What's Next for the Thrashers?

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    davetherave
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    What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by davetherave on Mon Jun 01, 2009 7:44 pm

    Though their predecessors, the Atlanta Flames, experienced some success as an expansion team, with stars like Dan Bouchard and Tom Lysiak, before their move to Calgary, the second incarnation of NHL hockey in Atlanta has seen less.

    'Thrashers'--the national bird of Georgia--was the runner up to 'Flames' when the original team was named.

    Since their debut in 1999-00, they've made the playoffs only once, and their ownership situation has been mired in lawsuits for the last few years. The franchise also made headlines when then Thrashers-star Dany Heatley crashed his Ferrari and the resulting injuries killed his teammate Dan Snyder.

    Finishing 13th out 15 teams in the East, and 27th overall, Atlanta looks to be adding another high draft pick, though their history with prospects has been chequered at best.

    Under former AHL and Atlanta farm team Chicago Wolves coach John Anderson, the Thrashers showed some promise, especially in March with an 11-3 run...while upsetting a few teams with playoff aspirations.

    Yahoo Sports looks inside the Thrashers, and what may lie in store for next year.

    ATLANTA THRASHERS TEAM REPORT: INSIDE SHOTS
    June 1, 2009

    When it comes to the NHL draft, there always has been one common theme for the Thrashers: They pick high and have a history of mediocrity.

    While other teams have ended up with studs like Rick Nash or Jay Boumeester, the Thrashers have come away with disappointments like Boris Valabik (No. 10 in 2004) and Alex Bourret (No. 16 in 2005).

    Mixed in with no-brainer picks like Ilya Kovalchuk (No. 1 in 2001) and Bryan Little (No. 12 in 2006) is goalie Kari Lehtonen (No. 2 in 2002). Lehtonen has shown signs of brilliance in stretches during his career, but his long list of injuries and inconsistent work habits have kept him from becoming the annual All-Star the team had hoped he would be.

    We won’t even talk about Patrik Stefan (No. 1 in 1999). Move along, folks, there’s nothing to see here.

    When this year’s draft begins on June 26, Atlanta will likely be looking to secure a top-notch center with the fourth overall pick. Unless Waddell inexplicably trades the pick, the team will likely come out of the first round with Matthew Duchene, Brayden Schenn or Evander Kane.

    After that, Thrashers supporters can only hope Waddell can unearth a few gems, as he did with Tobias Enstrom (No. 239 in 2003) and Garnet Exelby (No. 217 in 1999).

    Season Highlight: It took almost all season for the Thrashers to put together some memorable moments, but when the calendar hit March, Atlanta finally began to show signs of what the future might hold.

    The Thrashers played their best hockey—by far—from March 3 through April 3, posting a franchise-best 11-3 record. That stretch, which began with a season-best six-game winning streak, included three straight road wins over the Avalanche, Oilers and Sabres, two overtime wins and two shootout victories. Unfortunately, the Thrashers came crashing back to reality over the final week of the season, losing three of their final four contests.

    Turning Point: Atlanta’s postseason hopes were dashed almost from the beginning of the season. For teams to be successful under a new coach they need to develop confidence in his system. And there’s no better place to test that confidence than on the road. Unfortunately for the Thrashers, they lost their first six road games, including the first two of the season in overtime.

    Notes, Quotes

    Thrashers general manager Don Waddell is sure of one thing when it comes to the draft: He won’t be picking a goalie. The Thrashers are deep in net with Kari Lehtonen, Johan Hedberg and Ondrej Pavelec, and this year’s crop of prospects is very thin at the goalie position. The main question, though, is this: Will Waddell find any takers for one of the team’s goalies in a trade as he looks to add more offensive depth and a top-four defenseman before the season begins?

    In a move the Thrashers predicted when they shipped him off to New Jersey in March, former Thrashers D Niclas Havelid, one of the classiest players to ever play in Atlanta, has left the NHL and signed with Linkoping of the Swedish Elite League for next season. Without Havelid, Atlanta is in desperate need of adding a quality blueliner to join sophomore Zach Bogosian, diminutive Toby Enstrom, bruiser Garnet Exelby and the offensive-minded Ron Hainsey. The jury is still out on Anssi Salmela, who came to Atlanta from New Jersey in the Havelid trade.

    Quote To Note: “Regardless of what happens this summer, we have no intentions of trading him.”—Thrashers general manager Don Waddell on team captain Ilya Kovalchuk, who has one year remaining on his contract before becoming a free agent.

    Roster Report

    Most Valuable Player: Once again, Ilya Kovalchuk is Atlanta’s runaway MVP after leading the team with 43 goals and 48 assists in 79 games. Along with his scoring prowess, Kovalchuk emerged this season as a locker room leader after Thrashers general manager Don Waddell rewarded him with the captain’s “C” halfway through the season. Kovalchuk still takes the occasional shift off, but that sure beats a few years ago, when he would take the occasional game off.

