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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

I just wanted to wish everybody a very nice, safe, and happy New Year. And I hope to see everybody at tomorrow's night game.

By the way, after some consultations with Mr. Fred, I went out and purchased myself one of those beginner's fancy-type cameras, and he basically said the best way to learn to use was to just start taking pictures. So since tomorrow is the bikini contest, I think I will start trying to learn to use my camera. My hope is to get something that can be used.

Though I'm quite aware of this -- no matter how long I practice, I'll never be as good as Mr. Fred and I wish he was back here taking photos. And who knows, if I'm lucky, I might be able to provide something approximating one of Ms. C's stick figures.

So be careful out there tonight, everybody. And let's all have a good game tomorrow.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pics from 12/29 Milwaukee game

Sorry I'm so late getting these up. Busy day today.

I didn't watch much of the game, beyond seeing quite a few good chances around the Milwaukee net and goalie Mark Dekanich just being a big annoying wall and keeping the Aeros to 2 goals on 35 shots, vs 3 goals for Milwaukee on 19 shots. *sigh*

It was also the debut of the Aeros new shit-stirrer, Pascal Morency. The report from Chris is that he's pretty fun to watch. Looking forward to that.

Even with Brandon Buck sitting in his lap, Dexshow was stopping everything he could see and some he couldn't.

Cool shot of Cuma levitating a puck in warmups

"Everybody Loves" Brock McBride in the net after sliding under Dex, who kinda jumped/side-stepped over him and THEN still made the save. Geeeeeeez...

Morency doing that hitting thing he does.

Nate Prosser after his goal. Best part is the horrified lady in the back. 8-o

Dex stopping a goal line shot from Robbie Earl

All photos by Chris "Check out my scarf!" Jerina. Thanks bunches, Chris! Here's the rest of the photo set if you want to see them all.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


So, the Aeros have so many players coming and going these days that I'm pretty sure the equipment guy deserves a raise for keeping up with all of it, much less doing it on the road.

I'll just run through the ups and downs real quick:

  • Bryce Lampman has left for a team in Germany. 
  • Jared Spurgeon is back from Minnesota (Scandella stays up for now since he's getting quality ice time).
  • The Aeros have called up Pascal Morency from Bakersfield. My pal Justin Bourne, who played with Morency, wrote this about him (about halfway down the article). I actually like this call-up on paper. He sounds like one of those high energy, irritating, all-team, all-heart kinda guys (think Mitch Love except without necessarily winning all his fights) and I like having a guy like that around. Not sure if it's just an injury call-up or a genuine try-out to fill a role. I'd like to think it's the latter.
  • The two CHL guys who were called up for the San Antonio game are back with their team.
  • Finally, everybody's favorite frequent flier, Brock McBride is back with a professional tryout.

I think that's everything... let's say "as of press time."

The boys play in Milwaukee tonight at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sky Rats and Celebrating Robbie Earl

I dunno about you guys but I've never seen a pigeon interrupt a professional hockey game before. Pretty smart birds shacking up in an arena like that. What do you want to bet their cholesterol is off the charts, bird-wise, eating arena scraps all the time?

Anyway, I couldn't resist giving the brave little fella some stick figure love. Maybe he thought Montoya needed defensive help.

I'm just glad they stopped the game. Can you imagine parents having to console their horrified children as a puck or stick or player hits that bird and feathers go flying? Would have made a way awesomer stick figure though.

Andrew covered the game stuff below, but I've been feeling a rising sense that Robbie Earl isn't getting the credit he deserves for a lot of the good he does for this team and I want to fix that, for whatever my appreciation and approval is worth, which isn't much.

Since he was traded here, I kinda felt like Earl was destined to be a journeyman forever-on-the-bubble type of player. Never consistent enough in the AHL to prove he belongs in the show, but just good enough for them to give him a shot here and there.

But one of the things I've learned to look for when trying to assess these AHL guys is growth and the ability to evolve, change, adapt, etc. And I believe I see an impressive amount of that in Earl, particularly this season.

This season he contributes with great consistency. And by contributes, I don't always mean on the score sheet, though usually he shows up there one way or another. It's often his speed and willingness to take some heat to protect the puck that gets the Aeros traction in the offensive zone and allows them to put good chances on net.

Something I hadn't noticed before, either because it's new or because I'm looking at the goalie (ahem), is how strong behind the net he is. He's a lot like the much slower Andrew Brunette, whose office is behind the net, and where he is absolutely merciless when it comes to winning battles for the puck and then protecting the puck while he looks for a pass in front of the net.

That work is what distinguishes Brunette in the NHL. He's not the best or fastest skater, but he's money behind the net and he's made a career of it.

Earl, on the other hand, HAS the speed. But it's not enough if you're always getting into the zone with your helpers trailing 5 strides behind you and 3 defenders hanging off you. He's got to use that speed to put himself in position to create chances for his linemates. Makes sense, then, to get behind the net where space is limited and puck is sort of naturally protected on two sides and dish out in front, right?

Suddenly, you've got a multi-dimensional, multi-threat player. And that makes him pretty valuable at any level of the game, but it makes him downright scary in the AHL. As a goalie, he throws so many looks, you can't cheat and your best hope is he's going so fast, he can't get the shot off. :)

What I'm saying here is that the fact that he's still finding significant ways to improve his game says a lot about him. He could have come down here and pouted, shown up when he wanted to, etc. But he's actually improved and he's an impact player every shift and I don't see why what he's doing here wouldn't translate at the NHL level.

He may not be one of the Wild's darlings since they didn't draft him, but some other team is going to find a spot for him and when it happens, he'll be ready to stick. I hope it's a lot like Joel Ward's last season here: A launching pad for a really nice NHL career.

So, kudos to Robbie for giving a big ol' middle finger to adversity and turning it into a win for the Aeros and, I feel sure, an eventual win for his long term career.

P.S. Our friends over at Hockey Wilderness are so locked in on Robbie that they even have Team Rob shirts.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Anton showed up, stole the show, and the injured Aeros won

When I first logged into the game tonight, I already knew that Casey Wellman and Matt Kassian were probably not going to play. Kassian ended up going Monday, but the Aeros were also without Warren Peters, Colton Gillies, Petr Kalus, and Joel Broda.

They called up two guys from the CHL and still managed to beat the San Antonio Rampage 2-1 in a game in which they were outshot 40-17.

I sure hope the Aeros got on the bus before the hockey gods decide to make things right in the world. Hey, I know those are the breaks sometimes, but when you get outshot 40-17, you can't say you won 'cause the other team was rusty.

What is going to happen is this: the Aeros are going to get absolutely drilled by San Antonio on New Years Day, so they better get at least one feel-good win in Milwaukee or Rockford later this week.

After getting killed by the Rampage on Saturday, things will level off for the Aeros. Even though they still have a schedule that was made by an elementary school janitor (no offense to those folks who, for sure, work harder than I do), most of their games will be at home and their travel is much more manageable.

What worries me right now is that they picked the wrong time to get hurt. And it is this schedule that is keeping them injured and without practice time.

