Aeros Plan to Take Care of Unfinished Business
Four months ago the Houston Aeros stood on the Toyota Center ice stunned. Stunned that they'd lost to the Binghamton Senators. Stunned that the AHL Calder Cup, which has been in their grasp, was gone. Stunned that the Senators were celebrating on their ice. Stunned that their magnificent playoff run was over. Stunned that the season was over.
John Royal Aeros watch as Binghamton celebrates last season's Calder Cup win
Over and leaving them unfulfilled. Over and leaving them wanting more. Wanting it all. Wanting the Calder Cup to be theirs. To be passing it amongst themselves, raising it high over their heads while the home fans roared.
The Houston Aeros start a new season on Sunday afternoon at 5:05 p.m. at Toyota Center when they host the Chicago Wolves. And while the season is new, the focus, the purpose, is not. This season for the Aeros is about completing some unfinished business. It's about becoming the champions of the AHL. Setting right the wrongs that had so suddenly ended the 2010/2011 season on their home ice.
But this is the minor leagues, and that means things change, no matter how much people want them to stay the same. Head coach Mike Yeo and his staff are gone -- Yeo was promoted to head coach of the Aeros' parent club, the Minnesota Wild, and he took assistant coach Darryl Sydor with him while his other assistant, Brian Wiseman, became an assistant coach at the University of Michigan. Gone are scorers Patrick O'Sullivan (free agent who signed with the Phoenix Coyotes) and Robbie Earl (free agent going to Europe). Gone is longtime defenseman Max Noreau (traded to the New Jersey Devils). Gone is fan favorite Jean-Michel Daoust (another free agent going to Europe).
The new coach is John Torchetti, a veteran coach who has been a head coach in the CHL, IHL, AHL, and NHL. In are new assistants Mike Van Ryn, a recently retired NHL defenseman who previously played for Torchetti. Also in as an assistant is Sebastien LaPlante, another former player for Torchetti. In are centers, and high-scorers, Jeff Taffe and David McIntyre.
But don't despair. Returning are Jon DiSalvatore, Jed Ortmeyer, Warren Peters, Casey Wellman, Nate Prosser, Chad Rau, Carson McMillan, Matt Hackett, all key players in last year's title run. Being this is a minor league club, look for an infusion of youngsters getting their first taste of professional hockey. And being that this is a minor league club, be prepared for guys to move up and down between Houston and St. Paul during the season as injuries and ineffective play with the Wild come down to affect the Aeros.
Also returning will be the team's attacking offensive style that was brought in last year by Yeo, and which Torchetti will be employing so that the guys in Houston will be able to fit in with the Wild should that time arrive during the season. But style aside, Torchetti asks just one thing: don't judge the team by the way they start the season.
"I try and tell everyone don't judge the first 25 games," he says. "It's what's going to happen after that. It's like pulling a horse. You want him to go straight and he wants to run. But you want him to take right and then he can go straight."