So once again I’ve slacked big time in my blogging duties but this time I’ve got some solid excuses: I’ve been busy!
Things are heating up at the Aeros’ offices as we creep towards August, so I’ve been swamped on the sales path, trying to lock down some corporate partners for the upcoming season. On top of that I’m working some weekend shifts at Sports Radio 610, I’m playing on two men’s league hockey teams, I’m watching the Philadelphia Phillies as religiously as possible and now…………………..experiencing the birth of our first child, a baby boy, born just a few days ago.
Anyway, let’s talk some hockey. The Aeros have made some major signings / announcements over the last few weeks. Let’s start with the on-ice roster – here’s my take:
Warren Peters: Solid, two-way player with a ton of “jam”. He’s accumulated 141 points in his AHL career and he’s also played in 27 NHL games, all of which have come in the last two seasons. Big thing here is that he’s a veteran presence on what should be a fairly young team and he’s a center that kills penalties. He won’t light up the score sheet but he’s physical and gritty, and well, a defensive type center was sorely needed last year because Nathan Smith was really the only option in that department.
Drew Bagnall: Never seen him play, so I had to check with my colleague from Manchester, Ken Cail, the voice of the Monarchs. Here’s what he said about Bagnall who has spent the last three seasons there:
“I've been doing the Monarchs' games for nine years and Drew is as solid a citizen and as great a person as you'll ever find. He is a natural leader and a tough stay-at-home defenseman. Nothing flashy, just very solid on the blue line, a ferocious hitter and the first player who will come to the defense of a teammate. Your gain is certainly the loss of the Kings' organization. Drew is a class act and he will certainly be missed in Manchester.”
Overall I think it’s a solid signing by the Wild / Aeros as a big-hitting blue-liner will be a nice addition to help mentor young defensemen like Tyler Cuma, Marco Scandella, Nate Prosser and even to some extent, Justin Falk. For the record, there’s a solid chance that one of the aforementioned young D-men make the Wild out of camp, or that they each spend some time in the NHL on a “rotating” basis.
Jon DiSalvatore: Last season’s captain is back and if he doesn’t pot 20 or more goals this year, then shame on him! All joking aside, he’s buried at least 20 in each of his seven AHL seasons. Seemed like he was well liked by his teammates last year and he’s got to be excited to ink a two-year deal. If the Aeros are going to make the playoffs, another big season from DiSalvatore will be needed.
As for the coaching staff, I’m extremely excited. You’ve got 3 Stanley Cup rings on the bench, including two from the recently-retired Darryl Sydor. There’s no doubt that this coaching staff will get the Wild’s prospects ready for the NHL because they are so in-tune with today’s NHL. That’s not a knock on Kevin Constantine and his staff at all, because obviously they had NHL experience and they certainly worked tirelessly to help the players win at all costs. But Sydor just stepped away from a long NHL career and Mike Yeo was on an NHL bench the last five years. Plus, you’ve got Brian Wiseman who won a Turner Cup here in 1999, while posting 109 points during an incredible regular season. My guess is that he’ll work a lot with the forwards. The only curiosity on the surface about this newly assembled crew of bench bosses is that it’s going to be a somewhat new experience for all of them. Yeo will be a head coach for the first time in his career and Sydor / Wiseman are becoming pro coaches for the first time ever. Will they adjust quickly? I think yes, but it is an interesting angle heading into training camp in September.
Switching gears, I saw this article from a few weeks back and I found it pretty intriguing because the writer says the Aeros have “spent money” since joining the AHL, which has helped them win (2003) and regularly compete for the Calder Cup. I don’t know this to be true or untrue – honestly - but I just found it interesting. Click Here for the link.
Finally, I wanted to write about this sooner but never got around to it. We all know the NHL has made a big deal about “head shots” recently and they certainly should. They’ve also cracked down on the “Kurtis Foster play” – making contact with an opposing player near the boards when icing is about to be called – and again, I understand where the league is coming from. But I’ve heard nobody talk about the dangerous play made next to the net either prior to, or right after, the referee blows his whistle. I’m talking about the scenario where a defenseman (most times) shoves an opposing player into the frame of the goal, often dislodging the net because of the force of the hit. Visualize a scramble for a loose puck at the side of the net, where the goaltender is about to jump on the puck. Defensemen are trained to forget the puck and start dropping anything on skates wearing an opposing sweater. This often means ramming an opponent into the crossbar or crosschecking them onto the outside of the net. Intensely watching “my” Philadelphia Flyers run to the Stanley Cup Finals, I jotted down two occasions where this happened. Game 6 of the Flyers / Bruins series – Flyers’ forward Danny Briere got slammed into the net at the end of a play and late in regulation in Game 6 of the Finals, the Blackhawks’ Andrew Ladd threw Flyers’ defenseman Kimmo Timmonen into the net. Neither player was noticeably hurt by these instances and I’m not bringing this up because they involved Flyers’ players. I’m simply mentioning it because I see it as a dangerous situation and I’ve never heard any national media talk about it. It’s like the horse-collar tackle in football, a part of the game for a long time and then deemed dangerous enough to warrant a penalty. I’m not saying hockey should turn into Girl Scouts, but if you deliberately chuck your opponent into an unforgiving crossbar at the end of the play, that’s as bush league as taking a run at your opponent when the players’ bench door is open. Someone is going to get hurt if the NHL doesn’t recognize this…
- Aero Joe