I Really Don’t Want It To End Tonight

It’s almost hard to believe that we are coming to the end to yet another Thrashers season. Tonight they welcome in the Tampa Bay Lightning and then tomorrow…both teams will begin their off-season rituals. For the second consecutive year, both the Bolts and Thrashers will not only be spectators in The Great Hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup, they will also be looking at their logos on lottery ping-pong balls.

Atlanta comes into the game with a record of 34-41-6 for 74 points and a win tonight would match their points production of one season ago. Tampa Bay has 66 points after finishing last year with 71…which was the league low. Regardless of the outcome, the Thrashers will end up in fourth place in the Southeast Division, thirteenth in the Eastern Conference and 27th in the NHL overall standings. Last season they were 4th, 14th and 28th respectively.

But as we approach the end of this campaign I…as I am one to do…tend to look back on the season that is getting ready to close and think about what went right, what went wrong and what might have been.

Now, as you will recall, when the season began many of us offered up predictions as to just how the Thrashers would fair this season. My projection was that we would finish with 86 points, third in the division and eleventh in the conference. The best I can hope for now is that, with an Atlanta win tonight, my prediction would be only 10 points off the mark.

Now, some my say that I set my sights too high for this team…and that may be so. But truth be told, even though I believed this team would struggle a bit in the beginning, I didn’t think it was going to take until January to finally start seeing some good hockey out of them. But the way the team has performed since the beginning of the second half of the season is more the type of hockey I thought we’d see outa them for the most part.

Since the mid-point of the year, the Thrashers have played to a record of 21-18-1 with the one game left. That’s 43 points over the course of half a season. That rate of play over a full season would net…hmmmm… 86 points.

So…maybe I was half right?

In hind sight, the injuries to Kari Lehtonen and Zach Bogosian…which kept them out of the lineup for weeks last November and December…had something to do with the Thrashers’ 13-23-5 first half record. But I can’t help but think that 31 points after 41 games had more to do with the overall roster than anything else…and the tide seemed to turn once certain players were removed. Addition by subtraction, as it were.

At the start of the year John Anderson was trying figure out just to what to do with Erik Christensen. First line center?… somewhere on the wing?…somewhere in the press box? Turns out Don Waddell found the best thing to do with him and he’s been a Duck since the trade deadline. That part of the Hossa/Dupuis deal with Pittsburgh was a bust.

The Jason Williams experiment never really got out of the lab, either. After playing in 41 games for Atlanta, Williams had but 7 goals, 11 assists and was a -9. Since being traded to Columbus in mid-January though, he has accounted for 12 goals, 17 assists and is a +7 in 38 games and will be enjoying life in post-season next week. Good for him…good for us.

Moving Nic Havelid and Mathieu Schnieder proved to be the right call as well. Schneids just never worked out here… but since being dealt to the Candiens he’s performed well, scoring 5 goals and 12 assists in the 22 games played there as well as providing his services on defense. It was thought he was lost for the rest of the season and playoffs after an injury earlier in the week, however Schnieder returned to play in Boston Thursday night…even scored a goal. Havelid was a player I really respected during his time in Atlanta and should be an asset to the Devils’ blueline during the post-season. I know I’m not alone in saying I’ll be pulling for him.

Moving these players made room to provide such players as Nathan Oystrick, Boris Valabik, Anssi Salmela and Colin Stuart more ice time. That has not proven to be time wasted.

Of course, one of the big factors that helped the Thrashers play to a winning record since mid-January has been addition by addition…specifically the addition of one Mr. Rich Peverley to the lineup. It was at the time of he joined the team that the Thrashers seemed to take on a new attitude…of the winning variety. In 38 games played, The Peever has scored 13 goals, has 20 helpers and …now sit down for this… is a +16. His attention to defensive responsibilities has played a huge part in that last statistic. Indeed he was a steal off the waiver-wire.

And then there is Ilya Kovalchuck having the “C” added to his jersey. Since being named team captain at Casino Night, he’s netted 26 goals and 22 assist. He now has a total of 42 goals an 90 points for the season. I guess some just take to leadership roles, eh? Kinda makes you wonder what might have been had he been given that “C” earlier.

To that point, over the course of the past several weeks I’ve often wantered “what if” about a couple other things.

What if this team…the way it is made up today…had been able to play the whole season?

What if Bogosian, Kari hadn’t missed so much of November and December with injuries?

Could that have been worth a few more points in the standings? Just…maybe?

Ahhhh…woulda beens and coulda beens.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to tonight…to having fun with the uber-cool fans in section 119… Jackie Blue, the ice cream girls as well as Hockey Biltong and Mrs. Biltong just to name a few. I’m also looking forward to enjoying this team one more time before the long six-month wait for next October’s dropping of the puck to open up season number ten of Atlanta Thrashers hockey!

So, What’s That Buzzing Noise?

