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From: Ryan Stanzel
Director of Communications
Thursday, July 20, 2006
713.361.7930 (Direct Line)
Q&A session with Aeros general manager Tom Lynn
I really enjoyed watching Ryan Stokes this past season. I thought he made some good passes, he was tough, and was a smart stay at home defenseman. I would like to know what your plans are for him in the Aeros system? I think he's made promising developments in his game since his days playing junior for the IceDogs and hope to further see him progress his game. Are you planning on re-signing him?
Bubba from St. Paul, Minn. TL:
Ryan is under contract for this coming season, and will be back in Houston to try to toughen a defense that should be high on skill with Curtis Murphy, rookie Paul Albers and potentially Peter Ratchuk on the blueline. Ryans ability to play a solid defensive role and do so with a physical edge will determine how much and where he fits in as the season progresses. Q:
I work at the Downtown Courtyard by Marriott, so I have a tendency to hear things that may or may not be true about what will be going on with the AHL/NHL. My question is, are the rumors that have been going around true that Houston is trying to get a NHL franchise?
Steve from Houston TL:
I recall a Houston Chronicle article from last season in which Les Alexander publicly stated that he would welcome an NHL team to Toyota Center under the right circumstances, so it is probably more of a fact than a rumor. The key is the right circumstances it has to work for both the Toyota Center and the prospective team. No team I know of is actively looking to move right now, so the issue is probably not imminent. Q:
Why was the Aeros Rookie of the Year, Patrick O'Sullivan, traded away?
Rose from Porter TL:
First of all, to put your mind at ease, there was virtually no chance Patrick would have seen the wonderful fans of the Houston Aeros this year. He had nothing left to prove at the American League Level. He was essentially traded from the Wild roster to the Kings. It may have been the most difficult decision management here ever had to make, especially after the time and effort the staff made here over three years to help develop Patrick from a long-shot offensive player with a lot of doubters to the best first year player in the AHL. I wish him the best of luck. As for the Wild, with Roman Voloshenko and Benoit Pouliot rising through the ranks (among others), we knew we had more high-end offensive prospects than most teams and that this was the currency we were going to have to spend to give the Wild what it needed to complete its offense with a proven, top-notch NHL center. Our analysis revealed the answer would not be attainable in free agency, so we had to act via trade. Of course, the bonus is that Pavol Demitra, the center we acquired for Patrick and a first round pick, had tremendous success (and a 93 point season under the old rules) playing for a coach in St. Louis that approaches the game in a very similar fashion to Jacques Lemaire. Thus, we knew he would not only provide offense but fit in easily and well. Q:
Dear Tom. I was wondering what happened to Chris Heid; being a B.C. lad I am interested to know where he has gone. Was he traded?
Steve from Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada TL:
Chris struggled with injuries during most of his three years with the organization and spent most of last year with our ECHL affiliate. He is currently a free agent and looking for a team with which to re-establish himself. Q:
Rickard Wallin was my favorite player. Can you tell me whether he is still with the Wild and if not where he will play next year? Thanks.
Patrick (9 years old) TL:
Rickard made a deal with the Wild at the start of last season that if he were not going to play in the NHL, he would be re-assigned to his home team in Sweden. He is a top player in his home country, but his game had just not adapted to the smaller ice surface and more physical play of the NHL. The money he could earn in Sweden could not compete with that of an AHL player, so the alternative when he did not make the Wild was to go home. He is now a free agent and could return to North America with another organization. Q:
Why didn't Kirby Law get called up to the Wild last season?
There are two straightforward reasons, independent of each other but equally important. The first is that although Kirby was having the best AHL season of his career, his ability to score at the NHL level would have been severely hampered. He is not particularly fast, or strong, by NHL standards, so he would have had to have been willing to play a different game grittier and hard-edged, to succeed there. As you saw when Erik Westrum got called up, a guy who can collect many points at the AHL level will not translate into NHL success if he is an average skater and does not have a huge body or unusual strength or skill (a la Pierre-Marc Bouchard). If you look over the top scorers from the AHL for the last five years, you will see many AHL players who have continual success at this level but very little at the next. It is why scouting and management is a tricky business. The second reason is that he had a contract that paid him extra money at the AHL level, but required re-entry waivers of a special kind that would have required the Wild to pay another NHL team half of Kirbys salary for the year if he were claimed on a call-up. Kirby had an opportunity to re-do his contract to eliminate that problem, but elected not to do so. Q:
What are the chances of the Wild possibly playing a "tune up" game or two in Houston or even a couple of inter-squad games before the regular season starts? It would be nice to see some of the players we have never seen before and even better to watch some of the players we have watched as season ticket holders here in Houston over the last several seasons!
Thanks, Troy and Sandy TL:
We have discussed the possibility many times here, and with the Toyota Center, and it has just not worked out logistically for the building and the team the last two seasons. The Dallas Stars are interested in playing us in a Toyota Center game but it did not work for the coming September, we just have to keep trying. It would be good for both the Aeros and the Wild to play a game in Houston, although for logistical purposes cuts would have to made right after the game, so there would be no post-game autograph session. Q:
Tom My kids love the Aeros, we've noticed the players no longer, even occasionally, give sticks or pucks away as they exit the ice...can you tell me why not?