If the Aeros lose the next three and fall back to .500, I still think they'll be OK to make a playoff run. Their 18 wins is not all that far off from most of the teams currently in playoff contention. But they have played more games than everyone else, and the numbers in the loss column are starting to pile up, too.

And to be fair, credit needs to go to Anton tonight, who played very well. Sir, you are the reason the team extended the winning "streak" to two games. I think we are all harder on Anton because we know what he is capable of doing. We know he can play down here and we know he is capable of holding his own in the NHL. But there are times when things snowball on him and he is going to allow one turd a game.

That is where he needs to settle down, and if he can play more games like he did Monday, he'll again be regarded as one of the better netminders in AAA hockey.

That is all for tonight. The Aeros will fly to Chicago for a pair of games in the Midwest later this week. Although, I too, will be in Wisconsin Wednesday, there is no chance I can make the four-hour drive down to see the boys. I am going to get to see the Wild host the Predators Friday night, and I am really looking forward to my first Wild game of the year.

Meanwhile, In The Houston Press

Okay, here's my game story for the Houston Press. Please click and read. Leave comments. Leave compliments. Leave insults. Let them know you care.

Aeros vs. San Antonio on FSSW tonight

Hey gang, just a brief programming note: The Aeros game tonight in San Antonio is going to be broadcast on Fox Sports Southwest.

That's channel 677 (or 677-1 if you want the HD broadcast, which is pretty awesome) if you have DirecTV. Not sure about other providers. So, as always, check your local listings. ;)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

12/26/10 -- Aeros 4-Stars 3 (SO) -- Happy Boxing Day Edition

The Aeros scoreless streak stood at 158:43 coming into today's match-up with the Texas Stars. They were on a four-game losing streak, and had failed to score in their last two, including an embarrassing 5-0 loss to Hamilton in Houston right before Christmas. The team's record had dropped to 17-15-1-2 (35 points) and they were sitting in seventh place.

So things weren't exactly looking good for the Aeros as they headed into tonight's match-up with the Stars. The Stars are always a tough match-up because they've always got excellent goaltending and play decent defense while presenting a team that can score points when need be.

But the Aeros did something shocking tonight. They scored a goal 30 seconds into the game -- Warren Peters on a wraparound -- then came back from the 2-1 first period deficit to tie the game late in the second before taking the lead in the third. It looked like they were going to hold on for the win, but Francis Wathier scored for the Stars with 18.3 left in the game to tie it, and off to OT the teams were. The Aeros kept the Stars off the board in OT, then saw Robbie Earl, Chad Rau, and Cody Almond score in a seven-round shoot out to give the Aeros the 4-3 win.

The month has been a killer for the Aeros -- I'm still trying to figure out how they landed on the AHL's crap list -- and it's not close to over. They play tomorrow in San Antonio, Wednesday in Milwaukee, and Thursday in Rockford to close out the year, then host San Antonio on Saturday night. It's Andrew's theory that the Aeros need to get past New Year's Day with a better than .500 record. And as hard it is to believe -- especially after the way they played last week -- this goal is possible. They're two games above .500 right now, and they've got four left.

I'm not saying it's going to happen, but it is possible.

Now for some thoughts and misc items.

1. The Aeros have scored a goal in every period of a game seven times this season. Five of those games have been against the Stars.

2. Watch this trend: when the Aeros score the first goal of the game, they are 16-5-0-2.

3. Yeo says the guys are tired, and he they had four days off after the Hamilton loss. part of the reason for this was that he felt they needed the mental break because this month, with the travel, and the losing streak, and the scoreless streak, has been a huge mental grind.

4. “This month has been a grind. I will say that,” Yeo said. “This month has been a grind. But that’s where I’m hopeful, this stretch right now, four games in five nights coming out of this break, is going to be – we’re not getting off any easier here – but I do think, more than anything, it’s probably mental. And having those four days off for our guys, more than anything, has come at the right time and at least gave us the right attitude coming back to make sure we’re ready for a push.”

5. It didn't really show up in the box score, but Robbie Earl had a hell of a game tonight. Of course, being that he's an Aero, he had his share of bad luck. Several shot attempts were stopped by a goalie having a hell of a game. And he was in a great position for one shot, only to have his stick break as he was taking the shot. But he was everywhere he needed to be throughout the game, and he managed to get two assists and a goal in the shootout.

6. If you were wondering why Matt Kassian, "the boxer" on the team, didn't play on Boxing Day, well, it's because he's suffering from a lower body injury. Casey Wellman was scratched for the same reason.

7. There was a nice crowd today, but damn, they were so quiet we could hear one guy on the opposite end of the arena shouting at the team.

8. Dear Toyota Center sound crew. Could you please save that "fight, fight, fight" song for an actual fight?

9. Dear AHL, screw you. Come on, could you please explain this schedule? Nine of the team's final 12 games in 2010 are on the road, and 18 of the team's final 27 games for 2010 are on the road. I realize I took a quick vacation and that I had to cover a college basketball game, but damn, it should not be December 26 when I get around to seeing my second Aeros game of the month.

10. Since it's Boxing Day, how about we go out on a song featuring "boxer" in the title? So here's Simon and Garfunkel with "The Boxer."

And in case I forget, since I'll next see the team on New Year's Day, I want to wish everybody a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What's that smell?

It's the steaming pile Hockey Santa left if your stocking! HO HO HO!

But really, that 5-0 loss to Hamilton was as bad as it gets. The first 18 minutes I felt like I was watching my Monday night drop-in. No offense to those guys, but they're not pros, so they're supposed to miss a bunch of their passes and fumble the puck and shoot wide and low and right into the goalie and on and on...

The Aeros, on the other hand, looked like they haven't skated together in weeks.

The one bright spot was Matt Hackett's play in relief. He kept the game from going up to 7 or 8 to nothing with some unbelievable glove saves and was just "laser" focused on that puck. Best I've seen him play at home.

Outside of that, I could inundate you with stats and misery and whatnot, but Mike Yeo was so good after the game that I think you're better served just reading his post game comments. And this is how you know I love you, because I friggin' hate transcribing.

Two games ago you were up 3-1 in the second. Since then you've been outscored 10-0 which is remarkable. What's happened to this team?

To speak about the last game in Manitoba, I thought we actually played a pretty solid game. I mean, we didn't score any goals, obviously, and we addressed some areas we need to get better. You know, middle lane driving and being more aggressive, getting to the hard areas, but tonight was just embarrassing. That's what happened.

We addressed it, the fact that this is a game that's not easy. It takes a lot of character to make sure you're focused for it. Guy have bags packed and thinking about Christmas, but at the same time, you've got a game to play. We talked about that, what it means to be a pro, and make sure you're ready to play and tonight was embarrassing.

Are you at a point now, you look at your goaltending numbers and Anton's a full goal ahead of where he was in November. Are you at the point where you're going to have to call somebody up from lower to shake it up? (Editors note: Anton's GAA/save % in November was 2.25/0.922. Very respectable. In December, it's 3.65/0.861. Not very respectable.)