It seems as though this little blog thingy has gotten some people’s attention…specifically speaking, this cat that goes by the name of Eklund over at hockeybuzz.com. It appears as though he needs someone to crack-wise about the comings and goings of our Atlanta Thrashers on his site and yours truly has been tapped to do just that. So I hope you’ll all take the time to make that part of your on-line reading routine as well.

Only…you can’t take time away from this Ice Man column for it…understand?!?! You simply have to make time to ingest even more Thrashers reading…got it?!?! If I’m gonna write more…you gotta read more. That’s the deal!

Now, as for what we do here…nothing changes. Just like like year, we are gonna continue discussing hockey through the playoffs, during draft and UFA seasons, into training camp and then…the 2009-10 hockey season…one that I think is going to be really fun and exiting for all Thrashers fans.

22 comments Add your comment

B. Thenet

April 11th, 2009
8:33 am

Wow, Eklund actually got a Thrashers blogger?

What’s next, he won’t make up bogus reports about Kovalchuk being traded every two weeks(don’t keep your hopes up)

PUTTING ON THE FOIL

April 11th, 2009
9:01 am

Great Rawhide. Now you can call out that idiot Eklund on your hockeybuzz blog on a more frequent basis.

Mr. Heat Miser

April 11th, 2009
10:06 am

Yeah keep Mr. Rumormonger in check.

Alan

April 11th, 2009
10:26 am

That’s great to hear, Rawhide, congratulations!

kracker

April 11th, 2009
10:31 am

One more to go!!! Just like last year, let’s end it with a by bashing the broken Bolts! For this year, well things could have gone better but looking to next season, the foundation looks more solid than it did 12 months ago. The draft is deep and the Thrash will get a nearly ready forward, most likely, and fate could even deliver Tavares, who knows. Anyway, it’s a nice day for some tailgating and some hockey. My summer slogan: “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.” OK, so I usually err on the side of optimism…

Congrats to Rawhide for the new gig over at HB. Eklund’s prognosticating skill aside, it’s a good site for hockey junkies. It is full of ‘Rawhides’ for most every team so many hours can be filled boning up on whichever other teams you like to follow. There is a handy link to team cap data drom nhlscap.com. Various team and chat forums. I go there a lot and of course will be there even more when RH’s Thrashers writing begins…..when? Soon, I hope. Help me get thru the l-o-o-o-o-n-g summer, Rawhide.

Jimbo

April 11th, 2009
10:41 am

rAWHIDE- GREAT JOB ALL YEAR. THANKS. Under the “What ifs?”. What if JA had discovered earlier that stopping traffic in the neutral zone actually reduces pressure on the D. and the goalie? Well, better late than never. And, now on to a hopeful summer and the continued improvement of many of the young guys. Sign Reasoner and Oystrick signed. Get Kovy on for a long term extension.

five_hole

April 11th, 2009
11:29 am

Rawhide to Eklund (E5). Congratulations Bill, but don’t expect us to stop making fun of Ek. In fact, your blogging there may end up being a target here next year.

RS

April 11th, 2009
11:48 am

I was just thinking as I was reading your blog that we had really lucked out in finding not only a fan who could write, but actually DOES write with great frequency, not like the first couple of tries at fan bloggers they had on the ajc. Congrats on the Eklund gig and thanks for the great job you did this year.

Alan

April 11th, 2009
11:49 am

Detroit and Franzen apparently agree to terms.

Now, they need to decide how to get Hossa signed, and fit the rest of their UFAs under the cap.

The Joker

April 11th, 2009
12:02 pm

Rawhide gets caught writing about Erin Andrews again next season and gets thrown out of the house with only the jersey on his back (E5).

No visuals please.

Jason(Darkhorse)

April 11th, 2009
12:09 pm

I hope DW starts the offseason tomorrow by resigning Reasoner to a multi year deal at a realistic rate. Hopefully after the big beatdown we’re gonna give Tampa tonight!(or a win of any type will do also ;)

Eklund will be a piece of cake for you Rawhide. It’s those mentally challenged fourteen year olds on his site blogging about how the Thrashers are gonna be moved to Moosejaw or similar, and Toronto will win the cup next year that may try your patience.

Brendan

April 11th, 2009
1:57 pm

Congratulations to Rawhide on another great year as fan blogger (we’ve gotten spoiled. Remember Ice Princess?,) and now for the Eklund gig. Don’t forget to remind the Ekster that Ilya is not going anywhere!!

In the AJC Thrashers poll, it asks if Waddell should stay or go. It’s clear to me that DWad will stay, but there’s never a WRONG TIME to fire him. Personally, I just root for him to do the best job that he can. What OTHER options do I have? Rooting for the team’s demise, in order for them to fire him, doesn’t work. Several people tried that approach. Waddell is the “Teflon Don” for a reason. Nothing sticks.