    Most Disappointing Player: The title clearly goes to Mathieu Schneider. Signed as a free agent for $5.6 million during the offseason, Schneider spent most of the first half of the season injured. He was eventually traded to Montreal. The only good thing Schneider did during his time in Atlanta was mentor rookie defenseman Zach Bogosian. And based on Bogosian’s play the second half of the season, Schneider is a good teacher.

    Free Agent Focus: There have been no contract talks between C Marty Reasoner and Thrashers general manager Don Waddell, but that doesn’t mean Atlanta doesn’t want to keep the veteran. After all, the deadline to re-sign Reasoner isn’t until July 1.

    Player News:

    LW Ilya Kovalchuk will likely start next season with the Thrashers without a new contract. His current deal expires after the 2009-10 season, but he is unwilling to sign a new pact until he sees an effort from Atlanta management to improve the roster. If history is any indication, Kovalchuk shouldn’t hold his breath. It seems inevitable that Kovalchuk will eventually leave Atlanta via free agency; team officials repeatedly have said they won’t trade him.

    C Angelo Esposito continues to recover from a knee injury suffered in February while playing for his Canadian junior team in Montreal. Esposito has been working out with a trainer three times a week and spends a lot of time in the pool as he tries to rebuild strength in his leg. He won’t get back on skates until July, making it unlikely that he would be able to make the Thrashers’ roster out of training camp.

    G Johan Hedberg, who seemingly outthinks the players he faces on shootouts, has always been considered one of Atlanta’s most cerebral players on the ice. It’s no different off the ice. Hedberg likes to spend his offseason catching up on his reading. His current novel of choice: “Swedish Mafia.” So don’t be surprised if Hedberg “whacks” a few more opponents next season.

    Medical Watch:

    G Kari Lehtonen sat out most of the final month of the season with an upper-body injury, the latest bump along the road for Lehtonen, who has battled injuries most of his short career.

    LW Ilya Kovalchuk missed a few games late in the season with an undisclosed left arm injury. While he was able to return to form, Kovalchuk and the team might want to consider surgery if there’s any question that the problem could return.

    ---

    So what's next for 'The Thrash'? Do they make the playoffs? Do they even stay in Atlanta?

    Over to you...


    Last edited by davetherave on Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:27 pm; edited 2 times in total

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    Re: What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by Guest on Mon Jun 01, 2009 8:05 pm

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    Re: What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by PTFlea on Mon Jun 01, 2009 11:04 pm

    Honestly...go big or go home this time. Get a legitimate center for Kovalchuk, whether it's a guy like Spezza that you have to overpay to get, or Bergeron. Get someone high end to center that line, put the onus on D and hand the reigns over to Pavelic or whatever the young goalies name is, and trade Lehtonen while the gettin's good.

    For goodness sake, can you imagine having Kovalchuk and not surrounding him with at least one superstar. Little will be good, but he needs someone now.

    I love Kozlov though, he and Kovie add a nice punch. White overachieved, but he's found a nice role on line 2.

    Add a center! And another winger - which is where I think Gaborik would fit in real nice.
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    Re: What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by asq2 on Mon Jun 01, 2009 11:41 pm

    On the bright side, Zach Bogosian is an absolute beast. 9 goals in only 47 games in his rookie season --he could score 20 on a regular basis. He'll be Norris calibre, that's for certain.

    He grew up a Sens fan, too. :drooling:
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    Re: What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by wprager on Tue Jun 02, 2009 7:09 am

    The Guy With The Mustache wrote:Quebec City

    That avatar is killing me. First Willie with the stubble, now Sid with, what, exactly? Maybe you can change your userid to "Spot the 'stache".

    Oh, I agree with your comment. Atlanta has now had two kicks at the can. "Blue Crew" is a nearly perfect name for the ice girls once translated to French; the colour is perfect for Quebec.

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    Re: What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by Guest on Tue Jun 02, 2009 7:38 am

    wprager wrote:
    The Guy With The Mustache wrote:Quebec City

    That avatar is killing me. First Willie with the stubble, now Sid with, what, exactly? Maybe you can change your userid to "Spot the 'stache".

    Oh, I agree with your comment. Atlanta has now had two kicks at the can. "Bleu Crew" is a nearly perfect name for the ice girls once translated to French; the colour is perfect for Quebec.

