Ramsay’s focus continues to be on defense

The Thrashers practiced at the IceForum Monday morning before a group of 22 departed for tonight’s preseason game in Nashville (see previous blog). I will not be making the trip. However, I want to assure AJC readers that I will be traveling with the team once the regular season starts. The plan is to make road trips. I have booked travel for the month of October – including the six-day West Coast trip. So remember, ajc.com will be the place to get your information from those three late starts. I will post game stories, notes and blogs and keep you as up to date as if the games where here in Atlanta. Thanks for all the support.

Now, on to the on-ice business. A couple things to note from interview with coach Craig Ramsay following Monday’s practice.

* It is clear that Ramsay’s initial points of emphasis with the Thrashers will be the defense. Here is what he said today about what he would like to see against Nashville.

“Our breakouts were better, but not good enough,” he said. “Our roots for the breakout are a little off. We went over some video today to try to tighten that up a little bit. This team tonight will come at us with a lot of speed and our D will have to get back fast, work together, support the goaltender if he has to handle the puck. The flaw with two of the goals we have given up [during the preseason] was when the goalie had the puck and our defensemen didn’t do a good job of supporting him and that’s the most important issue right now. We don’t expect the goalies to clear pucks. We want them to move it to a defenseman and let him make a play. That means our D has to go back quick. That’s one of the things we talked about today.”

Ramsay went so far as to say he’s working to “de-program” players to do things they way he wants them done.

“One of the hardest things a coach will ever do is de-program someone. That terminology covers a lot of things. If you are trying to take somebody who has done certain things for a period of time and I say ‘I don’t want you to do that anymore. I want you to do something else.’ Every coach has to make his adjustments. The hardest part is to de-program somebody and get them back together so they are on the same page and they don’t have to think about what they are doing, they can just do it. The game is so quick and if you are stopping to think about where you are going or what your next play should be it’s probably too late. That’s where we have to keep going over things. …

“Like those breakouts and supporting the goalie correctly so he’s not trapped with the puck. It’s simple, but we have to go over that.

“The way I want it done is different than the way other teams have done it. I would like to see our defensemen use each other. I want to see D-to-D plays. I want the goalie to have a defenseman to pass to. I want us to have composure with the puck. … If you’ve been unsuccessful as a group, you tend to watch players and hope that they can do it by themselves and we don’t want that. We want everybody involved.”

* One other area that Ramsay is working to correct is having too many players too close to the goal crease. He wants a third man farther out from the goal to help get rebounded shots.

“Our third man doesn’t stay high enough,” Ramsay said. “That’s part of the excitement and wanting to show us [what they can do] and they get too close to the net. … [Saturday] we had a great play, shot on net, and we had everybody standing in the goal crease and the puck was 10 feet away. That’s the excitement of ‘I’ll show you what I can do’ and ‘I’m working hard.’ We worked hard but sometimes it’s more important to work smart.”

* Ramsay said he does not need to have a final roster before the final two preseason games on Friday and Saturday.

“What’s more important is to be as fresh as you can be when you get through with these games,” Ramsay said. “We would like to have a really good roster this week as we play each game and I think we will. We are going to get [Nik Antropov] back, probably, and want to get in a couple games with him. We can’t play him three. You don’t want to play him back-to-back. There are a few issues that might come up that will prevent us from having our set lineup those last couple games. We are not worried because of this [remaining] group, we think they all can play.”

* Ramsay said it’s too early to start thinking too much about line combinations. However, he said they are watching for chemistry. One of the lines that he singled out was the Ben Eager-Chris Thorburn-Anthony Stewart line.

“I thought Thorburn’s whole line looked very good,” Ramsay said. “Thorburn did a good job on the faceoffs, they had the puck in the offensive zone. We’d like to see those big strong guys get the puck in deep and keep it.”

* General manager Rick Dudley told me it’s unlikely the Thrashers will be making a waiver-wire claim.

23 comments Add your comment

kracker

September 27th, 2010
3:10 pm

Sweet, Chris! I am very glad to hear you will be making all the games this year. I get up and check twitter on the droid as I am waking up. Then get online here and also read my daily newspaper as the day goes on. One request: Please report back several more wins than loses this season, continuing into next summer if at all possible.

Barry

September 27th, 2010
3:17 pm

Tonights game will be on Predators radio. Go to Predators.nhl.com and click on the PREVIEW link for tonight’s game. Second paragraph they are introducing a new radio broadcast with a new radio station covering Preds games. They will air tonights and Wednesday nights games from what it says.

Smoothie

September 27th, 2010
3:28 pm

Wow Chris, that was one hell of a report!! It’s like you’ve been asked to be Craig Ramsay’s personal journalist / biographer so you can write the book of how we went from ashes to Ascendance in the next 3 years! Thanks so much for what you are doing and I’m happy to see the readership (page hits etc) is adequate to allow you to travel. At least Bulldog football sucks and we may get better attendance in late Oct and early Nov!!

“Our third man doesn’t stay high enough,” Ramsay said

This has been a bugaboo for EVER!!! Finally someone who recognizes that you can’t all go to the goalmouth. And its nice to not have to worry about Kovy’s drive-bys after he shoots instead of crashing and getting his own rebound. But this problem has been an affliction long before even JA got here. Then again, Bob Hartley never allowed 3rd man high inside the circles let alone the slot / crease area!!

kracker

September 27th, 2010
3:31 pm

Lot’s of info in Coach’s comments. Clearing the puck, helping the goalie, D-to-D passes, like going station-to-station instead of Kovalchuk rushing it up, have no support and then lose it. How many times have we seen a Pav long rebound get knocked in from the high slot?? I’d like to get some of those, too. No set line up because Nic and Slater are still injured or recovering. Coach liking the big Thorburn line for cycling and puck possession (some scoring off of that cycling would be nice)

Great blog info, Chris! Give us lots of tweets tonight.

kracker

September 27th, 2010
3:39 pm

Enter your comments here

Smoothie

September 27th, 2010
4:03 pm

kracker – I don’t think he’ll be at tonite’s game, hence the qualifier about traveling in October for real games?

