Archive for April, 2011

Five Questions With … Dustin Byfuglien

Dustin Byfuglien was another Thrashers player to post career-highs in goals (20), assists (33) and points (53). He led all NHL defensemen in goals and was fourth in points. Byfuglien, who won the Stanley Cup in Chicago last season, made the All-Star team  after the much-discussed position change. He was named an alternate captain and rewarded with a five-year, $26 million contract in February.

In the second of a series of interviews with Thrashers players following the 2010-11 season, here is some of what Byfuglien had to say about his leadership role, his summer conditioning plans and the disappointment of not making the playoffs.

Q. Disappointed you didn’t make the playoffs, but what are your overall impressions of the season? Is it what you expected?

A. There were a lot of ups and downs. I had, personally, a good year. I figured out that I can be a leader around here. I’m going to be around here awhile now. We have a lot of potential. The year didn’t end on a good …

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A breakdown of the Thrashers’ offseason plans

What will be a busy offseason has already begun for the Thrashers.

General manager Rick Dudley has a list of priorities this summer, which includes obtaining a top-6 forward and perhaps a top-5 defenseman. There are also seven unrestricted free agents and 12 unrestricted free agents in the organization.

The following is a breakdown of the team’s plans based on Dudley’s exclusive interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday.

FORWARD

At the very top of the wish list is a scoring forward, Dudley said. The team struggled for goals at times this season, especially during a 7-17-6 stretch that likely cost them a postseason berth. The Thrashers finished with just two players – Andrew Ladd (29) and Dustin Byfuglien (20) with at least 20 goals.

Dudley said the line of Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler established itself as a top-2 line in the NHL and were often the best line, on either team, on the ice on given nights. The team needs a second line to match.

“We …

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Five Questions With … Evander Kane

Evander Kane completed his second season with the Thrashers with career-highs in goals (19), assists (24), points (43) and games played (73).

In the first of a series of interviews with Thrashers players following the 2010-11 season, here is some of what Kane had to say about his recently completed season and what he needs to work on for next season.

Q. Overall, how do you think the season went for you? Do you accomplish your goals?

A. There were definitely some goals I accomplished but there were definitely some things I didn’t. Certain things were disappointing but overall, pretty decent.

Q. Can you be more specific about the things you wanted to accomplish that you didn’t?

A. Team success for me is always number one. I’ve never missed the playoffs back to back years, that’s for sure. I definitely wanted to produce more given the opportunity. For me, it’s more motivation going into next year.

Q. One of the things that was an issue with this team this season was …

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Dudley: Thrashers need another scorer

At the end-0f-season wrap-up, Thrashers general manger Rick Dudley said one of the priorities this offseason would be to find another scorer.

“I think we have a pretty good situation [with a core of young players],” Dudley said. “We obviously don’t have a perfect situation. What I see that we don’t have currently, that a lot of teams have, is a guy who scores with regularity. You look at a team like Calgary that made a run at the playoffs much because of Jarome Iginla. Take a look at Anaheim, who decided they wanted to play at a different level this year with three players [Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan], all of whom are basically superstars and they carried their team into the playoffs. We can go down the list and every team has one. We may have one in one of our young players like [Alexander] Burmistrov or [Evander] Kane. We should have one in [Dustin] Byfuglien, [Tobias] Enstrom. But up front, we could really use somebody who can score if we want to expedite the …

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Offseason conditioning will be key for Pavelec

It was inconsistency that killed the Thrashers’ playoff hopes.

The Thrashers won November games against Washington and Detroit by a combined score of 10-1. They also blew a two-goal third-period lead to Edmonton in February. Such examples are at both ends of the spectrum as a team can get.

In an effort to address one aspect of that problem, the same message was delivered to each player as he left for another early summer vacation following season-ending meetings Tuesday. Come to training camp in September in top condition.

That included Ondrej Pavelec. The focus comes with the territory of being a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

“There is concern when a save percentage vacillates as much as it did over periods of time,” Thrashers general manager Rick Dudley said. “… There is a way to make an inconsistent goaltender more consistent. In [Pavelec’s] case, he has to focus on the conditioning aspect. That’s a simple fix. As long as he buys in, it’s a simple fix. He is …

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Updated: Thrashers pick seventh in NHL draft

I spoke to GM Rick Dudley, coach Craig Ramsay and every player so be looking for those interviews as blogs in the near future. I’m thinking of a 5 Questions With … feature each day for the next month.

