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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

10/29/10: Rampage 5, Aeros 2

Sometimes when I can't process the horrors around me, like when I visit my in-laws, I imagine I'm leaving my body and observing the scene from outside myself. Detached, unemotional, unaffected.

I figure this coping mechanism is cheaper than therapy, and I mention this because, until the Aeros find some way to start winning games, you (and I) may find this useful.

The 5-2 loss to San Antonio started with so much promise. Just seconds into the game, Cody Almond got his first goal of the season, beautifully set up by Jon DiSalvatore as though the hockey gods had chiseled the skate marks into the ice themselves.

San Antonio tied it up halfway through the period on the power play, but hey, NBD. The Aeros were sticking it to the Rampage to the tune of double the shots on goal (18-9 in the first!)

And that feeling was so right, as the Aeros pulled ahead less than 2 minutes later on a PP goal by Max Noreau (phew! finally!).

But alas, SA ties it up with another power play goal just before the end of the period.

Despite the shot count looking very uneven, the Aeros mostly only dominated the first half of the period, and  only because San Antonio was turning the puck over left and right. The Aeros' 18 shots were more a testament to their ability to capitalize on the other team's failure, which is a useful habit to have... until the other team wakes up and quits failing.

Seven minutes into the second, Tikhonov set the Aeros on their heels for good with a short-handed, unassisted breakaway and as Joe said, that was the back breaker. And from there, San Antonio racked up a couple more goals just to put 'er away, though shots were even at 15 and 10 apiece in the final two frames.

One of the goals was squarely on Hackett, who mishandled the puck and basically put it on the stick of the Rampage while playing it behind the net. Rookie mistake and that one would keep me awake tonight if I were him, but hopefully he sees it as an opportunity to learn.

I was a little surprised Yeo didn't give the kid a break and sit him for the third period, but I guess he wanted him to battle through it. And maybe I'm still conditioned to Constantine's super quick hook. Coaches have their own philosophies on such things.

There was a fight of some sort near the end with a whopping 42 minutes of PIM handed out between the teams, Almond collecting 17 of those. I missed it since I cleverly "forgot" to watch the third period, and the archive isn't up yet. From the score sheet, it looks like it started with Almond slashing someone, and he and Bagnall paired off with May and (Captain) Picard.

I have my own hockey tomorrow night so I'll just pre-write the post-gamer.
Aeros lose 3-1, Krahn is fantastic, Khudobin is good but with no goal support, might as well sit on top of the net all night. They start slow but have a good second period, and just get bested in the third. Kassian almost scores (he had a breakaway tonight... no joke!) again. Bagnall punches someone. Robbie Earl with the goal. Drive home safely. See you Sunday.

BONUS
Did you know: The Aeros lead the league in average penalty minutes per game? I wonder how much of that is "toughness" PIM and how much is "I'm slow so I'm gonna hook/hold that guy" PIM. Maybe I'll sort through the numbers tomorrow and figure that out.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Aeros call up Brock McBride

With Wellman and Gillies now on recall to Minnesota, the Aeros went fishing in the ECHL and found talented forward Brock McBride.

He has 22 AHL games under his belt, but he had a decent year with Alaska last season. Here is the link to his career stats.


And here is the ECHL Release for your reading pleasure:


The Elmira Jackals announced Thursday that they have loaned center Brock McBride to the AHL's Houston Aeros. McBride is tied for the ECHL lead with a five-game scoring streak to start the 2010-2011 season. The Cornwall, Ontario native has posted a goal and seven assists for eight points to tie for both the team lead and the fifth spot in the ECHL in scoring. McBride's assists total puts him into a dead heat for the league lead in that category.

Casey Wellman recalled to Wild

Forward Casey Wellman was recalled to the Wild today.
Walking hospital Chuck Kobasew is questionable for tonght's game vs. Washington.

Here is the release from the Wild:


MINNESOTA WILD RECALLS WELLMAN FROM HOUSTON AEROS

Minnesota Wild General Manager Chuck Fletcher today announced the National Hockey League (NHL) club has recalled forward Casey Wellman from the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League (AHL).

Wellman, 23 (10/18/87), has posted three points (2-1=3) in six games for Houston this season. The 6-foot, 186-pound native of Brentwood, Calif., began the season with Minnesota, playing in one game, Oct. 8 against Carolina. Last season, Wellman signed as a free agent with the Wild on March 16, and totaled four points (1-3=4) in 12 games with Minnesota. Wellman, an undrafted free agent out of the University of Massachusetts, wears No. 17 with the Wild.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Aeros release Brandon Rogers


I'd be lying if I said I saw this one coming, but it does make sense.
He is just too far down the proverbial totem pole at this point.

He will catch on ... somewhere ...

And here is the release from the Aeros:


AEROS RELEASE ROGERS FROM PTO

HOUSTON --- The American Hockey League’s (AHL) Houston Aeros, affiliate of the Minnesota Wild, today announced that defenseman Brandon Rogers has been released from his Professional Tryout Contract (PTO).

Rogers played in one game for the Aeros this season, collecting an assist vs. Oklahoma City on October 17. He also registered two penalty minutes (PIM).

Rogers played in 198 regular season games and 25 playoff contests with the Aeros beginning in 2007-08. His best season in Houston came during the 2008-09 season when he played in 74 games and posted 32 points (3-29-32) with 80 PIM. He also appeared in 20 games during the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs totaling three points, all on assists with 12 PIM.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In The Houston Press, and Random Thoughts

My latest Aeros bit in the Press is now posted -- remember, it's through the Press that I get my pass press, so let them know you're appreciative.

Now a few random thoughts.

1. If you read my stuff in the mothership, especially during baseball season, or just listen to me talk, you know that I have a love/hate relationship with the Astros, one that has veered more to hate the past decade or so -- I'm a former employee, so my feelings of Drayton McLane are anything but happy, and his failure to hire anybody competent to handle any job since he forced out Gerry Hunsicker continuously make me angry. I'm really not fond of Ed Wade, who I can't believe is still allowed to work in baseball.

What's this got to do with anything hockey, well, reading the comments from some of you guys makes me feel downright giddy when it comes to the prospects of the Astros, and me feeling giddy towards the Astros just doesn't happen.

I know that's lot of you aren't happy with where you see the team heading. I'm not either, but, it's only seven games into the season. Don't press the panic button yet. Give Mike Yeo a chance to implement his system and his plans. I think the regime in St. Paul will give him a bit more leeway than they gave Kevin Constantine last system, primarily because Yeo's their guy, so maybe that will help a bit.

2. That said, the Aeros are a FARM CLUB of the Minnesota Wild, and the team exists to serve the needs of the Wild. So if they want the Aeros producing defenseman and goalies, then so be it.

This team is never returning to the Chuck Watson days -- I don't get your nostalgia for that guy because he's the guy who kept Les Alexander from bringing the NHL to Houston, yet I read about nothing but the greatness of Chuck Watson. In many ways, I consider Watson to be on par with Bob McNair as being one of those guys treated like a saint who has done nothing to actually earn the sainthood status. And things are a bit different, primarily being that, for most of Watson's ownership, the Aeros were in the IHL, and the IHL was a bit different from the AHL in that the IHL teams didn't have lots of NHL affiliations and they could do what they wanted.

But unless the team has independent ownership, like Chicago who basically does whatever it wants, then the team is going to have to deal first and foremost with satisfying the needs of the parent club.

3. Get over Krys Kolanos already. That's a myth that's not returning, no matter how much you bitch. It wasn't the Wild's fault he didn't come back, last year's staff didn't want him back, despite his performance for them. There's a reason he's generally with a different team every year -- and doesn't even have a contract at the moment. The entire Wild office, however, did want Corey Locke back, but he got a tremendous offer to sign with the Rangers.