You know what, I don't want to blame that game on Anton. We didn't seem to want to touch anybody in front of our net and they had some pretty small individuals tapping in empty netters, so I blame our defense a lot more tonight, and our forwards for a lack of willingness to block shots.

So I'm not gonna put that one on Anton, but I think, as you said, he's not different than Matt Hackett and every one of our defensemen and every one of our forwards. When we get back from this break, we've got a difficult schedule and it's gonna be a grind for a little while but we're gonna have to become better. Because where we're at right now is not good enough.

We can say that we're heading in the right direction but obviously we've taken a step backward. And this is the time of year when winners are made, I believe, when things are at their most difficult, how do you find a way to get yourself prepared, how do you find a way to make sure you're ready to come to the rink and battle, how do you find a way when things aren't necessarily going your way to come out and bring it. And that's something that we have to learn.

Is this 6 game stretch where you're 1-5, is this the worst the team has been? I mean, are you playing worse now than the first time you had that 6-game slide?

Yeah. I mean, I'm disappointed with the schedule, with the fact that we've had 3 practices this month. That part is frustrating for me and I have seen a slip in our game. I can accept a bit of a drop in your execution, I can accept a bit of a drop in the detail. We lost the game in Manitoba because of a minor detail. What I cannot accept and will not accept is a lack of effort and compete. We didn't lose that game tonight because of execution or systems. It was [because] that team had more heart, more preparation, more will to win the game than we had.

And the part that's disappointing, and apparently we haven't learned, and the part that's cost us the games that we're up 3-1 and other games and even the start of games is a lack of will, when you come into the game be ready to battle, and absolutely compete and try to outwill the other team. And that's the only way that we're going to be capable of doing it. I hope the guys take the time off of the holidays and get rested and get re-focused, because that's what we're going to do.

Is that the detail you were talking about in the Manitoba game where you're up 3-1...

No, the second game. The second game is, you talk about urgency you need in your game and how one play is the difference in the game. 0-0 game and you make one mistake the puck ends up in our net. So, it's something I do believe the young players still have to learn but at the same time, first and foremost, you have to be ready to compete.

Is that also the same deal, we've noticed the penalty kill has gotten quite a bit off. Same thing?

More than anything else, you look at their penalty kill tonight and why were they successful? They must have blocked about 15 shots. And if you're willing to get in front of shots and lay down and fight and do whatever you can to get that desperation to keep the puck out of your net, more often than not you're gonna find a way to win that face-off, you're take a hit to clear the puck, and you're gonna find a way to get in front of that shot and block it. And if the puck does get in front of the net and there's a 1-on-1 battle with a loose puck right there, you're gonna outwill your opponent and make sure he doesn't tap it in the net. And that's something that we better find... quickly.

Preach on, Yeosie.

But hey, gang, it's just hockey. With that in mind, go enjoy your family and food and presents and vacation and whatnot for the next few days. That's the stuff that matters in the end.

That and reading T3I religiously. ;)

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate it. Have a nice week to those who don't. We'll see you on Boxing Day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And The Latest EPIC FAIL From St. Paul

I try to defend the Aeros/Wild connection. I try to defend the thinking up in St. Paul. After all, it's my firm belief that the Wild own the club, and that the Aeros exist for the benefit of the Wild so our complaints about whether they sign or don't sign guys who really aren't in the plans of the Wild don't really matter into the equation, but...

It was my firm belief that, no matter how good it was for the team, the Aeros season ticket holders were being screwed over by the Wild moving one of the home games to St. Paul. Now the Wild's basic piss-poor response was that the Aeros fans would be allowed to either use their existing ticket for admittance to the game in St. Paul, or else it could be exchanged for tickets to another game in Houston, which kind of made no sense since a season ticket holder actually already has tickets for all of the games. But since when has logic had anything to do with anything, right?

That brings us to the latest announcement from the Wild re this Aeros game in St. Paul. They've changed the date of the game. So if you're one of those people who booked a trip to St. Paul so that you could use your ticket to watch this game, well, screw you.

Instead of playing the game on the afternoon of Saturday, February 12, before the Blues/Wild game that night, the game has been moved to Sunday afternoon, February 13. Which, you know, probably just screws you up if you're actually flying home on Sunday.

Then again, the season ticket holders don't really matter, right? They can always move more games to weekday afternoons and give the tickets to school kids, or they can always sell tickets to people who want to bring their dogs to a game for some reason.

I would suggest you call or send an email or something, but we all know it wouldn't amount to anything.

The Year In Aeros Hockey: 25 Random Thoughts Centered Around Ice Girls

Hey gang, I've got a new post up over at the mothership in which I offer up my thoughts on the Aeros of 2010. And as always, I ask the big question that we all have: where are the Ice Girls?

Beyond that, it's really just my thoughts on the end of last season, the start of this season, and some of the shakeups and changes which the team has undergone. So before you head up to Toyota Center for tonight's game, how about giving it a read and letting the bosses know you enjoyed it, or hated it. (BTW: I've got to cover UH basketball tonight, so I won't be there, but I'm sure Heather and Andrew will be around to give you lots of good details. I will, however, be at the game on the 26th).

And speaking for myself, Happy Holidays, and thanks for reading, both here and the mothership. It is much appreciated.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Griffins chew up, spit out Aeros 5-2

By all accounts, the Aeros just weren't feeling it last night in Grand Rapids. A whopping 19 shots on goal and a 5-2 loss are just the numbers that speak to it.

What's worse is that Anton Khudobin was given the hook for the second time in as many games after 2 goals on 3 shots in 8 minutes. Andrew suggested to me it was an attempt at a momentum shift that just didn't work and after watching the first 8 minutes, I think that could be part of it, but Anton wasn't sharp either.

I'm concerned about him right now. Before these last two DNFs, he was on a nice win streak, but he's consistently letting in soft, untimely goals at least once a game most nights.

And for me, he hasn't reached the same level of consistency and focus he had back last November, when he played so well in the opening months of the season, he earned a trip to the AHL All-Star Game. He was AMAZING in his NHL call-ups later in the season, so you know he CAN stop with the best of them. Is it a motivation thing? Is he bored? Is Hackett not enough to push him?

I wouldn't bother getting after him if I didn't believe he was a tremendous goalie with the ability to dominate and frustrate when his game is on.  He's acrobatic, quick, resilient, confident, unpredictable. So I have to think the key is somewhere between his ears.

I just hope he gets it under control, because Hackett is still too green and shouldn't be expected to carry the load at this point in his career. Some rookie goalies can pull that off, but he's just not going to be one of them.  He's talented but still finding his way in terms of pro confidence.

Anyway, Anton let in the first two, Hackett let in a couple himself to get the L by his name, and the fifth was an empty net goal. Though I don't know why they even bothered to pull the goalie given the lack of offense the team was showing.

Even with the extra man, there's no way they were getting two more goals in just a minute or two. Then again, maybe it's a good thing. Yeo showing faith in their ability to fight back until the final buzzer.

