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 coaching staff. Looks like they have fun, but unfortunately in the NHL you have to work. You have to prepare for every game. There are lots of good teams in the NHL and you think if you are a good team if you see the roster. That doesn’t work in this league. You have to do homework and work hard. I think I can put a big question mark that they weren’t preparing.”

* “I worked with good coaches. It’s not about me. I don’t think I deserved how they treated me this year, but I don’t want to complain. Whatever happened, has happened. It’s not my fault or Kovy’s fault that we are not in the playoffs.”

* “I think I’m a winner. If we make playoffs then I can say yes coach made the right decision to bench me and don’t play me. Right now I think he didn’t play me, we didn’t make playoffs. I feel pretty good. I played here for eight years. Nothing against the team or the organization. It’s just between me and the coach. I have lots of friends and I have a lot of respect for this team.”

* “It’s just between me and coach. I don’t want to say any bad thing about coach, but I don’t have any good thing to say.”

* “I felt pressure since training camp. Coach told me he has pressure from upstairs. I talked to [GM] Don [Waddell], he said he never talked to the coach. Somebody is lying. I don’t want to know what happened and who is lying. I feel like I don’t deserve to be treated like that. Right now, it’s over. The last game, I have lots of support from the fans. I don’t know maybe it was because I’m not coming back next year or it’s my last game but it was nice last night.”

* “This system, for two years they tell us it’s going to work but unfortunately everybody knows what we are going to do. Our breakouts, we make two, three passes in our zone and we don’t beat anybody. I saw that in the New Jersey game. New Jersey just waited in the neutral zone and we make two or three passes and make one mistake in neutral zone and boom, they counter attack us. …

“I’m very positive (this group of players could win under a different system). It’s not the system, but the way they feel the game. We lost lots of games by one goal and I feel when it’s a tight game, like one-goal or tie game, you have to start playing two or three lines. Nothing against players like [Chris Thorburn], [Eric Boulton] or [Marty Reasoner], but to get the feel of the game you have to use your key players more. When it’s 5-1, you can play everybody but when it’s a tie game you can judge a good coach from the great coach. The great coach sees how the team is playing, who has to play right now, what do you need to change right now. Not after the game or before. I think we missed that part.”

To be fair, I wanted to talk to Anderson after the interview with Kozlov. I was told he would not speak today and would be available Monday. I will talk to him then.

109 comments Add your comment


April 11th, 2010
2:19 pm

Kozlov may have some points about the coaching staff, and really … that the team was “seemingly unprepared” for some games does speak to that. For a time, we talked about how the Thrashers would take the first 40 minutes of a game off, then kick it into gear in the third period. So, I won’t exactly say that Kozlov has sour grapes. But really, Slava Kozlov played himself out of a job. And if he wants to pin that on Anderson, I think it’s sad.

I also wish Kozlov well in his future endeavors. If he retires, if he plays in the KHL, or if he joins another NHL team … I hope he does well. I know that I don’t want him back next season. So, this news is good news, to me.


April 11th, 2010
2:20 pm

Wow. I think it’s safe to say Kozlov and Anderson won’t be exchanging Christmas cards. Can’t wait to hear from Anderson on this.

B. Thenet

April 11th, 2010
2:27 pm

If I had to chose between who was telling me the truth, Waddell or Anderson, I would side with Anderson.


April 11th, 2010
2:34 pm

I hope he enjoys the KHL. Good riddance to the grumpy old man that didnt get his way

Matt Farmer

April 11th, 2010
2:38 pm

Anderson has no business behind the bench of an NHL franchise. He is incapable of adjusting to the NHL game, does not make the proper in-game adjustments and keeps trying the same things over and over again. I very much agree with Kozlov on this and coach Anderson needs to be given his walking papers. There’s a lot of talent on the team, they couldn’t retain the services of the best player the franchise has ever seen. They played like a very unmotivated team down the stretch when the playoffs were a real and attainable possibility they drop five straight to some of the league’s weakest teams. Unacceptable. Well coached teams don’t fold when the playoffs are directly in sight, they turn it on. Personally, I think the results speak for themselves. Anderson is in way over his head in the NHL. I think if you’re cheering for Anderson to succeed, you’re essentially cheering for the Thrashers to fail. There’s a reason that NO other team gave him as much as a cursory look to helm their franchises.


