Here is Part 2 of the www.aeros.com Q&A session with Aeros General Manager Tom Lynn.
Q: (Fiona from Houston) What do you see as the biggest needs for the Minnesota Wild right now; at what positions does the team currently lack depth?
A: (Tom Lynn) I am guessing this applies to the NHL Entry Draft, as it is later this week. A smart NHL team won't pay too much attention to position when drafting, at least with the top few picks. This is because most goaltenders do not become bona fide number #1's until the age of 25 or 26, defensemen cannot reasonably be expected to contribute until the age of 22 or 23, and forwards at least 3 years after drafting. Hence, if you drafted specifically towards position rather than the best athlete available, by the time the drafted player is ready to play in then NHL, your team may have changed dramatically. That being said, an organization cannot expect to go five years without drafting any goaltenders and expect to have the requisite depth, or take 75% defensemen for 3 years. Plus, at draft time NHL teams are biased towards offensive prowess, because defense is easier to acquire at the professional level than scoring. But, for the most part, the Wild will take the "best player available" when our turn comes to pick. As far as the current NHL situation, after reviewing our team at year's end I don't think there are any secrets. Goaltending is strong, the defense is good defensively but could use some more playmaking, and we would like our forwards to score a few more goals.
Q: After your first year as a GM of your minor league affiliate team, Looking back is there anything that was done this past season that you would do differently knowing what you know now ?
A: (Tom Lynn) There are always things we would like to do differently or we are not seriously analyzing our own performance. This year's Aeros sqaud was probably most affected by the retirement of longtime NHL/AHL veteran Chris McAlpine in camp and the fact that the Wild did not assign as many veteran players to the Aeros as we initially expected. Had I anticipated these events, we probably would have acquired one or two of your typical AHL veterans to compliment the strong group of prospects we had this year. Too many vets would have prevented the younger players from receiving the ice time and responsibility to develop, so it is a tricky balance to strike every year. And 2 unexpected retirements in 2 years have made it even tougher. We probably also should have communicated better that this year was to be a developmental year for our players and organization, and our fans would realize they were watching their favorites like Kyle Wanvig, Steph Veilleux, and Rickard Wallin become NHL players. Last season will be one of our fans' fondest memories years from now as they watch some of those former Aeros lift the Stanley Cup.
Q: (Cheri from Houston) Tom, We noticed, in your recent letter to season ticket holders, the reference "also will be adding some accomplished players to the team" - please tell us more about what this means. We hope the Wild has recognized the need for experienced leadership on the team and the benefit it brings to the younger players still developing skills, attitude, discipline and concentration. Here's an example (from other than the 2002/03 Aeros team) - last week, on the television broadcast of game 7 between Hartford and Wilkes-Barre, it was interesting to hear the Hartford announcers discussing the importance Ken Gernander's veteran leadership and how the less experienced players learned from and by watching him.
A: (Lynn, Tom) Cheri the answer to the previous question probably answers most of yours, as well. The relative lack of veterans on this year's team was part by design (last year's team was too overloaded to be a developmental team) and part by circumstance (retirement and injuries at the Wild level prevented assignments). I can't be more specific at this time about which players we will look to acquire, because that would hamper my efforts to do so. In addition, the Dallas Stars will be placing players in Houston next year and we cannot have too many veterans (AHL limits us to dressing 5 veterans per game). However, watch the Aeros' news in late July and August (which is when most AHL deals get done) and hopefully you'll be pleased with next year's team.