4. Finally, just give the team a chance, for a bit. It's not showing record-wise, but I can see a better team on the ice than what there was last year. Just like, with the Astros, I can actually see a better team on the field now that they've cut ties with a bunch of guys and have made a try at start over with a new system.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Try Harder. Execute Better.

I think John and Andrew said enough on Sunday's game. I'm not gonna say it feels like last year out there. I do think there's more chemistry. But I feel like the result is going to be the same if they don't find a way to take the tools they have demonstrated and put them all together into a cohesive game.

I definitely feel like it's too early to panic and yet after watching all this "almost" last season, it's hard to avoid the sinking feelings of "Oh no, we suck again!" Yeo stern warnings of putting last year behind us and not looking back just aren't sticking to my emotional wall.

And speaking of almost, I thought this post from Daryl Reaugh on his very amusing (to me anyway) blog rang true for this team. But maybe I'm a bitter old goalie, too. :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

10/24/10 -- Aeros vs. Lake Erie -- I Think I'm On A Losing Streak Edition

In case you were elsewhere today, you might have missed the big news. The Aeros actually held a lead going into the third period. That's no lie, the Aeros skated out for the third period with a 2-1 lead. They promptly lost that lead :47 into the period, and they eventually lost the game 3-2. But with the Aeros, you take the small victories where you can find them, and for this game, it should be noted, the Aeros actually had a lead after two periods.

Now the hail of bullets.

1. The Aeros second goal was a thing of beauty. Jarod Palmer rushed the net with the puck. He drew a defenseman with him, and as he went past the goal, Lake Erie goalie John Grahame followed. Palmer passed back up the ice, and across the net, where he hit perfectly hit Casey Wellman with the puck, and Wellman buried the puck before Grahame could even think of getting back into position. And for once, the Aeros got the puck in the net.

2. I should know this. Those of us on press row should know this. But none of us do, so...is Max Noreau hurt? He's not shooting the puck as often as he did last year, especially on the power play, and when he does, the shot seems to lack the zip it's had in seasons past.

3. If Noreau's not hurt, then why the hell isn't he shooting it more on the power play?

4. I thought Marco Scandella had another good game. He bailed out Khudobin in the second period when Khudobin made a block and the puck bounced around the crease, seemingly forever. As a Lake Erie player came rushing for the puck, Scandella appeared from out of nowhere and swatted the puck away, preventing the goal.

5. Yeah, I'm liking what I see from Scandella.

6. It would have been nice to see Warren Peters swat the puck out of harm's way in the third period on the goal that tied the game. Peters thought he should have got to the puck, but didn't, saying: "Looking back on what happened – I was on the ice for one of them – we ended up going back into our zone, the puck went over my head, I guess close enough for me to grab it with my hand and try to take a swipe at it. The guy’s waiting on the other side, he bangs it into the empty net."

7. Where in the hell were the Ice Girls? Damn it, don't toss them out for just one game to start the season then get rid of them. You don't expect me to have to watch this team, do you?

8. I was the only one of us three there for the entire game. Heather went to something called an opera and didn't show up until the second period. Andrew's son was playing a little league baseball game, and he didn't arrive until the third -- note, the Aeros were winning when Andrew arrived, then promptly gave up the lead. Make of that what you will.

9. I thought the team looked awful in the first period. Whether it was just sluggishness from playing the third game in three days, or whether it was just bad play, I don't know. I thought the team looked better in the second. Heather thought I was nuts for saying this, but after all, she didn't see them in the first period. I thought their third period was the worst of the three.

10. There was no excuse for the way the team started that third period.

11. Mike Yeo agrees about that third period: "That’s a very disappointing way to lose a hockey game. Right there. For three games in three nights I thought, for two periods we’d done a lot of good things. But to come out – there were three mental lapses on the first goal, and there were two on the second. You’ve got to know – to be a winner you’ve got to know what the situation calls for. And we didn’t there in the third period."

12. For the commenter to an earlier post saying the Aeros should sign Krys Kolanos. Know this: Kolanos is unsigned at this point. There's a reason he's unsigned. So get over the mythology of Kolanos already.

13. The defenseman, for the most part, and in my opinion, have been very good. Especially Scandella and Drew Bagnall. And I think I understand why Brandon Rogers is being scratched every night. But it's obvious to all that the power play's not working, and in the past, before the current folks took over in St. Paul, Rogers was a good power play quarterback -- he was especially good at it getting it to Noreau in just the right spot for one of Noreau's shots. So maybe they should sit one of the ineffective forwards -- I think they can find a few to choose from -- and find away to get Rogers some ice time. If even for just the power play.

14. You know that Troy Ward's up in Abbotsford, looking at the power play stats, and laughing at all those who thought he and Kevin Constantine were at fault for the power play woes. Constantine's in Switzerland, and if I were in Switzerland, or anywhere in Europe, I wouldn't be wasting my time checking out AHL stats.

15. I did the math during the first intermission. It was 158:30 between goals for the Aeros. Yeah, that's bad.

16. When asked after the game if he saw anything good in the Aeros, Yeo responded that he liked seeing the team have a lead, and score some goals as opposed to losing with no goals. But that was said with an air of resignation.

17. Jarod Palmer: no more fights please. That was a pretty weak one in the first period. Leave the fighting to Bagnall or Matt Kassian. That's what they're there for.

18. The Aeros lost to the Lake Erie Monsters. How bad do you have to be lose to the Monsters, especially when this is the last game of a seven-game road trip.

19. After seven games: the Aeros are 2-4-1 (five points) and in last place in the West Division.

20. The Aeros have their third three-in-three in three consecutive weekends this week. They play in San Antonio on Friday, Austin on Saturday, and here for Sunday. Sunday is Halloween. If the Aeros play anything next Sunday like they did today, then that's going to be one scary Halloween.

21. On the plus side, next Sunday is Halloween which means the Dynamics will be in costume.

22. That's it for this edition. And I think the Rolling Stones and "Satisfaction" might be in order because this team is on a five game losing streak and nobody who is watching them is getting any satisfaction.

Aeros limp out of lost weekend

My oh my, what a lost weekend of hockey for the home team.
Three games in three nights, three losses, and three games they deserved to lose.

Mike Yeo, after the game Sunday, said it's not just one thing. It's something different every night, but the glaring problem seems to be turnovers. I will be honest; I have not noticed them to the point where I should. I think I am too busy trying to rationalize why they can't score and why they have gone nowhere but downhill in every game since Game 1.

But that was Mike Yeo's comment ... cut down on the turnovers is a great place to start.

We also talked to Warren Peters tonight, and he is one of the veterans, along with Jon DiSalvatore and Max Noreau who seem to be just getting by through every game. Those guys are supposed to be reasons why the Aeros should be a tough team to beat. Instead, at least after the first three weeks, they are a big reason why they are in last place.

Is it completely fair to sing them out? Maybe not, but I think they know the team needs to turn things around, and it all starts with them.

Peters had some good comments following the team's 3-2 loss to Lake Cleveland ... or whatever they are called. Here they are:

"They made some adjustments, came out in the third period and executed. Their hard work, especially in our zone, resulted in goals.


There is only one way out. You can’t feel sorry for yourself, you can’t hope, you can’t ask for better fortune; you have to earn it. There is only one way out, and that is through hard work. We displayed that for the most part tonight. That may not be the case throughout the whole weekend, but right now it does not feel too good and you can’t put your head down. You have to forge along, especially when you still have 70-plus games to go."


There are 73 games to go, to be exact. And there is only one way to go from here.



Time for another Sunday matinée

I wonder what the Aeros are REALLY thinking today as they get ready to not get shut out for a third straight game. As far as I know that has happened only one other time in franchise history ... and that team was good enough defensively to get into the playoffs.

