Back in Duluth … What’s gone right, wrong

We are back at the IceForum. The Thrashers are finished with the three-game road trip to New Jersey, Buffalo and Montreal.

Sorry about the delay with the blog. I had it written and then it disappeared into the blog-o-sphere. Then practiced ended and I had to hustle.

Wednesday was an optional skate since the team got back from Montreal at 3 a.m. A few players did not skate.  They were Toby Enstrom,  Zach Bogosian, Nik Antropov and Todd White.

No line pairings today. Forwards are dressed in dark blue, defensemen in white.

Finished the Ron Hainsey story for tomorrow, but have several other assignments. I have to do a recap of what has gone right and what has gone wrong (not too much) as the Thrashers start the season 4-1-1. I have my list, but give me your list.

Right:

Kovalchuk’s fast start, penalty kill and power play, goaltending, Kane

Wrong:

Shots-on-goal disadvantages, slow starts.

Let me know what you think and I may include it.

Thanks for the help.

34 comments Add your comment

Stevo

October 21st, 2009
2:14 pm

Right: Great goaltending, Kovy’s hot start, production from all lines, PK has been excellent.

Wrong: Need to get Little going, cut down on shots, PP at Ottawa was not good (1 shot on goal) but that could partially be attributed to the end of a long road trip.

Chris Vivlamore

October 21st, 2009
2:15 pm

Trashers AHL affiliate in Chicago names Don Lever new head coach and Ron Wilson assistant coach.

Chris Vivlamore

October 21st, 2009
2:15 pm

Stevo: Good call on Little – and maybe the second line.

Chris Vivlamore

October 21st, 2009
2:16 pm

And that would be THRASHERS AHL affiliate. There I go again.

Stevo

October 21st, 2009
2:17 pm

I forgot about the 2nd line. No reason they should not be producing, especially when White has been winning a high percentage of faceoffs.

Barry

October 21st, 2009
2:18 pm

I hope Anderson keeps Maxim with Kovy and Little with Kozlov and White. The Little White Russian line had chemistry last season and when Anderson swapped those two in the game you could just hear the instant clicking and chemistry in Kamal’s voice. That move seemed to just…work. I agree Little needs to get going. Another thing I would add to the wrong is Bogosian’s play. I don’t know what it is, but the last 3-4 games he’s been…off and making bad passes and turning the puck over in our own zone around the goal line no less. I have been very surprised about our PK. Large part of that has been the play of Pavelec. Oh another thing that could be added to what’s going wrong is Thrashers too many times getting pinned in their own zone.

Chris Vivlamore

October 21st, 2009
2:37 pm

Second line stats: 6 points (two goals, four assists) a combined minus-10.

Paminski

October 21st, 2009
2:57 pm

That was the first practice I was able to get out to this year. I really enjoy going despite the cold toes. It’s a kick to see the players up close. I don’t think I’ve seen Kovy smile as much in previous seasons.

Smoothie

October 21st, 2009
3:20 pm

Here are some sobering stats for your with respect to the woeful shot differential issue:

Thrashers SOG (avg) — 147 (24.5)
Opponents SOG (avg) — 211 (35.2)…ouch!!

Adjusted SOG at ES (not quite as bad):

Thrashers SOG (avg) — 119 (19.8)
Opponents SOG (avg) — 169 (28.2)

So we are a combined -50, or an avg of -8.33, when it comes to ES shot differential. That is very disturbing considering we were averaging a -4 in the 39 games we played with Peverley last season (Jan 11 – Apr 11).

Also, this season we have only outshot our opponent in 4 of the 18 regulation periods we have played…yikes! Without the success of the PP this season, we might have several OTL or straight losses. Special teams are obviously the biggest difference thus far and our 5 PPG are nearly 25% of our goal production.

I seriously doubt we can continue to win even at a .500 pace if we continue to give up 8-12 more ES shots per game.

To wit, let’s project out these shot totals for an 82 game season.

If this trend were to continue throughout the season, we would give up in the neighborhood of 2,800 shots this season.

I would be very surprised if our goalies can maintain such high save %. Using an above average percentage of .910, we will give up 255 goals, roughly, this year. That is an average of 3.11 GAA. Subtract out the 14 we have already allowed and the average goes up to nearly 3.2.

Considering we only averaged 3.05 GPG (9th in the league) a year ago, it will be quite difficult for this team to perform at a better than .500 clip and thus maintain status as a playoff worthy team.

BSU

October 21st, 2009
3:26 pm

Thrashers are giving up the most shots in the league, and Ovechkin comes into Philips with the most shots of any player in the league.

Hmmm….