    Fixed, thats a big deal over there Sarcasm
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    Re: What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by shabbs on Tue Jun 02, 2009 8:30 am

    If they don't get Kovalchuk the help he needs... he'll be gone and that will be a death blow to the club.
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    Re: What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by wprager on Tue Jun 02, 2009 10:24 am

    The Guy With The Mustache wrote:
    wprager wrote:
    The Guy With The Mustache wrote:Quebec City

    That avatar is killing me. First Willie with the stubble, now Sid with, what, exactly? Maybe you can change your userid to "Spot the 'stache".

    Oh, I agree with your comment. Atlanta has now had two kicks at the can. "Bleu Crew" is a nearly perfect name for the ice girls once translated to French; the colour is perfect for Quebec.

    Fixed, thats a big deal over there Sarcasm

    Better than a direct translation of "Blue Crew": "Le queue bleu"
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    Re: What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by PTFlea on Tue Jun 02, 2009 10:33 am

    asq2 wrote:On the bright side, Zach Bogosian is an absolute beast. 9 goals in only 47 games in his rookie season --he could score 20 on a regular basis. He'll be Norris calibre, that's for certain.

    He grew up a Sens fan, too. :drooling:

    I read that...you don't hear that too often.
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    Re: What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by davetherave on Tue Jun 09, 2009 5:46 pm

    THRASHERS RE-SIGN REASONER
    ESPN.COM, June 8 2009

    ATLANTA (ESPN/AP)-- Forward Marty Reasoner, who set a career high with 14 goals for Atlanta last season, has re-signed with the Thrashers.

    ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reported Reasoner would earn $1.10 million in 2009-10 and $1.20 million in 2010-11.

    The 32-year-old Reasoner signed with Atlanta last year after playing with Edmonton for six seasons. He also has played with Boston and St. Louis during his 10-year career.

    Reasoner would have become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

    Reasoner had 30 points, including 16 assists, in 79 games with the Thrashers.

    "We knew he would be good defensively, killing penalties, but he provided offense also," general manager Don Waddell said.
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    Re: What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by davetherave on Sat Jun 20, 2009 6:05 am

    EJ Hradek and Gabriel Desjardins thrash out a few ideas about what has to happen in Hotlanta.

    IF THRASH GO BIG, FANS WON'T GO HOME
    In troubled economic climate, Atlanta must spend money to make money
    EJ Hradek, Gabriel Desjardins, ESPN.com/June 17, 2009

    Plugging Holes - Atlanta Thrashers


    The Hole: No. 1 Defenseman

    Atlanta, believe it or not, was seventh in the league in goals scored -- thanks to a very high shooting percentage typical of an Ilya Kovalchuk team -- while they were second to last in goals allowed. We might expect some regression on the goal-scoring side, but there's little hope for pulling the defense out of the league's basement without help. The only thing that kept them from allowing 300 goals was the goaltending of restricted free agent Kari Lehtonen, who has saved them more than 40 goals compared to an average goaltender over the last two seasons.

    The Fix: Sign D Jay Bouwmeester (UFA, Panthers)


    Loyal Thrashers fans will agree with me: Now is not the time for a losing team in a nontraditional market to sell its assets. Unless they want to go the way of the Coyotes, Atlanta needs to get serious about filling its unused cap space -- and the unused seats in Philips Arena. Ultimately that means a long-term contract for Kovalchuk, but they need to show him a commitment to winning first.

    After they pick up an offensive talent with the fourth overall pick in this year's draft, what better way to keep going than to sign the biggest name on this year's free-agent market? Bouwmeester did it all in Florida, leading his team in even-strength, power-play and penalty-killing minutes and facing the toughest offensive opposition year after year. This season, he was on the ice 63 percent of the time in the last two minutes of close games, No. 2 in the league behind Scott Niedermayer and ahead of Norris Trophy nominees Nicklas Lidstrom and Zdeno Chara. On top of all that, at age 25, Bouwmeester could easily maintain this level of performance all the way through a seven- or eight-year contract. In the short term, the boost in GVT also helps Atlanta make up most of the eight extra wins they needed to make the playoffs this season.

    E.J.'s Take: There is just no way that pending free agent Jay Bouwmeester is going to sign in Atlanta. It's just not going to happen. If the Thrashers want to overpay for a puck-moving defenseman, they should call the Blackhawks and see whether they're interested in dealing Brian Campbell. Last summer, the Hawks outbid the Thrashers for Campbell. Facing future cap issues, the Hawks might consider such a move. Of course, Campbell has a limited no-trade clause and could nix a move to Atlanta.

    A more realistic approach would be to seek smart, lower-profile types to build their roster while they try to get better through the draft. If they could add two or three experienced, competitive pros, that would help push the club forward.