Sometimes I feel like we should have a "Cynicism Meter" over on the side of the page. I'm on the line between Yellow and Orange today. Sorry about that. Not getting much inner beauty sleep lately...

I guess if anything good can be said:

  • Gillies scored (guess he didn't like my defenseman-conversion-if-he's-not-gonna-bring-any-offense suggestion)
  • Joe indicated both the fights (Bagnall and Kassian) were decisions for the good guys
  • No bus accidents in all these miles
On to Manitoba Friday and Saturday, where the Meese just dropped behind the Griffins in the North division standings. I guarantee at least one goal for former Aero Marco Rosa (who I still really miss watching play). He recently busted out of a scoring drought and, recalling his streaky nature, combined with the joy of lighting the lamp on your former team, I imagine the Aeros goalies will see plenty of him. 


A couple of something extras for ya:

Somebody put together the top 50 hockey names and our boy Cal Clutterbuck was numero uno. Here's the Puck Daddy piece with a link to the original article.

Also, if you don't read my blog, you might not know that Binghamton has discovered our boy Barry Brust is the best thing since indoor plumbing.

Here's a big feature that was in the paper yesterday, and a PDF of the article since they gave it pretty big/neat treatment in the print version. And here's some video of him doing his stuff up there and some interviews and whatnot:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Aeros put down the Bulldogs in Hamilton 3-1

Well, it might be Hell Week, but so far Hell's looking pretty damned good.

The Aeros made this season's second foray north of the border last night to play the Hamilton Bulldogs and somehow found a way to switch up some of the bad habits that have been plaguing them.

For the first time this season, they won in spite of not being the first team to score. AND, they got the lead early in the third period and HELD it.

I know! Me, too!!

Matt Hackett also got off his personal 3-game losing streak with 24 saves in the victory.

And what's more, Brandon Buck moved up to the Almond/DiSalvatore line and earned his second career AHL tally, and first in 49 games with the Aeros, with the game winning goal early in the third period. Even nicer is that he's from the area, apparently, and hopefully had a bunch of folks in to see it.

He was replacing Daoust on that line and if the goal is any indication of the success of that move, I'm guessing the spot is his for a while. Daoust just isn't producing like I would have hoped, so maybe this shake-up will be good for all parties and get him going, too.

Before that, the tying goal came from Robbie Earl midway through the second, literally within seconds of Hamilton getting the first goal of the night. I only heard it on the radio but it sounds like Casey Wellman did the work to set it up. Dude is en fuego. We better hope the Wild's top lines stay healthy or he's gonzo.

Hamilton pulled goalie Curtis Sanford out of the net with about a minute and a half left and from the sounds of it (which Joe was fantastic calling as I was driving to my own game last night), the Aeros had several chances on the empty net. But it was Warren Peters, fresh back from the NHL, who found the inside of the net to seal the deal.

Tonight, the boys face Grand Rapids at 6 p.m. our time. The Griffins are toiling at the bottom end of the North Division standings, but boy do hey have a lot of PIM. Either they're very undisciplined or they're mean sons of bitches. Or both.

They've only won 2 of their last 6, but they're showing up well-rested but, having played Sunday, not quite rusty. The Aeros, on the other hand, had to make the 6 hour haul from Hamilton to Grand Rapids after the game last night. That's always easier with a belly full of Win but still, no morning skate to shake off the bus legs. Wouldn't be surprised at all to see it take half a period or so to get the legs going.


In other news, the Houston Women's Hockey League Wisco Badgers whipped the Harvard Crimson last night at Space City Ice 3-2. And then drank a helluva lot of beer. Woohoo!

Have a great day! I'mma go scrape the cotton balls out of my mouth.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Hell Week Starts tonight in Hamilton

In the next three weeks, the Aeros are going to play two sets of four games in five nights (with the latter actually being played out to five games in seven nights.) Seven of those games are going to be on the road, and two of the home games (Hamilton on Dec. 21 and San Antonio on Jan. 1) are against the best two teams in the Western Conference.

They are 15-11-1-2, and if they can make it past New Year's day above .500, they will be set up quite nicely for the rest of the year and a run at the playoffs. They are still not one of the best (record + talent) four teams in the West Division. They are behind San Antonio, Peoria, Oklahoma City, Milwaukee and Texas. While they have shown they can play with the latter three of those teams, they have yet to do any significant damage against San Antonio and Peoria.

At a minimum, they need to get eight points (3-5-1-1) during the stretch and get past Jan. 1 above water. If they can do that, and not get burnt out on the road, I think they will be OK.

Here are some more nuggets for you. The Aeros biggest problem this year is being able to hold a lead. In their 13 losses, seven times they have led by at least a goal. In three of them, they had 2-0 leads including Sunday's donkey-kicking against the Monsters.

So only four times, when they did blow a lead or got shutout, the Aeros were pretty much out of the game by the third period. This is a good sign. The Aeros always seem to be in the game, but they have to learn how to protect the lead, and that, I think, is going to define Mike Yeo's first season in Houston.

If he can shore up their charitable mentality, and get this team into the playoffs, that will be a success.

But right now, the trend is not going in the right direction. In each of their last three losses, they have held leads of either 1-0 or 2-0. Not all of it is Yeo. The goalies are playing OK, but Anton was a huge part of the problem on Sunday. He has been pulled way too many times (and deservedly so) this year. There are stretches where there is no doubt in my mind that he could be a good backup in Minny. But most of the time, he looks like a goalie that is still figuring out how to play consistently.

And it didn't help that Casey Wellman, who had the best night an Aero ever had on Friday, was completely shut down on Sunday. We'll see how he responds against the Bulldogs.

This team is the best score-the-first-goal team I have ever been around at the AHL level. If they can keep doing that and figure out how to respond with their opponents turn things up a couple of notches, I think Aeros fans will be watching playoff hockey at Toyota Center this Spring.

Here is a list of the Aeros next nine games and my comments about who I think has the advantage (in bold), schedule-wise. Coaches rarely blame the schedule, but it does play a huge part in the outcomes of games (especially when your team is just above average or on the road a lot).

In their next 10 games, they only have three schedule advantages. If they can keep this from being ugly, hats off to the team and the staff.

Dec. 14, Aeros at Hamilton - Aeros coming off loss, Hamilton home since Dec. 10 and played Sunday
Dec. 15, Aeros at Grand Rapids - Aeros playing third in four days, Grand Rapids off since Sunday
Dec. 17, Aeros at Manitoba - Aeros have one day to get to Canada, Moose off since Dec. 14
Dec. 18. Aeros at Manitoba - Aeros finishing six games in nine days, MTB playing just 2nd in 5 days.
Dec. 21, Aeros vs Hamilton - Aeros get two days off, HAM playing 5th game in 7 days, four on the road
Dec. 26, Aeros vs. Texas - Both teams with a at least four days off, Aeros at home; TEX 1-4 vs. Aeros.
Dec. 27, Aeros at San Antonio - Aeros 0-2 at San Antonio, Rampage rusty with seven full days off.
Dec. 29, Aeros at Milwaukee - Both playing third game in four days; MKE is 6-1-2-1 at home.
Dec. 30, Aeros at Rockford - Aeros 4th in 5, Rockford have not played back-to-back since Dec. 18
Jan. 01, Aeros at San Antonio - Aeros 5th game in 7 days, Rampage first road game since Dec. 18

Now you are well-educated fans, and your expectations should be limited over the next few weeks.
To play us out, let's go to the Beach Boys, with this all too appropriate song for today:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A few notes on Wellman's four-goal night

We got a few comments on Wellman's performance last night and a few questions, too, so that sent me to the archives for some game notes for you. Last night, Wellman put on full display the single greatest individual performance in team history.

