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

Friday, July 23, 2010

Updated - Guaranteed Home Dates

EDIT - I wanted to make one update to John's post here. The Aeros did confirm that their home opener is on Oct. 16. I read through the release a few times and that was not specified.

This means, for the second year in a row, the Aeros will open their weekend on the road. I think the team benefits from opening away from home ... and I know they'd love to start the year with a pair of games at Manitoba, Abbotsford or Oklahoma City.

The Aeros released a list of six dates on which they will be playing home games for the 2010-2011 season today. The times and opponent are still not known, but if you're really curious, here are the dates:

Saturday, October 16 (HOME Opener)
Friday, October 22.
Friday, November 5.
Thursday, December 2.
Sunday, December 26.
Saturday, January 15.

The full schedule is expected to be released next month.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ice Girls It Is, Finally

While going through the Aeros website today, for the first time in a while, I discovered something very exciting. At least to me. The auditions for the Aero Dynamics are next week, and you know how I am when it comes to the Aero Dynamics.

But there's the really exciting thing. This year, along with their standard routines in the stands, the Aero Dynamics will also be acting as Ice Girls. And if you've learned anything else from this site, it's that I've got a thing for Ice Girls. So let's just say that I'm really looking forward to this season getting underway.

Also of note. Andrew noted that Barry Brust had just signed a contract. I thought I would also point out that former Aero goalie Nolan Schaefer will be between the pipes for the Providence Bruins this season.

I enjoyed dealing with both men, and they never treated me like the true idiot that I am. So I wish them all of the best in this upcoming AHL season. (I'm also hoping that Barry can cast aside his injury issues and prove a few people in a certain organization wrong about his skills and abilities.)

And I'd like to echo what Andrew said about Palmer Hestley. You've got no idea of how important guys like Palmer are to making our jobs easier, and Palmer was a great asset last year. Good luck, Palmer.

AHL Schedule will be delayed ... again

Hello Aeros fans --

Sorry for the long delay between posts, especially from me.
Since the signing of a few free agents recently, there has not been much to report out of AerosLand. Our good friend Barry Brust has signed an AHL deal with the Binghamton Senators. That is good news for him, and we wish him well.

As some of you have noted, the Aeros are one of the last teams in the 30-team AHL to announce either A) their home opener or B) any of their guaranteed home dates for the coming season. While these dates really don't matter to fans all that much (as the real schedule will not be announced until later) this is an incredibly helpful tool for sales folks in the front office. These six dates are planned well in advance to give the team a chance to get lots of butts in the seats.

From a writer's standpoint, releasing the home opener is great for getting the word out about the team during the dull part of the summer. It's also fun to put down on your calendar; finally a signal that hockey season is once again close.

As for the AHL schedule, for those of you who look forward to getting that piece of info, it's going to be delayed again. The AHL would love to get that sucker out as early in August as possible. But there are several teams in the league that share their arenas with NBA teams (Aeros included) and the basketball schedule is not yet finalized.

Several folks from around the league I have talked to have indicated that fans won't see a final schedule until "mid August." The AHL was asked, and they said there is no time frame at the moment.

As for the home opener and the guaranteed dates, here's to hoping something comes out on that pretty soon. While not all that important to fans, it is nice to have a countdown to the next time you get to see your favorite local AHL hockey team.

In closing, I would like to publicly thank Palmer Hestley for all of his help during the 2000-10 season. He is no longer with the organization, but he was a valued member of the Aeros' communications staff. In this era of instant news, he was always helpful with a quick reply, even when the answers were, "I don't know, not until later, or I can't tell you yet."

Best of luck in the future, and please keep in touch.
Hope to see you at a few games this year.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Khudobin chooses North America

Need I say more? So, it looks like it will be Anton and Matt Hackett between the pipes for Houston. Here's a quick piece from the Wild on his re-signing to a 1 year, 2 way contract.

I imagine they'll bring in a 5th goalie, maybe just to Aeros camp like they did with Brett Jaeger last season. Won't be him, though, because he's signed with Coventry in the UK. Or if Darcy Kuemper goes pro, but I really doubt it.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch....

While we all wait on the edge of our seats to see what Anton decides, here's some info and video from the Aeros players at prospect camp.

