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

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Calder Cup finals coming to Texas

The Texas Stars are squeezing every last drop out of their impressive inaugural season, beating the Hamilton Bulldogs in an exciting game 7 tonight.

They'll advance to the Calder Cup Finals now against Eastern Conference champs and Calder Cup defending Hershey Bears.

Honestly, I really thought Texas was going to have their tushies handed to them tonight, what with some serious gamers coming down from Montreal. But in spite of being outshot mercilessly in the first two periods, and down 2-0 early in the game, the Stars racked up 3 goals in the third period to send the stunned Bulldogs home for the summer.

So, now they face a Hershey team that, frankly, I'd put up against NHL teams. They're just really really good. But who knows? The Stars seem to have something special going and Hershey's been sitting around for ages after ousting Manchester.

The stupid thing is that, because of a circus in Hershey, the series will not start for 8 days on June 3. Terrible. And imagine how the ice will be up there in June and with circus filth. Oh well. That's minor league hockey for ya.

Anyway, I'm sure we'll have some folks making the trip to Cedar Park to catch the best of the best in the AHL duking it out. If you haven't been to CP yet for a game, go for it (though I'd plan ahead for tickets). It's a really nice, intimate barn and should be rocking pretty hard when the series moves to Texas.

Check out our friend HundredDegreeHockey for all the Stars news, and here's the series schedule (times are Central):

Game 1 – Thu., June 3 – Texas at Hershey, 6:00 pm
Game 2 – Sat., June 5 – Texas at Hershey, 6:00 pm
Game 3 – Mon., June 7 – Hershey at Texas, 7:30 pm
Game 4 – Wed., June 9 – Hershey at Texas, 7:30 pm
*Game 5 – Fri., June 11 – Hershey at Texas, 7:30 pm
*Game 6 – Mon., June 14 – Texas at Hershey, 6:00 pm
*Game 7 – Wed., June 16 – Texas at Hershey, 6:00 pm

*-if necessary

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sad News for Kurtis Foster

Please keep Kurtis Foster, a former member of the Minnesota Wild and Aeros, in your thoughts and prayers this week.

He and his wife lost their five-day old baby recently.


Daniel Larsson says playing in the AHL "isn't much fun"

Grand Rapids Griffins goalie Daniel Larsson recently chose to leave the Red Wings organization to sign a 2-year contract with HV71 Jonkoping (think Russian Traktors or Japanese Furry Bunnies).

Larsson's take? "It's not good for my development if I remain in the AHL. First, they have no goalie coach [there] and the game in the AHL isn't much fun. I've done it for two years now, and [it's the same thing]. There's more to learn than just playing games."

Larsson also disagreed with the style of play Detroit/Grand Rapids employed in the organization.

Detroit's take? They did not comment in the article so I will gladly paraphrase for them. "Daniel, good luck EVER getting another chance to play in the AHL. Your numbers were pathetic in Grand Rapids, except when you played Houston. No, your parking and airplane tickets will not be paid for and/or validated."

My take? I am no goalie expert, but I can see why a guy might not want to play for a team that wants him to do something (if his side of the story is true) that is unnatural to him. I know that if I was asked to sit on the love seat instead of the couch during baseball season, my viewing ability would go WAY down hill.

But to say that the AHL is a) not fun and b) not good for your development? That just sounds like poor excuse-making. I would LOVE to see a list of goalies that started out in North America. Sucked. Went back to Euro land. Got WAY better and then came back to have a successful NHL careers.

Again, I am just guessing here, but I bet that list is shorter than the number of times Wade Dubielewicz put the puck in his own net last year. (Sorry for the shot, Doobie, we definitely love you here at T3I!)

Sorry for the rant ... slow news day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rau signs 2-year, 2-way NHL deal with Wild

I don't think we ever posted about this, so if you haven't heard, the Wild finally put ink to paper on a deal with Chad Rau, who will be entering his second pro season.

It's a 2-year deal, two ways both years and, like Daoust, it's his first NHL deal. And he's buying dinner this summer because it includes a nice little signing bonus. I'll have the filet, thanks, Chad!