We cant give sticks away under new League deal with CCM/Reebok they are bar-coded and have to be checked back in after breakage or too much wear (that is why you see refs bringing broken sticks back to the benches now, rather than the penalty box). The pucks the guys can still toss, a few still do, it is very particular to the player. Brent Burns and Curtis Murphy are two players I have seen do it the most. Q:
Tom: I would be very interested in knowing from your perspective as a former player and now manager as to the specific traits and qualities you are looking for in signing a player? What qualities are most important? It's pretty obvious it's not just about skills. I'd like you know your take.
Best Regards, John from Houston TL:
Two things immediately come to mind here. The first is that the role we are trying to fill is the most important basis for the qualities we seek for examining a player in mind. In other words, a scoring winger role will have different needs than a defensive defenseman or a versatile center, and so on. The second is that when we sign a player, especially for the Aeros roster, the decision is based on the input of a number of people, including the Wilds pro scouting personnel (four people), my co-Assistant GM Tom Thompson, and occasionally consultation with the coaching staff on their needs and views. Matt Shaw is the biggest collector/analyst of information on this front, and now has the most input into the acquisition of Aeros players. When we look at a player, we will often talk to his college or junior coach, people from organizations he has played for, and people in hockey who would have known the player or his family growing up (in the instance a player is from Buffalo, like Peter Ratchuk, I will talk about him with people I know). We examine scouting reports and statistics, and then just try to make the best decision possible. Q:
Word is that the Edmonton Oilers are cutting ties with Rem Murray. If, for some reason, Rem can't secure another NHL contract, is there a chance he'd return to Houston?
Will from Houston TL:
We loved having Rem, his love for the game, and what he did for us. Our situation is not quite the same this year, so I am not sure it would work out. It would be difficult to have him become an essential part of the team and then lose him again at the most important time of year. But, he will try to get an NHL contract right up until training camp, so circumstances may change. Q:
Mr. Lynn. I am a fan of the Houston Aeros, although I'm from Indiana (that said, it's noted that the Aeros have gone to Indiana a few times, taking on the Indianapolis Ice [which now are in the Tier-1 USHL] and the Fort Wayne Komets [now in the UHL]). My question is about what happened last season. After sweeping Peoria, you were swept by Milwaukee. I'm just wondering about what you'd consider doing the next time your team reaches the Calder Cup playoffs (hopefully, next year) to avoid such a problem like that.
John from IndianaTL:
Good question, John. Obviously, we had some of the same questions as the Milwaukee series unfolded. There are a number of factors we identified, and which one was most important or more important than the others we could not agree upon. But we did agree that our two top veteran forwards did not have a good playoff. Vets can be great in the American League, but when they are not playing well, it has a double-negative effect on the team you lose their play, and the younger players around them are confused or cast adrift. In Erik Westrums case, he wanted to win but had never been in the role he was now cast in as one of the top offensive players in the League after four pro years as a two-way grinder. He was just not ready for it under playoff pressure. Kirby Law has had a great career in the regular season, but if you check his statistics, his playoffs have generally been disappointing. He also may have known he would be leaving the team for Europe after the season. Hence, the leadership up front fell to the younger players, who were not quite ready for it.
On the back-end, Curtis Murphy fought valiantly, but our younger defense corps, combined with the injury to Clayton Stoner, left us vulnerable to the super-aggressive, physical forecheck of the Admirals and put Josh Harding on the firing line. For Milwaukees part, sending down six players from the NHL team for the series (and their coach, Barry Trotz) and telling those players whether they played in the NHL next year depended on how they played in the series certainly gave the Ads a lot of fire. Milwaukee played the best I have ever seen them play in our series, inclusive of their Championship run two seasons before.
How do we re-load to better position ourselves for next years playoffs? If we can, get veterans this year who are more geared towards playoff hockey than regular season success. We have a huge amount of offensive talent in the young guys the vet forwards will more likely be character guys. Q:
Is Ken Double coming back to announce? He has some really good CD's out, as he is one of the foremost Wurlitzer organ performers/restorers. What position has Tom Garrity taken with the Wild? Thanks!!
Bob and the Aeros' fans in San Antonio TL:
The Deuce is excited to come back and make things sound exciting for Aeros games. Although his organ career is fantastic, it has two problems Americans appreciate soccer more than good organ music, unfortunately. And, its not hockey. Mr. Garrity is still the President and supreme executive of the Houston Aeros, and (the same as last season) he is in charge of the business operations of the Minnesota Swarm National Lacrosse League team. His new title as Vice President of Minor League Properties for MSE simply reflects his work. Q:
With all the trades and acquisitions for the Wild this year how many spots (excluding netminder) do you see available for Aeros players or young guys to make the Wild this year?
Fred from Cypress TL:
No doubt it will be tougher for younger players to stick on the Wild roster, much more so than three seasons ago when players like Brent Burns and Pierre-Marc Bouchard were able to stay on the roster part-time. We have always said that as our organization matured and the NHL team had more success (and expectations), players would spend more time in the AHL developing until they were ready to make an impact at the NHL level. This is the reason you saw so much of Patrick OSullivan and Roman Voloshenko last year, despite their success. This is great news for Aeros fans, who will get to see more of the top prospects in hockey (the Wild being ranked #2 by www.hockeysfuture.com
and #3 by the Hockey News among all teams prospects). With the young players you already know, and the addition of the two top free agents in junior hockey (look up Paul Albers and Ryan Hamilton on CHL site), AND the Wilds tremendous draft this year, Aeros fans have some great seasons in front of them.