It's been over a month, and I don't think I've done a strictly hockey post yet, have I? (Playoffs starting next week, start expecting it)
The Aeros kick off their last week of the season tonight. They'll play four games between now and Sunday, when it's going to be all over for the boys in the Bomber sweaters. Not even close to the adrenaline-pumping playoff run from 2009. These boys were right in the thick of it until February, where just about all the wheels fell off the cart at the same time. For a while, it looked like we were inventing ways to lose.
Now, due to schedule and finances, I haven't been to see the Aeros since January, I think, so I haven't witnessed much of this first-hand, but I read up pretty well, and I'm at the point where I can sort of get the feel for a team from the box scores and recaps. We (Aeros faithful) said at the beginning of the year that we didn't have a whole lot of talent, and lack of talent pretty much did us in. And the goaltending was a bit quirky.
Well, you know. Quirkier than goaltending usually is.
Anyway. I like to look back from time to time at the NHL regulars who have "graduated" from the Aeros in the five seasons that I've been following the team. A lot of them are playing for the Wild, obviously, but a few have spread their wings in other places.
Former Aeros: Where are they now?
Josh Harding, Minnesota--Man, has this guy had it rough or what? A few years ago, he was the heir apparent to Manny Fernandez in goal for the Wild, then he got hurt in the preseason and Nicklas Backstrom took the ball and ran with it and, well, three years later, Harding is still a backup, only now to Backstrom. Every year, he's showed flashes of brilliant play, but he's not going to unseat Backstrom.
This year, he played a long stretch of games while injured because the man they call Backy (I don't know if anybody calls him Backy) was already out with an injury of his own. Playing hurt for so long, Harding kept the Wild in the playoff hunt and played until he was literally incapable of going any further. His last save before being helped off the ice was a jim-dandy, too.
Harding played a few more games later in the year--still hurt, and it really showed--before the hip forced him out for the rest of the season.
One thing I really like about this video: the guys trying to pronounce the name of Anton Khudobin (a guy we'll probably be seeing on this list NEXT season)
Cal Clutterbuck, Minnesota--Clutterbuck has scored some nice goals, he's got some speed, he's got some great stories, and is an official FOMW Fan Favorite. Has been since his days with the Aeros. And, for the most part, he's a very clean player. The guy hits everything in sight with clean, legal body checks. He's the guy you love if he's on your team and you HATE if he's not.
According to the poster, this took place on a game on December 30th, 2010. I'm going to assume they meant 2009, though, because otherwise this clip has no place on this year's list.
Clayton Stoner, Minnesota--This poor guy. He spent five years in Houston, finally gets the call to stay in Minny, and after eight games he gets an injury that takes him out for the rest of the year. The guy even flew to Germany for some revolutionary type of surgery that was supposed to fix it. Yeah, it didn't. He's going under the knife again this summer. No one in the organization has worked harder for longer than Stoner to get a shot in the NHL. Here's hopes to a full recovery and a full season with the Wild next year.
In our next clip, Stoner absolutely owns Edmonton's Ryan Stone.
Joel Ward, Nashville--Here's one the Wild shouldn't have let get away. Ward was our leading scorer in our least offensive year. He was a heart-and-soul type player, could hit, could score a little, could pass decently. He did everything well and nothing excellently, and he's developed into a nice 2nd-3rd line winger for the Preds.
Here's a goal he scored against the Wings.
Patrick O'Sullivan, Edmonton--This has been a rough year for Sully. He's scored about fifteen goals too few, and he's got a plus-minus of something like -32. Major ouch. Even on the Oilers, that's bad. Still, he was probably the most talented rookie the Aeros have had since I've been here, and was the only of our big-time scorers playing like he cared at the end of our four-game sweep by the Admirals back in '06, so there'll always be soft spot.
This is a pretty nice goal from early in the season. Powers by one defender and takes the hit as he scores the goal..
John Scott, Minnesota--You sensing a theme? The guys the Wild let go of = guys who can score. The ones they kept = guys who hit and/or fight. Those who followed my blog last year know how much I love Big John Scott (and I love the fact that every play-by-play guy who I've heard call one of his fights refers to him as Big John Scott). The guy's a great story of a man who worked his way past all the odds to live his dream.
He's also got a really small amount of actual talent, so I don't know that he'll be around the NHL for long. Nevertheless, more and more NHL tough guys are learning that you just don't tangle with Big John Scott if you can help it. I also love that he's the first guy to step in if you take a run on a teammates. The man definitely knows his place on the team.
Behold, Scott destroys Alex Bolduc:
Benoit Pouliot, Montreal--Keeping with the theme of "the guys the Wild let go can actually score," we come to Benoit Pouliot. Benny always had a ton of talent, but he just couldn't put it together in Minnesota OR Houston. The Wild finally traded him to Montreal for fellow underachiever Guillaume Latendresse. The move worked out for all parties involved. Pouliot has scored seventeen goals for the Habs, and Latendresse has done well in Minny, too. Isn't it nice when everything works out?
Robbie Earl, Minnesota--I don't know whether or not to count Robbie or not, since he's only been up when injuries have hit. However, that's amounted to almost half a season, and it looks like he's up for the rest of the year. Injuries have really been rough for the Wild this year. So I'ma post this video.
And it's not the best video, nor his prettiest goal, but it is against the Red Wings. And that's always worth watching again and again and again...