But there have been two that were very close.

First, as mentioned in a comment by Forecheck, Dave Hymovitz had a decent debut for the IHL Aeros in 2000. He was the Aeros lone trade-deadline acquisition that season when Ron Low shipped Jeff Daw to AHL Lowell on St. Patty's Day in 2000.

Hymovitz (who later played for the Ottawa Senators) did not score five goals in the game vs. KC at Kemper Arena -- Joe O'Donnell and the PR staff got it right. He scored four in that televised game at KC, but he followed that up with three more in the next game at home against Utah. He is the only Aeros player EVER to score seven goals in two games. How is that for a debut?

That was a good performance, to be sure, but when Roman Voloshenko turned the trick in 2005, he did it against Chris Osgood, who was with Grand Rapids on a rehab assignment. (And you know that jock strap that Ms. C drew for Climie? It is on the opposite side of the arena from Osgood's.) Volo's first goal that night (just 28 seconds in) was an absolute sick wrister from the blue line that I still remember VERY clearly. That opened the floodgates.

Grand Rapids' goaltender Chris Osgood (30) lets in 1 or 7 goals on the evening.The Houston Aeros defeated the Grand Rapids Griffins 7-3, October 21, 2005  at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

That night at Toyota Center, Voloshenko scored two goals on the power play, which is why Wellman's performance cannot be disputed as the single greatest.

If you are on the team and are reading this today, please call or text your teammate with this news. The Aeros have been around a long time and have feature many great players over the year, but Wellman's game against the Rampage Friday stands above them all.

Peters recalled by Wild

Russo reported tonight that Warren Peters was the lucky call-up to the Wild this weekend in case a couple of the guys can't go tomorrow.

Until we found out Peters was the guy who'd been sent up, I really thought Wellman was just auditioning for his call-up in front of the GMs, but no. So much for cynicism. That just happened.

Good for Peters though, as he really stepped up his game after a somewhat ineffective first few games of the season. He's been a mover and shaker for the Aeros the last few weeks.

Deck the halls with Climie's jock, fa la la...

Oh man. What a night of hockey, gang. Nights like this are why I never wanna miss a game for teams I care about. You really just never know what's going to happen, like this 5-3 win over San Antonio with 4 goals for Casey Wellman.

Andrew gave you the recap below, but I'll fill in with my usual nonsense, starting with a funny from the locker room. Well, just outside the locker room because I haven't quite reached the level of professionalism where naked hockey butts wouldn't be a distraction. So we interview in the hall when I go downstairs. ;)

Anyway, we ask Wellman about that cuh-razy fourth goal where he spin-o-ramas and Matt Climie looks like he needs his dizzy medication cuz he's just blindsided by this play. Honestly, I might have cried if I hadn't been so busy trying  convey this beast of a goal on Twitter. It was a monster in and of itself. But to be his 4th goal of the night? Shut up.

Here's what he had to say about it:
Prosser got the puck and there was a guy on me at first, but he kinda just drifted away and there was just a wide open lane and Pross, thank God, saw me.
It's funny, I actually did that move on Hackett the other day (in practice). He wasn't very happy about it. He said it wasn't realistic. So it's good to kinda get back at him there.
I tend to agree with Hackett. That wasn't realistic but nevertheless, there it was before all our eyes. I tweeted afterward that they had to pause the game for Climie to go retrieve his jock from the rafters.

Now, Matt Climie is a very good goalie. One of the best in the league. He wasn't perfect tonight but that score isn't on him. The team in front of him let him down enough times that if they'd played smarter, this would have been a very different game.

Y'all know I love goalies and I hate to mock one of the ones I particularly like, but I hope I'm making up for it by whatever implications you might want to draw from the size of his jock. HOSS!

That said, I was SO disappointed to see only ONE hat hit the ice after his hat trick. Come on, gang. WTF is that about. We don't get to see too many hatties. I know times are tough but you can get a new hat. Nobody's head is freezing on the way home. That bummed me out a little.

When it came time to pick the stars, only the third star was up for any debate. It went to Earl for his two assists but Andrew brought up Kassian's fight. I'm not sure it helped anybody but it was a gentlemanly gesture to accommodate Hollweg's request (at least I'm assuming that's how it went down... can't imagine Kass had any other reason to want to fight).

Anyway, Kass, as usual, won it soundly, but Hollweg's a tough dude and hung in there and didn't look foolish in spite of limited connections. It was a very good fight, all things considered.

And speaking of which... I think it really shows the confidence San Antonio has in their abilities right now that the game DIDN'T get dirty. Think back to when SA was bad.  A 4-1 game would have deteriorated into a fight-fest rapidly in most cases, or at least been way chippier.

But they knew they could come work their way back if they stayed focused and disciplined. And frankly, with the Aeros letting up in the third and "bad habits creeping back in" as Yeo said, I was getting a bit worried. But Anton made a big stop (which you can see along with other pics at Artandhockey's blog here) and kept damage at a minimum to preserve the 2-goal lead to the buzzer.


Finally, a note of thanks from us press dingalings to Brian Duval, whose tenure as the media relations intern for the Aeros ended today. He's been a total pleasure to deal with since this summer when he WAS the media relations department for a while before they hired Rich. So, we wish him the best of luck in his job search and everything to come in what is sure to be a bright career.

Friday, December 10, 2010

View from the Pressbox - It's (Wellman) time.

If you didn't have a good time at the Aeros game tonight, then you're just not human.
And if you were in attendance, you probably saw the single best individual effort in the team's 17-year history.

Wellman was unbelievable tonight, and he has been getting better every game since his latest demotion from the Wild.

His first goal was of the hard-working variety. His second one was pretty, too, although he got a little bit of help from Rampage defenseman Garrett Stafford, who turned the wrong way and forgot to cover the far post.

For the natural hat trick, he snapped one low over Climie's glove, and the fourth? That was just sick. He did the old spin-o-rama in front of Climie and roofed one high into the cage. Ms. C will have some art and more about that one later.

Look, the Rampage were playing their fifth straight road game and their best player, Mathieu Beaudoin was on crutches with what appears to be a severe lower body injury. The Aeros got an assist from Lady Luck and the schedule tonight, but a win is a win, and this one was one of the most fun of the year.

Against the Rampage, you have to get a 2-0 or 3-0 lead because this team is loaded offensively, and even when you play your best game of the year, they are still going to get their two or three goals.