That was a 1996-97 Aeros team that had some guy named Freddie Chabot. Yeah, he was pretty good.

The good news is the Aeros penalty kill is pretty good and they goaltending should be good enough to keep them in most games. But as others lamented publicly, there are just too many guys back from a team last year that just do have a natural scoring touch.

I see effort, I see more organization in the offensive zone and even less of four guys all bunched up around the puck. But like head coach Mike Yeo alluded to on Friday, there are still too many passes and not enough butts in front of the opposing goalie.

Today, the schedule favors the Monsters, who did not play last night and are not playing a third game in three days. If anything favors the Aeros today, it is the law of averages and the fact that this is the last game for the Monsters on a long road trip.

Those kind of games usually bode well for the desperate home team. (But, Lake Erie has lost five in a row ... maybe the law of averages is actually on their side today.)

Predictions are meaningless, but trends aren't. The Aeros have a slight edge today, and I say they squeak out of Toyota Center with their first home win of the season.

As for the big picture, I have said this numerous times ... good teams don't lose five in a row, especially early in the year when everyone is fresh and healthy. Playoff-bound teams usually avoid multiple losses in a row and they find a way to put together a couple of five-game winning streaks.

It's not panic time, but these guys better find a way to put the biscuit in the basket ... and fast.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

10/22/10 -- Aeros v. Rivermen -- The Hail of Bullets Edition

I'm trying a different approach to these things, at this point. I just can't see writing up full-scale game stories -- I've been working a lot, and I want to get that sleep thing. So I'm going to feed you guys a hail of bullets reflecting some thoughts on this game that the Aeros lost 1-0 in overtime.

1. This was a hell of a game. It was one of the more entertaining games that I've seen the Aeros play in a long, long time. So I really, really, really don't understand why they were being booed off of the ice. I just don't get it.

2. Marco Scandella, wow. He's a young kid. He's not perfect, yet. But he just continues to amaze me every game. He's making hits. He's throwing his body around and blocking pucks. He's someone I find myself looking at constantly when he' s out on the ice -- and when I'm not looking at the Dynamics.

3. Mike Yeo on Scandella: "One of the biggest things, it’s obvious by the amount of ice time that we’re giving him. He’s a young guy, and young guys generally have a lot more to learn, but he plays a pretty mature game for a young guy. I think part of that is he has a very good understanding of what kind of player he is, and he’s going to be in the NHL, and he’s committed to being a solid defensive player, and he knows he has to go make a good first pass and try to contribute offensively when it’s there. But he also understands the foundation of his game, and that’s being strong one-on-one and being solid defensively."

4. I also like seeing Drew Bagnall on the ice. He's just not going to take crap off of anybody.

5. Anton Khudobin seems different to me this year. He seems to have matured and kicked his game up another level. I saw him challenging players. He didn't lose his poise like he might have at times in the past. And he played a hell of a game against one of the top teams in the AHL.

6. I saw a semblance, tonight, of what Mike Yeo wants this team to be. It wasn't there the entire game, but it was there. I hadn't seen it in the first two home games. There's still hesitation. There's still too much passing, trying to be too perfect. But I could actually see what Yeo wants to accomplish.

"I think that we have to, at this point in the season especially, we have to remember what it is we’re trying to do here," Yeo told us. "And I think that that game looked a lot more like our game is supposed to look. There was a lot of times where I felt like we were really taking it to them. We were getting good shifts in the offensive zone. Our forecheck was really effective, and the way were attacking pucks and creating turnovers was a lot better. Shooting pucks and going to the net."

7. I'm disappointed in the power play. Which seems to be the standard Houston Aeros observer response over the years. Yeo's disappointed, and he thought they were trying to be too perfect. One thing I noticed is that Max Noreau seems to be backing off a bit. I thought there were multiple times tonight when he had an opportunity from the blue line and didn't take it. We saw last year what a weapon the Noreau slap shot can be.

8. That said, I don't know what, if anything, the Aeros have planned for Brandon Rogers. And maybe it's just something with my memory, but I could swear that I remember that several seasons ago he and Noreau made a great power play duo.

9. I agree with Heather's assessment on Ben Bishop. The guy has really improved, and he stopped everything the Aeros through his way. I don't even think that the myth that fans have turned Krys Kolanos into could have gotten the puck past Bishop.

10. Where were the Ice Girls?

11. I hope you didn't pay any attention to the PA guy on the way out of the arena tonight, because despite what they said, the Aeros next two games aren't on the road. They play in San Antonio tomorrow, but then they host Lake Erie on Sunday.

12. Nothing against Jarod Palmer, but damn it, when I see the #19 on the ice, the first thing that pops into my mind is Danny Irmen. So can someone please get Palmer another a number.

13. I think The White Stripes are currently one of the most-overrated bands in rock music. They've done some good stuff, but most of what I hear just reinforces my belief that Jack White has bought into his own hype and mythology. Most of their "genius," to me, sounds rushed, and unfinished. But when they get a song right, they get the song right, such as in "Seven Nation Army."

Now to get to my point, I find the Aeros to be rough, unfinished. But I can see what they're aiming at. And I see "Seven Nation Army" as fitting the theme that Yeo wants for the team. An onrushing onslaught of attackers firing time after time on the net. So...

Friday, October 22, 2010

10/22/10: Peoria 1, Houston 0

Yeah, yeah, so it wasn't a win, but that was a fun game to watch. I've long contended that it's not goals that make hockey fun to watch, it's quality chances. And there were lots of those at both ends tonight.

The Aeros dominated the first period, but I gotta give props to Peoria tendy Ben Bishop: He is vastly improved over the last two seasons. To be honest, I kinda thought he was going to be a bust. Just too big to be fast enough to play at a super high level, but he's proving me quite wrong. I'd heard he'd improved, but I finally got to see for myself tonight and it's unbelievable. He should be very proud.

I really only know of a couple of stops where I felt like he wasn't all the way there but mostly got lucky. And for as many shots as he was credited with stopping, that's pretty impressive. Usually a shutout has a helluva lot of luck involved, but this was just as solid a performance in goal as I've seen in a long time.

I feel for Anton though. Earlier this week, I also got my first "career" shutout, but we lost in the shootout. It's heartbreaking to play your can off like that (and he was VERY good, just saw a lot less action than Bishop for most of the game), and not take home the win. You wanna feel great about it but dangit if that W isn't what you really wanted.

Yeo confirmed that while there is still work to be done and this game "isn't fully ingrained" in the players, this is how he wants this team to play in most ways. Just... you know... score. They're still passing too much and not putting the puck on net enough but you (well, at least *I*) can see them honing in on the right balance. Saturday, they didn't shoot enough. Sunday, they shot too much and didn't create real chances. Tonight, they shot a lot and had MANY good chances. A bounce here or there... Welcome to hockey.

Now, Graham Mink, Peoria's biggest ace, was a scratch, so no telling how his presence might have changed the tone of this game. This team is just scary and even in a loss, I loved seeing the Aeros not only hang with them but tie them up big time for most of the first period and parts of others.

The boys face San Antonio in the Alamo city tomorrow and then back home Sunday vs. Lake Erie. I was planning to catch them in SA but we're hitting the Stars/Peoria game in Cedar Park instead. It's a fun barn to watch some hockey in, so get up there if you get a chance this season.

See you Sunday.

PS-Brusty with a shutout for Binghamton tonight. In fact, he's got an 88+ minute streak of shutout play right now. Neenerrrrr.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gillies Called Up

Colton Gillies got the first call-up of the season today thanks to a bug that's going around the Wild locker room. Of course, hockey players being hockey players, guys may gut it out and he may not see action, but they have no spare forwards, so they had to get some insurance up there.

But since the Aeros don't play again until Friday, assuming the Wild manage to contain the outbreak (helps that they're not on the road), he may be back before the Aeros play again.