For the Waddell-backers, watch out for Columbus this year. One playoff win makes Atlanta the only team in the NHL without one. While one playoff win isn’t ANYTHING to trumpet, it prevents AJC Bloggers from typing, “I have just as many playoff wins to my credit as Don Waddell does.” Folks, eventually, Don Waddell is going to win a playoff game. Two, even. And when that happens, what does it ABSOLVE, exactly?

We’re bloggers. We don’t get paid for anything hockey-related. He’s the paid overseer of an NHL franchise, and has been the named GM of this club since 1998. Eight seasons out of nine (8/9) the team has finished in the bottom third of the Conference. Atlanta will enter the lottery draft for the second straight year and sixth time in Waddell’s tenure. If he gets this ship righted this time, I’ll give him all the credit in the world.

This is a big offseason for Waddell. Kovy needs a new deal, or it’ll be a dark cloud that hangs over the 2009-10 season. The Florida Panthers DID NOT move Jay Bouwmeester at the trade deadline. And now, they also didn’t make the playoffs. That’s great news for Thrasher fans, unless Jay actually decides to re-sign with Florida. In St. Louis, the Blues decided to keep Keith Tkachuk instead of moving him for picks and assets. Their result? They made the playoffs. These are risky moves. Sometimes they work. Sometimes, they don’t. DWad has a “risky” contract to make with Kari Lehtonen and Bryan Little. Kari is without a contract, but is still restricted. DW has to make a decision if he made a mistake with the 2002 Draft, or if, indeed, Kari is the future of the Thrashers. With Bryan Little, he’s still under contract. But if Little puts up 35-40 goals next season, his RFA contract will be Vanek-like. I hope, for continuity of roster, and to send a message that there is a plan, and that players drafted here should plan on staying for a good 7-8 years, that the organization will extend a proactive contract Little’s way. The only proactive contract they’ve ever done was Enstrom’s. That was last season. Ilya’s and Bryan’s would be the 2nd and 3rd proactive contracts, if it happens. Also, RFA’s Joey Crabb, Chris Thorburn, Colby Armstrong, etc., are coming due.

If the organization is thinking longterm with Pavelec, Ondrej is eligible for an RFA proactive contract. In the more immediate sense, Marty Reasoner is slated to “walk” in free agency, if he is not re-signed. I’d suggest a contract signing immediately following game #82, so that Waddell can say he kept his policy of not signing players during the season intact.

Alan

April 11th, 2009
2:24 pm

Update, per the link I posted above: Franzen signed in Detroit for 11 years. I’m assuming the money portion will be detailed soon.

Also, it might have gone under the radar, but Paul Postma signed here. No idea on the details of his contract, though… sadly.

The Fish

April 11th, 2009
2:41 pm

You don’t want it to end tonight?!?!? Are you kidding me?!?!? How much more money do you want to piss away for the privilege of watching mediocrity in action?? I, for one, can’t wait for the torture to end. I’m still furious at myself for having ponied up $10G for a year of ca-ca. Waddell and the Atlanta Spirit Group (what a joke that name is) can have my seats for next year for themselves. Or if anyone else in Hockeyland is interested, ask for Sec 115 Row R seats 9 and 10 (yup, straddling the red line). They would be great seats to watch a good hockey team play. For those of you who actually think that 10 years of failure is over, enjoy keeping these seats warm. For me and my buddies, look for us on a hockey road trip next season thru Detroit, Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa and Montreal. The only stipulation is that none of the games can involve the Thrashers. See ya. I’m done.

Alan

April 11th, 2009
4:10 pm

The Fish: Good riddance and goodbye!

five_hole

April 11th, 2009
7:56 pm

For awhile there, we had so many guys in the penalty box, I thought they were going to have to let Mosse skate.

Brendan

April 11th, 2009
11:18 pm

With the Coyotes shootout win over the Anaheim Ducks, did they just screw themselves out of the lottery draft, and insert the L.A. Kings back in??

R. Stroz

April 11th, 2009
11:38 pm

I would like to know what everyone thought of Kovy’s post game interview in front of the fans.

I thought Kovy sent a strong message to management to improve the team during the offseason. Kovy also thanked the fans for their continuing support and suggested that the fans deserve better than what management has delivered.

What did the rest of you hear and what is your interpretation of Kovy’s comments?

Viking

April 11th, 2009
11:39 pm

According to a Swedish newspaper’s sources is Franzen’s compensation about 4 million per year.

Tony C.

April 12th, 2009
12:00 am

I just want to know who voted “yes” on the poll???

Tony C.

April 12th, 2009
12:33 am

Also what did Kovy say? I had to put my daughter to bed.

Brendan

April 12th, 2009
12:31 pm

R.Stroz, just from M. Knobler’s article, it appears Kovalchuk is advocating a near max cap offseason, in an attempt to win the Cup, not just make the playoffs.

See, to this management, their ANNUAL GOAL is to be the 15th place team in the league, entering the playoffs as the 7th or 8th seed each and every year.