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.