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

Friday, January 4, 2013

Special teams a killer in 2-1 loss to Texas Friday night

The Aeros kicked off their three-in-three weekend with a 2-1 loss against the Texas Stars on Friday night at Toyota Center.

Chay Genoway had the Aeros only goal in the game, and Matt Hackett made enough stops to give the Aeros a chance to win a big division game. But, in the end, the old cliche about the other team wanting it more played out, and the Stars head back to Cedar Park with two points.

The power play scored a goal, but the Aeros drew two penalties in the third with a chance to draw even. No dice. Texas milked the clock, and the Aeros couldn't draw even with Hackett on (and then off) and then back on the bench.

"We didn't have a lot of energy, and I don't think we competed enough," said Aeros head coach John Torchetti. "We took a bad penalty, and it cost us the game. We have got to do a better job on the penalty kill. We've got to hold ourselves more accountable and we have to play better.

"Some guys are going to have to step up and take some pride in that job."
The Aeros were THIS close to tying the game late in the second period.
Photo by Morris Molina, Houston Aeros

Torchetti didn't name names, but there was clearly a lack of urgency in clearing the zone on the game winning goal. The unit seemed satisfied with the missed shot on the previous play. Texas wanted a goal there, and they got an easy one by Alex Chiasson for the winner. That marker was the eighth power play goal the Aeros have coughed up in the last nine games.

"It's really simple stuff," added Torchetti. "We have got to take pride in that job, and we are not taking pride in that job. It starts with me; I have to be harder on them and take some guys off (the PK)."

The first period was typical Aeros. Get a few good looks in the first three minutes and then get completely outplayed until the end of the period. The Jordie Benn goal found its way through traffic, and Hackett was screened. But the third-year goalie made three really good saves late in the first period to keep it a one-goal game.

Hackett did the same thing Tuesday against OKC, and that was good enough to rally the troops for the second period en route to a 4-2 win over the Barons.

"We have to come out and work harder," added Torchetti. "I thought we came out and had a really good practice yesterday, and then tonight we didn't even have the speed that we had in yesterday's practice. I think we thought we were just going to put our sticks out there and get two points."

"(The Stars) have not been winning the last few games, and they were hungrier for pucks, and they were getting points shots right off the bat. Our defensive zone faceoffs were maybe at 25 percent, and that is why they were getting better puck possession in the first period."

Chay Genoway scored a pretty power play goal to tie the game early in the second period. He hit the post and the crossbar before the puck beat Nilstorp. But, the Aeros did not show much life until late, late, late in the period when they had another power play chance.

The Aeros have to find a way to start better, and they have to find a way to get better on the PK.  Right now there are still a lot of injuries and - even though I hate to make excuses - that has to play into it a little bit. I really do think with everyone back, this Aeros team could be really, really good even without Granlund and Scandella.

Part of starting well, and part of killing penalties is having good chemistry both at practice and during the games. I just don't think the whole team has been healthy enough to really form a good bond. We'll see, and hopefully things will settle down when players start to get healthy and the NHL labor situation resolves itself one way or the other.

I know there are a few of you who blame Torchetti for the lack of energy to start the games. And that may be true, but don't think he isn't aware of this pattern. He shouldered much of the blame for Friday's game. He's moving guys around, trying to find the best fit, but until that happens, there are going to be a few more games like this

"We didn't come out a play a good, sound hockey game," added Torchetti. "And I will take the blame for that one. I have to find a way to get us better prepared for tomorrow."


Forecheck said...

1. Was there another New Year's Eve team party Thursday night?

2. Copy the comments made by various people about Cuma last game and change the name to Fredheim. Both goals, if I remember correctly.

3. I know Torch sees the pattern, but why can't Torch get it through these guys' heads that when the puck drops at 7PM they have to be at 100%, not 70%? Is it the message or the players?

4. What's disturbing to me is at the mid-season mark, I am seeing a rather passionless team on the ice. They seem to be trying to win (if they are indeed honestly trying)on talent alone. Well, the Herb Brooks character in Miracle had the statement addressing that.

As we saw two seasons ago, Yeo's system needs players called "honey badgers" to make it work at the highest level. I don't see any honey badgers out there this season (some nights, Palmeri and Zucker seem to be approaching the concept, and in terms of skating, Larsson). In fact, this team is rather soft physically compared to many of the other teams they play.

Maybe it's the kind of guys we have this year, or maybe Torch doesn't have the credibilty that (honey badger himelf) Yeosy had to get it out of them.

What I saw tonight was a team not ready to go in the first, no real desperation at the end, and usually ho-humming it during the middle. Passionless!

artandhockey said...

