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.