Here's the article from the Wild site.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Relive the Weekend With The Houston Press

I know it's painful, but go read my post over at the Houston Press about the game's this weekend. Remember, it's through the Press that I get my press pass, so give them the clicks and comments they need to let you know you enjoy the coverage.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

10/17/10: Ancient Chinese Secret

I picked up PF Chang's after the game tonight and my fortune said, "Failure is the mother of success." I think that's a decent metaphor for the Aeros 8-2 loss to OKC tonight. And that was Drew Bagnall's take on the game as well. It's one of 80 and you learn more from the losses than the wins.

I wanted to talk about Hackett a little bit, but I do it somewhat hesitantly because he's been through the ringer today and deserves some patience. I hope to write this really as a waypoint in his professional journey, not a profile of what kind of goalie Matt is. If there's anything I've learned as a goalie myself, it's that path to improvement is not a straight line, even for the most talented tenders .

As I've mentioned before, the rule of writing about goalies is that as soon as you write something criticizing them, they pitch a shutout. And if you write something praising them, they stink in their next outing. It's just the law of hockey writing. But Hackett apparently missed that memo and did exactly what I wrote about for a goalie scouting report a couple of weeks ago.

Basically what I wrote was that he drifts too deep in his net in 1-on-0 situations, rather than challenging or holding his ground. He plays smaller than he is and he's gotta find the confidence to step up and be big or he's going to struggle. I wrote this based on limited footage and the skills competition, so I was worried he'd prove me wrong today, but I saw this play out several times.

It's all mental, of course, like almost everything in goaltending, and he's overall a very talented and technically-sound goalie. This loss was part Hackett, part teamFAIL, and part quicksand. Which is to say, there comes a point where you're so deep in the hole, you start to feel like your legs are heavier and you're tired and unfocused and you get so tense for every shot that you're paralyzed.

Aside: I wish I didn't know about this so personally, but I do. :)

Anyway, they're all pros, so I'm sure it doesn't hit them as hard as it hits a bender like me, but human is human.

Bagnall was good on his part in the meltdown, basically falling on the sword for letting his frustrations getting to him after the goal that he "assisted" on. I think the rest of the team would join him if we'd asked. John touched on this a little more in his post. I'm just proud of myself for hearing what he was saying enough to paraphrase it, and also not blushing. Go me!

The boys are practicing (a lot, we hope) until another 3 in 3 this weekend that's basically at home as far as travel fatigue goes. Fri/Sun at home and Saturday a quick jaunt up I-10 to San Antonio. I'll be there and will throw up some thoughts on it on Sunday. 

On a positive note, Ally Jurden's rendition of the national anthem was magnificent. Nice to hear her lovely voice again. Way to go, Ally!

Also? Unsung hero thus far: Marco Scandella. He hasn't done one single thing to annoy me and more often than not, when some d-man gets his stick in a passing lane and saves a shot on goal, and I go, "Who was that?" it was Scandella. Rock on, young man.

10/17/10 -- Aeros v. Barons -- The Who Really Gives A Damn Edition

I want to apologize. I know you come over here expecting to read lengthy analysis of each game with the hope that we can provide some answers. But I just don't feel like doing it tonight. Much the same, I guess, as the Aeros not feeling like playing hockey tonight.

That third period against the Barons was some of the worst hockey I've ever seen. And having Shaun Davis as the referee didn't make it any more bearable because that ass just refused to let the game end. I can't help thinking that this game wouldn't have turned into a game of chippy hits and fights if he would have made a point at sometime in the game, to assert some control over the game -- and no, calling five interference penalties on each team a period is not asserting control of the game. How this guy is still a referee amazes me, and frankly, expect for Jeff Smith who never calls penalties, I never notice the individual refs.

It's easy to forget, but at one point early in the third period the score was only 3-2 Oklahoma City, though I don't think anybody felt the Aeros were going to find a way to win. And it seems like, thinking back on it, that it was just mere minutes later that the score was 8-2 Barons.

So just a few thoughts in bullet fashion...

1. Where in the hell were the Ice Girls? Not that they have anything to do, but damn, don't tease us like that and have them one night and not the next.

2. Why is it that when Max Noreau fires a shot so hard that if flies through the net that the refs miss it, but when an opposing player does it like with tonight, the goal is counted? Yes, it was a goal -- Mike Yeo said afterwards there was no question it was a goal and Matt Hackett sure acted like it -- but damn it, Noreau's goals were no-doubt about it goals, too.

3. Yeo refused to put the blame for the loss on Matt Hackett, saying he was left out to dry way too much. And seeing how crappy the team played around him, that's probably correct.

4. Yeo did consider going with Anton Khudobin, but he said it seemed as if the Aeros were always shorthanded in the third, always killing a penalty, and that it just wouldn't be fair to Khudobin to throw him out in an unwinnable situation like that.

5. Seriously, is Shaun Davis the worst ref in the AHL or what?

6. Drew Bagnall got into a fight in the third period right after the Barons put up their seventh goal. From up top, it looked as if Linus Omark was taunting the Aeros bench after his goal and that things went from there. But Bagnall said he has no idea what Omark was doing. He just spotted something happening at the bench area and went after the biggest guy he could find. And it had nothing to do with the bench action. He was angry with himself and blaming himself for the seventh goal. What happened shouldn't have happened, he said: "I’m kind of embarrassed about it," he said.

7. We didn't talk to any other players, but I have the feeling they were just as embarrassed as Bagnall by that game.

8. What in the hell was that music thing during the first intermission? I'm as sick as the kid choirs as anybody, but really, if you get a band, make sure the lead singer can sing.

9. Where were the Ice Girls?

10. It was good to see Palmer Hestley at the game. Palmer was one of our media minders last year, and he put up with a lot from us, and from former members of the business office. Thanks again for the good work last year.

11. Of the Aeros six scratches, four were healthy scratches -- Jamie Fraser, Jarod Palmer, Kris Fredheim, and Brandon Buck. Make of that what you will.

12. After a good crowd on Saturday night, the crowd tonight looked like it was a Tuesday night game in December. Where was everybody, celebrating the Texans game, or something?

13. And for my closing music tonight, here's a classic from the original lineup of The Pretenders. And with the song, I'm throwing out a pop quiz. There's no prize for the correct answer except bragging rights. So here we go. What is the connection between The Pretenders and The Kinks, the stars of last night's video? (And no, The Pretenders covering The Kinks doesn't count).

10/16/10 -- Aeros v. Rivermen -- Do It Again Edition

In many ways game three of the Mike Yeo era looked a lot like most games of the Kevin Constantine era. The Aeros played like crap in the first period, but because of goalie play were still actually in the game. They played evenly in the second period, put on a furious finish in the third, but fell short and lost.

But there was an intensity out there I didn’t see much last year. There looked to be a bit more speed. And there was this guy named Drew Bagnall that I think even Mitch Love would leave alone. Yet none of that mattered because much like last season, the Aeros lost. This time by a score of 3-2, and before a larger crowd, 7559.

“It’s disappointing, and hopefully a lesson learned,” Yeo told us after the game. “That’s what we talked about after the game, and after the first period. This is a good league, and as an individual you have to be prepared and ready to play the game right from the start, and we weren’t.”

The first goal came at the 3:01 mark of the first, and it could definitely be labeled as a soft goal as T.J. Hensick came up on Anton Khudobin’s right side and just kind of pushed the puck forward. It appeared on replay to hit the stick of one of the Aeros defenders, which caused it to deflect past Khudobin. But Khudobin said that didn’t happen. He thought he stopped the puck with his left leg pads, but he didn’t.

“I’ll tell you what, [Peoria] came out flying in the first period,” Yeo said. “The first goal, Anton’s going to be the first one to say that he should have that. But I’ll tell you what, they were pressing and that’s what – that’s something we’re trying to build here as far as having that shooting mentality.”

