman - One year AHL deal with the Aeros.
  • Colton Gillies - Some mention has been made that now that he's AHL-aged, they might start him in Houston this season to get him more playing time and more seasoning. I think it would be a great thing for him, if a bit of an ego hit... Anyway, he's got two years left on his entry deal.
  • Petr Kalus - According to Mike Russo, Kalus is coming back this season, presumably in hopes of making a Minnesota team that promises a system more suited to his "offensive" style. He's got one year left on his contract with the Wild.
  • Benoit Pouliot - Could stick with the big club out of camp but will have to earn it this time.
  • Danny Irmen - Expect to see him in Houston when the season starts
  • Robbie Earl - See above ... lightning speed.
  • Jon DiSalvatore - Free agent, signed July 17
  • Pete Zingoni - Free agent, signed July 17
  • Duncan Milroy - Free agent, signed July 17
  • Nathan Smith - Free agent, signed July 22
  • Brandon Buck - AHL, Free agent, signed July 22
  • JP Testwuide

  • Justin Falk - Two years left on his contract, so we'll see him. I don't think he'll be ready to make the big club next season, so expect him to be a critical piece of the Aeros blue line next season.
  • Max Noreau - Two years left on his contract and similar to Falker, I don't see him making the big club yet. He had an amazing year not just by Aeros standards, but league-wide he was one of the best offensive defensemen, but another year to build confidence and improve his defensive play in the minors is probably in the offing.
  • Brandon Rogers - One year left on his contract before he's a UFA (unrestricted free agent). UFA contract years are a big thing for these guys as they're playing for their next contract, either with this team or, more likely, with other teams.
  • Jamie Fraser - 2009 free agent signing
  • Jamie Sifers - 2009 free agent signing
  • Clayton Stoner
  • Ryan Lannon - Free agent signed July 22
  • Ryan Gunderson - AHL contract
  • Wade Dubielewicz - Has a 2 way deal and if Harding gets traded without a goalie in return, he'll be #2 in Minnesota
  • Barry Brust - Brusty has a year on his contract and then he's a UFA. As with Rogers, this is a big year for him to stay healthy and be consistent.
  • Anton Khudobin - Dimples is in the final year of his entry level contract before he becomes an RFA.

Unrestricted Free Agents
These guys can go and do whatever the hell they want. Unless they have a particular affinity for Houston or this coaching staff and/or don't get any better offers, I would wave goodbye as they'll be looking to go where they think they have the best chance at earning an NHL spot.

Nolan Schaefer - Signed with CSKA in Russia
Thomas Mojzis - Has signed with a club in Europe
Corey Locke - Has signed with the NY Rangers organization
Krys Kolanos - Has signed with Philadelphia Flyers organization
Jesse Schultz
Bryan Lundbohm
Marco Rosa - Has signed with Manitoba Moose
Peter Olvecky - Signed with Nashville Preds organization
Mitch Love - Signed with Peoria Rivermen
Matt Beaudoin - Signed with Texas Stars

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Climie signed by Dallas

Late season hero for the Aeros, goalie Matt Climie was signed to a one-year, two-way contract today by the Stars. Dallas now has 3 minor league goalies (Climie, Brent Krahn, who was also signed today, and Richard Bachman) so presumably one will end up in Idaho in the ECHL while the other two battle for the #1 spot in Cedar Park with the Texas Stars, similar to the Aeros goalie situation this past season.

Read more about it here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Aeros To Be Honored By City On Tuesday

Sure, it's not a parade or a gathering at Toyota Center, and it's doubtful that any of the players or staff will be attending, but...the City of Houston and the Anti-Defamation League will be honoring the Houston Aeros along with 39 other Houston-area organizations for participating in the Anti-Defamation League's Community of Respect Initiative.

The Aeros are the lone Houston-area sports team being honored.

To become part of the initiative, the Aeros had to submit a form of intent, create a diversity coalition and/or appoint a person to oversee the implementation of the initiative, sign the Resolution of Respect pledge or create one of their own, implement at least three anti-bias/diversity activities, and document completion of those activities and send that documentation to the Anti-Defamation League for approval.

I know this isn't really sports related. And it's not really honoring the Aeros for their on-ice play. But I just thought I would note a sports team that is actually being honored for performing a good service, and unlike some of Houston's other sports teams (I'm talking to you Astros) doesn't go out of its way to point out what a great citizen or trumpet what a great charitable organization it is.

Going Back To The Start

I stumbled across this video while surfing the web today. It's CBC's "Hockey Night In Canada" opening intro for the Stanley Cup Finals. And I know it's not cool to like Coldplay, which means I'm not cool. But the use of Coldplay's "The Scientist" as the song, then employing the same technique as the video of going in reverse to get back to the start, very nice -- there are some very cool images in this. So enjoy.

Announcing My New Venture

Before I go further, I would like to thank Andrew, Fred, and Heather for letting me hi-jack this blog for a personal, non-hockey post.

For awhile now, I've been talking about a business venture I'm planning, as well as some of the pitfalls with which I've been dealing. But now it's time to make the official announcement.

I'm starting my own legal-based company, called Royal Document Review. The premise is simple. Most civil lawsuits have what's called the discovery phase where each side gets to look at evidence and documents possessed by the other side that are relevant to the lawsuit. This process can be long, and it can be expensive. Especially for smaller law firms or companies.

Big firms use their associates for this purpose, or they bring in attorneys from temporary attorney agencies who have only one purpose, to review those documents on the basis of a criteria set by the attorneys at the firm. The temp attorneys will make about $35-40 an hour, but the agency will charge from $70-90 an hour. Small firms or companies can't always justify this cost, but they don't always have the in-house staff to handle the document review side, or else they can't justify taking the time from their other clients to concentrate solely on this one case.

My business is for the purpose of helping these small firms and companies. I come in and do the document review -- that's what I've been doing for the last decade. I know how to read documents and find the useful information. I've done this by hand, and I've done it using the various electronic sources that are available for this process. I've gone on to location to un-air conditioned warehouses in the desert in the summer. I've done the unheated warehouse in winter bit. I've sat in an isolated office going through moldy boxes.

I like this job. Not everybody can do it. Not everybody has the temperament. Sure, the temp agencies will send along attorneys for this, but lots of time, these people see this job as a temp thing, and they don't care. It's just a paycheck. They get bored. They do just enough work to keep employed. They see this type of work as beneath them. I don't. I like this work.

I like the searching for clues. I've known of no better way to learn absolutely everything that needs to be known about a case. In many ways, document review is the equivalent of not seeing the forest because you're concentrating on an individual leaf. But I see it differently. I see the forest. I see the trees. I see the leaf. I see the roots.

And more important than my liking this job is this: I'm good at it. And more important than that, most important of all, is that I'm charging less for billable hour than the temp agencies. Substantially less. I've got no overhead. I'm not paying staff. I'm not paying for an office. It's just me and my laptop.

So there you have it. That's my new venture. All of the details can be found by clicking on the link. I know most of you reading don't care. And I apologize for that. But who knows, maybe some of you are interested, or know someone who might be. So I'm taking my free web access and making my pitch.

I just ask for wishes of good luck because I need them. My attorney friends think my idea is genius. As do other friends. But this is a tough economy. And there are lot of us suddenly unemployed attorneys out there, and we're all starting up firms or business ventures. So it's going to be tough. I realize that. But there's just something out there telling me to do this. So I am.

Thanks for reading.

And thanks again to Andrew, Fred, and Heather for letting me borrow the blog for a personal reason.