Long time, no blogging people…
A lot to get to – so I may be all over the map here…bear with me.
First off, I’ll have much more on the trade of goaltender Anton Khudobin to the Bruins’ organization as the weekend unfolds, including audio from Aeros’ GM Jim Mill, head coach Mike Yeo and more.
But here’s my initial reaction – I like the deal. Look, Khudobin was as good as any AHL goaltender at times, and inconsistent / shaky at others. After all, that’s the nature of goaltending. As my one avid-hockey-fan buddy says, “there’s not a whole lot separating the top 100 goaltenders in the world.” The immediate question that comes to mind is whether or not the Aeros’ chances at a lengthy playoff run are hampered by the Khudobin trade. And that my friends, remains to be seen. Obviously this is a great opportunity for rookie netminder Matt Hackett as well as veteran goaltender Josh Tordjman who has been brought up from ECHL Bakersfield and looked great in his minimal work with the Aeros this season (2-0-0 with a 1.54 GAA in 3 appearances).
Tordjman’s lone playoff experience in the AHL was in 2008, when he backstopped the Rampage in six games of a first round postseason series against the Toronto Marlies. Tordjman went 3-3 with a 1.85 GAA and the Rampage eventually lost in a decisive seventh game (Tordjman didn’t play in Game 7 and I’m doing some digging to figure out why).
As for Hackett, he and his Plymouth Whalers bowed out in the 2nd round of the OHL playoffs in 2009 to the eventual Memorial Cup Champion, Windsor Spitfires. Last season, the Whalers were again bested by the Spitfires in round 2 as they eventually won their second straight Memorial Cup Championship. But as we all know, the pro game is a totally different beast.
So, back to my reasoning for “liking the deal”. Khudobin was clearly not in the Wild’s plans to be the backup to superstar goaltender Niklas Backstrom this season or next, plus he’s a free agent at the end of the season and told me the other day in an interview that he expects to get contract offers from Russia. But, at the end of the day, Khudobin said he wants to stay in North America and play in the NHL. Whether that’s realistic or not remains to be seen. So if he’s not part of the organization’s long-term plans then why not try to acquire something for him before he potentially “walks” in July.
Thus, you get a defenseman in Jeff Penner who can help the Aeros now and possibly help the Wild down the line, in addition to a highly skilled European forward who may take a flyer to come back to the States and give it one more shot at an NHL camp this September (see Petr Kalus, Nik Zherdev – at the NHL level – and countless others that have gone overseas only to come back).
On an aside, for those of you that think this deal was made because Drew Bagnall is hurt, you are mistaken (in my opinion). I spoke with “Bags” after the game the other night and he’s doing OK – he’ll most likely miss a week.
Again, Khudobin’s inconsistency was maddening at times, and if that’s the way I felt, you had to know it bothered some people up north as well. The ball is now in Hackett’s court and at the least, Tordjman is a solid insurance plan. And if you don’t think that rookie goaltenders can win a championship, you just have to look to the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup run from last year with unproven Antti Niemi between the pipes. This isn’t 1994 anymore where you need Patrick Roy or Marty Brodeur in net. If your guy gets hot, you can win it all as long as the supporting cast is SOLID. And over the last two months, the Aeros have proven they are a deep, consistent group that has many strengths – mainly their ability to limit their opponents quality scoring chances.
Much more to come as the week moves along…
– Aero Joe