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

Thursday, September 10, 2009

How Jeff Taffe was almost an Aero and other juicy pre-preseason tidbits

I remember the game quite well. The Aeros were playing the hapless Utah Grizzlies around Thanksgiving during the lockout year.

In the first of a home and home series, Taffe drilled Aeros goalie Josh Harding and knocked him out of action until later in the year.

I remember asking Harding a few weeks after it happened if he was going to have a hard time playing the Grizzlies with Taffe on the ice, and to my surprise he actually kind of said yes.

I know Taffe got a lot of crap on the then-popular Instigator Alley message board for "running" the Aeros young and up and coming goalie at the time. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't … but one thing is for sure: Taffe is a good AHL player.

He's tortured the Aeros as a member of the Grizzles, the Rampage, the WBS Penguins and the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Earlier this summer, Taffe signed a two year, two-way deal worth $1 million ($500,000 per year) with the Florida Panthers. I think that means that his AHL days will be spent in Rochester.

But he was almost a member of the Wild organization. During a sit down chat I had with Jim Mill earlier this summer, I was told that Taffe was one of the guys he wanted to help build depth. Taffe played for Fletch and he would be good in this system. But he did not sign with the Wild because they were not willing to convert the contract to a one-day deal in Year 2. I think the Wild are smart for not signing him for that reason, but he would have been great for the Aeros power play.

Other pre camp notables –

The Aeros are inviting Jimmy Kilpatrick back to camp. He is the infamous "ghost Aero" from last year. He got called up on a road trip, got hurt and then was on the roster for about three more weeks without every playing a game at Toyota Center. I think this story is still amusing to Royal John to this day … Other players he said would be invited to camp are Ryan Gunderson, Matt Fornataro and goaltender Brett Jaeger … Kilpatrick Gunderson and Jaeger all put up very decent numbers in AA hockey (ECHL/CHL last year). Fornataro, however, put up very good numbers (10 goals, 15 assists in 51 games) with the Worcester Sharks. I would expect him to make the team or be among the very first to be called up when the Aeros need bodies.


alw02 said...

Masterful work. Kind of puts it into perspective. Now how have we done since the wild took over? It would seem to be wrong to give the wild credit for the first year since they had done nothing up to that time.

Forecheck said...

Andrew - You should also do a comparison of the IHL Aeros, and the Watson-owned Aeros vs. the Wild-owned Aeros.

You will probably find the Wild-owned Aeros are at best a mediocre hockey team, with only one really good regular season, only to get bounced in the second round, and a good playoff season after a mediocre regular season.

You will probably find also that the Watson-owned Aeros were an elite team year in and out like Chicago and Milwuakee usually are now.

This season I think will be like two years ago - near the top in defense, near the bottom in offense and power play. And since they will be so weak on the power play, they will be banged up at the end of the year and an easy kill in the first round of the playoffs (which they will probably qualify for - barely) by some real hockey team like Rockford or Milwaukee.

So if the Aeros do move to Des Moines as you (or was it John??) suspect (though I thought they have two years left on their lease), it's not like we lose a great team , and we probably get the Rampage ASAP (who could be scary good, at least this season). But we are out of live hockey for a year or two.

FinnAir said...

I guess I should have been here in 05-06 to see some scoring.
When are the Aeros Media Guides out?
Here is a list of all the 50-point or more scores for the Aeros in AHL.
I see that a fellow Finn made the list:
GP G A PTS Season
1.K.Law W 80 43+67=110 (05-06)
2.E.Westrum C 71 34+64=98(05-06)
3.P.O'Sullivan C 78 47+46=93(05-06)
4.J-G. Trudel L 79 31+54=85 (02-03)
5.C.Locke C 77 25+54=79 (08-09)
6.C.Murphy D 80 14+53=67 (05-06)
7.C.Larose C 78 32+32=64 (01-02)
8.H.DomenichelliC62 29+34=63(02-03)
9.R.Voloshenko L 69 33+27=60(05-06)
10.T.Virta R 67 25+33=58 (01-02)
11.C.Larose C 58 18+38=56 (02-03)
12.J.Schultz R 76 22+33=55 (08-09)
13.C.Murphy D 80 23+31=54 (02-03)
14.P-M.Bouchard C67 12+42=54(04-05)
15.K.Kolanos C 45 31+20=51 (08-09)
16.M.BeaufaitC 63 14+37=51 (01-02)
17.M.Foy R 62 27+23=50 (06-07)

No 50-point players during 03-04 and 07-08

Aeros are also nicely represented (thanks to that one season) in the Top-10 scorers list for the seasons from 01-02 to 08-09:
GP G A PTS Season
1.D.Haydar Chi.73 41+81=122 (06-07)
2.J.Spezza Bin.80 32+85=117 (04-05)
3.J.Krog Chi.80 39+73=112 (07-08)
4.K.Law Hou.80 43+67=110(05-06)
5.M.Cammalleri Manc.79 46+63=109
6.M.St. Pierre Nor.65 27+72=99
K.Aucoin Alb.65 27+72=99 (06-07)
8.E.Westrum Hou.71 34+64=98 (05-06)
9.B.Sterling Chi.77 55+42=97(06-07)
10.A.Giroux Her.69 60+37=97(08-09)

FinnAir said...

Quite sure nobody cares, but I always like to point out my mistakes. Alexandre Giroux should move up a place to 9th due to having scored more goals than Brett Sterling.

I'm sure I will be back with more mistakes. I hope you guys don't go to bed too early.

Ms. Conduct said...