For my money, he's the last of the "must-haves" from last year's free agents, but I think he's a kid with some decent upside, so a 2 year deal is great as we see if he can turn those 38 points into 50 as his consistency as a pro improves.

Here's a nice little article about his signing from the Wild web site.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Looking ahead to 2010-11: Forwards (UPDATED)

FORWARDS


Under contract
  • Cody Almond - He could start the season in Minnesota the way he finished it, but I suspect he'll start the season in Houston
  • Colton Gillies - Did he prove enough in the AHL to earn his way back into the NHL in his third pro year? I don't know that he has.
  • Carson McMillan - He'll be in Houston.
  • Jarod Palmer - Another off-season college signing for the Wild. It's a 2-way deal, so I would expect him to start in Houston. 
  • JM Daoust - Signed this week to a well-deserved one year, 2-way NHL deal. Can't argue with that one bit. Great to have him back and hear nice things about him from folks who know.
  • Chad Rau - Rau had a great rookie season and Mike Russo tweeted Friday that sources indicate an NHL deal for Rau is in the works. Expect him back.(Signed for 2 years)
Restricted Free Agents
  • Petr Kalus - He's proven to have matured and has contributed at both levels. In Mill's most recent talk with O'Donnell, he said Kalus will be back.
  • Danny Irmen - It doesn't appear that this regime sees him contributing in Minnesota much, so do they allow him to use up one of the 50 NHL contracts allowed to NHL teams, or do they let him give free agency a shot? I really don't know.
  • Matt Kassian - Constantine named Matt as probably the most improved player over his time here, having gone from just a guy who fights and protects to a bonafide hockey player. If the organization concurs and maybe even sees him as an heir apparent to Boogaard, he'll be back. Plus, he's a just a damn good guy and you need his personality in the room.
  • Morten Madsen - Nope. He'll be with Modo in Sweden again this year, from what I hear. BTW, he's tearing it up in Europe. The change was great for him.
Unrestricted Free Agents
This group is hard to get a read on, because in the recent past, the Wild have not tended to re-sign free agents. So even if some of them would be a quality re-signing and shouldn't be measurably more expensive than last year, who knows if they a) want to be back b) are wanted back c) will be a good fit with the new coach d) name your factor. I'm not even going to bother wagering a guess.

NHL Contracts
  • Andy Hilbert - Sure he only played 33 games, but he had 25 points in those games. He's more of a playmaker, but 50+ points if he'd played a full season would have been a significant difference this year. He's got several years of NHL experience, which could be valuable to the Wild if they need a veteran call-up. Would like him back, I think, but he'd make more money in Europe.
  • Jon DiSalvatore - He's a consistent scorer and one of those career AHL players who can make a difference and does make more than the average AHLer but won't completely break the bank. He has moved around a lot though in his career, only 2 years in the same organization. Is that his doing? Assuming it's not a personality thing if he was worthy of being the captain here.
  • Duncan Milroy - Funny story: I went to my hockey game the other night and the other girls and I were changing after the game. One of the girls is talking about how someone kept passing the puck to her and it would go between her feet and she didn't know what to do about it. She says, "I was a total  Milroy out there!" I stop what I doing: "A Milroy?" "Yeah, you know, like the Aeros player. Just out there not knowing what the hell I'm doing." Hahahaha. Wow. So, I think that kinda tells you whether Milroy will be back.
  • Nathan Smith - He was fine and got a cuppa with Minnesota, but I'm guessing the organization moves on.
  • CORRECTION: Robbie Earl - He had the most time of anyone up with Minnesota and was pretty effective up there. I would expect them to retain him and maybe give a chance to win a spot with the big club. (Originally had him as a RFA, but he's a UFA. They're looking for speed in MN, but being a UFA, that changes my thought. I'm now doubting we'll see him back.)
AHL Contracts
  • Peter Zingoni - Two years in a row now of less than 50 games played. Guessing he'd come cheap at least, and certainly on an AHL contract, but I kinda doubt he'll be back. 
  • Brandon Buck - He certainly showed he could play when he was up in Houston, and was an All Star in the ECHL. In Joe O'Donnell's check-in with Jim Mill, he talked like Buck is either already signed to an AHL deal or will be soon. Book him.
Who do you want back? Do you agree or disagree (nicely, because I'm sensitive)?

