Armstrong to play for Canada

The latest addition the list of Thrashers players going to Switzerland for the World Championships: Colby Armstrong. Armstrong has done this before. He scored the game-winning goal in the gold medal game in 2007 for Canada.

Other Thrashers in the tournament include Ilya Kovalchuk of Russia, U.S. player Zach Bogosian and Ron Hainsey, Tobias Enstrom with Sweden and Boris Valabik with Slovakia.

The players had their final meetings with the coaches today. Hainsey, Enstrom, Kovalchuk, Armstrong, Slava Kozlov and Anssi Salmela skated, too. I will have a little more later. I’m writing a summer look-ahead story.

63 comments Add your comment

Army strong

April 13th, 2009
4:42 pm

Good for Colby he seems to be getting a lot of accolades lately. Good for Kovy, Zach, Hainsey and Toby. I am surprised that Valabik was chosen. He’s not even one of our best defensemen, how is he one of the best in all of Slovakia? Do they have that many quality players still in the playoffs that they got stuck with him?

Sara

April 13th, 2009
4:51 pm

Interesting that Little has *not* been tapped to play in the tournament.

Alan

April 13th, 2009
5:38 pm

Don’t act so surprised that Valabik made it to the Slovakia national team. He might not be top notch, but he’s vastly improved. Being named to his country’s national team is quite an honor, and this will definitely be incentive for him to work on the little (and big) things this summer.

Best of luck to him, as well as Kovalchuk, Bogosian, Hainsey, Enström, and Armstrong. I’m just wondering if Salmela, Lehtonen, or Kozlov will appear for their respective nations (I recall the three of them were undecided).

R. Stroz

April 13th, 2009
5:57 pm

Knobler – Creative Loafing is reporting that you are on lay off list.

Is it true?

BTW, Knobler was the only sports writer that appears to be laid off.

mknobler

April 13th, 2009
5:58 pm

I spoke with Bryan Little; it looks like he won’t be playing. I predict he will have chances in the future unless the Thrashers become playoff regulars.

kracker

April 13th, 2009
6:12 pm

That was rather indelicate, Stroz.

Eazy E

April 13th, 2009
6:13 pm

mknobler

April 13th, 2009
6:41 pm

R. Stroz Fortunately, I was bought out, not laid off.

Here is the story. I am going to law school in the fall. I had been planning that move before I began covering the Thrashers a year ago. I had a great time covering the Thrashers and wouldn’t have minded doing it for another year or five or six, but I’m 45 and if I’m going to change careers I need to do it now rather than later.

There are other sports people taking the buyout. Terence Moore is one of them. Others are people who work behind the scenes.

Thanks, again, to all of you on this blog. You have made it fun for me.

GSU-Lee

April 13th, 2009
7:03 pm

Sorry to hear that Mike. Best of luck to you in the future.

Brian

April 13th, 2009
7:07 pm

LAME, just another reason to hate the AJC. Here’s to greener pastures Mike, I’ve truly enjoyed reading your updates and will sorely miss the connection with the team.

Supes

April 13th, 2009
7:20 pm

Mike, best of luck and thanks for the blogs and keeping us updated all season long on the latest with the Thrashers.

It’s about time the AJC dropped some dead weight, TM can now go “burn with Jim Rome” on ESPN.

R. Stroz

April 13th, 2009
7:32 pm

I didn’t mean to be indelicate.

I meant to point out that the only sport which had its coverage dumped was hockey. Kind of shows where hockey is on the AJC totem poll.

Knobler, I wish you the best of luck in law school. Maybe, you can cover the ASG in another way in a few years, as a civil lawyer, they can use all the help they can get.

KovyPleaseStay

April 13th, 2009
7:36 pm

So long, Mike. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks for keeping us up-to-date on the boys, and best of luck in law school. Kudos for having the courage to make a big change.

mknobler

April 13th, 2009
7:37 pm

R. Stroz You shouldn’t read into my taking a buyout anything about the AJC’s attitude toward hockey coverage. The choice to take the buyout had nothing to do with what I was covering, and the paper accepted all the buyout applications it got.

Thanks for the well wishes.

Thrashy Thrashy

April 13th, 2009
7:40 pm

Terence Moore is leaving?

Wow. Well, he’ll probably catch on with ESPN as one of the numerous newspaper columnists turned talking heads.

Thrashy Thrashy

April 13th, 2009
7:41 pm

Good luck to you, Knobs. You did a hell of a job this year. What kind of law are you focusing on?

Alan

April 13th, 2009
8:00 pm

Thanks for all you did for us this year, Knobler, and best of luck in law school.

Smitty

April 13th, 2009
8:40 pm

Good luck Mike. I am sure you will be in front of the Supreme Court before you are 50.