The second goal came at 13:49 when Hensick fired a slap shot from way up around the blue line that appeared to hit a back post and fly out. And by the time the first period was over, it was 2-0 Peoria.

“They came out firing,” Robbie Earl told us. “They had us on our heals. We regrouped in the second. Obviously a couple of penalties slowed the momentum, but we were able to sustain it in the second and third. That’s something we need to work on….from now on, we’ve got to start right away, and get to our game right away and not find ourselves trailing in the third period.”

The score was still 2-0 early in the third when Casey Wellman pushed the puck up the ice, passed it to Chad Rau, and Rau fed a pretty pass to Earl who slipped it past Peoria’s rookie goalie Jake Allen to make it 2-1. Graham Mink made it 3-1 at 13:50 of the third on one of those shots that even the NHL’s best would have trouble stopping, but the Aeros didn’t quit and at 16:32, Marco Scandella broke down the left side of the rink and put the puck on J-M Daoust’s stick and Daoust stuck the puck past Allen to make it 3-2.

That was as close as the Aeros would get it. The defense had trouble clearing the puck from the Aeros zone in the final minutes, and Yeo wasn’t able to pull Khudobin for the extra skater until there were about 30 seconds left in the game. By then it was too late.

So the Aeros aren’t going to go 80-0-0-0 on the season. And they still seem to have some of the same problems as last season. Yet the season’s still early. And there is some talent on the team.

The Aeros go again this afternoon when they host Oklahoma City at 4:00.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS GAME NOTES:

I don't know about you, but Drew Bagnall impressed the hell out of me. I haven't seen him play before, mainly because he's been over in the Eastern Conference, but I liked what I saw. He supplied a bruising, physical presence from a defenseman that I haven't seen on the Aeros in years. He dished out hits. He came in to protect teammates. He fought. He didn't back down. And to me, at least, he always seemed to be in the right place on the ice.

He's one guy I'm going to look forward to watching this season.

****************
It has been several weeks since Anton Khudobin last saw game action, and that was a preseason contest. So it's not an exaggeration to say that he was probably a little rusty. And while that first goal was a little soft and probably should have been stopped, the loss in this game definitely can't be blamed on him.

Peoria was constantly attacking the net, especially in that first period, and Khudobin made stop after stop. He made some exceptional stops in the second and third period. It's looking to me, as in the past several years when it was Nolan Schaefer and Barry Brust and Anton Khudobin that the Aeros aren't going to have to worry about the goalies losing games for them.

"We’ve got two unbelievable goalies," Robbie Earl said of Khudobin and Matt Hackett. "That’s great because goalie is a big part of this league. And we’ve got two guys fighting. That’s what you want, two goalies, one being there day in and day out. That’s only going to help us, but now we have to, as a unit in front of them, each shift, play well in front of them and get them some wins."

Yeo hasn't officially named a starter for this afternoon's game with Oklahoma City. But he did say last week that it was his plan to alternate them at the start of the season, so take from that what you will.

**************
For those of you interested in team chemistry, take a heart from a statement of Robbie Earl's: "It’s game three. We’ve still got a long way to go. But we’re jelling faster than most teams I’ve been a part of. It’s fun to see. It’s still early."

**************
As for the non-game aspects, you'll be pleased, or distressed to know that they still can't get the wireless to work at Toyota Center on a consistent basis. Heather was too cheap to pay for the T-Mobile, but even though I bounce around in terms of employment, I forked out the cash so that I could keep you up-to-date on the Twitter. You're welcome.

And speaking of shocks, we were actually asked by Aeros PR as to who the three stars of the game should be. I know that's how it goes in most arenas, but that's the first time it happened for us.

For those of you who didn't attend the game, let it be known that the Aeros have Ice Girls this season, and I for one couldn't be happier. We were asked on Twitter for photographic evidence, so here you go.

They had a goal horn, or so it sounded, which was a first. They didn't do chuck-a-puck until after the game. Steve Vidal is still your roaming arena announcer. And for the most part, the music selections still sucked.

And for your music video tonight, I'm going with The Kinks and "Do It Again" because, as I wrote above, there was a lot about this game which reminded me of last year.

10/16/10: Peoria 3, Aeros 2

Okay, I'm gonna try to be a bit balanced here in my game notes:

OMG DID YOU SEE DREW BAGNALL????

*ahem*

You know, when the team picks guys up during the summer, you hear from fans in their previous locations, you read scouting reports, etc. and it's always, "Oh, he's gritty and a good leader and a penalty killer and blah blah blah." And then you get the guy and it's like, "Eh. He's okay."

But Bagnall? Nope. If I'd bought him on eBay, I'd be tripping over myself to give the seller A+++++++. He is as he was represented. Tough, firey, intense. I'm not gonna lie, I went into a full on code red blush at least 3 times tonight watching him out there. That hip check early on that resulted in him just murdering Cracknell was like, Whoa.

Sorry to be talking like a Miley Cyrus song, but I totally had a teenage girl reaction to him. Party in the USA, indeed.


-----------------------------

The first period stunk and they knew that--we all knew that--but a little talking between periods and they came out firing in the second and third. I was starting to worry I wouldn't get to scout Peoria goalie Jake Allen, who was making his professional debut tonight, because he was seeing such wimpy shots.

But the Areos did finally start making him earn his money and I was very impressed. I'll save my scouting report for my goalie audience but the bottom line from an Aeros perspective is this: Peoria is very very good and their backup goalie is not going to be a weakness.

-----------------------------

Boy do these Aeros not take any shit physically. Doesn't seem like they're looking to start anything, but hey, buddy, if you wanna f**k with us, we're ready for ya. Kassian, Bagnall, Almond, Kalus... heck, even Earl, though his attempt at a scuffle got thwarted by the officials.

You can't help but love seeing that kind of passion so early in the season and, on top of that, I thought I sensed a fairly sparkly level of chemistry among the boys. Maybe more than we ever saw last year. So I asked Earl about it after the game and, maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but I swear his face lit up a little at the subject.

He said this team has gelled on and off the ice faster than just about any team he's been on and it really feels good for that to be happening.

Sometimes I feel like I'm talking about horoscopes or the Easter Bunny when I ask people about team chemistry, so it was nice for him to validate my feeling that it matters. And even nicer to hear that things actually are clicking with this roster the way they appear to be from the stands.

---------------------------------

On the coaching front, Yeo said the team has to basically stop passing so damn much and put the puck on the net. There were some awfully pretty set-ups tonight, and against a lesser defense who didn't get in the way so well, I'm willing to bet the Aeros would have run away with it.

But against a good team like this, I think you just have to keep it simple. Noreau had a great game in that respect. He shot and shot and just try to get it deep for a rebound chance or garbage goal or SOMEthing.

-----------------------------------

That's all. I'm tired.  Hoping to get to see Hackett in goal tomorrow so I can finally see him in a game, though Yeo wanted to confirm his choice with the assistant coaches before saying anything. Yeo also said the roster will get shaken up a bit, too, so maybe we'll get to see Broda and Prosser, both of whom I've been excited to see play.

Thanks to everyone who came out. It was decent crowd and it seems like folks are just really happy for hockey season to be back. I know I am.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Meet your 2010-11 Aeros: Jon DiSalvatore

Jon DiSalvatore
Right Wing

Born: 3/30/81 (29)
Bangor, ME
6'1" - 200

Shoots: Right

(Photo by Chris Jerina)

This will be DiSalvatore's second season in Houston, where he was captain last season. That honor hasn't been assigned yet (rotating three alternates for now), so it remains to be seen if the C lands on him again. What I would expect is another 50-ish point season with 20-ish goals.

