Archive for April, 2010

A few (small) pieces of offseason news

I wanted to get a new blog up – in between too much yard work and some Braves assignments – and post a few items of news. Nothing big, but I thought the loyal Thrashers readers would be interested in them.

* Not much to report on the coaching search right now. The one name that I have heard mentioned by several people in the NHL is Blackhawks assistant John Torchetti. We may know more about his status once the Blackhawks season is over.

* I’m hearing that SportSouth has re-upped to do Thrashers television for three more seasons. Not sure if that has been out there or not. My understanding is the new deal also includes an increase in the number of games aired each season with up to 75 in the third year. I will let you know if I find out something more.

* Also the radio deal with 680 The Fan expired after this recently completed season. My understanding that a deal there is being worked on and may well get done, but nothing official yet so stay tuned.

* Rich Peverley has joined …

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Q and A with Thrashers co-owner Bruce Levenson

Here is the transcript from my interview with Atlanta Spirit co-owner Bruce Levenson done Wednesday night after the franchise promoted Don Waddell to president, promoted Rick Dudley to general manager and did not retain its coaching staff.

Q. Why the organizational changes? Why now?

A. We obviously had this in mind when we brought Rick [Dudley] in a year ago. We thought it was a wise investment to have another voice at the table that had achieved a fair amount of success in this league. We wanted to get to know him and it was an opportunity to do that. He’s a rink rat and I mean that in a very flattering way. It was an opportunity for him to do that and see how it goes. We talked about it over the course of the year and in recent weeks it just all came together. If we were going to do this, this was the time. Way ahead of the draft. The decision was made to go into a different direction with the coaching staff and we wanted Rick to head up the effort in putting a new staff …

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Big Thrashers news: Waddell moved up, Dudley in, coaches out

The Thrashers named Don Waddell president, promoted Rick Dudley to general manager and dismissed its coaching staff Wednesday, the AJC first reported. They are three significant moves aimed at changing the direction of a franchise that has made the playoffs just once in its 10-season history.

The moves came four days after the end of the Thrashers season and the day the Stanley Cup playoffs were to begin.

Waddell has served as general manager of the Thrashers since its inception, being named to the position in June 1998. Last offseason he was also named executive vice president of the Atlanta Spirit, the parent company of the Thrashers, Hawks and Philips Arena.

Waddell said Sunday, the day after the season ended, he expected to return to the organization next season but would not be specific when asked in what role.

Dudley joined the Thrashers in June of last year and spent his first season with the team as associate general manager. Dudley, with over 40 years of experience in …

Continue reading Big Thrashers news: Waddell moved up, Dudley in, coaches out »

Some early free agent updates … then some time off

Spent much of the past two days talking to as many players as possible as they had year-end physicals and exit interviews. I think I gathered enough information to keep posting  blogs through the playoffs, at least. I did about 24 interviews. That will keep some hockey talk going.

There were a couple of updates I wanted to bring you right away. The Thrashers have nine unrestricted free agents and it appears that Maxim Afinogenov, Pavel Kubina and Colby Armstrong may be the first players they target. GM Don Waddell said Sunday that Afinogenov and Kubina have both expressed an interest in returning. They told me the same thing Monday.

Here is some of what Afinogenov told me: “I really like it here. The whole organization was very good to me. I feel comfortable. I feel like it’s home. I really enjoyed this year here.

“It was a tough situation for me [last offseason]. I know how I can play and what I can do. It was a tough situation in Buffalo (the last two seasons). I never got a …

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Anderson answers back

I was able to speak to coach John Anderson today, after he finished player exit interviews, about the comments made by Slava Kozlov Sunday on the team’s failures.

As a matter of fairness I probably should have waited to report Kozlov’s statements until talking to Anderson.

As I did with Kozlov, here are a selection of Anderson’s comments. I will let you decide what you think:

*“He could have spoken to me. The door is always open. I played him that last game. That’s how much respect I had for him. I didn’t want it to come to this. Quite honestly, if you look back on it if he had the type of season he had the year before, would we be having this conversation.”

*“I think he went to our management and wanted a new contract and they said ‘Let’s see how the year goes.’ Isn’t that the normal thing that anyone would say? I don’t understand why he felt that way from the start of the year. He played on every power play right up until January. It wasn’t just him. I sat out [Todd] White. …

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Kozlov points to coaching staff for team’s failures

I just got back from Thrashers practice facility where players and physicals and exit interviews. I talked to most of the players (missed a few I hope to get tomorrow) so that should keep us going while the NHL is in the playoffs.