Jenn

April 13th, 2009
8:55 pm

Little is a really good player, but think of all the other really good Canadian players out of the playoffs. It’s a shame, but his time will come. Sorry you’re leaving us Knobler, but best of luck in law school!!

kracker

April 13th, 2009
9:07 pm

Happy trails to you, Mike, and your family. You will be missed. I’m sure we will hear from you, perhaps as a poster next season. Hey, as Sroz hinted, the lawsuit will probably still be going on when you pass the bar exam, so you can save the Spirit Group from themselves.

Brendan

April 13th, 2009
9:34 pm

While I’m delighted for Mike Knobler, personally, and certainly wish him the very best, but are we about to get screwed on the Hockey beat next season?

I’m sure they won’t give it to Jeff Schultz, since Waddell basically won’t talk to him. Who does that leave? Carroll Rodgers has filled in for Craig and Mike in the past fairly capably? Could she be next?

Rawhide

April 13th, 2009
9:53 pm

Mike – You will be missed. Thanks for the great work you’ve done over this past season! Best of luck to you with law school this fall.

kracker

April 13th, 2009
10:08 pm

A poster on the Thrashers board doesn’t think there will be a another beat writer. His dad [still] works at the AJC, so he has some insight into what is going on there. Perhaps he is wrong. If the AJC does cut the local hockey coverage, they can kiss my 7-day subscriptioon goodbye.

Tom

April 14th, 2009
6:59 am

Congratulations Knobs, you did an excellent job this year.

Of course, entering the profession of law moved you down one peg on the career respect ladder. Your next step is politics if you keep this trend up. :)

Will miss your work.

LAC

April 14th, 2009
7:12 am

PLEASE waddell, since they will not fire you, DO NOT RESIGN Jim Slater,he is WORTHLESS and is one player we do not need !

ranallo10 (in AT)

April 14th, 2009
7:49 am

Knobler — When is your last day? It’s been real. You should check with Custance to see if he’s gotten bored with The Sporting News…

GaVaHokie

April 14th, 2009
8:40 am

Good luck Mike… it’s been a pleasure! I’ve often wondered how you put up with all our mindless drivel. ;)

Nikita

April 14th, 2009
8:45 am

Good luck, Mike!

Denny

April 14th, 2009
9:15 am

Mike
Best of Luck in your new profession. You did a great job as the Thrasher beat writer and I know you’ll have a long and successful future in your new career. One thing I notice about my lawyer friends; they never retire – they just get more selective about their clients.

Bob

April 14th, 2009
9:32 am

kudos to for having the gumption to change careers at 45, smart move as the print media biz is obviously dying. Best of luck to you and thanks for all the insight into the club.

Blitz

April 14th, 2009
9:36 am

Jenn I immediately thought that Little might be left off because of all the Canadian talent. But what country is Colby from? Now tell me who would you rather have if you could pick one – Colby or Little? Maybe it is an age thing but don’t think that guys like Doughty and Bogosian aren’t getting looks.

GaVaHokie

April 14th, 2009
9:47 am

It’s probably because they already have Canadian scoring out the wazoo… they probably wanted to add Colby’s toughness.

http://www.iihf.com/channels/iihf-world-championship-oc09/home/news/news-singleview-world-championship-2009/hash/a77b675c1c/article/canada-names-initial-roster/2717.html

GaVaHokie

April 14th, 2009
10:26 am

Okay… I’ll start a new conversation today… what would you think about Atlanta trading down in the draft with Ottawa for Jason Spezza? Perhaps, our first round pick, a later pick and Exelby in return.

Ottawa is set to draft around #8 or #9… guys who could still be on the board are Nazim Kadri, Kulikov and Jordan Schroeder.

Anyone have any good trade ideas to bring in the guy Kovy is looking for?

Blitz

April 14th, 2009
11:13 am

Little has already shown he can stand in front of the net. How much toughness do you need in an international tourney? Neither of them are a defensive specialist. Perhaps there’s more to Colby as to why he got the A at the beginning of the season and he really can keep a locker room together.

I would do the trade for Spezza in a heartbeat. Spezza straight up for whoever we pick with our first is fair. If we get their first and still pick up Kadri or Schroeder all the more to it. Trading one of our defensemen won’t hurt since we have a ton of them now (as long as it’s not Bogosian or Enstrom).

ranallo10 (in AT)

April 14th, 2009
11:20 am

Hokie — Two answers for you.

First, if I were in Bryan Murray’s position I’d say no. Spezza is a proven commodity, has chemistry with the team, and if traded could get me more than JUST an improvement in the draft. The reason I say it’s “just” an improvement is because the parity in talent after Hedman is such that picking 8 is not much worse than picking at spot 5. There is plenty of talent in the top 12 to go around, so there’s no need to be drastic and trade Spezza.

