After a weekend spent at the Xcel Energy Center, the Aeros held their first workouts at SLICE today. It's going to be a bit of a different looking team for Aeros fans. Several fan favorites are gone -- Jon DiSalvator, Jed Ortmeyer, Warren Peters -- and there are a bunch of exciting looking youngsters just waiting to play their first games in Aeros colors.
And while the talent on the team looks incredible, it might not pay to get attached to some of these guys since they'll be playing in St. Paul as soon as the NHL owners
fire Gary Bettman and bring in a
non-idiot commissioner and players come together on a new labor deal
and the lockout is lifted.
As for now, John Torchetti likes his team: "I like our mix. I think it’s going to be a good mix here."
Torchetti should have some fun with this roster, and he's promising that the fans are going to like what they see once the young guys have become adjusted to the speed of the game at this level and have gotten used to the team's system. And he's also promising that he's going to let players like Mikael Grunland have a little fun out on the ice.
"He sees the ice incredibly well. He’s very poised," Torchetti said about Granlund. "One thing I think you’ll notice about our team, we’ll be more of a puck possession team. He’s going to hold onto it. And once everybody understands the system, and it slows down, we’re going to be more puck possession. We’ll be more poised with the puck. We’re not going to force plays."
Drew Bagnall says the team is incredibly deep, talent-wise. But that means there are a bunch of guys who would normally be seeing lots of playing time who aren't going to be seeing playing time, at least at this level, but if everybody buys in, then watch out because this team is going to be something special.
"We’re going to have just an abundance of skill here," he said today. "We have guys that without a doubt should be on the majority of NHL clubs in the league playing for us here in Houston. Obviously it’s great for us as a team, but it also creates a situation where you have guys that are American league players, have been in the past, or should be right now, if there was an NHL, that won’t be able to be in the lineup each and every night. So the problem then starts to lie in coming together as a team, and not putting yourself ahead of it. You have to understand you might not get to play in every situation. You might not be on the power play, but you’re still part of the team, and you do whatever you can to play as a team."
It looks as if Bagnall will be taking on the old-man daddy role on the team this season, that role held on this team in years past by DiSalvatore and Ortmeyer. It's a role he's held before, he said, and he also believes that some of the others having moved on is good for some of the younger guys because their progression into leadership roles has been blocked.
"That’s kind of the situation we’re in this year," he said. "I’ve been in leadership roles in this organization and in the past when I was with Manchester. There’s no secret that we’re young, but we also have guys who have kind of not had to step into those roles because of the age that we had. We had Warren Peters and [Jed] Ortmeyer and Jon DiSalvatore, Jeff Taffe. Those guys are in place to try to build those leadership qualities in the younger guys. And they’ve had that time to kind of soak it up from those guys, and now it’s time to use it. They’ll step and come to the forefront. We’ve had guys who have played four seasons in this league, and I think they’re ready for this opportunity."
And Torchetti agrees, saying that he expects guys like Chad Rau, Carson McMillan, and Jarod Palmer to move into the team leadership roles.
But the Aeros aren't the only team that is going to benefit from the lockout. There are lots of teams in the AHL with an influx of NHL talent on their rosters, like the Oklahoma City Barons.
"It’s probably going to the best hockey in a lot of years ever in the American league," Torchetti said. "I’m on my 29th year coaching, and this is the strongest I’ve seen this league. It’s going to be a lot of fun hockey, especially for the fans to come out and see what a group that we have."
So there you have it, from the first day at SLICE.