Is This Waddell’s Last Stand?

First off, let me be very clear on this point…this is not intended to be a “Bash Waddell” piece. However, given just where the organ-I-zation is at this time, I feel it is prudent to at least pose this question:

Is this summer indeed Don Waddell’s last chance to finally ice a competitive, solid, playoff-contending team…not just for this coming fall’s campaign but for the foreseeable future?

And if he doesn’t…is will time be up for him as the Thrasher’s general manager?

First let’s examine the history of the Thrashers during the Decade of Don. The overall record is 273 wins, 367 losses, 53 overtime losses and 45 ties, (accumulated during the five season’s prior to the post-lockout rules change). That amounts to a .436 points winning percentage and an average of 71.5 points earned in the standings each year. There has been exactly one playoff appearance during the nine seasons played…resulting in a four-game sweep to the Rangers in 2007.

Those, my friends are very un-good numbers.

Now, at the end of the 2007-08 debacle of a season, I made it very clear that I was of the opinion that Waddell’s tenure needed to come to an end. The circumstances that led to that miserable year was set squarely at the general manager’s feet, in my mind. And I thought even the Great Octo-Cluster could see that.

Ownership, however, chose to have Don remain.

Also, going into last season, had you told me that Atlanta would finish with the same amount of points…76…as they did the previous season, I would have called that epic failure and surely he’d be gone. But the 76 points amassed this time around are far different from those of two seasons ago…going 22-18-1 in the second half of the season instead of collapsing the way they did in March and April of 2007.

Over the course of the last calendar year, he has brought in such popular players as Marty Reasoner and Rich Peverley as well as draft Zach Bogosian with Atlanta’s third overall pick last year. Sure…many of you will quip that taking Bogey was a no-brainer, but the fact of the matter is that he did so and didn’t trade the pick away. Need I remind you of his wheeling and dealings of 2005?

So, it’s only fair to assume that if Don deserved blame for what has gone wrong in the past, certainly he deserves praise for what has gone right of late…giving rise to the hope for better days to come.

However, as we find ourselves once again enjoying the NHL playoffs from our couches instead of Philips Arena, we enter into a summer in which the Thrashers are seriously but a player or two away from being a serious threat. And what Waddell does, or fails to do, over the course of the next few months will directly impact the chances of that becoming reality…not just hope.

Of course, that “one or two players away” line is also the same as was used 12 months ago…and two summers ago. And that is why I ask the question posed above…is this finally the summer that ownership makes it clear to Don, and the whole front office, that it is time to stop building for the future and start producing results? Certainly, if we are sitting here one year from now and we’re still making the same assertions that all we need is a top-four defender and a top-six forward to complete the team…then even the Spirit Boys have to see that as an object failure…right? RIGHT?

Hope only lasts so long, after all. And it tends to fade into coldness of reality if not renewed by the observation of results.

U.S.A. vs. Russia Semi-Finals

Friday, the United States is pitted against Russia in one of the World Championships semi-finals matchup. Four Thrashers will suit up for their respective teams…Ilya Kovalchuk for the Russian squad and Zach Bogosian, Colin Stuart and Ron Hainsey for the U.S.

Here’s the linkie-linage to watch it.

Falconer’s Interview With Dan Marr Pt. II

The Falconer has posted the second part of his chat with Dan Marr. In it, Marr discusses college and European prospects. As always, great job Falconer!

Upcoming Viewing Parties At TJs

May 17 – Sunday afternoon playoff game…first weekend of the Conference Finals. Also, Tim Ecclestone will provide 4 tickets to an upcoming Braves game to raffle off that day!

June 26 – NHL Draft Party. Details to come.

As always, please RSVP with Trixie.

116 comments Add your comment

LAC

May 7th, 2009
10:57 pm

Well what can be said about waddell that is one bit positive ? NOTHING !

He is a loser in every respect There is not one damn thing that waddell
has ever done that has built the defense into anything but a big hole to score through… Last season yet another example, second worst GA…
Problem with that is, HOW MANY TIMES HAVE WE BEEN THAT BAD on defense ?
About every year, and who runs the show STUPID DUMB don waddell.