You can pretty much set your watch to his point totals, so there's no secret about what you're getting when you sign him. Add in the veteran presence and leadership and he's a good guy to have around this young bunch. And it does seem like he's clicking in Yeo's system as he's already got 2 points in 2 games.

This is another 2 year deal, like I praised in Senator Peters' profile, and I like that move just as much with DiSalvatore. He's been in a new city nearly every year for the last 7 years (2 years in Peoria), so the ability to keep some momentum and chemistry in an organization for 3 straight years has to benefit his game, not to mention his life.

Meet your 2010-11 Aeros: Warren Peters

Warren Peters 
Center/Senator

Born: 7/10/1982 (28)
Saskatoon, SK
6'0" - 201

Shoots: Left

During the skills competition, I misheard Joe O'Donnell over the speakers when he introduced Peters. I heard "Senator Warren Peters." Andrew corrected me. "Center." Oh. Right. Of course.

Alas, I still call him "The Senator" in my head. Senator Peters mopped up the floor with that guy. Senator Peters vetoed that scoring attempt. Great, isn't it?

Anyway, Senator Peters comes to the Aeros from the Texas Stars, and may I just take a moment to commend Mr. Mill for signing him for 2 years? I still feel like one of the harbingers of doom last season was the number of guys who were set to be UFAs on July 1. Two years says, You've proven yourself and we believe in you and we want you to help us build something. Or, given the small salary budget, maybe it says, We'll give you 2 years if you'll take less money. Whatever. I still like it.

Peters is what I call a "glue guy." Gritty, plays with an edge, and has decent skill with the puck. He was the captain of the Quad Cities team a few years back, so he's got some leadership cred and a veteran who's been around this league, been up in a show a few times, and knows how to be a professional.

He's coming off a career year with Texas, but I don't know that I would expect 20 goals from him every season. If he can bring those other intangibles and create some chances and play a good defensive game, he'll be golden.

(And yes, I know the picture is from a video game.)

Meet your 2010-11 Aeros: Kris Fredheim

Kris Fredheim
Defense

Born: 2/23/1987
Campbell River, BC
6'2" - 192

Shoots: Right

It's pronounced FRED-haym. Rhymes with Dead Aim. Fredheim's a stay at home defenseman who earned an AHL deal out of camp after finishing up his college career at Colorado College (Wild must have a scout who lives in Colorado Springs... ).

He was originally a 6th round draft pick in 2005 for Vancouver but they ultimately passed, so I'm sure he'll have a little something extra when the Aeros face Manitoba.

I've never seen him play so I can't comment at all, but here's what Hockey's Future had to say about him.
Fredheim is a tall, lanky defensive defenseman who is noted for his big, powerful slapshot. He’s a smart player who keeps things pretty simple and is very solid positionally. He makes great use of his large frame and long reach, but still needs to add strength. Despite his need for more physical strength, Fredheim is strong on his skates and has shown that he can be difficult to move off of the puck. He is a fierce competitor who isn’t afraid to play the body is quite good in his play along the boards and in the corners. Fredheim possesses good puck skills and can make nice outlet passes, though he could stand to be a bit more patient with the puck. He is defensively sound, effectively taking away passing/shooting lanes and has shown a willingness to block shots. Some added size and strength would go a long way to help improve many of Fredheim’s weaknesses as his collegiate career goes along.

So, there's that. Judging solely by his stats (it's all I've got) and knowing these profiles tend to be a little outdated, I'm guessing his patience with the puck has probably seen some improvement. In his final season at CC, he doubled his point totals, assists mostly, but that could be an indication of more comfort with the puck.

Mighty Peoria comes to town

Tonight, the Aeros will play Game 3, and they'll get their first crack at the Peoria Rivermen. They are off to a 3-1 start and look to be every bit of the offensive juggernaut that many predicted.

They have a great mix of vets and young players and Ben Bishop looks to be every bit of the great goalie they need him to be. Bishop may not even get the start tonight, as he has played every minute of their first four games.

Maybe they go with the rookie Jake Allen in net. Maybe not. We'll find out tonight.

Last night in San Antonio, the Rivermen scored six goals on 20 shots, lighting up Rampage goalie Al Montoya like a Christmas tree. Graham Mink is the real deal, and Nick Drazenovic scored twice last night in the rout.

What we do know is the Aeros will go with Anton Khudobin tonight. He will be making his first start of the season, and I have no idea the last time Anton played meaningful hockey. It's been awhile, so the team better not cough up the puck as much as it did in the second and third period Friday night.

Mike Yeo would not mention names, only deferring to Matt Hackett who single-handedly earned the team a pair of points in the standings. Another game like Friday, and the Aeros will get thumped to the tune of 6,7 or 8-1.

The Aeros do, however, seem to be very good at finding loose pucks (rebounds) and putting those in the net. I know that is how the first goal was scored last night, and from what I understand, so did the game-winner in OT.

I learned a lot from Kevin Constantine in his three years. One thing I learned is that your first home game of the season is one of the most unpredictable of the year. There is no way to gauge how the team will react to playing at home for the first time.

Personally, I have a bad feeling because of Anton's rustiness. But if Peoria starts the rookie, who knows? It's the first home game of the season ... so don't be surprised no matter what happens.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Meet Your 2010-11 Aeros: Brandon Rogers

BRANDON ROGERS
Born: February 27, 1982 (age 28)
Rochester, NH

6 ft 1
198 lb
Defenseman
Shoots: Left

(Photo courtesy of Fred Trask)

Career Transactions: Is currently signed to a AHL contract with the Aeros....Signed as a free agent by Minnesota, July 15, 2008....Signed by Houston (AHL), August 23, 2007....Originally selected by Anaheim in the fourth round (118th overall) in 2001 NHL Entry Draft.

What is there to say about Brandon Rogers? I think it's become obvious over the years that I'm a fan of the guy as a player, and as a person. After all, how can you not like a guy who was the AHL Man of the Year, and yet thought nothing of it because going out into the community was just a regular part of being a hockey player?

Rogers didn't have the best of seasons, points-wise, last year, getting only eight points (3+5=8) in 60 games after having scored 32 and 28 in the previous two seasons. Yet the lack of scoring last season is probably, one of the reasons I'm a fan as Rogers sacrificed his scoring to help the team, moving from defense to take over as the checking line center because injuries and call-ups kept the team decimated throughout the season. That shouldn't be a problem this year -- one can hope -- as the team seemed determined to be bring in forwards this off-season.

I don't see Rogers as a flashy guy. I think he's more of a steady presence who's not going to make stupid plays and who will find some way to make a contribution. He's also, for me, somebody I can always go to in the locker room and who give me a quote despite the night he or the team just had.

Meet Your 2010-11 Aeros: Jared Spurgeon

Jared Spurgeon
Defense

Born: 11/29/1989 (20)
Edmonton, Alberta
5'8" - 175

Shoots: Right

(WHL Championship Trophy Photo by Regan Bartel - http://reganbartel.blogspot.com/)


When I went to training camp during the first week of camp here, there was this small defenseman on the ice, #28, who caught my eye during one of the drills. It was some kind of backchecking drill and this 28 just looked like he was working his can off. He didn't always catch his guy but, my god, did he appear to be busting a gut trying to and that impressed me.

Now, sometimes a guy can look like he's working hard, but really he's just working inefficiently. So, I'm not sure what I was seeing exactly, but apparently the team saw enough in Spurgeon to sign him off of a tryout. He'd originally been a 6th round pick of the Islanders in the 2008 draft, but they didn't sign him.

I'm told he was quite the PP quarterback for the Spokane Chiefs and he definitely racked up some points (almost a point per game his final WHL season) to back that up. I think at the AHL level, sometimes smaller guys can pull off some slippery moves. They can hide in the weeds a little bit. We'll see what he can do. If his energy at camp is any indication, he'll be a fun guy to watch.