    The bigger problem in Atlanta involves the team's ownership. The group, which also owns Philips Arena and the NBA's Hawks, has been engaged in a prolonged legal battle against one its original partners, which has been a distraction. There also seems to be apathy among the group when it comes to the hockey team. The Thrashers are not a team that's going to spend to the upper limit of the salary cap, so big contracts aren't too appealing. Besides, spending to the cap doesn't make sense for a franchise that's clearly not among the league's money-makers.

    They seem committed to keeping their lone superstar, Kovalchuk. And for some reason, he's still willing to listen. Kovalchuk says he'd be interested in re-signing as long as he sees an effort to improve the team. The best way to improve the team, however, might be to shop their goal-scoring winger for a package of players to build around. If the club doesn't re-sign him over the summer, they risk losing him via free agency in the summer of 2010.

    Gabriel Desjardins is a writer for Puck Prospectus. E.J. Hradek is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

    Note: A mainstay of Puck Prospectus's metrics is "Goals Versus Threshold" (GVT). The stat blends an array of offensive and defensive figures to measure the value, in terms of goals, a player contributes above what the marginal player would over the course of the season. A marginal player is one that could be replaced with a player of equivalent skill, e.g. from the minors. For instance, Evgeni Malkin had an offensive GVT of +18.9, a defensive GVT of +4.5 and a total GVT of +23.4 for the 2008-9 regular season, meaning that Malkin was worth 23.4 goals more than a marginal player over the course of the season, or worth about 0.3 additional goals per game. In the team context, GVT refers to performance above an NHL average team. For the regular season, the Detroit Red Wings had a +30.8 offensive GVT, a +15.1 defensive GVT, a -21.5 goaltending GVT, for a +24.4 total GVT. Therefore, at even strength, Detroit was 24.4 goals better than the average team.
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    Re: What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by davetherave on Mon Jun 22, 2009 4:46 pm

    Dudley's appointment becomes official, as reported by ESPN.

    DUDLEY JOINS THRASHERS' FRONT OFFICE
    Pierre Lebrun, ESPN.COM, June 22, 2009

    The Atlanta Thrashers announced Monday the hiring of veteran hockey executive Rick Dudley as associate general manager.

    Dudley, 60, resigned his job as assistant GM with the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday. The former Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers GM was instrumental in helping Chicago GM Dale Tallon rebuild the young Blackhawks team that reached the Western Conference finals this spring.

    In Atlanta, Dudley will work alongside longtime Thrashers GM Don Waddell.

    "He has had noted success at all levels as a player, coach and general manager, and his nearly 40 years of professional experience will certainly prove beneficial to our organization. His ability to both evaluate and develop talent is evident in the remarkable turnarounds made by the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks, both with players acquired during Rick's tenure," Waddell said in a statement.
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    Re: What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by davetherave on Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:47 pm

    Kane is a true power forward...congrats to the Thrash! Think about him and Kovalchuk ripping it up...
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    Re: What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by caissie_1 on Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:48 pm

    An excellent choice for sure... Kane, Kovalchuk and Little... 3 very good players.
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    Re: What's Next for the Thrashers?

    Post by davetherave on Thu Jul 02, 2009 7:53 pm

    ESPN looks at the potential impact of the Antropov signing on Kovalchuk's future in Atlanta; and Waddell's other moves...

    ANTROPOV SIGNS WITH THRASHERS
    ESPN.COM STAFF/JULY 2 2009

    The Atlanta Thrashers signed Nik Antropov to a four-year, $16 million contract Thursday, setting up a reunion with Ilya Kovalchuk.

    The 29-year-old Antropov played with Kovalchuk in Russia during the NHL lockout.


    General manager Don Waddell said Kovalchuk endorsed the signing with a text message saying, "Great job."

    Kovalchuk's approval is important. The Thrashers' captain and biggest star is entering his free-agent season, and has said he wants to see the team's offseason moves before he talks about signing a new deal.

    Waddell said the Antropov signing should help the team re-sign Kovalchuk.

    "Certainly, it's going to help us through the process," Waddell said. "Ilya wants to be part of a winning organization and this is a big step in the right direction."

    On Wednesday, Waddell also acquired defenseman
    Pavel Kubina in a four-player deal with Toronto.

    "I said we didn't need a lot of pieces, we needed key pieces, and that's what we've added," Waddell said.

    Antropov set a career high with 59 points and 28 goals with Toronto and the New York Rangers last season. He was traded to the Rangers on March 4.

    He had 56 points with the Maple Leafs during the 2007-08 season.

    The Thrashers also re-signed forward
    Chris Thorburn, who had 15 points, including seven goals, in a career-high 82 games last season.

    Antropov (6-6, 230) and Kubina (6-4, 244) add significant size to the Thrashers' roster, after the team committed to such smaller players as
    Bryan Little and Rich Peverley.

    "We thought to give them the best chance of having some success we needed to surround them with some size," Waddell said.

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