And yes, remember how well he handled the Marian Hossa contract talks ?
And remember HOW many STAR players left saying the team is going in the WRONG direction ?

Fact is don waddell should have been gone after year three period.

These IDIOT owners for some reason are afraid to fire him, but when you are asg how much more DUMB could you possibly be ?

Bottom line, NO big name UFA’s will come here, we will add a couple more
ECHL players and #17 will be GONE FOR GOOD !

Like I have said before, don waddell has done more to destroy NHL hockey in this town than anyone ever could !

If we match this years point total, next season, I would be amazed !

Wayne from AL

May 7th, 2009
11:45 pm

Ice Man: Welcome to the party…A YEAR LATE!

Crazy Diamond

May 8th, 2009
12:27 am

We are so screwed. Atlanta Spirit is an awful mess. They will not act on the need for a better GM ’cause they are stuck in the legal mess. This is not a hockey town … NHL national TV contarct is worthless …and on and on.

We are so screwed.

Tony C.

May 8th, 2009
1:09 am

I will say this about DW he has (slowly and painfully) learned from many of his past mistakes. For example, we’ve gone from the oldest team in the league to one of the youngest in about 2.5 seasons… He also seems willing to ink PROACTIVE contracts (seeing Reasoner re-signed this month would be a prime target for the next step in this vein)… When he was asked by Falconer about needs to be addressed this summer-he responded first with “Top 4 Defender”-I swear it almost seemed like I was reading an interview with a real-live NHL GM. Additionally, this year he moved players that weren’t “getting with the program”. In the past DW has held onto divisive characters for often inexplicable reasons… He also seems to be finally drafting/acquiring players that fit what the coaching staff is trying to implement. Last Pro-DW-gets-it-right point: I get the feeling that #17’s day at basketball will have much more positive (and immediate) impact than hossa had.

CON: Dude. Do I really need to say anything? Ok Audette there.

kracker

May 8th, 2009
7:31 am

Well, there should be some lively responses here lol!

Sara

May 8th, 2009
8:25 am

Well given that the premise of this blog isn’t about whether or not this *should* be Don’s last chance, but instead whether or not it *is* his last chance….I have no friggin’ clue and neither I imagine does anyone else. To me there is absolutely no way to predict how Atlanta Spirit feels about any of this in general. If they were working off the same criteria many of you are, Waddell should have been fired after the sweep in 2007….or last off-season….or midway through this past season….or 24 hours after this season ended. And yet….here the man still is.

To me I think it comes down to this: will Don be provided the resources (read: money) to acquire those crucial pieces this off-season and if he is, does he then get them? It’s going to be a bit ridiculous to claim again we are going to acquire a top-four d-man or top-six forward if we are icing a team at League-minimum payroll again – we all saw where that got us *last* off-season. I mean sure Don can attempt to draft someone who could help now, he might manage to trade one of our goalies for a young cheap impact player, and pigs might fly and Nikulin might land in America this summer. Hopefully he can pull at least one of those things off, but the draft isn’t particularly deep this year with NHL-ready talent and no one is holding their breath on Nikulin. The second scenario is the most likely – Kari or Pavs is the only real thing of value we have that we could afford to part with and get a good return on. And while I haven’t looked at an updated list recently, I don’t recall there being a lot of splashy UFAs hitting the market this off-season.

So I suppose we’ll just have to see. If Waddell’s given a fair crack at it this off-season and comes up empty, you might see some movement from Spirit. But I think if they go into this off-season/season with the same constraints as last off-season, we aren’t likely to see much significant roster improvement.

GaVaHokie

May 8th, 2009
8:27 am

Well… before anyone responds, they should look this over.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_team_payrolls_in_the_NHL

Remember Gearon saying on 680 the Fan last month about “spending lots of money after the lockout to ice a competitive team”? They spent $37 million that year.