I asked a Spokane Chiefs fan I know on Twitter to gimme Spurgeon in 140 char: "Incredibly effective defenseman for his size, great leadership, exceptional hair." My Twitter friends know what's important.

Here's some good scouting video of him put together by his agent:

Meet Your 2010-11 Aeros: Nate Prosser

Nate Prosser
Defense

Born: 5/7/1986 (24)
Elk River, MN
6'2" 210

Shoots: Right

Prosser is another in the handful of college free agents the Wild picked up earlier in the year as he just finished his senior year at Colorado College.

He's a big fella and has a decent touch for setting up goals, having put up solid assist numbers throughout his career. According to this article from the Wild, he's a mean cuss gritty player who can provide that all-important physical spark.

One of the things the Aeros really lacked in last year's roster was that spark, so he if can provide that while playing a solid defensive game, he's going to be a grand addition to the team.

As I recall, he had a solid pro debut with the Wild at the end of last season, and being a Minnesota boy, he's fired up to play for the local club. But I don't think he's at the top of the depth chart. He's almost surely behind Scandella at the moment, but there's loads of opportunity for that to change. My point being, I would expect him to be sporting the bomber instead of the... "wild thing"... most of the season. Go ahead and get attached.

And if he regularly comes to the defense of his goalie like this, I know I will:



Also, according to Russo, Wild d-man Brent Burns nicknamed him 'Stiflemeister' thanks to his uncanny resemblance to actor Seann William Scott who played Stifler in the American Pie movies (and is also a Minnesotan, for what that's worth). Thanks to http://gocctigers.blogspot.com for the side-by-side comparison.

Houston Aeros/West Division Season Preview

Tonight the Aeros' regular season gets into full swing with the first of three games in three nights. Last weekend was just a tease as the Aeros essentially played a tune-up or glorified preseason game against an OKC team that was fully together for just the second time.

On the record, I think OKC gets their first-ever win tonight, tomorrow is a toss-up as Peoria is the most talented team in the division ... and then on Sunday, the Aeros improve to 1-1 both at home and against the Barons this season.

Matt Hackett goes tonight and suffers a tough loss, a rusty Anton gets drilled tomorrow night and for the sake of getting him some work, I think Mike Yeo has to play Anton again Sunday in what I think will be a win.

As for the rest of the season? Well, to be fair, and I say this every year, you need to see the team 20-25 games before you really know what they are about and what they can be capable of. We know this team is younger, more aggressive team with a new system. But as it has been pointed out before, they did not add any major AHL upgrades when it comes to scoring.

They are going to rely on Jon DiSalvatore's 20-22 goals, Warren Peters' 30-35 assists and the netminding of Anton and Hackett. What they hope to get is breakout years from guys like Joel Broda, Petr Kalus and Robbie Earl.

Who knows, right? Maybe Yeo comes in, changes the entire culture and Hackett ends up the rookie of the year. If that happens, I can see the Aeros not only making the playoffs, but being a serious contender, too.

I think there is hope, and I don't think Yeo is to let anyone off the hook as far as taking a random night off because they don't like being in Houston instead of St. Paul. Or using a ton of excuses about having to play a ridiculous number of three games in three nights.

But here is what worries me.

The Aeros don't have any, not a one, elite AHL player on their roster. There are other teams in the West that have essentially bought a playoff spot. The Aeros have spent the least amount of money in the entire Western Conference on salary, and if you look back at AHL champs of old, you commonly see teams with a mix of AHL snipers and talented rookies. (Excluding Chicago, who often does not even need talented rookies.)

On paper, Peoria, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Chicago are better teams that the Aeros. I think the Aeros, Milwaukee and Texas will be fighting for a playoff spot. The least talented team in the division is the Rockford IceHogs, and even they spent some money (nearly $2,000,000) and could be a factor when teams start calling up players because of injuries, etc.

Who IS going to carry the weight when injuries happen and when guys get called up? It's the guys you spend some bucks on to play at a high level in the AHL (see Darren Haydar, Alex Giroux, Corey Locke and Joel Perrault).

Here is a chart from another blog that has a wonderful breakdown of what all the AHL teams in the West spent for their teams. It will be interesting to see, at the end of the year, what all this money did or did not do for them.



The Aeros are one of three teams who do not have a $200,000 dollar player.
The Chicago Wolves have a total of 12 (!!!) who make more than $100,000. The Aeros have four.

Just roll that around.

To be fair, I think Jim Mill did a very good job of putting together a decent roster with just $1.4 million. But we'll see how that translates in mid December, when we should have a decent indication of where the Aeros will be come March.

Predictions are meaningless this time of year, but if someone put a gun to my head and told me to give them an order of finish for the AHL west this year, this is how I would go:

Peoria
Chicago
San Antonio
Milwaukee
Houston (gets in as No. 5 team)
Oklahoma City
Texas
Rockford

One of my colleagues that covers the West has this as his predicted order of finish for the West:

Chicago
San Antonio
Oklahoma City
Peoria
Houston
Texas
Milwaukee
Rockford

And then Patrick Williams of The Hockey News has this as his AHL West rankings:

Chicago
San Antonio
Peoria
Oklahoma City
Milwaukee
Rockford
Texas
Houston

As you can see, there is a fair amount of consistency at the top, and not so much after that. Patrick is a bit more biased toward the North Division and Eastern Conference and he must have done these rankings before Rockford sold the farm. I can see several scenarios where Texas might get in ahead of the Aeros or even Milwaukee, but that is because of Brent Krahn. The Stars lost a ton of their mojo (with four of their key players either joining San Antonio (3) or Houston (1). Crazy.

Again, it's WAY to early to make a good prediction, but I think the Aeros will be good enough to squeak in as the cross-over. I think they will be playing Rochester or Manitoba in the first round of the playoffs, so that would be kind of neat.

What are your thoughts? What do you think of the Aeros going into their 17th season in Houston?

Meet Your 2010-11 Aeros: Casey Wellman

Casey Wellman
Center

Born: 10/18/1987 (22)
Brentwood, CA
6'0" 173

Shoots: Right

We kept putting off writing about Wellman because, gosh, the Wild just love this guy. They want him up in Minnesota, but they also want him playing meaningful minutes, and if there's not room for him to do that in MN, then they said he's going to be in Houston where he can.

Soooo, don't get too attached because I suspect if there's an injury among the top 6 in Minnesota, he's headed north. Plus, the Wild are in a cap pinch and he's able to be moved up and down without waivers, so they may be doing that a lot to manage the numbers.

Wellman was one of the first college kids picked up by the "new" Wild, just finishing up his sophomore year at UMass-Amherst, and was one of the most highly sought after undrafted college players this off-season. And he's lived up to the hype having played very well in his jump to the pro ranks.

Of all the guys that were on the bubble, he's the one I'm most excited to see drop to Houston. While he's here, he should be able to Make Shit Happen and that's exactly what the Aeros need.

Also, he's just looks like a nice boy, doesn't he? I'm warm to him already.

Meet your 2010-11 Aeros: Marco Scandella

Marco Scandella
Defense

Born: 2/23/1990 (20)
Montreal, Quebec
6'2" - 190

Shoots: Left

Scandella is the Wild's 2nd round pick from 2008 and we've seen him here a bit after his junior seasons have finished the last two seasons. Expectations are high for Marco and he seems to have fulfilled them thus far in the eyes of the Wild. I've heard nothing but good things about him coming from prospect camps and tournaments.

I've been somewhat skeptical, because he seemed lost at times during his stints with the Aeros, but maybe that's just me being a jerk. No matter how good you are, it's a jump to the pros, and especially at defense where mistakes show up on the scoreboard almost as glaringly as for goalies. So now he'll get his chance to jump into a fresh batch of players, and not a team that's been gelling (or, like last year, NOT gelling) all season.

