Thursday, April 19, 2007


Turn Out the Lights

by Greg

The Thrashers end with at least one distinction -- the first team bounced from the playoffs. Hooray?

On a hungover morning, there really isn't much to say about the game. The Thrashers looked pretty good at times -- the Rangers just were a better team. The Thrashers seemed to be working hard. They.... just weren't that good.

So after a playoff debacle, what next? In instant messages yesterday I suggested fire Waddell, fire Hartley, trade Kovalchuk, who knows what else. Now, with a bit of sleep and sanity injected, that seems like a bit much. But what next? Atlanta blows everything out to make the playoffs, dumps picks and prospects, and they're still out in a not-too-competitive four games.

Waddell should be gone. Seven seasons, four playoff games. It's not so much that he's done a lot wrong (aside from the Alex Bourret for Pascal Dupuis trade, which was pretty foolish). But the team seems stuck in neutral -- they should have made the playoffs before now, they should have been battle-tested before now. Time for someone new. (note: this all gets reversed if the Thrashers think about Doug MacLean as an option.)

Hartley? The "Stanley Cup winner" label shouldn't mean much any more -- he won that with Sakic, Forsberg, Hejduk, Drury, Bourque, Blake, Foote, and Roy. I'm a fan of the guy, I've rooted for his teams in Colorado and Atlanta, but the team fell apart down the stretch, he clashed with Kovalchuk, and he was thoroughly outcoached in the playoffs. Bring in someone new. (note: Waddell has already said it's 100% certain Hartley will be back next year, though.)

The rest of the team? Nine players are under contract for next year -- Kovalchuk, Hossa, Holik, Havelid, Rucchin, Lehtonen, Slater, Hedberg, and Zhitnik. I'm ok with all of those -- though Holik is really overpaid for his level of contribution.

The rest of the guys? Tkachuk definitely shouldn't be back, though he played well after coming over. He's going to increasingly be an albatross, and a heartless one. Andy Sutton, for the love of all that's holy, shouldn't be back -- if they really need someone to take bad penalties and turn the puck over in front of the net, they can doubtless find someone cheaper. I love Greg deVries but he's too expensive. Slava Kozlov vanished down the stretch and is starting to head downhill. Scott Mellanby will probably retire.

I'd like to see Eric Belanger back, like to see Jon Sim back, like to see a few other guys back. But I think the key change is gonna have to come from outside. As much as terms like "heart" and "intangibles" make me roll my eyes, the Thrashers are a pretty heartless team. They're chippy, but when things get tough they fold like crazy. Aside from Mellanby and Garnet Exelby -- neither of which are core players -- and in his weird quiet way, Niclas Havelid, no one seems to be a chips-are-down type guy. Watching Brendan "Human Garbage" Shanahan snarl and sneer and hiss (and score goals) throughout the series, it really struck me that Atlanta didn't have anyone equivalent. The closest thing was Ilya K throwing his temper tantrums, which didn't really stack up.

So now, the offseason begins. In a few days, I'll decide who to cheer for going forward (hint: not the Rangers), and commence dreaming of Chris Drury in a Thrashers uniform. Then prepare for a summer where the Thrashers give Waddell a six-year extension, sign Tkachuk and Sutton, and trade for Derian Hatcher. Really, after a series like we just saw, I wonder if I'm better off giving all this up and starting a blog based on soccer or something. Feh.

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Hartless getting out-coached by Tom Renney should instantly be a death sentence.

As for Waddell, you are right. The team hasn't done as much as it could have...

but what about Kari? The guy is young, we realize, but he imploded badly in his first taste of the playoffs. I wouldn't suggest trading him, by any means, but perhaps hiring a sports psychologist might be in order.
Slava Kozlov has this unwarranted rep as a playoff-hardened goal-scorer, thanks to a few lucky shots from his days patrolling the perimeter in Detroit, feeding off the leftovers from far-better players. He totally disappeared, as I expected he would.

It's hard, getting swept in the first round. I know, as a Wings-fan. Which is why I realize, tonight's game with Calgary is the next thing to do-or-die. Once the wheels come off, in the playoffs, you rarely have time to get them back on before it's over.
1) Once Mike Milbury and MacClean were fired that instantly left Waddell as the worst active GM in the NHL.
2) His moves this year in getting Tkachuk, Dupuis, Zhitnik, etc. should cement his ouster.
3) Additionally Hartley should be moved as well. We too were under the misimpression that he was a good coach because he had a ring. BUT as was pointed out here, and on our blog this morning, that was no big accomplishment with the personnel he had. He did a poor job with the people he had.
4) Compare that with what Ted Nolan has done with an Islander team that has no business being in the same arena as the Sabres and you can see the difference a good coach can make.
I'm sorry, Greg. Getting swept in the playoffs is no fun as I know all too well. Hartley made a huge mistake with the goalie situation. I give the team credit that they played a better game last night. They just looked very unprepared.
Jes, regarding Lehtonen... I found myself thinking "Jocelyn Thibault" during this year's playoffs. And not in a good way.

He does really seem to have a lot of confidence issues. Early goals are a death sentence.

(If anyone can come up with a young goalie who played HORRIBLY in his first playoffs, then went on to win a Cup, I'd appreciate it. Mike Richter?)
I've been saying for a while that Waddell needs to be gone. Rolling the dice on the Tkachuk deal and coming up snake eyes isn't going to make his future any brighter.

I'm not a fan of Hartley's overagressive tactics, but I do think he's a good coach. I haven't the faintest idea what he was doing with the goalie situation.

They have 12 RFAs and 2 UFAs. I'd be surprised if even half of those return. Many of them are on the brink of retirement anyway. The stars are already under contract, so at least they have that. There's no way Tkachuk re-signs with ATL.

Next season, I think we'll see a very different Thrashers club from the front office down.
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