Chris Vivlamore

September 27th, 2010
4:14 pm

Smoothie: Thanks. Just trying to step up my game.

Kracker: I won’t be there tonight. I will catch up with players, coach on Tuesday morning.

Darkhorse

September 27th, 2010
4:41 pm

Ramsay speaks of liking and expecting his dmen to carry and contribute with the puck, almost like a forward. That, and the fact Valabik has not done much this preseason, makes me think more and more Boris’ days are # here. Be interesting to here how the 5th & 6th dmen do tonight, Kulda, Meyer

Darkhorse

September 27th, 2010
4:41 pm

….or Zubarev.

Mr. Obvious

September 27th, 2010
4:53 pm

It sounds like Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs needs to consult with Coach Ramsay before their next game.

Cornbread

September 27th, 2010
4:54 pm

Third man high also helps keep the puck in the attacking zone by the third man attacking the puck along the half wall or the D pinching down the wall when he knows he’s got a forward at the top of the circle covering for him. This is something other teams did very successfully against the Thrashers last year and was one of the reasons their break-out was so poor.

kracker

September 27th, 2010
5:32 pm

Oh, right, then Chris. Regular season travel. That works fine for me, really. We can’t complain (much) about no on-site coverage in any medium for a road pre-season game. This is still the Thrashers in Atlanta in tough economic times.

Maybe in a few years the Thrashers will have earned the pre-season coverage. I’m quite happy with the expanded regular season coverage. Tell whoever wants or needs to know that we appreciate it.

EB

September 27th, 2010
7:29 pm

I like what I hear from Ramsey but don’t like to hear about NOT picking up a stud forward to help our scoring which is obviously still a problem. I agree we need the big guys to play better so we can keep puck control but still TOO many SOG against us but at least we won the battle barely. Much rather see Stewart on the ice over Slater so I hope he continues to play tough!!

Bill

September 27th, 2010
8:18 pm

Chris, this is great. I’ve been trying to get more “real” Thrasher news for a long time and stumbled across your blog. Awesome reporting!!!!! I’m hoping this is an exciting year for the Thrashers. It looks like they finally have some depth and a coach who will actually teach.

Brendan

September 27th, 2010
9:49 pm

Chris Vivlamore, excellent news about the road trips this year. Sounds good.

I have always liked Craig Ramsay. I hope it’ll all work out this year. I can only hope there will be new ownership after the conclusion of this season.

kracker

September 27th, 2010
9:54 pm

Thorburn line tied it at 1-1 at about 15 minutes in the 2nd. Eager from Thorburn and Stewart. Nice pass by Thorburn. Tied 1-1 after 2 periods. Into the 3rd now…

Spirit Fools

September 28th, 2010
12:00 am

Same old stuff. Thrashers have been around how long with zero playoff wins? Team will not make it here or anywhere else with these bonehead owners. Oh, and it doesn’t help that hockey is fast becoming irrelevant in America (besides a handful of cities). Players can blame themselves for taking a year off and thinking fans would beg them back. Making matters worse, Betteman thought NHL could thrive on vs network. Guess again old man, you set hockey back 10 years with your dumb moves. NHL and LPGA are in race for who goes under first.

Cliff Fletcher

September 28th, 2010
6:27 am

So many teams have opened up their rinks to fans during the preseason, get people to the rink. Thrashers need to open the upper deck to free tickets. Fans that bought tickets upstairs should get an upgrade in the lower sections. Lower section ticket buyers should get a free drink or something.

You have to work to get people to the arena these days. Teams like Pittsburgh are doing stuff like this, why not Atlanta? The Thrashers are not working hard enough to get people to the games. An empty arena is their fault, not fans or potential fans.

Flames

September 28th, 2010
8:04 am

Chris- I am so glad to hear that you are traveling with the team this year. This will be a great year for the Thrashers and you get a front row seat. I’m looking forward to your articles.

rob

September 28th, 2010
9:54 am

Cliff,
Couldn’t agree more. The morons in charge of marketing and tickets don’t understand the basic principles here. Team is coming off of a steady decline in STH, waning interest as the team looks like perrennial losers, and a tough economy.
The empty stands have to take their toll on the players also. Hockey especially is one of the sports where the home town fans can really give the players something to feed off of. I would hate to think the team is rebuilding and getting solid players who come to give new life to the team only to find/feel as though no one cares here. That will make their decisions easy once these short term contracts run out. Guys want to play in front of Fans, not empty seats, they do that enough at practice.
I stand by my thought that exSTH should be given a deal where they and a friend can come to the box office the night of any game and get the best available lower seats for $20-30 each, and upper for $10. That would help bring back fans who already know the game and allow them to bring someone else also, who could also learn the game. The exSTH gets hooked on an improved product, and the friend becomes one of the several games a year type also. Build back the fan base and THEN you can be stingy about giving tix away. But until then, empty stands mean lost revenue from several standpoints.

SCHUBERT

September 28th, 2010
10:40 am

Emphasize defense, eeeh? I know where there is a defenseman with plenty of experience who isn’t afraid to hit.

Dwayne

September 28th, 2010
1:06 pm

Schubert….where???

Zombie Steve

September 28th, 2010
1:25 pm

Spirit Fool is crabby b/c the WNBA playoffs are over.