Couple of things on Marco:
  • He got a little break last season to the tune of 15 games for just about taking some poor kid's head off in an open ice hit. No big deal.
  • He played on the Canadian team in the World Juniors Championship in January that took home the silver. 
  • He's a shutdown defenseman, but can put up a few points.
  • He won both the fastest skater and hardest shot (95 mph) at the Aeros skill competition.
I'm eager to see him play now that he's all ours and not just visiting at the end of the season. I think he's been in enough pressure situations and had enough tastes of the pro game to come in with a knowledge of where he needs to be and what he needs to do to succeed. He's progressed his game every year and is pretty sturdy, so I think he can be a great asset as long as Minnesota lets us keep him. 

Also, I promise not to call him the Italian Stallion all season. Maybe.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Aeros In The Mothership

For any of you who are interested, I went out to SLICE yesterday and spoke Mike Yeo, Matt Hackett, and Brandon Rogers. You can read some of their thoughts here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

So Guess Who Went To Aeros Practice Today

Spent some time up at SLICE this morning as the guys practiced. And I've got a few notes and observations to share as the team preps for its first of many three-in-three's this season.

First: Matt Hackett will get the start in Oklahoma City on Friday night. Anton Khudobin will get the Saturday start at the home opener. Sunday's starter is to be determined, though Mike Yeo is saying that he hopes to have a rotation kind of system going for the first part of the year.

Second: the team is busing up to Oklahoma City tomorrow and returning by bus on Friday night/Saturday morning directly after the game. But whereas Kevin Constantine liked to put the team up in the Courtyard Marriott by Toyota Center on these kind of occasions, the team is instead returning to Sugar Land and will spend the time in their own beds before heading up for Toyota Center.

Third: I'm getting old. I couldn't believe how young Hackett looked as I talked to him -- read the mothership tomorrow for more on that.

Fourth: The guys did look like they were having more fun on the ice, and there was some excitement around them that I didn't see last season. Once again, check the mothership on that tomorrow as I talked to Brandon Rogers about that.

Fifth: Speaking of Rogers, he's number 38 this season.

Sixth: I was freezing at SLICE this morning, which means they must have fixed the compressor.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

27th out of 30?

The Hockey News came out with their AHL team rankings today and the Aeros did not fare well in the eyes of their AHL expert.

To Patrick's credit, I suspect this was written prior to all the business going down with Theodore being signed and Khudobin coming back to Houston once the Wild return from Finland.

I think Khudobin/Hackett is a stronger tandem than Hackett/Tordjman, but it's true that a lot does rest on this and it's not so big a difference as to negate his point. The Wild didn't exactly open the wallet to get the Aeros some top notch offensive help, so it will have to come from within.

And seeing how bad the Wild are thus far, I wouldn't be surprised to see them give some chances to guys down here who are playing well.

What do you think of the ranking? Fair or foul? How jacked for the season does that get you? :)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Aeros Poised For Liftoff

My latest post on the Aeros is up over at the mothership. I talk with Mike Yeo about goalies, about his and the staff's enthusiam for the season. So go it a read.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Aeros On The Radio

The Aeros announced yesterday that their games will be returning, once again, to 1070. There will be 78 games on the radio this season, and nothing was mentioned about any of the games being joined in process, which happend on occasion last season.

Monday, October 4, 2010

David, Kaip to join Bakersfield

Two recently-released Aeros hopefuls will join the Bakerfield Condors.

JF David and Rylan Kaip, who played for the Chicago Wolves last year, will spend at least the first part of the season in California.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

And then there were 26

Trying to fix the ice Friday night
The Aeros announced that they cut 5 more guys from camp today: forwards Rylan Kaip, Michael Kennedy, Bobby Robins, defenseman J.F. David and goaltender Per-Olivier Pelletier.

Pelletier isn't a surprise since Jose Theodore is headed to Houston for the week. Wish there was more to say about the other guys but... they never even got a chance to show their stuff for coaches and fans. Stinks for them.

Getting close to a final roster, folks. Games start mattering in a week!

WIld Goalie Moves

The late-night/early-morning news from Finland is that the Wild has signed goalie Jose Theodore to replace Josh Harding who is out for the season with a torn ACL and torn MCL. Michael Russo is reporting that Theodore will report to the Aeros and play here until the Wild return from Finland. Theodore will then join the Wild and Anton Khudobin will return for another season with the Aeros.

Theodore was 30-7-7 with the Washington Capitals last season.

I'm sure there will be more on this as the day/week progresses.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Slicing Up The SLICE

As you no doubt no by now, there was no Aeros/Rampage contest tonight. The reason can generously be described as being due to bad/dangerous ice conditions.

The Aeros will supposedly be sending an email out to all of those who purchased tickets in an effort to refund the money spent for tickets. And the team will hold a skills competition on Monday night at SLICE for anyone who cares to come out and watch.

Andrew and I spoke to Mike Yeo a bit after the cancellation. He was a bit disappointed, and admitted he had been pumped for the game. Seeing as how this was to be his first game as head coach, it's not hard to understand why. The game was going to be important for him as a way to evaluate several of the players who are on the bubble of making the squad. As for Sunday's game, he said that he was going to try to play the squad that will be on the team come next weekend's opener in Oklahoma City.

As to which player has surprised and pleased him most since he's taken over for the Aeros, the answer would be Matt Hackett, and knowing how well Hackett plays will, he says, ease the burden caused by Josh Harding's injury.

Meet Your 2010-11 Aeros: Jamie Fraser

Jamie Fraser

Defense

Born Nov 17 1985 -- Sarnia, ONT
Height 6.01 -- Weight 200 -- Shoots L

Sixth year pro, second with the Aeros

Jamie got off to a bit of a slow start in 2009-10. I never claim to be a hockey expert, but even I could tell that Fraser struggled a bit out of the gate. The good news? He finished with 22 points, which is just about what he averaged in his previous two AHL seasons in Bridgeport. In the first three months of the season, he played 19 games and scored just one point. In November and December, he recorded ZERO points. As far as I know, that is how many points Barry Brust recorded in the AHL over that same time frame.

Then something clicked.

He got in more games, got more ice time and started putting up some pretty decent numbers.

January? Two goals, four assists. February? Same; two goals, four assists. In March and the few April games, Fraser tacked on 2 more goals and seven assists and was right up there with the team lead in scoring by defensemen. He was fairly steady on the blueline, too, and only played in two games where he was a horrific -3.

If Jamie stays healthy this year, he and Max Noreau could make a very formidable offensive threat on the blue line. Come on Jamie, how about we go for 30-35 points this year?

Meet Your 2010-11 Aeros: Brandon Buck

BRANDON BUCK
Forward

Born Aug 16 1988 -- Delaware, ONT
Height 6.01 -- Weight 191 -- Shoots L


Third-Year Pro, Second season with Aeros

Brandon Buck (pictured here on the right celebrating a goal) signed a two-way AHL deal with the Aeros right before the season started last year. His role was fairly simple: play your tail off down in the ECHL and when you are need in Houston, don't embarrass yourself. Last year, Brandon did both of those things very well. He finished with 39 points in the ECHL (21 goals) and even contributed with three helpers in his 21 games with Kevin Constantine's Aeros.


Buck is fast and has decent hands, but he's probably not going to be on any top lines unless the Aeros and Wild just get devastated with injuries. He is a good candidate to spend some time down in the ECHL again, this time with the teams' affiliate in Bakersfield.

He is one of the guys that I did not get a chance to talk too much to last year, but based on what I have heard about him ... he seems to be a nice kid and one that is just ready for the chance to contribute. This guy averaged 62 points in his last two years of junior hockey, so he can put the puck in the net.

I don't know that he will make the team out of camp this yea, but he should be among one of the first called up when needed.