A good night and bad night.
This seems to be the 'system'.
I don't even mind a bad (loss in OT or SO)game for the Aeros as long as they play a game that IS worth watching, maybe even nailbitingly exciting! Evgen if it ends in a (for fans) let down loss. But what they produced last night was boring with the occasional sputter of brlliance, such as really good play by Courure - once - and totally unexpecetd.
Vast amounts of energy expanded by a very few did notmuch. Hackett was reacting well to the barrage by the Stars, but it was not enough! May the next 2 games be better for watching by fans, here or there.

ICEVET said...

Any serious Aeros fan would give last night's affair a BORING MINUS grade.

That said, it might, at the moment, be more interesting to consider What Team might take the ice during the 2013-14 season at Toyota Center (assuming Mr. Alexander denies Aeros access and elects to purchase his own team, as other sport juggernauts (for example the SPURS / SEI in San Antonio) have done through the years to expand net revenues over a fixed cost base).

Fans will recall the 2010 purchase by Michael Kahn (owner of an old Charlotte-based ECHL franchise) of the Albany River Rats (NY) and franchise relocation to Charlotte (now the Checkers), after Peter Karmanos (Carolina Canes owner) informed the Rats owner that the Canes would not renew their NHL affiliation. The Rats long-time owner, after years of big losses, quickly sold to Kahn, who concurrently relocated his ECHL franchise to Greenville, SC, where it is today.....as a footnote, the Lowell Devils were, thereafter, relocated to Albany with the blessing of the AHL. Meanwhile, the Checkers have substantially enlarged the hockey footprint in the Triangle Region and boosted profits for Kahn and Karmanos.

Without going into details and looking past the current CBA debacle, this was a Win-Win for both Kahn and Karmanos AND the city of Albany (now affiliated with the nearby 2012 Stanley Cup finalists, NJ Devils).

To be sure, Mr. Alexander's talented staff has done its homework on a short list of potential AHL franchise sellers and the attendant economics. The recent TC Scoreboard addition and Rockets high-cost player additions would indicate that Mr. Alexander wants to boost his Enterprise (EV) Value and Ebitda.

Although some would dismiss the relevance of this or suggest that Mr. Alexander might, alternatively, be preparing to "sell" the Rockets Group, my POINT is that HOUSTON will likely, not be without a hockey team, next season....the relevant question is which team will take the ice.

All the best to the Aeros!!

Forecheck said...

The recent TC Scoreboard addition and Rockets high-cost player additions would indicate that Mr. Alexander wants to boost his Enterprise (EV) Value and Ebitda

I would argue Alexander'$ $pending $pree could leave little else to spend.

Adding an AHL team adds little to EV and given that AHL teams usually lose money, detracts from EBITDA.

ICEVET said...

@ Forecheck:

To be sure, Mr. Alexander (a sharp operator and trader) has been quite successful since his 1990's purchase of the Rockets, as the value of his NBA franchise has appreciated along with the rising revenue stream of the League and China effect. Effective operating control of Toyota Center has certainly been an ADD. By reference to the nearby SPURS, recently valued at ~ $500 Million, most would say that Mr. A is probably doing well.

Further, one cannot generalize about (non-NHL) AHL owners.....it is possible that a good operator, with a low entry point and quality venue, can make good money, whether measured independently or in contribution to a larger core sports organization.

For example, Peter Holt (owner of the Nation's largest Caterpillar Tractor dealership and SSI) has benefited well by combining the Rampage and other sports units with his SPURS, under the community umbrella of the ATT Center (opened in 2002) where he drives multiple net revenue streams across the fixed costs of a large central Texas venue. Few would deny that Mr. Holt has made the "hockey economics" work for SSI following acquisition of the Rampage from the Florida Panthers (current affiliate).

Finally, as we all know, in any M&A transaction, the Buyer must start with his own
Resource/Asset base to measure synergies, accretive cash flow contributions and long-term value...the economics are always specific to each Buyer's particular situation.

Forecheck said...

While I certainly assume Le$ is evaluating all his options, I would be surprised if he was able to land an AHL team. The trend is towards ownership by the parent club (who want control). I'm not aware of AHL teams for sale, or with a lease ending apart from the Aeros (a good investigative blogger would, ahem, be checking this out). The independently owned teams like Chicago aren't moving anywhere soon. Of course, Le$ will check every nook and cranny to try to find something.

Le$ would dearly love an NHL team, but the economics of an NHL franchise in Houston probably wouldn't fly (lack of not only public but corporate support).

I think if Le$ chases off the Aeros, it would be for an ECHL team which would minimize costs but retain a good chunk of the fan base.

However, Le$ needs to keep in mind that a chunk of the hockey fans in Houston already have a good bit of animosity towards him (what, moi?) and if he chases off a beloved team, the fans might chose not support the new team (moi?). It's happened before in minor hockey.