First off, let me start by saying that the Aeros were outplayed, outworked and out-inspired (if that makes any sense) last night in Austin…now, that’s just my opinion and I don’t always see it correctly. Sometimes, you can get caught up looking at the shots on goal or the score and not really see what’s going on out there. Sometimes, a day later, you forget about a bounce, or a blocked shot, or a bad call that turned the game one way or another. However, I’m going to stand behind the following statement: The Stars wanted last night’s game more than the Aeros.
That’s two average-to-below-average games in a row for the Aeros (they found a way to pick up a shootout win on Sunday in San Antonio) who need to get back on track quickly as the desperate Oklahoma City Barons arrive in town for three straight games beginning on Friday.
Here’s one concerning trend – the Aeros haven’t scored a first period goal in their last seven games and they’ve allowed the first goal in eight of their last nine games.
Yes, this is coming from the same person that after Sunday posed the question on whether or not the Aeros were the best team in the Western Conference and then made a case for the “pro” end of that argument…
Anyway, the point of this blog post is to give some props to Aeros’ head coach Mike Yeo – who should receive serious consideration for AHL Coach Of The Year (The Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award). I understand that other AHL teams have had better seasons points-wise, and I know that some teams have had more call-ups and injuries than the Aeros. I really do put a lot of stock in that, in fact call-ups and injuries alone can wreck your season. But I consider Kevin Constantine to be a great head coach and he had essentially the same lineup a year ago and couldn’t get it to work despite telling me at one point that he had tried every trick/tool in his coaching repertoire. Are Carson McMillan, Cody Almond, Chad Rau, etc. better players then they were last season? Sure. Would Patrick O’Sullivan and Jed Ortmeyer been a welcomed addition halfway through last season? Of course. Is Matt Hackett better than Wade Dubielewicz? Yes. So maybe KC and his staff could have righted the ship this season after a disappointing 34-win campaign last year if they were given the opportunity.
However, a large reason why I think the Aeros are enjoying such a great season is because of this coaching STAFF. They have developed these players, both confidence-wise and hockey IQ-wise. They’ve given them a game plan and told them to accept nothing other than winning. There is a different atmosphere around the team this season (winning obviously helps that) and a lot of the credit has to go to this first year coaching staff. Almost everyone on the team is having a career season – Robbie Earl, Jon DiSalvatore, Colton Gillies, just to name a few.
And let’s not pretend like the Aeros haven’t had a dozen-plus call-ups, which again is kudos to the coaching staff for developing these players and getting them ready to join the Wild. Injuries too have hurt this club – Rau missed a chunk of time earlier in the season, Casey Wellman has been hurt (twice), Tyler Cuma is lost for the season, Drew Bagnall missed a week-plus, Matt Kassian has missed the last 3 weeks and so on…
Still through all of that, they have been one of the most consistent clubs in the West Division one of the best teams in the league since January 1. Talk to any of the players on this year’s team and they’ll talk of how the coaching staff kept this team together after their dismal six-game winless streak early in the season. Talk to any of the opposing coaches around the West Division and they go out of their way to praise the Aeros’ structured system and approach.
Lane Lambert in Milwaukee deserves some consideration for the award as well. Should the Lake Erie Monsters win the North Division, David Quinn should get some votes. Out in the Eastern Conference, who knows? The “Baby Pens” have had a record-breaking season, both Manchester and Hershey are having another great year…
Speaking of Hershey, I saw this today from their local beat writer. He shows Mike Yeo some love.
On an aside, if you’re looking for a decent comparison to the path that Mike Yeo may take to the NHL some day, well I happened to stumble upon Terry Murray’s hockeydb.com profile earlier in the week while having a discussion with a buddy of mine. Turns out there are some major similarities. Murray, a Shawville, Quebec native began his coaching career as an assistant in the NHL for five years (same as Yeo), before going to the Baltimore Skipjacks of the AHL to serve as their head coach for one and a half seasons. Then he was promoted to their parent club in Washington to replace Bryan Murray (his brother – crazy, I know) in the middle of the ’89-’90 season. Murray would go on to be a head coach in the NHL for essentially the next decade. After some other coaching stops, he’s now been behind the L.A. Kings’ bench for the last three seasons. Could Mike Yeo be next for a job in the NHL? Well, a lot of that will have to do with his success down here, but I’ve already talked to a few scouts this season who have said Yeo is on the radar of NHL brass. I’ve always found Mike Yeo’s path in coaching somewhat intriguing – I mean after all, he left the NHL to go down a level and become a head coach. It’s clearly not unprecedented, but it’s an interesting story, one that’s growing every day and may possibly have some more hardware linked to it at some point.
– Aero Joe