Chris Vivlamore

October 21st, 2009
3:35 pm

Smoothie: Great stats. I had just finished doing the math. I asked Anderson about it again today. Here’s what he said: “It does concern me a little bit. But on the other hand, we are a type of team that looks for Grade A chances. At the same time, Buffalo throws the puck at the net. St. Louis does the same thing. We look for the bang-bang play, like the two goals in Buffalo by Kovalchuk were fabulous passes. You have high shooting percentages, you don’t need to take as many.”

You don’t consider it defensive breakdowns?

“We are not perfect. It’s a process going on. Our goaltending has been excellent this year.”

Midfield

October 21st, 2009
3:43 pm

I won’t say that SOG is not a concern. However, the quality of the shots allowed looks to be worse, i.e., better for Atlanta, in comparison to years past. For the most part, defensive coverage in own zone is better. The SOG stats is heavily influenced by PK time. I suspect that a road team is always at some disatvatage in this category, and Atlanta played most games on the road this far. And, of course, PK has been much, much better, even though plenty of shots were allowed at times.

Smoothie

October 21st, 2009
4:03 pm

C Viv, thanks for asking JA that question. I understand what he’s saying but giving up so many chances so regularly will eventually catch up with you…simple law of averages. Now if we can keep averaging 3.25 – 3.5 goals scored per game, then who knows how important it is?

Midfield – we are still a -50 even when you adjust out the PK time. We have actually outshot our opponents when it comes to PP time. The more shots, even bad percentage ones, means more zone time for the other team, which has been the case for the most part. More zone time leads to more rebounds, break-downs etc. Yes, the defensive coverage has been much better, but the blueliners will get worn down at this rate.

Smoothie

October 21st, 2009
4:09 pm

I meant to add that we were outshooting our opponents BEFORE last night on the PP. But I just double checked the margin and the PP shots were even and our PP shot differential was -14 last night alone. Well, at least we outshot Montreal at ES!! Something to build on! Yay!

FormerIslesFan

October 21st, 2009
4:11 pm

Some additional thoughts on the right and wrong:

Right: D’Wad’s modification of not negotiating contract extensions during the season (See: Peverly and obviously Kovalchuk); team chemistry and the continued buying into JA’s system (especially by the newcomers); Enstrom seemingly having no residual fear/effect from the vicious shot he took at the world championships; the Fourth line’s inspired play.

Wrong: Bogosian being on the verge sophomore slump (especially as to giveaways). Not sure that there are any other “bad” things out there that have not already been covered.

FormerIslesFan

October 21st, 2009
4:11 pm

Oh….one other good thing: Faceoff winning percentages.

Sara

October 21st, 2009
4:32 pm

Good write-up on this Chris.

RE: Kovy’s extension – Puck Daddy chat today with 3 national media-types/bloggers Wysh, Pagnotta (The Fourth Period) and Spector all expect there to be a new, signed extension in the very near future. 2 weeks to a month was their prediction.

You may all now pick your jaws up off the floor. And send spare coats down to hell now that not just one but three national hockey pundits predict a Kovalchuk re-signing in ATL.

Sara

October 21st, 2009
4:50 pm

Let me edit myself here – I mis-remembered slightly from the chat. Supposedly Bob Hartley had said Kovy would be re-signed within 2 weeks, Pagnotta says there is to be another meeting within a month-ish between Waddell and Grossman, and he figures before Jan. 1, it will all be settled and signed.

Either way, that’s the 1st time I’ve seen any national pundit predict Kovy will stay in ATL. Some have said he might, but nothing that definitive. Like everything else, it doesn’t count til the inks on the contract, but since everyone likes to post the ugly speculation, I thought I’d post the sunshine-y speculation to counteract the bad ju-ju. :D

Brendan

October 21st, 2009
5:32 pm

The comments from Kovy and Waddell are positive. I do take that to mean GOOD THINGS are happening. But, of course, the proof is in the pudding. And the pudding is the signed contract.

It would not bother me that Kovy waits until February to re-sign. Waddell has said that he won’t trade Kovy under ANY conditions, so … honestly … maybe the contract would happen after Kovy sees what the Wadster does at the trade deadline. If he re-inks prior to that, there’ll be no complaints from me! I wanted Kovy re-signed on July 1, 2009.

Supes

October 21st, 2009
6:07 pm

Until Kovy is signed to an extension this whole situation is a distraction to the team. As good as we’re playing now, you know it’s in the back of the player’s minds….that Kovy hasn’t signed on the dotted line! This team has to have their captain signed to cement the future of the franchise for the future.