We found out late in the game that Chuck Fletcher and Jim Mill were in attendance, and we saw them down by the locker after the game. They will take a forward with them back to Minny, and Wellman certainly made a good case for himself tonight.

But there are several other players, too, that might get the nod. Robbie Earl has been lights out. Warren Peters is playing his best hockey of the season, and Cody Almond just keeps getting better and better. I would not be a bit surprised to see one of them making the trip to join the big club.

The Aeros will start a real nasty trip Sunday in Cleveland. It will be crucial for them to start things off right with games coming up against a great Hamilton team and a Grand Rapids team, that still cannot win at home for some reason.

Friday was the Aeros first win of the season against San Antonio, and they have won five of their last six games and are a season-high five games over .500. The Aeros now know what it takes to be successful in this division. Let's see if they can keep it up as they enter one of their toughest stretches of the season.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When Goalies Attack...

I only saw parts of the game last night but Andrew did a good job of giving the big picture. He mentioned OKC goalie Jeff Deslauriers getting into it with Jon DiSalvatore.

When I was watching last night, I didn't see what lead up to it. I just happened to look at my screen and Deslauriers was beating the snot out of Sal with his blocker.

But then this morning, the Oilers posted highlights of the game as well as the fight itself, and frankly, what led up to it was not much of anything. It looks to me like DiSalvatore was just trying to squeeze past the goalie, not necessarily take him out.

Deslauriers definitely overreacted, but what's a goalie without the odd scrap or tantrum? No fun is what. JDD is a goalie I've liked since the Oilers tried to kill him last season by overplaying him as a rookie behind a god awful team. Definitely plays with emotion and some flair.

Thank goodness Matt Kassian has his number. Oh yeah, and I guess Robbie Earl does a little bit, too. You suppose those two late regulation goals got Earl in JDD's head a little bit for the shootout? I dunno.

Regardless, I got some rare road inspiration out of the scene, so here you go:

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Giving credit where ... well, you know.

Greetings from frosty Chicago. I come to you tonight with news of another Aeros win. This time they get a rare victory in Oklahoma City against a very offensively talented (and very freaking fast) Barons team. What is that you say? It's not rare? Oh, really? They have won all four games they've played there? Interesting.

All kidding aside, the Aeros picked up a huge win thanks to a stellar offensive night from Robbie Earl. He scored two third period goals and nailed the only one in the shootout for the extra point in the standings.

Here is a link to the Oklahoma City paper's recap of the match. Some good stuff in here about the game. This is not the first or even second time their head coach, Todd Nelson, has called the team "dumb" and "undisciplined" after a loss to the Aeros. One player even said "that team has our number."

I did not watch any of the game, but I kept hitting refresh on my BlackBerry while I was at dinner, and this is how I reacted to the game tonight:

OK, better.

What you don't get from my recap above is the fact that Anton Khudobin stoned Liam Reddox like three times on shorthanded breakaways tonight. Mike Yeo is always talking about getting that big save from his goalie in the third period of close games. Well, he got three of them tonight, all while Jon DiSalvatore was getting scuffed up by Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers. (Maybe Heather saw that part and can comment for you....)

Khudobin kept the Aeros in the game long enough for Earl to get going in the third period. And then Khudobin stoned all five shooters he saw in the tiebreaker. Good stuff from the Aeros' netminder tonight.

Now let's take a look at the big picture. Because each of the last four Aeros win have all been in OT/SO, they are not really distancing themselves or gaining ground on the rest of the West. What they DO have is the team's best record after 27 games since 2005-06. Yes, this is their best start since Daum took the Aeros to a 18-7-1-1 mark during the O'Sullivan, Law and Westrum year.

Right now, the Aeros are on pace to finish with about 91 points. That is probably 39-40 wins or so, maybe more if they keep winning all these OT games. Sure they could still collapse and fall back into the basement. But they could continue to get better. (Since Oct. 30, they are 12-5-1-1).

What Aeros fans need to do right now is thank Jim Mill and Mike Yeo for turning this bunch into a fun, exciting group to watch. And even more important to the organization, when these guys are needed in Minnesota, they go up there, and they do a great job of filling in.

Who knows where they go from now? The West division is really good. Really. Freaking. Good. The West is the only division in the AHL that features seven (SEVEN!) teams with at least 13 wins. The crappy North has two. They East is more respectable with four, and the Atlantic has three.

For those of you who still need something to complain about, you can still complain about being in the West division and the fact that the Aeros have one of THE worst schedules I have literally every seen in professional hockey.

Starting Friday against the best team in the AHL, the Aeros are going to play seven games in 11 days. If they can squeak three or four wins out of that, I will give them a very good shot at being their when this thing is all said and done.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Aeros shoot down Stars 4-3

Someone suggested on the AHL Live chat tonight that the Aeros were playing better because they didn't want a miserable 3 hour bus ride home with this:

Whatever the case was, the Aeros got 'er done tonight with a 4-3 OT win over Texas.

They stuck to The Plan and came out in the first period hell bent for leather. Nate Prosser put the first point on the board with a PP goal from Palmer and Rau, and the team put 16 shots on goalie Richard Bachman to Texas' 5 in the first period.

Midway through the second, Gillies put the Aeros up by 2 on a nice rush with help from Wellman and Scandella. But the Stars scored late in the second, and finished the rally a little over a minute into the third, with goals from Morin and Sceviour respectively.

I'm reporting from the score sheet at this point because I had to leave for my hockey game (but here's a good in-person recap and another one), but Peters put the Aeros ahead of his former team again 6 minutes into the third (Buck and Gillies assisting) only to have Chupp tie it up with 5 minutes remaining.

In overtime, Fabian Brunnstrom gifted the Aeros with a high sticking call that put the good guys on a power play, and Cody Almond capitalized on it with just seconds left in the man advantage to get the win.

A personnel note: All the long-injured guys were in tonight. Zingoni made his season debut, and both Cuma and Rau were in as well.

The Aeros are now tied with Milwaukee for 4th place in the West division. Hard to complain about a road win, but it would be nice to get some "clean" wins and stop giving the loser point out to all these opponents and maybe widen whatever gaps there are.

Aeros are back at it on the road next Tuesday in OKC, and then home Friday for the Teddy Bear Toss game, always a fun time, assuming the home team scores before everyone gets antsy and things get awkward.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The rest of the story...

I was hoping that if the Aeros lost, it would be because they got lit up, so I could make "Red Light District" jokes on behalf of John, who's in Amsterdam at the moment.

Alas, they did just enough to keep it close after coming out hard and fast, scoring, and then letting off the gas. Kinda getting used to that.

Yeo said after the game that their goal was to put up 40 shots. They put up 39, but it was in fits and starts of bad play and good play. I asked if he felt like guys were second guessing their decisions with the puck, and you can see his quote below, but you could almost see the gears turning: "Don't be cute, take the shot" when there's a linemate open with a clear shot. But then they were getting in the zone without anybody around the net, so shots were just hitting the goalie and corralled safely. I could have stopped a lot of those shots and I suck.