April 11th, 2010
2:41 pm

Bye Slava…I will miss you.

But I won’t miss John Anderson. AT ALL.


April 11th, 2010
2:44 pm

Ouch. I have to agree with a lot that Kozlov said.


April 11th, 2010
2:45 pm

I have to agree with Kozlov about everyone knowing what the team is going to do. I was at the New Jersey game this week and it was awful. I’m sick and tired of seeing this team having no other options but to dump the puck into the offensive even on the powerplay. That’s pathetic! Waddell absolutely has to go and he can take Anderson with him. Next year is a make or break year for this franchise, that’s for sure.


April 11th, 2010
2:58 pm

both teflon Don and Anderson and his entire staff need to be shown the DOOR.

Slava is right on. He was a loyal thrasher for years and I have nothing but respect for the man, wish him all the best.


April 11th, 2010
3:00 pm

“Coach told me he has pressure from upstairs. I talked to [GM] Don [Waddell], he said he never talked to the coach. Somebody is lying.”

Not sure what to think about that.


April 11th, 2010
3:35 pm

I was saying same thing since first day of the Season. Anderson is not NHL Coach. He will killed all our young players such as Kane, Bogus, Little, Berg. Please we have lot of time to change a system and managment. It must do now, because if we lost next season without PO it will be horrible. Thank you Slava for honest answers.


April 11th, 2010
3:39 pm

Share many of Slava’s opinions. However, he probably hsould have kept to himslef. Just looks like sour grapes at this point.


April 11th, 2010
3:43 pm

Whomever is lying, they should be shown the door. You can’t lie to your players, ever! Just ask yourself; would Ted Turner Bobby Cox, Philip Wrigley, Paul Brown, Bill Lucas ever lie to their players? NO!


April 11th, 2010
3:50 pm

Totally, 100% MF RIGHT. Every freakin’ word. Right. Kozlov’s a class act. Talented. Knowledgable. PROVEN WINNER. Brilliant strategist.

Anderson’s petty, stubborn, unprofessional and mediocre as a coach in the NHL.

His (rather large) butt ought to be outta here this evening. What? Is it going to take Waddell three freakin’ seasons to see that Kozzie’s RIGHT?

I’ll be saving my money til then…


April 11th, 2010
3:54 pm

Looks like Slava had a few scorching slappers left in that old body of his, in the form of a big, WTF, “I’m out the door”, honesty bomb. He may have just done us a huge favor with his parting shots, that is if the ASG dolts take them to heart.

Thanks Slava for your long tenure of faithful service, this year notwithstanding, and thank you for your stone cold honesty. Russian players don’t generally screw around and make comments they don’t mean or believe. I don’t see him lying here. He has no reason to.


April 11th, 2010
3:57 pm

All I have to say is I was @ several Practices this year and I can’t remember a one were they practiced the power play after Kovy was traded! Why would you not change the system after you trade away a key member of the Power play.
Why would you not practice the Shot-out, There are just some things that too me were wrong about practice this season, And as the saying goes you play as you practice and if you are not teaching they are not learning!!! THANK YOU SLAVA!!!! SLAVA PLAYER CHOACH!!!!!


April 11th, 2010
4:03 pm

Give Kozlov a coaching position. He knows the team and the fans.


April 11th, 2010
4:18 pm

This has got to go in the paper, right? Its too powerful not to be read beyond this blog.

Sherry Taylor

April 11th, 2010
4:24 pm

The Thrashers need the hockey version of Thomas Dimitroff.

