Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Still Waiting

by Greg

Well, Jes has kept the place clean. I've sort of been in hockey hibernation -- when last I checked in, I was still agog over the Avalanche's signings of Ryan Smyth and Scott Hannan. I've sobered up a little, and I realize Jes is likely right in saying the Avalanche will probably regret the last couple years of the Smyth contract, and Dear Lord Stanley is correct in pointing out that Smyth isn't a cure-all, but hey -- the Avalanche identified needs and filled them. Good on 'em.

How about the rest of my summer hockey wishlist?

1. Never hear about Jim Balsillie or the status of the Nashville Predators again

2. Good homes for Tomas Kloucek and Petr Tenkrat

3. The Thrashers following Colorado's lead and filling some gaping holes

#1 is obviously not happening in my lifetime. #2 -- well, Tenkrat looks like he'll be staying in Timrå. According to the town's official website, Timrå has "good service and fine transportation links," not to mention good fishing and a large shopping center nearby. I'm sure he'll be happy. Kloucek is still hunting for a home.

#3 -- pretty far from happening, unless you identified the Thrashers' most pressing need as "more AHL-level talent." That wasn't high on my wish-list, alas. Going in, I would have said the Thrashers' most pressing needs were as follows: defense, centers, scoring depth. Picking up Todd White sort of addresses the latter two (though I would have liked a bit more), holding onto Slava Kozlov keeps the depth sort of steady -- although speaking of deals that'll look ugly down the line, I'm not looking forward to seeing Kozzie get $3.85 million for nine goals in 2009-10.

Defense? Eeeeek. They've lost Greg deVries, Andy Sutton, and Shane Hnidy -- added Ken Klee. Sutton is no big loss -- at some point, bozo penalties and turning over the puck in front of the net repeatedly are no longer canceled out by the occasional big hit. But deVries was steady (and never got credit for it), and Hnidy was at least reliable. Klee is a "cagey veteran," or "old and slow" if you prefer. (There was a priceless line in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in which Klee said that every time he became available in the past, the Thrashers were always interested -- now, presumably, that no one else wants him, he'll sign.)

So that leaves Atlanta with five NHL-caliber defensemen. I'm fine with Niclas Havelid and Alexei Zhitnik. I'd be fine-r if they were the #2 and #3 defensemen, rather than #1 and #2. Beyond that, though? Steve McCarthy is starting to look perpetually "enigmatic," Klee and Garnet Exelby are lower-end. Mark Popovic isn't anything more than a spare defenseman. By all accounts, Boris Valabik isn't ready for the NHL.

The Thrashers may be relying on Swedish import Tobias Enstrom to step in, but he hasn't, y'know, played in the NHL yet. And there aren't that many options left on the free agent market -- looking at James Mirtle's list, the only attractive options are Danny Markov, Brent Sopel, and maybe Ossi Vaananen. The rest are headcases, burnouts, or generally useless.

The Capitals and Panthers have both improved considerably this offseason; the Lightning and Hurricanes are both likely better than they showed in 2006-07. Yeah yeah, I know they don't play the games 'til October -- but at least at this point, with the Thrashers' hopes resting almost entirely on Kovalchuk/Hossa/Lehtonen, last year's playoff berth is looking likely to be an aberration.

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'Canes are going to be on freaking fire. Quote me. For real.
"...with the Thrashers' hopes resting almost entirely on Kovalchuk/Hossa/Lehtonen, last year's playoff berth is looking likely to be an aberration."

As usual, Waddell failed to make a Summer free-agency splash, and I'm afraid the attendance will drop from the 16,366 average we had last year, giving hope to Canada that they'll be able to snatch another team from the South (sigh)...
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