So then they get back to making some passes, even when there's a clear shooting lane. And there you have your turnover after turnover. And it's just a cycle of changing approaches until they get back to putting it on the net and have some really solid chances in the final minutes. Imagine if they'd been doing that all game...

It just felt to me like their instincts were on Pause and they were thinking too much. The game's too fast and fluid for that. You just have to read and react and hope the work done in practice shows in those reactions. Then again, maybe that's just how goalies work. :)

Anyway, here's some quotes from Yeo after the game.

On the good start and then let-up:
Even the latter part of the first period, I wasn’t real thrilled with, but the second period for sure was just, again, a lack of urgency. You have to expect the other team to come out and you have to be ready to kick it up a notch and I thought, one on one battles were not good. Two goals scored directly coming off a one-on-one, just getting beat one on one. So again it’s just continuing trying to build something here. It’s not quite who we are yet, and when it’s not there, it’s frustrating because you know what you’re capable of when it is there. At the same time, we do have to have a little bit of patience that this is not who we are, but [we know] who we will be. We just want it to happen now, so it’s frustrating.
On execution and scoring chances:

You play with fire enough times and that’s what happens. They’re gonna hang on, and they were fighting hard tonight. Give them a lot of credit. There was a lot of desperation in their game, they felt this was a must-win game and they got the 2 points. But at the same time, even in the third period, I thought there some chances, but execution-wise as far as playing our game, I thought there were still some turnovers and some poor decisions made with the puck, trying to force things that aren’t there instead of just sticking to the plan. The execution again wasn’t quite where I want it to be. We gave ourselves some chances and we fought hard but we put ourselves in a deep hole that we couldn’t get out of.

On offensive zone time:
I think the amount of zone time that we’ve had in the offensive zone in the last 2 games hasn’t been enough and that’s because we’re getting away from what we’re trying to do. We start to go east-west, and we start to make cute plays, and we’re turning pucks over and we’re back checking, instead of going in straight lines and putting pucks where we’ve got guys skating into it, being committed to playing in the offensive zone.  
And once you get there you gotta be a) strong on the puck, which we haven’t been. If you get the puck back and somebody comes in and just taps your stick and you lose the puck and you’re back checking again. You gotta be strong on the puck. But b) you’ve gotta be committed to getting that cycle game going, to have the movement, to making sure you’re making plays where guys are skating into position, where you can grind a team down, and as they get tired that’s when things are going to open up. That’s where you’re going to catch a guy out of position and attack a seam that maybe wasn’t there earlier.
On whether players were second guessing decisions with the puck:

We talked about this before the game and felt that we had to get over 40 shots tonight and we had 39. After the first period, I expected us to keep doing it because we were getting rewarded for it. There were rebounds there and we’ve got guys going to the net and we want to put pucks on the net to create those rebound opportunities. And then after that it was like our last resort was to shoot the puck. We were looking to make plays first, and when we did shoot it, then we didn’t have guys going to the net. And then it was easy for him to control his rebounds.
It’s a much different story like on the first goal if we’ve got a guy in the middle lane driving and the goalies got to try and deal with a puck that’s coming in soft into his pad. It’s a tough save for that goalie, but when there’s nobody around the net, it’s much easier for him.

As Andrew and I were walking through the concourse down to interview post-game, a guy walked by us and said, "Tonya Harding showed more heart." We had a good laugh at that, but felt like it wasn't a fair assessment at all.

I've seen lack of heart plenty and that's not the feeling I got. As I said, and Yeo confirmed, the team only has the slipperiest grip on the playing style that works best for them: Get in the zone. Get to the net. Put pucks on the net. Get the goalie moving. Get a stick on those rebounds.

This team has the talent in spots to create some pretty goals, but offensive skill doesn't run very deep. What the team is deep in is guys who are willing to sacrifice, go to the net, get dirty, battle.

One thing they didn't do well last night at important times was hold the zone. They'd get there, but sloppy passes to the point by the forwards killed momentum several times.

Anyway, enough grinding on the unfortunate stuff.

A few good things:

I loved Palmer sticking up for the hit on Wellman. Palmer isn't exactly a fighter, but when guys stand up like that, it says great things about the character of a team. You can sign "character guys" all day but until they do stuff like that, I don't even listen to it. That behavior is what you can hang your hat on.

Also, remember how Brent Burns used to be a forward and they turned him into a defenseman? I have to wonder if the organization has considered that for Gillies. I absolutely love that kid, but he's not doing it for me in his current role. He's big, he's mean, he's got a long reach, he's got some wheels, he plays hard every shift, but he's just got no offensive touch at all. Is the team really getting the most out of his gifts as a grinder?

Finally, props to the music folks for playing "Nah Nah Nah Hey Hey Goodbye" when an Aeros player (Kalus) was sent off on a penalty. That was rich.

Friday, December 3, 2010

View from the Press Box - Aeros 1, Rockford 2

The Aeros have not won back-to-back games against the same team at home since 2008, so tonight's loss was not surprising by any stretch. It is hard to beat the same team two nights in a row, and for some reason it seems harder to do on your own ice.

What I did not like about the game, and Aeros head coach Mike Yeo agreed with me, is the steep drop off in the level of play between from the first 10 minutes to the second 30 minutes. For lack of a better phrase, the team just fell off a cliff. Tonight, they got what they deserved. There were some very close chances in the latter stages of the third period, but the team cannot play with fire every game and expect to pull out the "Ws."

Yeo talked about one -on -one battles tonight and how two breakdowns led to both Rockford goals. I cannot recall what happened on the first one, but Drew Bagnall got beat behind the net and Igor Markarov served up an easy goal for Potulny, who scored his second in as many games.

The Aeros' goal tonight was to throw 40 shots at the young goalie, and they did that. They out-chanced the IceHogs, too, but from the middle of the first period through the second, they did not play well enough to get that second goal on the board.

It's easy to say the outcome would have been different tonight had they gone into the third period 2-2, but that is exactly what they needed. The IceHogs and the young goalie calmly turned aside every Aeros scoring chance in the third period and walked out of this two-game series with three of a possible four points.

Another bit of potentially disturbing news is that Robbie Earl left Friday's game with an upper body injury. He is day to day, but the Aeros really could have used him for a chance to get that tying goal. Also, Chad Rau played his first game since October. He was hurt in practice with a face injury (the cage around it kind of gave that away) after playing in the first four games of the season. Good to see him back, and he had a couple of very decent chances in the game.

I don't think the game in Cedar Park is going to go very well. Aeros on the road, playing a three in three with Texas well rested and only playing it's second straight game. They lost to San Antonio at home in a shootout, so they will be nice and pissed off.

Heather will have more later with quotes from Yeo. Have a good night everyone.

To answer your questions about P.M. Bouchard ...

I have received a fairly high number of e-mails and texts over the last few days about Pierre-Marc Bouchard. One minute, the guy was going to (conjecture) come to Houston to rehab, then he gets a headache/pressure every time he gets on a bike or practices. Then, he's going to wait until he feels better. Since then, he's felt better and actually played for the Wild. By all counts, this guy that has missed 100+ games stepped right into the lineup and made plays.

