But when seven of the team's best players are up, and the hometown team in Houston just keeps sputtering along with overtime losses and no real flow to their game or season ... that must test the patience of even the most well, patient, hardcore Aeros fan.
|Rau, second from left, is all smiles after first NHL goal|
I would be lying if I said that I don't hope the Aeros win when I cover the games. When you follow a team for 17 years, and you've seen just about every home game for the last 12, you kind of get attached to the home white sweaters. To be sure, I don't allow that to get in the way of how I cover the team, but any sportswriter will tell you - "It is more fun when the home team wins."
Now to get to the point of this article.
Even with how cluster-effed things have been this season, it sure was nice to see Chad Rau score his first NHL goal for the Wild last night. His face was priceless (see the video below). His parents were in the stands. He is FROM Minnesota. And here is a guy that, quite frankly, is only in the NHL because the Wild have been adversely affected by this NHL concussion pandemic (intentional hyperbole).
But wow was that fun to watch. On one screen I've got the ECHL Aeros blowing a 2-0 lead and on the other I am watch the AHL Wild score three goals in 59 seconds to set a new team record.
At that point it hit me. The Aeros last night played with no fewer than five (and probably six) players that should be in the ECHL right now. Their record after the shootout loss last night? 21-9-3-8. The Aeros have points in 32 of their 41 games. They are the LAST team in the AHL with single digits in the "L" column.
They played with 17 skaters and two goalie on Friday (one fewer than normal) because John Torchetti wants "the players" he knows in the lineup battling for the team. And you know what? They respond. They played their asses off, and even when they should be blown out in back to back games, their goaltending steps up and they score just enough timely goals to get points when they deserve none.
At this point, I don't care about the slow starts and the maddening number of games where they only play 30 or 40 minutes instead of 60. Just consider what this team has been through this season, and tell me now that you are now proud of how they've responded. Think about it. They have points in 32 of their 41 games, and they have not even been close to a full lineup since before Thanksgiving.
To those that criticize Torchetti for referring to his team as "they" and "them" ... he does not do that 100 percent of the time. You have to realize, too, that you only read quotes from him when the team loses (at home). Remember, they have lost 14 of 21 at home, so of course you are going to hear more negatives than positives.
But he loves his guys. He believes in his team, and he'll keep throwing them out there and testing players that should be in AA until the very end of the year. Torchetti is not Todd McLellan or Dave Tippett or Mike Yeo. They are all different and have vastly different styles. But Torchetti is a damn fine coach and is VERY highly regarded by just about everyone NHL circles.
I truly believe that he, Jon DiSalvatore's leadership and Matt Hackett's absolute disdain for losing has propelled the Aeros to where they are right now. They are the third best team in the AHL, and play in what is right now the toughest division in the league. Darcy Kuemper needs a ton of credit, too, for coming to this circus and staying cool as a cucumber.
No, they're not perfect - far from it! But they are No. 3 in the AHL because of their captain, coach, excellent goaltending and a proven system that, when it's executed, is just about unbeatable.
This season is why there is an AHL. Sadly going to the NHL trumps home wins in the American Hockey League. So far, it's been an absolute success. Just check out the look on Rau's face, and use the comments section below to tell me how you feel about 2011-12.