LAC

October 21st, 2009
7:50 pm

I agree with Supes, this is another Hossa ordeal… AND it IS becoming a MAJOR distraction. Everyone is talking about it, Everyone.

All the networks and the printed media as well, it is only getting worse
and my personal feeling is he WILL NOT resign with Atlanta.

You cannot believe ONE word don waddell says, so we have no firm indication as to where things stand. If he is still unsigned within another month, he’s history here, get what you can for him and move on.

The Earl of Bud

October 21st, 2009
7:58 pm

I actually disagree on the slow starts and Little. Considering last night was the first game of the year where we trailed after the first intermission, we can’t be having too bad of starts.

As for Little, he is not going to be a goal scoring right winger on the White line, he is going to be a playmaking center on the Kovalchuk line. He had 5 assists in the first 5 games. That’s exactly what we need for the #1 center for Kovalchuk. Granted Antro spent some time there the first game or two, but eventually they moved him to RW where he also has played before. And even if it’s Little on the wing, we need him feeding the puck on that line.

What I do agree with is Bogosian not being off to a great start.

Curly

October 21st, 2009
8:50 pm

Something must be going right. Le Thrash are ranked 5th in the TSN power Rankings!!!???

Brendan

October 22nd, 2009
12:46 am

Well, what about this for a “what if” scenario. Do it from Kovy’s perspective. Here’s the rub. He’s deathly afraid of signing too soon. (An exaggeration, but keep it moving, hypothetically.) So, he doesn’t sign on July 1. He waits. He wants to see who gets signed and re-signed. His contract is the ONLY LEVERAGE he has to FORCING the Thrashers to give him what he wants. He evaluates the team through training camp and even gets a player or two a TRYOUT invitation. He sees Zherdev go, but gets Afinogenov to stay.

Okay. So now, he still needs two things confirmed. (1) Budget constraints and (2) results. As far as budget goes, I think last year’s budget was $45 million, roughly. And it shrank as the season concluded. This year’s budget was more like $50+ million, a much higher starting point. But Kovy wants to wait until he sees how much more payroll the team will take on … after the deadline. That assumes, of course, that the Thrashers will be BUYERS at the deadline, that are driving towards the playoffs. And that speaks to the 2nd part, getting the actual results. It’s still very, very early, but a 4-1-1 start is 9/12 points. With the bulk of those points coming on the road. Kovy must be pleased with that. I think he sees a club that is playing FOR EACH OTHER.

I agree that the PROOF will be a re-signed Kovalchuk. I just ask for an open mind about how Kovy “might” be trying to simply use his contract as leverage to get what he wants.

Ponder this, for a second. When Bob Hartley was fired after an 0-6-0 start, Waddell had to come to ice level to coach the team. Still with me? The immediate “bump” was 11-4-1, which led Bruce Levenson to renew Waddell on a 2-3 year deal. So?

So, they JUMPED THE GUN on that one. The team finished 28th, in 2008. And Waddell stayed for all the remaining 76-games of that season. Flash forward. Why wouldn’t Kovalchuk WAIT … to be sure … that he doesn’t re-sign too soon? Why wouldn’t he WAIT … to make sure the team ADDS PIECES at the trade deadline? Once Kovy re-signs … his contract is (1) legal and (2) binding. I’m sure that Kovy remembers, back in 2005, just how far and how long a 5-year deal is. He had to be shaking his head at the decision-making during those 5 years. But there was NOTHING he could do about it. He was UNDER CONTRACT. Kovy knows … to get the players he wants … his contract is the means to do that. He wanted Antropov. Nik’s got a FOUR YEAR DEAL. He’ll get to play with Nik all those years … if he re-signs. In this respect, in Kovy’s shoes, maybe he’d even want to wait until July 5, 2010, to ensure more players get signed, LONGTERM, with Atlanta.

I hear ya. That sure sounds “risky.” Conventional wisdom says … if the player hasn’t re-signed by the deadline … that you have to move him for what you can still get. We all remember that Jay Bouwmeester WALKED FOR NOTHING from Florida last year. We all remember … that Marian Gaborik WALKED FOR NOTHING from Minnesota last year. That situation was complicated by an injury that precluded a trade. But I digress. It’s “risky” to hold on to a player. But if Kovy is sincere about re-signing here, then he’s just trying to FORCE THE HAND of the ownership to give him the team he wants … right here in Atlanta … for the next FIVE YEARS. If Kovy re-signs too soon, he’ll be stuck. Again. I understand what I think he’s trying to do. Stop. If Kovy totally wanted outta here, he would have PRIVATELY said so during the offseason, so Atlanta would trade him. Now, I hear ya. Don’t think I don’t. Hossa probaby did say, during the 2007 offseason, “I’m not re-signing, trade me,” with an Atlanta response, “Sorry, we gotta sell tickets. We’ll move you at the deadline.” I honestly, genuinely don’t think this is the same situation. Hossa wasn’t drafted here. Hossa never agreed to sign here. Hossa was traded here, in a move that “blindsided him.” From all I can tell and surmize, Kovalchuk does like it here, and wants to raise his family here. He’ll get all the money in the world, nice weather, low taxes, and relative anonymity. He deals with FAME when he returns to Russia. Kovalchuk clearly wants to win the Stanely Cup, too. It’s sad and pathetic that he has to go to these LENGTHS … just to get THIS ORGANIZATION … to do what almost any other would do INSTINCTIVELY … and that’s TRY TO WIN. With commitment.