From Atlanta’s perspective that’s a great steal, and I’d sign off on it in a heart beat. Spezza is locked up long enough that it wouldn’t hurt my feelings missing out on a player like Duchene or Kane.

Second, I don’t think Kovalchuk sees this team as one player away. As Knobler pointed out I believe the team is at least one top 6 forward and one top 4 defender away from being competitive. However, would those two additions be enough to compete for the Stanley Cup, and not just compete for the playoffs (something Kovalchuk specifically pointed out as a difference in his mind)

Spezza would be nice, but I don’t think that’s enough for Kovalchuk to sign a contract on the 1st of July.

Toby

April 14th, 2009
11:37 am

No way the Sens trade Spezza to move up 5 spots in the draft and a 2nd and X. It would take that + someone we would not want to give up (Little or White maybe) or let them keep their first round pick.

I also don’t think that ASG want to take on that much of new contract.

Buzzeng

April 14th, 2009
12:01 pm

Mike – I echo all the thanks you’ve received. As a Thrashers fan in NC, you and Rawhide were my misery company (1st half) and virtual high-fivers (2nd half). Thanks for all you did to keep us in the loop. Best wishes in your new career. Kracker said it before I could – you should be able to represent one side or the other in the ASG lawsuit when you pass the bar. If not, you could be on the bench for the final appeal! Go Thrashers! Here’s to 10.7% = 100% tonight!

MB

April 14th, 2009
12:21 pm

Mike, best of luck to you in law school, and thanks for your work this season covering the Thrashers.

A little late to this conversation, but I’m definitely in the optimist camp for this team and look for us to sniff at the playoffs next season with the potential to make a little noise the following year.

Breaking it down:
LW – We currently have two of the top 10 point producers and top 20 goal scorers at the position in Kovy and Kozzy. I believe we’ll sign #17 and that Slava can produce for 2-3 more years.

C – A lingering weakness, but significant strides were made this season. Todd White (yes, THAT Todd White), was within the top 15 point producers for centers, tied with a certain Mr. Spezza in Ottawa. Rich Peverley out-pointed guys like Patrick O’Sullivan, Valterri Filpulla, and Antoine Vermette despite playing far fewer games. Marty Reasoner was a 30-point guy who contributed mightily on the PK and ended up a +11 on this team…no small feat. And even little Jimmy Slater had a better year than expected (then again, I’d come to expect nothing from him).

RW – Playing an off-position for him, Bryan Little potted enough goals to end up tied for fifth among right-wingers while Colby Armstrong added a personal best 22.

D – Toby a +14, Zach a +11. Oh, and they added 50 points between them. Hainsey struggled at times defensively, but added 39 points. Both Oystrick and Valabik performed better than my expectations in their first full season, and I expect further improvement next year. Ex was Ex, though he had a stretch there when he performed Ex+. Salmella and Wilson showed some potential. Add in the Chicago boys and there should be plenty of competition for spots in the fall.

G – Continues to be something of a question mark, though I expect DW to retain Kari and Moose and try to get something for Pavs.

We saw improvement through the year as Anderson/players/system seemed to come together. I expect more of the same next year, with a look at what we have in Machacek, Esposito, etc., and another top prospect coming into the system.

In truth, I think the smart play is to basically stand pat, let the boys compete for spots, and further evaluate what we have next season, and then look to address outstanding needs through FA at the deadline or next off-season. My fear is that may not be an option depending upon how hard a line Kovy takes. But regardless, I think we have a stronger foundation now than we have in some time.

GaVaHokie

April 14th, 2009
1:22 pm

Good breakdown MB… Knobs, can you print out MB’s comments and hand it off to Kovy? ;)

But, for consistency and safety sake… this is probably what the team SHOULD look like.

Kovalchuk ___ ___

Kozlov Little White

Peverley Reasoner Armstrong

Boulton Slates Stuart

Peverley and Armstrong are fairly dependable on defense, plus add scoring to your Checking line… Reasoner, also not a slouch for scoring.

Boulton Slates and Stuart are just as dangerous without Thorburn.

ranallo10 (in AT)

April 14th, 2009
1:31 pm

Hokie — The problem is that this is what the team’s defense SHOULD look like:

___ – ___
Enstrom – Bogosian
Hainsey – ___ (maybe Valabik)

Bogosian is great, will be a top liner eventually, but to be a consistent force NOW and in the future he should not be leaned on for top pairing minutes. To be good this team needs to stop leaning on second line players as first liners…offensively and defensively. Realistically we have three defenders who could break into any lineup in the league. That needs to be 5 just to remain competitive, and the sixth spot should always be used for youth development. Salmella, Oystrick, Valabik, Exelby, and the youth in Chicago are all prime examples of 6th defenders. They are complimentary pieces (or prospects in development) to an already sound defensive unit. 20 minutes out of Exelby or Salmella is too much, for this roster. It’s like having Klee be your number 3 minute logger on the blueline…it just maintains mediocrity, doesn’t improve.

