Houston Hotdish: Road Warriors

Tyler Cuma and Matt Hackett have a little goalie-defenseman moment. Photo by Chris Jerina/AHLinPhotos.com

Let's talk about Tyler Cuma for a bit. First of all, if you don't follow him on Twitter (@TCuma61), you should.

I often get asked what happened with him. Remember his first camp after being drafted and folks (including, if I recall correctly, Lemaire) were so impressed with his poise for such a young guy, that there was some fleeting thought given to turning him pro right then and there?

But reason prevailed and they sent him back to junior where he got hurt. Then hurt again. Then hurt again. Then he turned pro with the Aeros and... got hurt again.

There's no doubt the string of injuries since he was drafted have set him back, but the kid is going to be okay. He plays a good stay-at-home defensive game. Not perfect, but solid and makes good decisions with the puck.

I never have to say, "Aughhhh" when I watch him play, which is, in my book, the mark of a good defenseman. You just don't have to worry about him back there.

Moreover, as I follow his Twitter, the guy has his head on straight. I know it's just the occasional 140 characters, but you can tell if a guy is a slack-jawed idiot or has his priorities wrong or is a whiner based on his Twitter. And from everything I've seen of Cuma, he's a nice kid who cares a lot, and doesn't get too high or too low.

He's always first to congratulate a guy on a call-up, even as he's watched seemingly everyone deserving get the call except for him. That says a lot about his character in my book.

So, if you're wondering about Cuma, that's what I can tell you. I can't help but believe in and root for him. He might not be the most outspoken or gregarious guy, but his head seems to be on straight and he's got some talent. He's going to be fine.

Now, on to the Aeros as a whole.

Let's just say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. As the Wild struggle, so do the Aeros. Constant call-ups have hurt the Aeros in a few big ways.

First is the obvious way, in which they lose their best players and struggle talent-wise. Second is, as Torchetti accused the team prior to Sunday's win over... say it with me... San Antonio, that the guys are playing for themselves rather than for the team.

Fear of injury, desire to put up points, whatever the case, he railed on them pretty hard with Aeros radio guy, Joe O'Donnell. And when even guys like Jed Ortmeyer aren't bringing the heat, you know it's a problem.

And third is this weird thing where guys who come back from call-ups just aren't themselves for a while. Not sure if it's the "ugh, back in the minors" malaise or what, but it takes guys a few games to get back in the groove.

But they got the win to stop a 2 game losing skid on Sunday and will be on the road for the next 3 games (tonight in Grand Rapids and the next two in Peoria... so glam is the life of an AHL team, huh?)

And as Cuma often tweets, the Aeros are bonafide #roadwarriors, being 12-2-0-2 on the road, but just 7-6-2-5 at home (which is really 7-13 at home if you want to get down to brass tacks--and rest assured, STHs are all about the brass tacks).

So this road trip comes at a good time. Get some wins the only way they know how: Leave town.

And the next home game is 1/20 against... you guessed it... San Antonio! So whatever positive momentum they can get going on the road will hopefully carry over back at home.

Until next time, here's hoping both the tree and the apple continue finding their way for a few games, so we can all come off the ledge for a while.

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