First up is a guy the team signed yesterday, Joel Broda. I think there's some skepticism around him because he was not signed by the Caps, who drafted him two years ago. And then he didn't go at all in the most recent draft. But the Wild like him and apparently he can put some points on the board, so they're giving him a shot for a mere 3 years. Here's the Wild's feature on him, which I thought was pretty refreshing that they actually addressed the skepticism to some degree.

Forgive me now because I will forever be calling him Josh. I have no idea why. Josh Brolin maybe? Anyway, it's gonna happen, but I'll at least try to get his name right in the paper, should the opportunity arise.

Here's a quick interview with him from prospect camp:

A college guy from Cold Miami, Jarod Palmer, also came aboard this summer and could spend some time in Houston. Really didn't know much about him but loved this interview with him. Can't beat a guy who doesn't speak in athlete cliches. Also? Rawr. Just sayin'.

Outside of the new guys, our old buddies Justin Falk, who's getting married in a few weeks, and Colton Gillies put in some face time, too:

Awww, poor Colt. Least they could do is use real whipped cream.

Lastly, some video with Aeros new assistant coach Darryl Sydor, one of the two new assistants who will be behind the bench with Coach Yeo, talks about retiring as a player and the challenge of moving to the coaching ranks:

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dimples' Decision

In case you don't follow Russo, he's got some great info on what has basically become a stalemate between Anton Khudobin and the Wild. You can read Russo's piece here, but I'll summarize for you:

Anton has offers from the KHL and he's got a 2-way deal from the Wild on the table, but as I wrote about the other day, the signing of Endras appears to severely limit Anton's upward mobility in the organization.

So he has a choice to make. Go to the KHL, where he'd be pretty comfortable, since he grew up in Russia and has had good success there, and make many multiples of the salary he'd get here. Plus, guys are more and more able to come back to North America after a stint in Europe, especially the KHL and especially goalies, who have a longer maturity curve and fewer spots to land. There's not the stigma associated with it that used to be there. It's no longer a sign of "couldn't make it in North America."

Or, he can take the two way deal from the Wild where he has a chance of moving up if there are injuries up top, he stays on the North American scouts radars, and avoids any hint of being a guy who ditches his team. But I honestly don't think that last thing is an issue for him. He's been a VERY good soldier his entire career in the organization and that doesn't go unnoticed by outsiders. Plus, he hasn't signed a deal yet, so really, he's not breaking any agreements by leaving.

We'll know soon. The deadline to sign is tomorrow.

Meanwhile, it's interesting to look at the list of remaining free agents to see who might be a good replacement for him if he does depart for more Russian pastures. Here's a good list though it doesn't include guys who've been playing in Europe who could come back this way.

Tordjman is a name that sticks out to me as a quality, steady player. And before you say it, no, Brusty won't be back here. I'm in the acceptance phase of my grief over that, so don't mess me up.

Matt Zaba is good. Not sure how some of those higher up guys would take to a 2-way deal. Danis is decent. But really, Anton is as good as any of them (apart from the unrealistic ones like Turco).

But who knows what Mr. Khudobin will decide. I've heard good cases on both sides, so I'm sure it's a very difficult decision for him personally and professionally.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Aeros Release List of Teams They'll Be Facing

While we still don't know the schedule for this season, at least now we know who the Aeros will be playing this season, and how many times we will be playing them.

Texas - 6/6
San Antonio - 5/5
Oklahoma City - 5/5
Rockford - 4/4
Chicago - 3/3
Milwaukee - 3/3
Peoria - 3/3

Abbotsford - 2/2
Grand Rapids - 2/2
Lake Erie - 2/2
Manitoba - 2/2
Hamilton - 1/1
Toronto - 1/1

Syracuse - 1/1

The only North Division team the Aeros won't play are the Rochester Americans. And the only Eastern Conference team they'll be playing are the Syracuse Crunch. They get to play the Western Conference Champs, Texas Stars, 12 times, the Rampage 10, and the recently located to Oklahoma City club 10 times.

Wiseman Returns To Aeros

The Aeros have completed their coaching staff. It was announced earlier today that Mike Yeo's assistants will be former Aeros player and Yeo teammate Brian Wiseman and the recently retired player Darryl Sydor.

