We've decided to do some postseason items on the team. And I volunteered to do the Aeros awards for the season just played. So after consulting with the rest of the T3I crew, here are the winners for the T3I Houston Aeros Awards.
TEAM MVP: Max Noreau. There's a reason that Noreau made the second team All-AHL Team. He's that good. He tied for second on the team in points (18 goals-34 assists=52 points). He was named to the AHL All Star team. He was the team's most consistent offensive threat, even from the blue line. And he anchored a defense that was often full of holes due to injuries in Houston and Minnesota.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Chad Rau. Cody Almond was the big name coming into the season, and he showed flashes of brilliance, between injuries, call ups to Minnesota, and inconsistent play. But Rau played in all but one game, was one of the team's leading scorers (19 goals-19 assists=38 points), and never appeared to be out of his element. He didn't make stupid mistakes.
GOALIE OF THE YEAR: Anton Khudobin. It was a tough year for Aeros goalies. There was the inconsistent defense. The almost nightly inability of the offense to score goals. The need to be perfect every night. Khudobin kept the team in contention the first part of the year. His record might only have been 14-19-4, but he was bombarded by shots every night, from nearly every angle. He was able to get four shutouts, and despite it all, allowed only 91 goals in 40 games.
DEFENSEMAN OF THE YEAR: Max Noreau. Brandon Rogers spent way too much time having to play forward. Clayton Stoner went to Minnesota and never came back. That left Noreau as the veteran of the bunch, and he ended up virtually leading the team's offensive attack -- what little there was of it -- from the blue line.
FORWARD OF THE YEAR: Jon DiSalvatore. DiSalvatore was not only the team's captain, but he was one of the team's leading scorer, finishing with 52 points after getting 21 goals, 31 assists, and a team high 11 power play goals. DiSalvatore didn't have a lot to work with as Kevin Constantine constantly shifted lines because of injuries, call-ups, and ineffectiveness. Yet DiSalvatore was always a constant.
THE SURPRISE OF THE YEAR: Jean-Michel Daoust. Neither of us press types knew anything about Daoust when he made the team -- and I admit to enjoying listening to the Toyota PA types change the pronunciation of his name from game-to-game. But damn, this guy played some hockey. He was the team's leading scorer (21 goals-34 assists=55 points), and I don't think anyone played with more effort or determination. I can't help but think that if the whole team would have played with the want of Daoust, this team would have found a way to make the playoffs.
BIGGEST LOST (PLAYER WISE): Andy Hilbert. Hilbert missed most of the season due to concussion issues. And without him, the offense just couldn't click. DiSalvatore was left alone as the team's go-to offensive option. It's hard to play the what-if game, but one can't help but wonder if things would have been different if Hilbert had been available the entire season.
WORST LUCK: Wade Dubielewicz. I can't think of one guy who had worst luck this season than Dubie. Who can forget opening night, against Manitoba, when the puck bounced high off of the glass behind the net, hit Dubie in the back, then bounced into the net for a goal. Then there was the Rockford game on January 10 that the Aeros lost 2-1 after Rockford's Mike Brennan took a shot in OT that was going to be wide of the net, very wide of the net, only it hit the knob of Dubie's stick and went into the net to win the game for Rockford.
WORST LUCK NOT INVOLVING WADE DUBIELEWICZ (TIE): Peter Zingoni and Barry Brust. Zingoni came to the team after an injury-filled 2008-09 season. He came out hot, then got injured. Nobody worked harder to get back, then he got hurt again. And he came back, and got hurt again. Then there's the strange case of Barry Brust. Andrew and Heather know more details, but the brass in Minnesota didn't seem to like him. Then he got injured in camp. He got stuck in purgatory in Florida, and when he got his chance in Houston, he got injured -- first an ugly leg slash, then injuring his foot again.
WACKIEST MOMENTS (TIE): A puck hits Dubie on the back and bounces into the goal. A puck hits the knob of Dubie's stick and bounces into the goal -- a shot that would have gone way wide. But the true wackiest moment was any game in which Dubielewicz was sitting on the bench. If you didn't see Coach Dubie on the bench during a game, then you missed out. He banged the boards. He shouted out instructions at the goalies, and the players. He encouraged his teammates. I think he got a bigger workout on the bench than he did when playing.
(That said, and as an aside, Wade was a very good guy to deal with in the locker room for us. He never shied away from answering questions. He always spoke his mind. He never threw anybody under the bus.)
WACKIEST MOMENT NOT INVOLVING WADE DUBIELEWICZ: It was tough watching Barry Brust suffer that leg slash against Peoria. But without it, there would have never been that moment when Jeff Crawford came skating out to goal as the first intermission came to a close. We didn't know the condition of Brust at the moment, so the entire press row thought that Crawford was going to have to play the rest of the game. What made the moment was watching all of the scouts on press row, and there were still a lot of scouts following the team on February 3rd, and they were scrambling through every sheet of paper on the tables trying to get any scrap of info on Crawford.
MOST INSPIRATIONAL MOMENT: With the scouts scrambling to find out info on Crawford, the Peoria coach agreed to give the Aeros a few extra minutes, and as the clock ticked to zero, Barry Brust, who had suffered a deep slash of his thigh in the first period. He got about 30 stitches during the intermission, did a few butterflies to show he was capable of making the blocks and making the moves, then skated out to the ice and got the win, stopping 25 of the 26 shots he saw that night.
BEST ARENA ADDITION: Let's hear for the brass up in Minnesota for getting replays for every game played at Toyota Center, no matter when the game was played. In the past, we've been stuck with replays just on Friday and Saturday. But this year, we had them every game. So thank you.
WORST NON-TEAM DEVELOPMENT: For some reason, the number of Lady Dynamics dropped, and dropped, throughout the season. And I liked watching the Lady Dynamics. But I want to give my thanks to those young ladies who stuck it out for the whole season. Thank you.
BEST READERS: This is for the readers of T3I. Thanks for sticking with us all season. I apologize for not being around as much as last season, but hopefully the T3I supplied you with all of the information about the team that you needed, and wanted. Thanks for reading. We appreciate it.
BIGGEST T3I LOSS: Fred, we missed you this season. It wasn't the same without you around. I'm sorry I couldn't do more to help out.