While we're making comparisons, the thing I wonder about is, are independently owned teams generally better or are Milwaukee and Chicago the exceptions to the rule? Manitoba?

Maybe I'm just more familiar with them since they're in the west. But good teams in the east like Hershey come to mind (independent, if I recall). Is WBS independent? Don't know how long they've been good. I'm sure there are long time bad teams, too, who are independent.

Anyway, that's a conversation I have with myself fairly regularly, but haven't ever had the energy to research.

artandhockey said...

Good job. Interesting essay. Thanks, Andrew.

FC: your suggestion's a good one, how about expanding on it yourself?
I wasn't there then, so can't personally comment.

FinnAir: getting all those numbers
in a row must have been a labor of love, but finding a Finn made it worth while :-)

Gotta get "Better Half" to spin numbers with the 3 of you, he likes Numbers.......me, I do better with words ;-)!
I do like TV series 'Numbers' though, does that count?

Anonymous said...

Was Constantine the coach in 05-06?

Jen said...

Anon - shockingly the coach that year was Rob Daum. He just had the benefit of some amazing players IMO

Anonymous said...

How were those amazing players the next year? did they have good years again?

FinnAir said...

“love”? that is a nice way to put it artandhockey! My wife just thinks I have a hockey OCD and recommends I go see a doctor.
But you’re right makes it so much better to be able to throw a Finn into the mix. When it comes to Finns in AHL, Aeros is ranked 12th in all time scoring by Finnish players:
173 51+73=124 (split between two players M.Koivu and T.Virta)

Hershey Bears is the ultimate Finnish team in AHL with 787 games played and 376 points scored between 10 different Finns.

BobbyR said...

Nice job with the stats.

It would be great to see a spreadsheet of what you worked out. Is there anyway you can link it in the blog?

I know you three can post photographs, perhaps a photograph of a hard copy pasted into the blog.

Anonymous said...

I did some research on your amazing players.
Kirby Law 110pts 05-06, the previous year he had 49 pts.
Erik Westrum 05-06 98 pts.The previous year he had 33 pts.Thier point totals in previous years would not suggest amazing players.
Patrick O'Sullivan rookie .
Roman Voloshenko rookie. Thanks but I respectfully disagree with amazing player opinion.

John Royal said...

For those asking for a comparision of the IHL Aeros to the AHL Aeros, I think you're asking for something that just doesn't make sense. The IHL, when the Aeros played in the league, was not a developmental league. The players were generally older, and lots were journeymen like Krys Kolanos who could not stick in the NHL. A roster full of these type of guys is going to do better than a roster of younger kids who are still learning the finer points of professional hockey.

Forecheck said...

John, the one exception might be the speed in the two leagues. My take is the AHL is significantly faster. The old vets might have trouble keeping up with the young bucks.

It would be interesting to do some simulated games between the 1998-1999 Aeros and the 2002-2003 Aeros if a suitable simulation exists. No, I don't count NHL 200X. That's a video game.

Maybe if FaceOff Hockey ever makes it back to the market....

FinnAir said...

2005-06 was certainly a strange "spurt" for E.Westrum and K.Law. Both are now making big money in Switzerland. Don't have the figures, but from what I've read I'm sure that they are making much more than they would in AHL.
Swiss-A pays well. P. O'Sullivan, straight out of juniors then, seems to have established himself in the NHL now.

So maybe Cody Almond will hit 90 points this year (althought anybody producing points at that rate would get a call-up and fast in the current regime, I guess?)
and the career 20 goal 40 point man Jon DiSalvatore will hit 110 and then sign a big contract with Kloten the following year?

FinnAir said...

How bad was that injury to Almond btw?

Jen said...

Anon - I guess I should have said the players had an amazing year. I think as a snapshot they were amazing that year. I remember it as a great season and the next season got a little painful to follow. Even the best coaches will struggle if they aren't given something to work with.

artandhockey said...

I seem to recall it was NOT a major one..not enough to keep Almond out for months, not like a certain NHL'er. ;-). For all I know a week or so later, he's back on ice. And, I for one, am looking forward to seeing him here. The reports about his scoring abilities, unless exagerated, causing me to hope greatly, yet ;-)

Chris Jerina said...

Why is it posting the comments from the old "Aeros vs AHL" post?

And I think Im gonna have to pull up the Jimmy Kilpatrick articles from earlier, that sounds like gold.

Ms. Conduct said...

That is quite strange. I dunno what's going on there...

artandhockey said...

Goalie Brett Jaeger---hmm that should please Ms. C. Why OLD comments? Are they relevant?

John Royal said...

First, I don't know who this "Royal John" fella is, but John Royal does still find the whole Kilpatrick thing funny, and I hope he gets a shot because I'd like to see if he actually exists.

And, I, too, have no idea how or why all of these old comments migrated to over here.

Ms. Conduct said...

Yes, more goalies the merrier in my book! Not sure the goalies feel that way though. ;) But a little competition never hurt anybody and he appears to be a pretty good goalie. Can't find a negative word about him. Will be great to have him in the bullpen to avoid the whole goalie revolving door situation we had last season.

Of course, ideally, Harding gets traded and everybody stays healthy but I'm starting to think that's not how it works. :)

artandhockey said...

Like maybe KING of ? ? ;-), John.

FinnAir said...

And Russo has these players going from the prospect camp to the main one:

Tyler Cuma, Cody Almond, Matt Hackett, Darcy Kuemper, Justin Falk, Marco Scandella, Bjorn Krupp, Carson McMillan, Kris Foucault, Tyler Johnson, Morten Madsen, Brandon Buck

Uwe Krupp's son! Any chance of him doing a "Howe"?