Aeros GM Tom Lynn took time to answer fans questions on AEROS.com. We are just past the midpoint of the season and Lynn answers questions ranging from waivers to the state of the team.
My question is related to the Aeros schedule this year. Did the Aeros have any input or can they object to the number of 3-in-3’s that were scheduled this year? The Aeros have 15 this year as opposed to San Antonio (who I would imagine have similar travel issues) only having 7. There was a stretch earlier in the season when they had 5 or 6 weekends in a row of 3-in-3’s. I don’t believe in excuses for not making the playoffs, but if the Aeros finish only a few points (or even 1 point) out of a playoff spot I believe you can go back and look at the schedule as a contributing factor. Do you anticipate with the Austin team joining the AHL next year that will make the schedule and travel easier?
Thank you for your work.
Scott, Sugar Land
Scott – There is probably not enough space on the internet to fully expound upon my passionate feelings on this point. It is like asking Al Gore what he thinks of global warming! I have led a crusade of sorts over the past seven years to reduce the schedule in the AHL and greatly reduce or eliminate 3-in-3’s and 4-in-5’s (which many coaches believe are more deadly). Although there is strong support in our league and among NHL general managers for this change, we have not been able to get to the threshold necessary to make the change. We will keep trying. In our opinion, there are a number of very positive outcomes to going to a 72-game schedule. The first is the product for our fans – playing 3-in-3’s and 4-in-5’s reduces the quality of the product they are seeing, which is our first order of business as a league. It should also reduce fatigue-related injuries, so the fans will see the best players more often. In addition, attendance numbers clearly show that fans greatly prefer Thursday through Sunday games rather than Monday through Wednesday. Eliminating four home games per year earlier in the week will give the players relief without taking from those games fans most want to see. Second to the quality of the product on the ice is the development of our young players. The AHL is a development league, and this is very important to the NHL parent clubs and the players themselves. The proposed schedule change would have the effects of (a) allowing more practice time for improvement; (b) reducing injuries so that these players are not missing important playing and practicing time; (c) allowing the players to compete better and focus on improving their own games, and (d) improving the travel situation so the players are not so tired and have a better quality of life. Playing in Houston on a Friday night, getting up at 5am to fly on a connection to arrive in Grand Rapids at 4pm for a 7pm game on Saturday night, then arising at 5am on Sunday to connect to San Antonio by 3pm to play in a 5pm Sunday game cannot be good for any hockey player. Here’s hoping an improvement to the schedule is in the near future. As far as making the schedule/travel an excuse for a lack of team success; we do not allow our players that luxury. You have to play the hand you are dealt. Our players also play in a beautiful city, top notch arena and have the best fans in the American Hockey League, so they have to take the bad with the good.
At the end of the 2007-8 season, there were concerns among many loyal fans that the Aeros franchise might be relocated to another city. As the 15th season winds down, can you put to rest any lingering concerns that the Aeros franchise may be relocated in the future?
This has been asked often in the last seven years, and this is the easiest it has been to answer. The Aeros have renewed their lease at Toyota Center and the practice facility in Sugar Land for the next four seasons. Although minor league hockey is rife with uncertainty, the Wild has been affiliated with (or owned) the Aeros since June of 2001, which by my unofficial tally (from memory only) means only six teams in our 29-team league have had a longer relationship with their NHL affiliate (since 5 other IHL teams joined the AHL in 2001).
Editors Note: The six teams who have had a longer relationship are:
1992 - Providence/Boston
1996 - Philadelphia/Philadelphia
1997 - Hartford/NYR
1999 - WBS/Pittsburgh
2000 - Syracuse/Columbus
Milwaukee/Nashville goes back to the IHL
How long are the Houston Aeros contractually linked with the Minnesota Wild? What happens when that contract expires? While I see NHL teams have AHL/ ECHL affiliates, do they also have CHL affiliates? (Personally I miss the Wildcatters-especially Anton Khudobin). Who determines which players get "PTO's" (Aeros or Wild) and where do most of those players come from? Is there a time limit as to how long the Personal Try Out lasts? Who determines who gets sent to the ECHL (Aeros or Wild)? After the season ends, does the team continue to practice together? Or does everyone go their own way until training camp starts? Do any of the Wild coaches ever come down here to see our team play?
I love hockey and am so proud to have the team here! Let's Go Aeros!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thank you and have a great day,
Shelia -- The Wild wholly owns the Aeros so the teams are not subject to an affiliation agreement ending, as some other teams are.
After the Texas Wildcatters ceased ops last season, we decided not to have exclusive affiliates in the ECHL or CHL anymore, and instead place our players with the AA team that will best help their development. Sometimes a team that is a great place for a goalie is not so good for a tough guy, etc. As far as non-NHL contract roster decisions (Professional Try Outs, call-ups and send downs), those are primarily my responsibility but in truth most of the work is now done by Assistant Coach/Assistant GM Troy Ward, who does the legwork and makes the calls and throws proposed transactions to me for my input or veto. We also have our professional and amateur scouts suggest players to us throughout the year.
