PASS THE MIKE: Seasons filled with last year’s adversities

It looks like the Houston Aeros will struggle to make the American Hockey League playoffs this season. Yes, it is very early in the season, but this team has showed little roster improvement from last year. The Aeros will score more goals this year, but the defense needs help.

Left wing Corey Locke is expected to lead the team offensively, after posting 72 points last season for the Hamilton Bulldogs. Young forwards Peter Olvecky (Slovakia) and Petr Kalus (Czech Republic) will need to adjust to the North American game. Both players showed flashes of talent last season and will be expected to contribute more on the scoreboard.

Maxim Noreau turned heads last season on defense, and his continued development will be key to the Aeros’ slim defense. Goaltender Nolan Schaefer was arguably the best player in the 2007-2008 campaign and will be heavily called upon by the Aeros to continue as a shutout artist.

The Aeros’ decline in the past few seasons can be attributed to the steady development of the players who have made it to the NHL with the Minnesota Wild. Aeros alumni Eric Reitz, Kurtis Foster, Brent Burns, Nick Schultz, Benoit Pouliot, Derek Boogaard, Josh Harding, Stephane Veilleux and recently Cal Clutterbuck, have all enjoyed successful stints and regular stays with the parent club.

No takeoff for the Rocket

Rumors abound regarding Roger Clemens’ return to the mound, despite how many times he shoots them down, but he should stay retired. "The Rocket" was barley involved with the Astros in his last stint with the team. A veteran player should be a locker-room leader, not a diva who doesn’t travel with the team and only shows up on days when he pitches. What example does that set to young players? If you are making more money and have a bigger name, you should be exempt from team activities and traditions?

Shaq takes flack

Phoenix Sun center Shaquille O’Neal recently warned the San Antonio Spurs not to use the same "cowardly" strategy of fouling him like they did in last season’s playoffs, but didn’t say anything about improving his free throw shooting (he made 50.3 percent of last season).

Practice makes perfect Shaq. Maybe you won’t get fouled if you learn to sink a few free throws.

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