Jim MIll On The Aeros

Real briefly...over at the mothership I've got another Aeros post up, this one regarding some of the off-season changes, including some roster updates which have been discussed here, but I include some quotes from GM Jim Mill on the coaching change, some of the returning players, and some of the new players. The money quote deals with Mill inheriting a situation this year, but that this year things should be different.

So go it give it a read if you get the chance.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Mike Yeo In The Press

You should be able to read my post on Mike Yeo taking over as coach of the Aeros here. There's some good stuff there, I think. And he clearly likes being back in Houston. Enjoy. And don't forget, leave a few comments over there. Let them know you like the hockey.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Few Words From Mike Yeo

Hey folks, how's it going? I bet that y'all have forgotten that I even exist, so long has it been that I've contributed anything to T3I. Apologies for that, but the mothership has been keeping me busy covering college sports, especially all of the Houston Cougar sports and Rice baseball, and I've actually been busy working and earning some cash at some temp jobs.

But enough about me. I talked to the Aeros new coach today, Mike Yeo. This will be for the mothership on Friday, so I'm not going to post a lot here, at the moment, but I thought I would write up a few things I got from our short talk.

There's a promise of a new style of play tailored after how the Pittsburgh Penguins, and to a lesser extent the Wild, play. But I heard a lot of Kevin Constantine in some of his answers, especially about the importance of defense and wearing the other team down and taking advantage of tired teams in the third, but I do think the offense will be much more aggressive, at least in theory.

But here's the thing.

As some of you remember, most of Yeo's professional playing career was spent in Houston, and he was the captain of the team that won the Turner Cup. He likes it here, and this is a job that he wanted.

"That’s a big part of why I’m here. It’s not like I was sitting in Pittsburgh, trying to pay attention to the internet and looking to see what job offerings and openings were out there. I was in a very good spot in Pittsburgh, and loved what I was doing there."

Houston's a special place to Yeo, and he can't wait to get know all of the fans all over again.

Aeros roster taking shape in the summer

Early July is one of my favorite times of the year. It's always nice to see who is going to end up where and which players the Wild sign that will eventually land in Houston come fall.

I have said this before, but the longest part of the summer is the time between the release of the AHL schedule and the start of training camp. Until then, though, there will be plenty of news.

Last week, the Wild signed Warren Peters and Drew Bagnall. In 09-10, the Aeros were quite weak in the area of winning faceoffs. Peters will help that, and when I asked Aeros GM Jim Mill if that was one area in which he was looking to fix, he just said "there are a lot of areas that we are looking to improve."

And that took me to leadership. Bagnall is a guy that is "tough, mean, physical and a natural leader." Those are the words that Mill used to talk about who I think will be the Aeros captain in '10-'11. Heather posted on here last week that the folks in Manchester say he is the best captain the Monarchs ever had. He's a true stand-up guy and great defensively at that. He won't put up the numbers that Jaime Sifers was supposed to last year, but he will be a great fit.

Now let's look at the announced signings from Monday. There were 3-4 guys that I hoped that Mill would bring back from last year. They took care of two of them right away when Chad Rau and JM Daoust were locked up earlier. The other two, Jon DiSalvatore and Jamie Fraser, were locked up for two and one more year, respectively.

DiSalvatore was a bit streaky in 09-10, but he stayed healthy and he gave you his usual 22 goals. He captained a team that had a major flaw in that it just never could play a good first period. Most Aeros fans don't realize that if the Aeros, even with all their offensive deficiencies, had been an average first period team, they would have made the playoffs. But they weren't average, they were horrible in the opening frame and when you are a team that plays a ton of close games, it's nice to get out in front every while and again.

And Fraser ... funny guy, great personality, just a fun guy to be around in the lockerroom. This is a guy that started out really slow and then slowly started putting it together around the New Year. By the end of the season, he notched his career-high in assists and was actually playing a solid game on the blueline.

I know Aeros fans were looking for something a bit more flashy when it came to the targeted offense. As of Tuesday, the team still does not have a sure-fire 30+ goal scorer. But there is a solid core in place for what I think will be another season of competitive hockey.

The Aeros do have FOUR guys (Peters, DiSalvatore, Daoust and Rau) perfectly capable of playing 75-80 games in Houston and popping in 20-25 goals. There are still a few big AHL names out there, but unless one of them just falls into their lap, the Wild is done this week with depth/Aeros related transactions.