Slava Kozlov pointed to the coaching staff for the reason the Thrashers failed to make the playoffs. He certainly played his final game, after eight seasons with the franchise, on Saturday night. His parting words were biting. I will let you take what you want from what he said.  Here are some of his quotes:

* “Every year you guys ask the same question [why did Thrashers miss the playoffs]. To me, this was the best team in 11 years of the organization. This franchise had the best players. Right now, they can not blame [Ilya] Kovalchuk or [Slava] Kozlov. They have to take responsibility, because I think ownership did everything right, signed good players, they have a good goalie, good defense — but something is missing. I think we are missing from the …

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Updated: Season over for Antropov, Kubina, White

Back from the last Thrashers practice of the season. There is plenty of news to report.

Officially add Nik Antropov to the list of injured players. In fact, he won’t play the final two games of the season.

“He’s played through an injury all year. He’s going to be looked at by our doctors and see what his prognosis is for the summer,” Coach John Anderson said Wednesday. “We’ll find out more next week.”

He did have a hip injury. He would take  a practice off each week.

The upper-body injuries to Pavel Kubina and Todd White also turned out to be season-ending. They will not play Friday against Capitals or Saturday against Penguins.

Christoph Schubert is also out.

In the 99th update to this story: The Thrashers will re-call Arturs Kulda, not Ivan Vishnevskiy, from AHL Chicago. Sorry for the several versions of this report. The Thrashers have only five healthy defensemen since Chris Chelios was sent back to Chicago for the Calder Cup playoffs. Kulda appeared in two games for the …

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Chelios, Stapleton re-assigned to AHL

With the Thrashers eliminated from the playoffs, Chris Chelios and Tim Stapleton were sent back to AHL Chicago for the Calder Cup playoffs, which begin next Wednesday for the Wolves. They were long gone by the time practice began Wednesday.

By sending Chelios down, the Thrashers have just five healthy defensemen. Coach John Anderson said the team would most likely re-call a player from the minors, but a decision has not been made yet as to who it might be.

It was a light practice day with lots of players not on the ice. Those who did not practice were: Pavel Kubina, Bryan Little, Todd White, Marty Reasoner, Nik Antropov and Clarke MacArthur.

Here are some of the things Anderson said today:

On reporting to work after elimination: “It’s somber, to say the least. Very disappointing.”

On the team’s recent play: “As a coach I love the fact that we tried so hard, but on the other hand we still have to find a way to do what other teams are doing. We have to find a way. That’s just …

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Kovalchuk knows what’s coming against former team

Ilya Kovalchuk knows what’s coming tonight when he plays at Philips Arena – this time as a member of the Devils.

A youth hockey group sat in one of the upper sections of the rink while the Devils participated in their morning skate in preparation for tonight’s game against the Thrashers. Many of the kids booed every time he touched the puck.

“They are practicing for tonight,” said Kovalchuk, who expects to be booed by his former home crowd.

That’s fine with the former Thrashers No. 1 overall pick and captain. He plays for the Devils now and that means a trip to the playoffs. The Thrashers are hanging on for a chance to make the playoffs for only the second time in the 10-year franchise history.

“It nice,” Kovalchuk said of the upcoming playoffs. “That’s why we play hockey, to win. You don’t want to finish every year and go play in the World Championships. I won twice. Now I want to win something different.

“Every day I feel better and better [about being in New Jersey]. I know …

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Getting ready for Kovy’s return

Getting settled in here in Duluth as we begin the final week of the regular season. And look who comes calling tomorrow? Ilya Kovalchuk.

I’m hoping to speak to him today about his return, but I’m wondering what you think the fan reaction will be?

Does Kovy get cheered? Booed? Mixed reaction?

I remember talking to him shortly after he was traded when we were in Washington. He already knew the date of April 6th and the Devils return to Philips Arena then. It should be interesting. Let me know what you think will happen.

As for Monday’s practice:

Todd White is skating after missing several games with an upper-body injury. I will check on his status for Tuesday’s game after practice.

Evgeny Artyukhin is at practice after missing Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury.

Pavel Kubina (upper-body) and Bryan Little (lower-body) are not at practice.

Here are the practice lines:

Gray: Bergfors-Antropov-Afinogenov

Light blue: Kane-Peverley-MacArthur

Yellow: …

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