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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

More With Jon DiSalvatore


As promised on Tuesday, I have some more stuff from my interview with Jon DiSalvatore which I didn't use. So, for Thanksgiving, I'm sharing here.

The hockey season is a long one. Games start at the first of October, and if you're in the playoffs, you can go into June. Then there are camps and practices starting in August and September. You're constantly having to train and workout, and at some point, you've got to find a way to mentally unwind from the season just past. Especially if that season ended in a Game Six loss of the Calder Cup Finals on your home ice.

And according to DiSalvatore, he's still feeling the bumps and bruises of last season, both physical and mental: "Even now though, we’re still feeling some of the aches and pains from playoffs. We’re trying to overcome some of that as we get going here. You never actually forget it because you’re body’s telling you that you were there just a few months ago. It’s definitely a feeling that I would love to repeat with this group of guys. It’s all here, but we have a ways to go yet."

As much as last year meant, DiSalvatore knows that it's not a thing that can be repeated because there's just no way to repeat the chemistry that team had. It was special. Not that this team doesn't have chemistry, or won't get the chemistry.

"Obviously we have a large core group of guys who have come back," he says. "There’s a tremendous amount of buy-in from a large number of guys we have back here already. The coaching staff is bringing the same feel, with some new energy. They’ve been great. They’re winners as well. They’ve been very successful as coaches before. They’re bringing the same kind of emotion and attitude towards what we’re trying to achieve. Now it’s just a matter of us all jelling. Again, it’s got to be a new foundation. We try to keep those same principles, we’re a hard-working, character team. We want to have teams in their own zone.

"We need to build that identity. Even though we have a lot of guys that still want to do it, when you have a few guys who have never played that way before, it takes some time for that all to jell. Yeah, we’re off to a good start, but there’s still a lot that our team needs to do to become that team that can go the distance in the playoffs."

There's also the matter of DiSalvatore being on his third coach in three years as an Aero. I specifically asked about the adjustment from Mike Yeo to John Torchetti, because being around the team last year, it was obvious how much Yeo fought for his guys and how much those guys for fought him.

"Of course they’re different," he told me. "They’re two different human beings. But they’re both great. There’s a really good feeling. Torch brings a really good attitude, really positive – not that Yeosie was ever negative, Yeosie was tremendously positive. They both have a really good – we call them player’s coaches. They both have a really good pulse on the team, they know how to relate to their players. They care about their players. And that’s what this coaching staff is bringing to this team, and that’s what the guys last year brought to the group we had last year. It’s the same, but it’s different in the sense that it’s good because they’re bringing the right kind of approach to the team that we need to be a winning team."

And here's the point that surprised me the most. The AHL made a big deal about reducing the season to 74 76 games from 80 games. It would cut travel costs. It would mean no more four games in five nights. It would be better for the players and mean much fewer midweek games. But so far, early in the season, DiSalvatore doesn't exactly like the new scheduling format. He thinks it might work, but right now, not so much.

"You can look at that schedule and see where it’s a little bit different," he says. "You get rid of the four-in-fives, but you have a lot of three-in-threes. You end up having to get on planes a little bit more actually because you can’t go up and bang out four teams up in the Chicago-area like maybe we did in the past. Maybe it’s a little more rest and practice – there’s going to be pros-and-cons to it, but we’ll just see how it plays out at the end.

"Houston always seems to start out with a lot of games early, and we’ve gone three-in-three, three-in-three, and that’s fine, so right now I can’t really tell you that there’s all that much difference."

That's it. Happy Thanksgiving everybody, and I hope to see you all the game versus the Texas Stars tomorrow night.

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