Any GM would have their hands tied in this environment.

Season Ticket Sonny

May 8th, 2009
8:45 am

I’ve said it over…and over..and over again: Waddell is like The Pope: they both have jobs for life. Perhaps this comment should be for posterity, which I have to assume is tatamount to Wadell’s employment contract courtesy of the clueless ASG.

Jimbo

May 8th, 2009
8:53 am

Even though this is not supposed to be a “Bash Don” session, how can we possibly avoid it. He has repeatedly told us that we were one or two players away and those “elusive” players never appear. We have heard from departed players (Hossa and others), agents and others that Don is not committed to bringing in a long term winning team. Listen to him in interviews, would you buy a car from this guy? He is curt, caustic, a times acerbic. Leadership calls for being able to set a vision for success and get others to produce beyond expectations to get there. We will forever be in the 10th year of a 5 Year Plan, always one or two players away. He hasn’t produced. Time for a change is long overdue.

GaVaHokie

May 8th, 2009
9:26 am

If Kari didn’t pull his groin in 05-06, we wouldn’t be having this conversation… Atlanta would have had two Post Season appearances in the last 4 years… IMO.

But to answer your question Bill… yes, this is a make or break off season for Waddell. He’s gotta get top line talent for Kovy if he wants Kovy extended. If he doesn’t get Kovy extended before the drop of the puck, I think he’s gone.

Rawhide

May 8th, 2009
9:35 am

Wayne from AL – There are many who might suggest I have not only been at this party for the past few years, but I’ve been the host of it :lol:

GaVaHokie“If Kari didn’t pull his groin in 05-06, we wouldn’t be having this conversation… Atlanta would have had two Post Season appearances in the last 4 years… IMO”.

That may very well be true, and I would even take that a step further by saying that the 2005-06 season saw Bob Hartley’s best performance as a coach getting that team so close to the playoffs after such a terrible start.

However, isn’t it the general manager’s resposibility to ice a squad that can deal with the starting goalie going down, and also procure additional players to adequitely respond to such a situation?

How many months did Marty Brodeur miss this past season? The Devils still made the playoffs as a division winner.

Russian

May 8th, 2009
9:49 am

I really want to see Don moving somewhere, but not Close to Hockey. Unfortantely it will not be happend until Atlanta Spirit are owners. They like him, he did not ask to much money. He created a team that can make a big Splash or go down deep. Also nobody cares about Hockey in Atlanta. It is South.
Resume: If Owners change = Don Waddle will gone.
Let see a USA-Russia. It will be nice game.

Brendan

May 8th, 2009
10:10 am

If Kovalchuk leaves …. Is there much more to add?

Rob

May 8th, 2009
10:12 am

I agree with Sara, it’s not should this be Don’s last chance, but rather is this Don’s last chance. In my opinion, the answer to is this his last chance is no, as someone else said, he just about has a contract for life. The ASG do not care about the Thrashers in any way, shape or form. They could care less if we make the playoffs, or even win a game.
ASG is in this strictly for the Hawks, they could care less about the Thrashers, as evidenced by not providing the money for Don to go out and get a top 4 D-man or a top-line center to pair with Kovy. Now, with the Hawks on the other hand, they provided the money to go out and get all star forward Joe Johnson among others. Were is the money for the Thrashers all stars?
The answer is no where, it’s all tied up in the Hawks, and unfortunately until this court case is settled, I think that’s the way it’s going to be.

j nes

May 8th, 2009
11:05 am

The NHL recently took over operations of the Phoenix Coyotes because the team went bankrupt. I can’t help but think that the situation in Atlanta, with the ownership group in a 3 year court battle, is just as bad. As much as i don’t like Gary Bettman, I wish that he would step in and take over the franchise. At least he cares somewhat about the success of NHL hockey teams.

Waddell is only half the problem, maybe less than half the problem if he is being handcuffed by his butthole bosses–the same idiots that fired Bernie Mulin, a great ambassador for hockey in Atlanta.

