Look kid: You and I both know you can play in the NHL. But so can a lot of guys in the AHL. You're not remotely alone in feeling kinda screwed that you've been clawing your way up in an organization for 4 years only to hit the ceiling in the AHL.
It must have really stung to see the Wild sign Dennis Endras last summer to essentially be Backstrom's backup next season. Personally, I would have said "FU" to the Wild and gone to the KHL and made some coin. That was as clear as sign as any that they didn't see you fitting into the plans here long term.
But maybe you chose the more positive perspective of wanting to prove to them that they don't need Endras. Or maybe you were banking on an injury to catapult you to the show.
And then, lucky you, the injury came! Harding blows a knee and suddenly it looks like your time has come!
But then the Wild show a lot of nothing in pre-season and management gets nervous that they can't afford a little rookie goalie who's demonstrated a lack of consistency throughout his career as Backstrom's partner. So they sign Theodore.
BAM. Stuck in Houston again.
My sense is you've gotten a sniff of the super high adrenaline rush of tending in the NHL and the acclaim that comes with success at that level, and now the pace of the AHL is a little less thrilling and engaging. The reward for success is less appealing. In fact, because of the Endras signing, there is almost no reward for success in the AHL other than your next contract (for your sake, I hope it's with another team) and pride.
And because of that, maybe you're less attentive, less inspired, less hungry.
I don't think it's a conscious thing, right? I mean, you're a proud guy. Hell, if you weren't, you wouldn't be so bent (even if it's all deep down) about this unfortunate turn in your career path. You feel like you've earned better than this, and that's understandable. You've created lots of memorable moments in all 3 levels you've played, and you've saved a lot of bacon behind teams that haven't always been money in front of you.
But so have lots of guys in the AHL. Even guys who have dominated the AHL have had to wait their turn and have found a way to play their sacks off instead of marking time. Heck, plenty of guys who have been basically written off as minor league journeymen find a way to play lights out just for pride and love of the game and in support of their teammates and, well, their next contract.
Here's the bottom line, kiddo: There's still half a season left and you've got a team in front of you that's improving all the time and are fully invested in each other and making a good playoff push. None of it has come easily, nor will it ever start coming easily. It's a grind to the finish and you have GOT to find a way to get yourself invested in HOUSTON.
Stop just going through the motions until the game gets "interesting" enough to inspire some focused effort. Your team has your back for now, but they'd have your back, front, and sides if you'd stop letting in these softies and forcing them to battle a deficit because you zoned out.
And I don't just write this as an armchair goalie critic. I've given this same speech to myself many MANY times as I stand there in the crease after letting in a soft one. Or two. Or three.
But unlike me, you're in the fortunate position of having the resources, experience, and talent to turn it around and salvage a season where your stock is dropping. If you want to be a blue chip, you've gotta start playing like one.
I'm 100% confident you have the stuff to be the hero in net that this team needs to dominate the West. But you have to dig deep and get your head right. The fix isn't going to come from better defensemen or more goals or more opportunity or more competition. It's gotta come from that spot that hurts like hell when you look over your shoulder and watch that puck drift across the goal line.
Stick on the ice, peanut...