Of course, that’s just my opinion.

GaVaHokie

April 14th, 2009
1:37 pm

Ranallo… I agree… and here’s another possibility in the draft lottery… read what Brian Burke is saying. http://tsn.ca/nhl/story/?id=275021

If no one budges above us, I wonder if Kaberle or Kubina could be had for our 4th position? Or, if there is anything Burke wants at that spot?

Alan

April 14th, 2009
1:50 pm

Peverley on the third line is why Nashville was sending him back to Milwaukee to begin with. He’s great on defense, but a third liner he most certainly is not. He needs to be in a scoring role.

Toby

April 14th, 2009
1:50 pm

Hokie

I wouldn’t move Pevs or White out of the C. If it ain’t broke…. Besides, Pev tried playing wing in Nashville and didn’t play up to his potential.

J.B.

April 14th, 2009
2:42 pm

Not to change the topic too abruptly, but did y’all see this comment from Ilya in USA Today?

“”It’s really spending money, and it can be tough to get the right players for the right money,” Kovalchuk said. “If they ask me to help recruit, I’ll do it, for sure. I’ll do anything to get better and help our team get better.”

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/hockey/nhl/2009-04-13-1075910204_x.htm

I hadn’t seen that quote about helping recruit free agents anywhere else. That’s great and I hope DW takes him up on it. I like the idea of Kovy announcing our draft pick this summer as well. Man, I hope someone from Atlanta Spirit is paying attention…

PS – Great Job Mike. Enjoyed talking with you at practices and especially Casino Night. Best of luck with your legal career.

Smoothie

April 14th, 2009
3:27 pm

That’s great to read that Kovy told reporters he would gladly help actively recruit free-agents. Thanks for posting J.B.!! I’m afraid it will require a full-court press from D-Wad and IVK.

As for which ones to go after, I’m not so sure we need to worry about C. The FA pool for C is rather weak or aged and I’d rather go after a quality and speedy RW who can put the puck in the net. My order of preference is Gionta, Gaborik and then Sykora if we have to “settle”.

Gabby is an interesting proposition and it will be interesting to see what his price-tag will be. Ideally you want speed and finishing ability on the wing opposite Kovy with a defensively responsible C who can handle as well (e.g. Peverley, but White would be adequate).

But I prefer White with Kozzy and Little so Army can move down to RW on the checking line with Reasoner and Stuart or a FA replacement. I have no problem with Stewie dropping down to the 4th line if Crabb can’t beat him out. It may be a really good battle for the 12th forward spot between Crabber, Stewie, Machacek, Holzapfel and Thorburn perhaps depending on what happens this summer.

More importantly, and to ranallo’s point, we need to address the top pairing on defense as Bogey is too young and Toby is too small to play those kind of minutes for 82 games. I have no problem with one of the two on a top line with a Bouwmeester, Kaberle or someone of that ilk, but I don’t forsee us being able (or willing) to pay 2 top flight FA D-men. S

o while it would be nice to keep Bogey and Enstrom together, they may need to be broken up to accommodate a FA stud acquisition. Then again, you could move Hainsey up to top pair (gasp! I know) with the FA since you are paying him top pairing money afterall.

Kaat

April 14th, 2009
4:04 pm

Just wanted to say farewell to you Mike and best of luck. I’m a career journalist too, who just last year quit a big news operation based in the ATL to try something new. It’s been really refreshing! I know the grind of a traveling sports beat writer isn’t easy. You did a fabulous job. Best of luck in the future!

You may not know the answer to this, but do you know if Slava Kozlov was asked to play for Russia? And if so, why he declined?

GaVaHokie

April 14th, 2009
4:26 pm

Smoothie… well, it was reported earlier in the season that Hossa and Gaborik (close friends) wanted to play together next year… with only $30 million on the books for next season, I think Vancouver could make that happen for them, especially if they part with the Sedin Twins.

Russian

April 14th, 2009
5:27 pm

Twins will be great addition for Kovy. Also Afinogenov wants to go out from Buffalo. I am absolutely agree that Kozlov-White-Little line should stay together. Little played much better with old players.
Did anybody hear about Nikulin. He won KHL Cup in Russia. I hope he still think about NHL.

hud

April 14th, 2009
5:36 pm

Mike – thanks for your strong work all season long and best of luck

Alan

April 14th, 2009
5:55 pm

Russian, now that he’s achieved greatness in the KHL, maybe he’ll finally jump the big pond and help us achieve greatness here in the NHL.

I believe this is our last chance to get him.