East Point Bob

April 11th, 2010
4:30 pm

I believe Don Waddell to be, like many have said, to be a complete liar.
He is no good period. Waddell is the problem with the Thrashers, he has to be fired for the sake of this entire team. Nobody wants to be around him and like one blogger said, during the interview on TV last night, he would not look at the camera not once. I have to ask why does AJC continue to
protect Waddell ? AJC should be raking his ass all over the place for his dishonesty.
I believe Slava about Anderson, time for his exit and a real NHL coach brought in.
The ASG needs to step up and make these changes or sell out asap !


April 11th, 2010
4:30 pm

I completely agree with Kozzy! 100%! In the start of the season we looked great on paper and even when kovy got traded i still felt we had a potent lineup. Unfortunately JA’s system WILL NEVER EVER work in the NHL Level. His system is more like minor league style of play. If we get a different system we are easily the east’s version of the Nashville Preds. They’ve got decent talent but a good disciplined system. JA should get fired or he should find a good system for this team. Are u sure its never too late to bring back coach Hartley?

R. Stroz

April 11th, 2010
4:31 pm

If I were to choose which one of these three individuals, Waddell, Anderson or Kozlov was telling the truth, I’d put all my money on Kozlov.

We’ve seen Waddell’s statements for years. They speak for themselves.

We’ve heard Anderson’s excuses for two years. They speak for themselves.

We’ve seen Kozlov play for several years. His stats, up until this year, speak for themselves.

And BTW, there is a reason this team has a problem with player retention and it sure isn’t Kozlov’s fault, is it?


April 11th, 2010
4:34 pm

Brendan- Re: The Sedins
I can’t remember where, but I think I once heard that they had said publicly that they wouldn’t sign with an NHL team drafted or not, unless it was for the same team.


April 11th, 2010
4:38 pm

I have watched Slava play since he was a rookie. He has won 2 Stanley Cups and played for hands-down the greatest coach to ever be behind a hockey bench. I’ll take his word over anyone else’s in that organization’s any day and twice on game days.

People often talk of the talent the Red Wings carry on their roster when referring to their Championships. And certainly having multiple future Hall of Famers never hurts. But what actually put them over the edge was an unbelievable amount of hard work and buy-in from every player on that roster. I remember a quote from Darren McCarty after they won the ‘97 Cup, referring back to their failed bids in prior seasons. Paraphrased, it was “We thought we could win on talent alone.” Turns out, they couldn’t. No matter how much talent you have, you still have to work your butt off every practice and every game. There are plenty of shining examples all over the NHL of teams that think having the most talented roster is what makes you Championship-calibre. Didn’t work for the Rangers when Sather showed more cents than sense. Hasn’t gotten the Sharks very far either. The Penguins certainly had to learn the lesson the hard way in 2008. And it’s why sometimes not-so-talented teams like the Hurricanes have been able to win a Cup. It’s all about hard work.

This team doesn’t work hard enough consistently enough. Been that way all the way back to the Curt Fraser days when a 1 or 2 goal hole would send the players into their shells. Hartley, for all his lockerroom ranting, couldn’t get them much more disciplined. And while I understand I think what Anderson is trying to accomplish with his system, he is either incapable of properly explaining it to the players so they know what to do or he just doesn’t have what it takes to motivate them.

There’s no discipline in this organization, on or off the ice given the antics some players have gotten into in the past. It just feels like this is all one big lark or hobby or novelty. It sure doesn’t scream “professional organization” – which is why players like Kovalchuk and Hossa and Kozlov will all move on somewhere else in their careers and other respectable free agent players aren’t going to touch this team with Zdeno Chara’s hockey stick.

Part of me is really proud of what these guys did this year, compared to last year. Kane had a fantastic season, so did Antropov, and Slater, and Moose, and Pavs, and Kubina. But another part of me is really really pissed that they threw away a golden opportunity by slacking off when it mattered the most. Oh they tried none-too-subtly to blame it all on Kovy (with much fan buy-in I might add). But the truth has a funny way of coming out in the wash and the fact is this team *still* fell apart even after Kovy was long gone.