Players generally leave the city within a week of the team’s last game at the end of the season and go back home or to wherever they want to spend their summer (training, we hope). We give them detailed off-season training programs and check in with them during the summer. The Wild coaches are unable to see the Aeros (except during the lockout of 2004-2005) because they have either games or practice every day during the NHL season. They do occasionally review video of our games, but mostly rely on the Aeros coaching staff, myself, and our pro scouts for evaluation (in that order).
What was the thought process behind trading Ryan Hamilton for Robbie Earl?
Calling Ryan Hamilton and telling him he was traded now ranks as the toughest call I have had to make in my eight seasons in this job (and that includes calling Sebastien Bordeleau in the hospital and telling him he was traded while he was holding his newborn baby). Ryan was the consummate team guy and a warrior. In this vocation, though, one has to do the best thing for the organization and not just what one wants. The Aeros as a team lacked speed up front. It was hurting our forecheck, our energy, and our play. It was keeping other players who were doing their jobs (toughness, grit, set-up guys, shooters, goalies, etc.) from succeeding in their own roles because of this team deficiency. In order to get something good, we had to give up something good, and in this case Ryan Hamilton was the price Toronto wanted for one of the fastest players in the League. In the end, we felt it was a deal we had to make and a chance we had to take, even at that price. Making the team better as a sum of its parts was the goal.
I often see that a player is on waivers from the NHL or has cleared waivers or been taken on waivers. Sometimes these players then appear on AHL team roster, sometimes not. How can I understand what is going on here?
-Laura in St. Paul
A complex question, Laura. “Waivers” takes up 12 single-spaced pages of our Collective Bargaining Agreement. I will try the simplest effective answer. After players have reached a certain threshold of veteran status in terms of age or NHL games played, that status is respected so that they cannot be assigned to the minors without being offered to all other NHL teams first (so the player can stay in the NHL). If another NHL team claims the player, the first team has “waived” their rights to him. If the player goes unclaimed, he may then be assigned to the AHL. Two caveats—once a player clears waivers, his NHL team has 30 days or 10 NHL games to send the player to the AHL before he would need waivers again. In addition, a player claimed on waivers by another team would have to be put on waivers and fully clear before his new team could assign him to the AHL.
The AHL also has a limited waiver system. A player who plays in Europe after the start of the AHL season must be offered to all other AHL teams by his signing team (waived) before being allowed to play in the league. The Aeros signed Dan Corso last season and lost him to Hamilton in this way.
Finally, there are re-entry waivers (which is not part of Article 13 “waivers” in our CBA but falls under the salary cap provisions). To prevent the wealthiest teams in the NHL from signing extra good players beyond the 23 man roster limitation and “stashing” them in the minors until needed, this rule stipulates that players making more than $100,000 in the AHL this season who require regular waivers cannot be recalled to the NHL without being offered to all other NHL teams. To make it even more painful, the claiming team in this instance only has to pay 50% of the player’s salary for the rest of his contract – the original team retains responsibility for half! This is how the Wild acquired Todd Fedoruk last season, on re-entry waivers from Dallas.
Where do you see the Aeros in the second half and how much do you think they can accomplish this year?
-Troy in Stafford
Going into the season, we felt we had a balanced team that could challenge for the division—we added some accomplished scorers on top of our base of goaltending, defensive prowess and a core of physical, hard-working and tough-to-play-against style. After 50 games, we stand in 4th place with 52 points. While the division title (Milwaukee ahead by 14 points with 30 games remaining) is no longer as reachable a goal, the Aeros are only four points out of second, but also only 2 points out of sixth place. Similar to last season, every game and every point will count to the end. As far as the team’s play outside of its point totals, we feel the play of the younger players this year has been very strong, and the development quotient of the team this season is tops. Olvecky, Irmen, Kolanos, Clutterbuck, and Scott have all earned call-ups so far, while Mojzis and Pouliot both spent significant time with the Wild. In addition, young prospects Madsen, Kassian, Noreau and Falk have shown significant improvement in their game so far. The team is playing the way we want them to (7th overall in team defense), with a lot of hitting and hard work. The team’s somewhat pedestrian point total so far may be related in a large part to losing significant contributors for long periods such as Stoner, Kolanos, and Clutterbuck and not having Pouliot and Mojzis for most of the first half. Now that the team has (mostly) its full complement, the success level of the team may depend most on the play of the veterans in the stretch and playoffs. With the young guys playing hard (and well), these players are the ones who can step up and make a difference, in both play and leadership, in the important games through the end of the season.