Changing directions here ... there is one area where the Aeros appear to be set heading into the season ... and that is goaltending. Anton Khudobin and Matt Hackett are the No. 3 and No. 4 guys on the depth chart, and it looks like Darcy Kuemper is going back to juniors. (He's the guy that got some playing time last year and did quite well filling in when Anton was up with the Wild.)

We all know that Anton can be great (see last October to Thanksgiving). He was good in the NHL, but he went more that two months without a win in the AHL last year, and that cannot happen again. He will probably travel with the Wild to Europe to start the year, but when they get back, he is going to get the bulk of the starts in Houston. He needs to be consistent and be there for Hackett, who could make his pro debut for the Aeros when the open in the season in early October.

In a perfect world, Harding gets traded, Anton backs up Backstrom in Minny and the Wild sign a veteran to work with Hackett down here in Houston. But after many failed attempts at finding a new home for Harding, that scenario just does not appear likely to pan out.

The Aeros can win with Anton ... but he will have to be more consistent in 2010-11.

There is still more news to come. The Aeros will still sign a few players to AHL deals, and one of the items on the agenda is to find the next Daoust and even a guy to come up and play goalie when Backstrom and Harding get hurt.

We are also still waiting for news of a schedule grid (who the Aeros will play and how many times), the Aeros have yet to announce their guaranteed dates (and home opener) and a playoff format will be announced soon.

I would expect a similar schedule to last year, I think the team will open up on the road and as for the playoffs format, we're probably going back to 2008-09 when the fifth place team in the West could leap frog the fourth place team in the North. Remember, there are eight teams in the division again.

And as for the schedule ... it was really late last year. So after Lebron James announces that he is staying in Cleveland or moving to Miami on Thursday, the NBA can hand pick its schedule. After they settle theirs, the AHL teams that share NBA arenas can get their leftovers and help the process move along.

I would love to see something by the end of this month, but realistically, the first week of August is when we'll be able to start planning our lives for next winter.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Signing Update

Wanted to give a quick update on what's gone on with signings this week.

At the beginning of the week, the Wild re-signed Matt Kassian and defenseman Nate Prosser to 2 and 1 years deals respectively. Both are 2-way deals, so I would expect to see them in Houston at least to start.

You may have heard that Derek Boogaard was not re-signed by the Wild and has since signed a (huge) contract with the Ranger, nor was John Scott (signed by Chicago), so there's a pugilist position open in Minnesota should they deem a little extra muscle is warranted. Bodes well for Kassian, I'd say.

Since free agency started, they have also signed a couple of new guys to two-way deals, both of which seem like solid depth pick-ups.

First is Warren Peters, whose name you probably recognize from the Texas Stars last season. He's a gritty center who can get you 20-30 points a season and has some NHL experience under his belt.

Second is Drew Bagnall, a big defenseman who has spent his pro career in the Kings' system in Manchester. I asked a friend who photographs the Monarchs to give me some thoughts on him:
Bags is a hell of a solid stay at home D-man that any goalie would LOVE to have in front of them. GREAT body checker good at stopping them at the blue line; Oh and he can drop the gloves. He was our BEST captain ever here. We are ALL gonna miss him here; but he's going to have more of a shot at the NHL with the Wild than with the Kings.
She even provided photographic evidence. All photos courtesy of Tracy Hicks from Press Photo International. Thanks so much Tracy!

So, there ya go. Andrew will hop on over the weekend to give some quotes from Mill on the signings.
Around the rest of the league, notable signings are Texas Stars Matt Climie signing with Phoenix. He'll battler for the #2 spot there, but knowing how it goes, we'll likely see him a lot in San Antonio. Also, per his Facebook page, Matt Beaudoin is also headed to the Phoenix/San Antonio organization, though I've seen nothing reported of it. Maybe he's just going on vacation? No, I don't think so. I'll update if I see something official.

Also, Jaime Sifers (who I liked alright but I'm happy to not have to write about now because I type "Sifters" every. single. time.) has signed with the Thrashers organization, so we'll likely see him with Chicago a bit.

That's all for now. Have a great, safe 4th of July weekend! Don't anybody blow themselves up, mmmmkay?