Brendan

October 22nd, 2009
1:23 am

Chris Vivlamore, can we get a Kovalchuk reaction to the Rich Peverley re-signing? I ask … because when Nik Antropov was signed, Kovy texted Waddell, “Good job.”

Well, what did Kovy TEXT this time? Not that he needed to text anything. He just needed to walk up to the GM and say, “way to go, Don!” If his reaction isn’t positive, I don’t know that we’ll get a quote from Kovy. But I would like to think … that Kovalchuk was HAPPY about the Peverley re-signing.

Scottbravesfan

October 22nd, 2009
2:34 am

I can’t wait for tomorrow’s game. I hope the Thrashers looks better than they did against the Habs. We should have won that game easily but the team played sloppy and gave away a point.

J.B.

October 22nd, 2009
8:41 am

Sara – I was the one on the chat that mentioned Hartley saying Kovalchuk would be signed in two weeks. I can’t find the link anywhere but it was a french language news organization in Canada. Maybe a ‘results in all languages’ google search would bring it up. Anyhow, I threw that out during the live chat because I knew those guys would jump on the time table. They all seemed to think two weeks was wishful thinking but by christmas was likely assuming we keep playing at this pace.

J.B.

October 22nd, 2009
8:44 am

Brendan – Kovy found out about the peverley signing when he called in to NHL Live from Hradek, I believe… I didn’t hear it but the recap someone posted (very brief) indicated he was very happy about it.

J.B.

October 22nd, 2009
8:50 am

Smoothie

October 22nd, 2009
9:36 am

@ CViv – good work on the Hainsey story…his veteran leadership and familiarity with the players in the room as a a hold-over from last year cannot be undervalued. And nice to see Kubie crack a joke at Ronsey’s expense…seems like a fun “room” for the players (and journalists) to be a part of.

Midfield

October 22nd, 2009
10:34 am

What’s Kozlov’s status for tonight?

KovyRules

October 22nd, 2009
10:41 am

Brendan,
Good opinion on the Kovy situation and, to amplify what JB said, Kovy found out about the Pevs deal as he was being interviewed on NHL Live and he was happy and said it was good because Pevs is such a skilled player. I think Kovy may wait, but I disagree that it will be a distraction because the players will respond to Kovy’s on-ice performance, not his long-term contract situation. I’ve said before, I expect a signing before the brutal Christmas road trip as a boost to his team and a Christmas present to his family. Scenario No. 2: if we are out of it in February, he allows himself to be trade deadline bait to bring more young talent to ATL, enjoys a playoff run with a contender, then resigns with ATL with an even stronger depth pool. That’s pretty wishful thinking…

Sara

October 22nd, 2009
10:56 am

I hate stupid people, ya know? You want to continue to push the whole “Waddell is a lyin’ liar” thing, fine. However, Kovy has said pretty much all the same things Waddell has said, minus any kind of timeline. His agent is negotiating with Waddell – Kovy said so and I’d be willing to bet Kovy knows precisely what his agent is up to. So unless you want to call out Kovalchuk as a liar, there is no foregone conclusion that he’s out the door come July 1.

Brendan

October 22nd, 2009
9:38 pm

J.B. and Kovy rules, nice posts. I do think that Kovy is actually trying to make the Thrashers a better team for many years to come. I don’t know what to think in terms of “renting” Kovy to make the Thrashers better.

Think of it this way. What if your girlfriend told you, “I want you to date my super hot girlfriend for a few weeks. This way, you’ll have something to compare me to, and when you realize you truly love me, we can get married.”

Ummn, how many women would actually try this approach? Some tumble weeds roll by … off in the distance coyote howls … and an eagle screeches. No woman wants her man to be with someone ELSE. What if decides he likes her better? She just pushed him into the arms of another woman … who waives and says, “Thank you very much! I’ll be taking your man now. Have a nice life.”