So the majority of the questions are: "Why all the sudden do the Wild feel that P-MB does not need time to rehab in the minors to get his game going?"

Here is the best answer from Chuck Fletcher as told to the St. Paul Pioneer-Press:

"In our opinion, it didn't make any sense," he said. "He's an NHL player, and he's practiced hard and he's ready to play. Regardless of whether he goes to Houston or not, there's going to be an adjustment period. He's played one game in about 18 months. We thought the sooner we could get him playing NHL games, the sooner he could get his timing back and catch up.

"It just made sense to get him going and have him get on the ice to play with his teammates."

And here is another quote from that same story from Lou Nanne:

"This is going to help big time," former North Stars executive, coach and player Lou Nanne said. "If he can play the rest of year, this is going to make a difference of 20, 25 goals. Right away, he's the best play-maker they've got. One thing he can do is give people opportunities; he's done that his whole career."

I know more about public relations that I do hockey, and the dish from Fletcher is pure P.R.
See, Fletcher cannot go on the record and say that his team is mediocre, underachieving and needs a guy that has missed 104 games to make his team better. Think about it, P-MB missed more than a year of hockey and stepped right in as one of the team's best play-makers. If you are the Wild, do you want that guy playing "please don't get hurt" in Houston? No, you want him in Minnesota where he is better than 85 % of the other players on the roster. Fact: the Wild is far closer to being the worst team in the NHL than it is to winning a Stanley Cup.

They are not going to make the playoffs with P-MB in Houston, so there is no need to send him here to work on his game. If you read Russo's blog this week, the time is now for the Wild. They need to start piling up the wins, because mediocre teams on the outside of the playoffs looking in this time of year do not often qualify for the playoffs in the Spring.

And here is my take on the situation. If you are P-MB, you know the next time you take a licking, your hockey career is over. It is no longer a matter of "if" for the gifted center. You are just one of a very few number of guys who ever get to dress at that level. Do you want to see your career come to and end in front of 2,462 people in San Antonio? No.

Here is an excerpt from Russo's blog. As you can see, they need to win ... now!

Right now, the Wild's four points back with 58 games to go in 13th place.
The Wild’s 30 percent through the season, so to me, it is what it is now. This is the seventh-lowest scoring team in the NHL. It’s dropped to the middle of the pack in goals against. It has difficulty getting out of its zone and going on sustained attacks. It goes into extended lapses due to turnovers and penalties. When something in a game goes badly, it doesn’t stabilize. It compounds.

And so far there’s been no solution – 24 games in.

One of the worst signs: Middling play at home – 7-6-1 (one loss in Finland). Even last season’s 13th-place team managed a 25-12-4 home record. At one point, the Wild was 20-6-2 at home – the same number of regulation losses in 28 home games as it has in 14 this year.
This doesn’t bode well when there’s 31 road games left -- starting with four in a row Saturday in Dallas, where the Wild hasn't won at since 2003.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Stick figures...

The clamor for stick figures has been growing, so I have good news. I just got a digital drawing tablet today, and it's pretty awesome. Should make stick figures a lot quicker to do.

Caveat though.... it doesn't make me more skillful, patient, or ambitious. Just faster and easier... *ahem* so they're still pretty awful. Which I guess was sorta the point in the first place. I still miss Fred's pics and I know you all do, too. :( And I'm still protesting. So there. Enjoy your ugly pictures.

Anyway, here's my re-creation of the Kassian-to-DiSalvatore goal today where poor Toivonen had no idea the puck had just skipped around the front of his pads. I'm still figuring out the tablet, so it should only get better from here. Or not. Today's win was nice, but the game itself wasn't particularly inspiring.

As one who follows Wild prospects in particular, and having spent the last few years hearing such glowing things about him from Wild fans who've seen him at camps or pre-season, it was great to FINALLY see Tyler Cuma with my own eyes.

Am I right that this was his pro debut today? Yep, apart from some pre-season games for Minnesota, it was. Here's to staying healthy and continuing to contribute on the blue line. I certainly liked what I saw today. He didn't look like a rookie who hasn't played a game in months.

Finally, some comments were made about the scouts. Houston had the only AHL game anywhere in the league today, so I imagine any scout in the region was in town because there was no place else to be. Don't think there's anything to read into it.

More of the same Rockford tomorrow. Here's hoping for some artistic inspiration one way or the other.

12/2/10 -- Aeros v. Rockford -- The My Humps Edition

So was this a strange day of hockey, or what? I know these kiddie games have become a part of every season, but it just seemed strange having to be at the arena that early in the day. I felt out of synch, and the players definitely looked like they were out of it. Still, the Aeros seemed to awake in the third period to tie the game at 2-2 and at 3-3, then they were able to get the win in the shootout as, once again, Anton Khudobin came through when it mattered while the Aeros shooters were able to get a few pucks past the Rockford netminder.

The win moves the Aeros to 12-9-1-2 (27 points) on the season, and puts them in fifth place, one point ahead of the Texas Stars and one point behind Oklahoma City for fourth place. Now for a few thoughts.

1. When did Matt Kassian turn into a good player, skills wise? I've always like Kassian, but he got the assist on the first goal today because he went behind the net for a wraparound like he was one of those skilled and graceful goal scorers we all hear about. I don't think he would have been able to pull off that move several seasons ago, or even last season.

2. And Cody Almond emerged from the dead, assisting on the first two goals and getting the game-tying goal at the 18:41 mark of the third.

3. Mike Yeo said that Almond's been working up to this game: "I think that he’s been getting a fair amount of chances lately and hasn’t been getting rewarded for them. It was definitely nice to see him find the back of the net. I think he’s been doing a lot of nice things, so hopefully that will reinforce a lot of those things that he’s been doing."

4. It seemed that both teams were just sleep-walking through that first period. Yeo sensed that they would have some problems before the game. He said that there was this lack of energy and urgency with the team before the game started.

5. I didn't mind the screaming kids that much -- thanks for the ear plugs, Heather. And I'm thankful that the Toyota Center sound crew kept the Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber to a minimimum.

6. That said, it seemed a bit strange to be playing The Black-Eyed Peas' "My Humps" during the game. I know it was a top 10 song -- which shows how far this country's musical tastes has fallen -- but listening to Fergie going on about her lady parts in an arena packed with elementary school kids just felt wrong.

7. The highlight of the game, besides the Aeros win, was Andrew's rendition of Miley Cyrus' "Party In The USA," which he dubbed "Party In the Ukraine" and which he sung with a Russian/Ukrainian accent. It was supposedly in honor of Anton Khudobin, which means it should have been "Party In The Kazahkstan," but that's only a minor quibble.

8. The press table was packed with NHL scouts today. I wonder if they realized it was the Aeros and the IceHogs playing?

9. I'm going on vacation. So I'll see all of you in a few weeks. Make sure to check the mothership tomorrow for the game story.

10. And to play us out, here's "My Humps," one of the worst songs ever recorded.