Running behind today but here is the news from Thrashers practice.
I spoke with GM Don Waddell this morning. The full interview is below.
Here are the highlights:
*I asked if there was a chance that a coaching change with John Anderson could be made this season considering the six-game slide and slipping playoff chances. Waddell said no. Asked about the possibility of a change following the season, he said everything would be evaluated at that time – including himself by ownership.
*Waddell has not given up on the playoffs, but wants the focus to be the next game on Tuesday. Don’t look any further nor get caught up in numbers or scenarios.
*He said the poor play of the both special teams has contributed to the current slide. He also said missing a key contributor like Evander Kane has had an effect.
*There has been no real movement on signing potential unrestricted free agents. He said he had conversations with the camp of Pavel Kubina and Colby Armstrong, but such talks have been put on hold due to the packed March schedule.
Other news from practice:
Zach Bogosian’s injury is to his right thumb. He is wearing a splint. He briefly took the ice in a warm-up suit but did not practice. I will update when further results are available but to my knowledge he had not had the MRI before I left practice. I wouldn’t be surprised if the injury was not some kind of fracture.
Nik Antropov, Pavel Kubina and Johnny Oduya were at the facility but did not practice.
Q. What are your thoughts about where this team is right now with a six-game losing streak?
A. Back up 10 days ago after the game with the Islanders and we woke up in the eighth spot. Then you go five losses and an [shootout] loss and you find yourself five points out with the games counting down. You go from feeling pretty good about where you are headed, because you like not only where you are headed but you like the way you are playing, six without a loss. Then you hit a road block and it hit us hard. I like the way we played. We played I thought two pretty good periods Friday night against the Rangers and I thought we played very well [Sunday] night. I thought we deserved a better fate.
We’ve got our backs against the wall. We can’t look at who we play on Thursday. We have to look at who we play on Tuesday. It’s one game at a time and all we can do at this point is chip away. I still believe we can get there [the playoffs], but we don’t control our entire destiny. We can only worry about winning our games and we are not going to give up.
Q. From your GM seat, what has gone wrong between the win against the Islanders and your current situation?
A. It’s interesting because you analyze everything. You look at what changed. The one thing that has changed is we lost Evander Kane. It’s hard to imagine I’m going to put that much on an 18-year-old player, but if you just look at what he was doing prior –and if he is in the lineup we might have lost five in a row – I thought he was playing his best hockey when he got hurt with speed and the intangibles. I think that’s a part. Is that the reason? Absolutely you can’t put it all on an 18 year old. But I think that’s part of the reason.
I also think that we were getting away the last few games with our special teams not being as good as they can be. And then they went fully where we weren’t very good. I’ve said from Day One here, special teams are going to win and lose you hockey games and I think it’s starting to cost us games. We are running a fine line because we are still able to score goals five-on-five, but when we start getting shut out five-on-five then not scoring on the power play, and the other team was scoring every game on the power play, I think that’s a big difference.
Q. Is this season a disappointment now [with your struggle to make the playoffs] or will that come once the season is over?
A. I always believe you take the positive approach. Am I disappointed we went through this stretch? Absolutely. Am I happy the way we looked [Sunday] night? Yes. Now we’ve got to build off that. We are not going to dwell on that right now, these last five games. At the end of the year we will break down the months and weeks [of the season]. We had a couple other five-game losing streaks. Obviously, this is going to gain all the attention because when it happens. That’s why we talk about those points in October and November are just as important as they are in March and April. You’ve got to look at the entire season once you are all done.
Q. Is the fact that you are in a position where lines are still getting juggled part of the issue?
A. Some of it is injury. Part of it is trying to find guys that can click. You’d like to think you can be stabilized and have lines for the entire year, but obviously we’ve made some changes. Particularly when we brought [Niclas] Bergfors in, with [Bryan] Little and [Nik] Antropov they went really good. Now they’ve seemed to hit a little dry spell. Max [Afinogenov] looked pretty good with [Antropov] earlier in the year, so I think the coaches are just trying to find the combinations to give us some spark.
Q. You haven’t been consistent all season with putting a winning streak together and you have had a nine-game losing streak. Is there some reason for that?
A. We’ll have to look at that at the end of the year. If it was that easy and I could pinpoint it, it would happen once and never happen again. We’ll have to take a hard look and see.
Q. Will you make a coaching change between now and the end of the year?
Q. Will that be something you would look at as part of the end-of-year evaluation?
A. I think everything has to be evaluated. Obviously, if we don’t get to where we want to be all positions need to be evaluated. It’s part of the business. We all want to win and have success and make the playoffs and if we don’t reach our goals that we feel were attainable you have to look at every avenue in the organization.
Q. How about you and your position?
A. That’s up to the owners. Every year you go through an evaluation and see what happens. I expect the same this year.
Q. With several unrestricted free agents, are you working to re-sign any or will you wait until the season is over?
A. During the Olympic break, I did talk to [Pavel] Kubina and [Colby] Armstrong. There was nothing that was pressing to get a deal done. With the schedule that we have going, I don’t want any distractions for these players. If we get into April and it’s gone one way or another, then maybe we can re-visit it. It’s just another month. They can’t go somewhere else in the next month. Sometimes if the player is more anxious, the agent will be more diligent. In this case I’ve talked to both guys and they are fine.
Q. So, Kubina and Armstrong are two players you’d like to bring back?
A. There are a lot of guys we are going to talk about. … I don’t see anything happening any time soon.
Q. In your opinion, to make the playoffs are you looking at a certain number of wins? How do you look at it?
A. I think we got caught up in that a couple of weeks ago, trying to figure out how many points it’s going to take. Right now, we should worry about Tuesday night. That’s what I’ve stressed around here. We are about Tuesday. When we get through Tuesday, we’ll worry about Thursday. Stop watching the big picture. Last week when we had the eighth spot, everyone was trying to figure out magic points. My line has always been, you don’t have enough points to get in right now, so don’t worry about it. Just keep putting points on the board.
Q. Are you still confident with the home games this month that will be a help?
A. I said all along our schedule was set up that if we were going to have success it was a favorable schedule. We’ve got to take advantage of it. This is a huge week for us. It starts Tuesday. We’ve got to take advantage of it.