It’s Hockey Season Once Again…

First off, I’d like to welcome back the great sport of ice hockey into my life and subsequently, all of yours…

Second, I’d like to apologize for not really blogging much (or at all) after the Aeros’ season came to a screeching halt in June with three straight playoff defeats in the Calder Cup Finals.  It was somewhat painful for all of you, as fans, and obviously for a staff member like myself.  It was a great season – but I think we can all agree that it didn’t end the way we expected it to.  I’m still shocked that the Aeros didn’t win another game in the Binghamton series after claiming Game Three on the road, 2-1.  I’m still shocked that a 2-1 third period lead in Game Six on home ice turned into a one-goal deficit and eventually meant that Ryan Keller got to hoist the Calder Cup over his head on Toyota Center ice.  I’m still shocked….well, you get the picture.  But what’s done is done and it’s time to turn the page to this season.

As of today, we are just 23 days from the season / home opener and just over a week away from the start of the Aeros training camp in Sugar Land.  Seems crazy, I know.

I’m lucky enough to be in Minnesota as we speak – the Wild started their camp today (as did most NHL teams) and I’m looking forward to ramping things up hockey-wise.  Now, I can’t promise a ton of content right off the hop since I’m still laboring away in the corporate sales world for the Aeros, but I’m going to do my best to keep you posted via this blog and on Twitter at @aero_joe.

With all that said, here are some observations from Day One of Wild camp:

  • Guillaume Latendresse was the first skater on the ice this morning – about 10 minutes earlier than he was supposed to be out there.  I was told by Wild mgmt. last night that he’s in much better shape (aka he lost weight) and I’m not sure if he was trying to send a “message” or not by jumping on early, but it certainly caught my attention.
  • Justin Falk looks like he grew this summer…I know that’s not really possible at age 22, but he looked giant on the ice this morning.
  • Cody Almond appears in great shape – Wild brass member Brad Bombardir told me that Almond lost some weight this summer and that he worked extremely hard, hoping to make the Wild out of camp.
  • The former Aeros that are on the ice don’t really look out of place when skating with the “big boys”.  That’s not breaking news by any means, just more a conscious recognition by me from watching the scrimmage today that a guy like Jarod Palmer or Jed Ortmeyer when put on the ice with everyday NHL players won’t look lost or over-matched.
  • The Wild’s top line of Koivu, Heatley and Setoguchi is going to light it up.  They look comfortable with each other and extremely dynamic.  They will have success this season – I’m sure of it.
  • Defenseman Chay Genoway, a rookie from UND, is going to have a big role with the Aeros this season.  GM Jim Mill told me yesterday that he expects Genoway to fill some of the void left by former Aeros’ blue-liner, Max Noreau.  Last season with the Fighting Sioux, Genoway notched 37 points in 36 games…great numbers for a college D-Man.
  • Drew Bagnall is about a “month ahead of schedule” in his current rehab from off-season surgery.  He is permitted to skate with the team during practices, but can’t do any “hitting or fighting” as he put it.  I of course then asked him what good was he…?  I felt a lot safer knowing the docs told him not to fight…

Here’s my look at the Aeros potential opening night roster – keep in mind that this is just my opinion and could change a lot or a little before October 9.

Left Wingers: Kris Foucault, David McIntyre, Matt Kassian

Centers: Chad Rau, Cody Almond, Jeff Taffe, Warren Peters, Carson McMillan

Right Wingers: Jon DiSalvatore, Jed Ortmeyer, Jarod Palmer, Casey Wellman (can play center too obviously)

Defensemen: Drew Bagnall, Jeff Penner, Nate Prosser, Marco Scandella, Tyler Cuma, Kris Fredheim, Chay Genoway, Kyle Medvec

Goaltenders: Matt Hackett, Darcy Kuemper

Some thoughts now…regarding the left wingers – huge holes to fill there with Colton Gillies making the Wild this season in my opinion and guys like Robbie Earl and Patrick O’Sullivan leaving the organization this off-season.  This is the one spot that at least on paper (or more specifically, looking at the Wild’s training camp roster) the Aeros may be thin.

Defensively, the Aeros should be stout.  We already know what Hackett and Kuemper can do between the pipes.  Sure, the two projected goalies are just 42-years-old COMBINED, but they’ve got a ton of upside and talent and that should help the Aeros win a ton of games this season.   On the blue line, I left Justin Falk out of the Aeros’ plans, but I could have easily jotted him down and left someone like Prosser or Scandella off this projected list.  I think the Wild will keep a combination of Jared Spurgeon, Falk, Prosser and Scandella up at all times, much like last season.  On an aside, the signing of Jordan Hendry (former Ice Hog and Blackhawk) to a tryout is something to watch closely.  Hendry suffered a season-ending knee injury last season and now he basically has to fight his way onto an NHL roster.  He could be a guy the Aeros see for a bit as well.  In addition, Clayton Stoner is on a two-way deal this year (if I’m not mistaken).  If he falls out of favor with Mike Yeo and company, I guess he could potentially return to the Aeros if he cleared waivers…probably a longer than long shot at this point however.

The Aeros look like they will have a ton of depth at the center ice position as well, with veterans like Taffe and Peters leading the charge.   That bodes well given how the game of hockey has evolved since the lockout.  You better be fast and quick overall and deep at center ice.  Chuck in some puck-moving defenseman and some team grit and you’ll compete every year…

There’s another scrimmage tomorrow at 10 am and you can view the live web stream on via  Today’s scrimmage ended in a 0-0 tie, but it wasn’t for a lack of shots or scoring chances.

Look for another blog tomorrow and some audio interviews as the weekend moves along.

– Aero Joe





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