They doesn’t need to make some big, huge off-season cleaning. The bones of a solid core are here, even if all the UFAs were to walk. But there definitely needs to be a few, precise extractions and some tinkering. So help me hockey gods, if they don’t find a way to get on the same page with the Chicago Wolves I am going to scream bloody murder. And I don’t want to see John Anderson behind the bench next season. Steve Weeks either for that matter. I want a real friggin’ goalie coach in here for Pavs and likely ultimately Mannino. I want the owners and Waddell as pissed as can be that this team didn’t cut the mustard. It’d be one thing if they’d been hanging around the bottom 7 for most of the season and had a late surge to stay in it. But to have been in a play-off spot AFTER the deadline and essentially throw it all away between a losing streak and not being able to win the crucial games down the stretch .. it’s pathetic.

Oh yeah – and ditch the pansy blue jerseys.


April 11th, 2010
4:59 pm

Who cares? Hopefully the team will leave soon. Hockey in Atlanta does not work.


April 11th, 2010
5:00 pm

I certainly don’t follow the game like I did in the 90s, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the one common denominator in all these years of having the talent but missing the playoffs has been Waddell. I have no idea how he has held onto his job this long.


April 11th, 2010
5:01 pm

R. Stroz

April 11th, 2010
5:05 pm

Sara – Slava wasn’t only pointing at the coaching staff. If you read the article carefully, he was also pointing at Waddell.


April 11th, 2010
5:15 pm

I woke up today with the end-of-the-season blues, but the thing that got me out of bed was the need to write to ownership about the horrible treatment Slava got this year. I’ve spent a lot of time this season wondering who (Don or John or both?) he’d p***d off. I’ve been surprised that so many people were ready to chalk it up to Slava being older, which I never believed was the issue, or that he was past his prime. This is Slava, we’re talking about folks. He was in remarkable shape at training camp and he looked awesome.

I was 100% certain at the beginning of the season that we would make the playoffs, but over the course of the season, even before Kovy was gone, I had the creeping feeling that something must still be missing. It was like getting an awesome new toy, but not knowing how to make it work. The guys never learned how to play a full game, and when they did it was always a surprise. After reading this article it is clear what the problem was, and it helped me see that the “lack” that we had was not in talent or experience but vision, work ethic, and true belief in the outcome. Thank you, Slava, for all you did here, and thank you for your honesty. I can’t wait to see who picks you up and lets you play like you deserve to play!

BTW, Sara, I love reading your posts–you’re thoughtful and knowledgeable and never rude to folks who disagree with you. Rock on, sister. And I’m with you about the blue jerseys. Enough ugly, already.


April 11th, 2010
5:45 pm

what dis slava do when he was on the ice this year??


April 11th, 2010
6:16 pm

Wow, powerful comments from a proven player. I am sure there is some truth and some sour grapes, but I would say mostly truth.

I always thought the leadership problem was from the players, apparently Slava thinks otherwise.

With Anderson as a coach this year. We were pretty good 5 on 5. We were the worst team in the league 4 on 4. Our PP and PK were in the bottom 60% of the league.

I believe our 5 on 5 play was pretty good-Grade wise: B
4 on 4: F
PP: D+
PK: C-

Coaching is the difference in the 3 categories that we were terrible. Talent is repsonsible for 5 on 5.

Anderson has to go.


April 11th, 2010
6:24 pm

Keith – who cares about what you have to say? If you don’t care about Hockey in Atlanta THEN WHY TROLL ON A HOCKEY BLOG??!?!?!??


April 11th, 2010
6:27 pm

-Great talent. Great front office. Poor coaching.
What is atlanta pro sports?
-Correct, go again.


April 11th, 2010
6:27 pm

Ignore Keith.