Here are the notes of the day:

The Thrashers will select seventh in this year’s NHL draft after the league held its lottery Tuesday night for the 14 non-playoff teams.

The Thrashers dropped a spot after New Jersey won the lottery. Edmonton, with the league’s worst record, will select first overall for the second straight year. It will be followed by Colorado, Florida, New Jersey and the New York Islanders to round out the top five.

The Thrashers, with the sixth worst-record in the NHL, could have moved up as high as the second pick had they won the lottery. NHL rules prohibit teams from jumping more than four places.

Ottawa will select sixth and the Thrashers will be followed by Columbus, Boston (via Toronto), Minnesota, Colorado (via St. Louis), Carolina, Calgary and …

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Ramsay remembers the good from the Thrashers’ season

I asked Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay if he had one or two highlights from the season at the final press conference. Here are his thoughts.

“I would say the Detroit game in here was pretty special. We were playing, conceivably, a potential champion. A team with tremendous hockey players on it. I looked up in the third period and I think it was 5-1 for us and I said to [assistant coach] Mike [Stothers] I’ve never seen them have enough. They had enough of us chasing them around.

“We had the New Jersey game in here. We had a great victory against Boston in here.

“We had the six-game homestand in which we were very effective. That can be scary for a young team, an unexperienced team, when you suddenly have six in a row at home. We fought through that. We fought through some very difficult stretches that made it exciting to be around this hockey club.

“All those overtime games. We had [Dustin Byfuglien] get a couple goals. We had Ron Hainsey get a couple goals and a setup for …

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Updated: Little gets Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy

Bryan Little was awarded the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy Sunday before the Thrashers’ final game of the season.

Little called the award a “huge honor.”

Snyder was killed in an automobile accident in 2003, and the award is given annually to the player “who best embodies perseverance, dedication and hard work without reward or recognition so that his teammates might succeed.”

“I didn’t know Dan, I only have heard about him, how good of a guy he was and what he meant to the hockey team,” Little said. “You hear nothing but good things about him. It’s one of those things where I wish I could have met him and had a chance to know him.”

Snyder’s mother, LuAnn, and brother, Jake, presented Little with the award.

Little, the seventh recipient of the award, did meet Snyder’s family in October 2009 when the team visited the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena opened in his hometown of Elmira, Ontario.

“That was amazing,” Little said. “Seeing that ovation we had there …

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Offseason officially begins for Thrashers with loss

Here is my game story, with quotes, from Sunday’s 5-2 loss to Pittsburgh in the season-finale for those who would like to comment. The Thrashers will have season-ending physicals on Monday and I will be back in Duluth for season the season wrap-up on Tuesday.

A season of disappointment came to an official end for the Thrashers.

Out of the playoff race for the past eight days, the Thrashers dropped a 5-2 decision to Pittsburgh Sunday afternoon at Philips Arena in the final game of the 2010-11 season. Atlanta (34-36-12, 80 points) heads into another early summer as the franchise failed to make the playoffs for the 10th time in its 11-year history.

“Playing these last games out of the playoffs is absolutely no fun at all,” said goaltender Chris Mason, who stopped 15 of 19 shots. “Especially when as a team we put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs and down the stretch our playoff push just wasn’t good enough.”

There are uncertain times ahead for the Thrashers. …

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Little wins Thrashers’ Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy

Bryan Little was awarded the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy Sunday before the Thrashers’ final game of the season.

Little called the award a “huge honor.”

Snyder was killed in an automobile accident in 2003, and the award is given annually to the player “who best embodies perseverance, dedication and hard work without reward or recognition so that his teammates might succeed.”

“I didn’t know Dan, I only have heard about him, how good of a guy he was and what he meant to the hockey team,” Little said. “You hear nothing but good things about him. It’s one of those things where I wish I could have met him and had a chance to know him.”

Snyder’s mother LuAnn and brother Jake presented Little with the award.

Little, the seventh recipient of the award, did meet Snyder’s family in October 2009 when the team visited the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena opened in his hometown of Elmira, Ontario.

“That was amazing,” Little said. “Seeing that ovation we had there and …

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