Will get after the Defense sometime soon.

    Cull applied for Aeros head coaching job

    Former Aeros defenseman Trent Cull was one of the brightest players I worked with as a young intern and reporter for the Houston Aeros. He had three stints with the team, playing for Dave Tippett in the AHL days and Todd McLellan later in the AHL. Yeah, we all know how things turned out for those guys. McLellan is eight wins away from his first Stanley Cup and Tippett has done some very good things with the Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes in his NHL career.

    According to this article, Cull applied for the Aeros job and took the first one that came along when the Sudbury Wolves (OHL) came calling.


    As far as an update is concerned regarding the head coach, I think we will all know something when the playoffs end. There are a good number of names out there and competition, I assume, is quite fierce for this position. I don't think that Todd Richards is going to get the kind of honeymoon that Mr. Lemaire got in St. Paul. The next coach of the Aeros, I expect, will be the next coach of the Wild.

    That is my take ... who would you like to see coaching the Aeros next season?



    Wednesday, May 12, 2010

    Wild signs JM Daoust to first NHL contract

    I was just about to shut Twitter down for the night when this little number popped across my feed:



    Here's the link. It's a one year, two-way deal and a pretty nice salary for the AHL. Plus, it's a really big deal for him to get that first NHL contract. Remember that NHL teams can only carry 50 contracts, so it's gotta feel good for him to reach that milestone in his career.

    Daoust had a Beaudoin-like season, surprising everyone with his game-changing ability, but frankly, did it with a lot less talent around him. You have to love a guy who can bring energy AND scoring so consistently and stay healthy while being so small and slippery, yet playing a physical game.

    He was one of only a couple of guys I was pretty sure would be back, because he wasn't SO amazing that his price was going to be through the rafters, but he certainly proved his value last season. And on that note, I'll have a post for you, hopefully this weekend, on the forward situation for next season. Who's back for sure, who isn't, etc.

    Tuesday, May 4, 2010

    Iowa Chops franchise "officially" moves to Cedar Park

    (Update - official AHL press release on the bottom)

    Time to get some of the dust off the old keyboard.
    I know we have been silent for awhile, but I will definitely be updating the blog a little more often now as we get into the meat of the post season.

    Right now, there are a ton of things going on with me in the corporate world in Houston ... and I know John and Heather are busy following the best damn teams in major league baseball. Click here and/or here for immediate access to clinical depression.

    Remember, the Stars got a special deal from the AHL to go ahead and operate as a Dallas Stars affiliate in 2009-10. That will not be the case going forward as the Texas Stars will have an actual AHL franchise.

    There are other details in this story, but here is the meat of it:

    The proposal calls for the Chops franchise to be sold to Hicks Cedar Park LC, owner of the AHL Texas Stars, for $3.75 million. The partnership is led by Tom Hicks, owner of the NHL Stars.

    The rest of the story talks about the long term viability of AHL hockey in Des Moines.

    Pretty good read ...

    Have a great week.


    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    May 4, 2010


    AHL BOARD OF GOVERNORS APPROVES SALE OF FRANCHISE TO HICKS CEDAR PARK, LLC



    SPRINGFIELD, Mass.
    … Convening in Chicago today for its Spring Meeting, the American Hockey League Board of Governors has unanimously approved the sale of the Iowa Chops inactive franchise to Hicks Cedar Park, LLC, owners of the Texas Stars.

    The sale brings the Texas Stars to full membership in the AHL and satisfies the conditions of the limited membership granted to Hicks Cedar Park for the 2009-10 season.

    The Texas Stars have enjoyed an outstanding inaugural season in the AHL, finishing second in the West Division with a record of 46-27-3-4 (99 points) and advancing the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, where they are currently facing the Chicago Wolves. The Stars also ranked 10th in the 29-team AHL in regular-season attendance, averaging 5,335 fans per game at the Cedar Park Center in suburban Austin.

    In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 85 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and this season marks the ninth consecutive year in which more than 6 million fans have attended AHL games across North America.