I agree with pretty much everyone. Time for Anderson to go.

Putting On The Foil

April 11th, 2010
7:32 pm

Right on Kozy.

Alan R.

April 11th, 2010
7:41 pm

Good to see Kozlov had the stones to say what he means, and mean what he says. I knew this sort of response was a long time coming. I just have to wonder if the coach is going to actually address this on Monday, or if he’s just going to write it off as sour grapes.


April 11th, 2010
7:52 pm

Did I interpret that Slava blames Anderson and Waddell, but not the ownership? Interesting.


April 11th, 2010
7:57 pm

Look Slava needed to be benched, he was driving me crazy and taken more stupid penalties this year and had turnovers that rookies make(and there where many others who believed this also). He was a very good player and seemed to be a classy guy, but this is a bush league move. He should not have said these things, but I guess he doesn’t care since he is on his way out the door. It also would sound like JA had several reasons to bench him.

As for JA I don’t think that all the blame can be laid at his feet. This was NOT the most talented team we have had in 11 years, the team that made the playoffs would wipe the floor with the guys…which is sad. There where times that the lack of talent was very evident. Let’s face it the team NEEDS a fresh start. It starts at the top, although we know it won’t happen, although ASG did fire Billy Knight and I thought he was untouchable also….So, there is hope. Some of the guys played their tales off and some where just out there.


April 11th, 2010
8:02 pm

ok, probably tomorrow asg to save don idiot going to make ja the scapegoat. kozzy right ja sucks, but dw also stink to high heaven all hockey world now that, but asg. so welcome back don to continue screw this franchize. now who going to believe that they will choose new real coach. real coach will demand real money, specialy to work with clown gm. no way for asg. they stupid and cheap. so going to be cheap coach and no light at the end of tunell. it’s going to be a lot of playoff apperances for this team after relocation ofcourse with donny getting permanent unemployed. atlanta hockey cursed. thank you donny


April 11th, 2010
8:18 pm

Let me up Koslov. Your #17 pal played like a half-@ssed crybaby for three straight weeks when the word was out his contract had “hit a snag.” Those 11 games cost ATL the playoffs. “Francise Player” my @ss !


April 11th, 2010
8:30 pm

I agree 100% with Kozlov, even though he wasn’t playing as well as last yr, he still was more effective than some of the players Anderson was going with.
I also remember one game when we were behind by one goal with 2 minutes to play and we had the 4th line taking a faceoff in the offensive zone which I thought was crazy, this was something Kozlov mentioned.

The fact that after he criticized Anderson for not rolling three lines late in games caused him to be benched speaks volumes concerning Anderson’s mentality. Play your best players regardless of whether you have any differences of opinion.

This organization needs to clean house now.


April 11th, 2010
8:34 pm

The Thrash faithful has railed for two years about the apparent lack of a system or the ability to adapt to the defensive trap that teams threw at us. How in the world did Teflon Don not also notice it. Unless of course, old Donnie Brilliance doesn’t have the hockey smarts that he claims to have. Get the Big Broom out and sweep both of them out. Slava provided some good moments but he’s at the end of a good career. Good luck Slava wherever you end up.


April 11th, 2010
8:49 pm

I am afraid we will see JA gone. Too bad DW will still have a job


April 11th, 2010
8:55 pm


Even with a re-read I still don’t see Koz pointing a finger at DWad.

I wish he would.

I wish he would light a ginormous frekking torch and let him have it the way someone (anyone) should have by now.

Whether it was Anderson’s fault or not this year, this pile of poo still sits squarely at the feet of the man who holds the key to the portapotty: Don Waddell.

Can’t wait to see who the next victim behind the bench will be.


April 11th, 2010
9:34 pm

I kind of appreciate Kozy’s honesty. Someone has to say something and not sugarcoat it. Kozy is one of the smartest (and one of the most all around experienced) NHL players out there. I would be curious if he talked to Chelios about this or if just he and Kovalsuck talked amongst themselves. Remember there was a note somewhere in the paper after the NJ game that Kovy thought Kozlov was being treated unfairly. Was the benching of Kozy the final straw for Kovy deciding to leave? I also agree with most of what Kozy had to say. The entire coaching staff needs to go (I won’t even bother saying the same for DWad again for the umpteenth time). But the question I ask today, “Who would you want (that’s available) to coach next year?” Any chance of getting Denny Savard to come over since Dudley is here (hopefully to stay)?!?


April 11th, 2010
9:39 pm

You know… I’m trying to figure out why this is so hard to figure out…. 10 years… 1 playoff sighting… no wins… Multiple players.. Multiple coaches….. One GM… One Management team. I remember what a prominent writer on leadership and success has mentioned in the past… when the team fails… they retrain the team and fire the leadership…. Wadell MUST go after this season. If he does not… then I’m afraid the Thrashers will go the way of the Flames…. to someone else. This IS a hockey town… but they must put a team on the ice that can win… not be a model of futility. FIRE WADELL and give me something to be proud of!

R. Stroz

April 11th, 2010
9:44 pm

I felt pressure since training camp. Coach told me he has pressure from upstairs. I talked to [GM] Don [Waddell], he said he never talked to the coach. Somebody is lying. I don’t want to know what happened and who is lying. I feel like I don’t deserve to be treated like that.

bugman – Kozzie is saying either Anderson or Waddell isn’t telling the truth. Factor in the track record for both individuals and take your pick.

Kozzie also previously stated that he didn’t appreciate Waddell’s comment about Kovy being with the team eight years with only one playoff berth and zero playoff wins and the team needed a new direction.

If team management thought the team needed a different direction, why was Kovy offered 10 million a year for seven years?

Not Blind

April 11th, 2010
10:08 pm

Hey, maybe we could get Torts. After this afternoon’s game no way does he deserve to keep his job. Trying to make do with one goal is stupid in today’s NHL. Unfortunately that is the way the Thrashers have played since 99. Get one goal and then stop trying to score and play the rest of the game in their own end. Stupid.


April 11th, 2010
10:08 pm

Just out of curiosity, is there a blogger here … who thinks Don Waddell SHOULD be back next year? And if so, what are you basing that on? Give examples of his excellent coaching selection, draft picks, offseason moves, etc. State your case for him. Remember in the preseason, when Waddell moved Exelby and Colin Stuart for Kubina and Stapleton. Everyone said it was one of the best offseason moves. Remember when Waddell signed Max Afinogenov, for the paltry sum of $800,000. And we trumpeted it as “playoffs, here we come!!”

Remember when Waddell said we’d be BUYERS at the deadline? Well, assess those moves. Clarke MacArthur for a 4th and 5th rounder from Buffalo. Admittedly, I loved that move. How about Artyukhin for a song? And Dallas’ top D-man prospect for Kari Lehtonen. And what about Bergfors, Cormier, Oduya, and a 1st round pick, plus flipping 2nd rounders, for Kovalchuk?

I welcome a diversity of opinions out there. If you are a Waddell-backer and you want to make your case for keeping him, let’s hear it.

Joe Friday

April 11th, 2010
10:18 pm

“Kozzie is saying either Anderson or Waddell isn’t telling the truth. Factor in the track record for both individuals and take your pick.”

Bingo. I felt from day one of seeing Anderson’s “system” (once I figured out what it actually was), that it wouldn’t work in the NHL. Anderson needs to go. But don’t lose sight of the big picture, Waddell is once again the cause. Who hired Anderson? Waddell. Who every single year has a misfit organization full of strife and locker room tension? Waddell.

If a presser is called tomorrow, it’ll be the dawn of a new day in Thrasherville. If Monday comes and goes with Don Waddell still in his job, then the last one out can turn out the lights, but it’ll just be one more year of “Unleash The Futility”.