Bob

May 8th, 2009
11:16 am

Couple things. First, I disagree with the premise that we’re a top 4 dman and top 6 forward from being a serious contender. I think this club, as it stands at the end of last year, would need a #1 center, a #1 dman, and a #1 RW to be a serious contender. And those guys don’t grow on trees. My view is that if this club just adds a top 4 dman and a top 6 forward, then we’d be a contender for a #8 playoff spot, but a serious contender in the NHL.

Waddell should have been gone long ago, most all agree with this. The signs point to what is said above, that the owners don’t care enough about hockey to take action. To me, the biggest issue is when the lawsuit gets settled and what happens then. The best outcome to me is the lawsuit gets settled and they have to sell the Thrash to some owner who wants a hockey team but the deal is set up so the new owner has to keep the club in Philips.

So, in that scenario, is this Waddell’s last chance? Yes, if he can finally do something, then the new ownership post lawsuit may retain him, if not, he has to be gone, right? Right?! Sigh.

Dwayne

May 8th, 2009
11:17 am

Jimbo—-curt, as in Frasier, caustic, as in acid and acerbic, is that a middle east word that means Holy war against Atlanta hockey fans???

World be Free

May 8th, 2009
12:32 pm

Frasier should never been hired as a coach, not even an assistant.

What really has screwed this franchise is the Heatly accident. The tragic loss of a character person (Dan Snyder), the exit of a future star (Heatly to Ottawa), the arrival of a player that did not want to be here (Hossa).

This tragedy is still felt both on and off the ice.

DWTOO

May 8th, 2009
12:44 pm

Final Russia 3 US 2. Kovy with two goals in the second. Hainsey gets an assist. US plays sunday morning for the Bronze.

Tony C.

May 8th, 2009
12:47 pm

RUS 3 USA 2

I’ll be honest-a much better result than I had hoped for when the tourney began. Still I wish US had been able to hold off the Russians for another 2 min or whatever it would’ve been to get to OT.

Also, don’t know what Z-Bo did to get in Wilson’s doghouse but the kid saw may 10min of ice-time the whole tourney to date(maybe it’s cuz he’s just 18 idk). Hainsey has gotten better as the tourney goes on-still he is missing something from the beginning of last season-maybe a ligament tear? or more likely a mental issue/confidence thing.

Esche played way better than the last time i saw him, all in all should Team USA come home with bronze I’ll be pleased for them.

SWE vs Frostbacks @ 1430hrs to decide who faces Russia.

http://www.universalsports.com/SportSelect.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=23000&KEY=&SPID=11661&SPSID=95605

Also, anybody think DW should put some offer sheets to other team’s RFAs this summer??

Russian

May 8th, 2009
12:56 pm

It was nice game. Kovy got goal and assist. Frolov scored second goal. USA played very well.
I am agree to make our Thrashers better we need to get one D-men and one RW. Good one, real One.

Terrence Moore

May 8th, 2009
1:00 pm

Rawhide you are finally learning young grasshopper. When you have no other news to talk about or you don’t want to write a real article, just throw out a controversial topic and watch the readers get fired up. Welcome to my club.

GaVaHokie

May 8th, 2009
1:16 pm

Figures the game winning goal would be from Radulov that NHL defecting bastard.

ranallo10 (in AT)

May 8th, 2009
1:19 pm

“The USA’s three best players of the tournament were announced: David Backes, Dustin Brown, and Ron Hainsey. For Russia, it was Oleg Tverdovsky, Oleg Saprykin, and Ilya Kovalchuk.” — IIHF game review.

Tony C. — I wouldn’t mind an RFA offer sheet in the least bit. For the past few seasons I make note of the RFAs that are upcoming, and mark a few as ones I personally deem worthy of an offer sheet (obviously depending on the salary and compensatory picks if it passes). Off the top of my head I think Zherdev highlights the class this offseason, and I would definitely welcome him in Atlanta…though, I think New York would match whatever offer they get. I’ll look through the defenders again and see if any jump out at me.

ranallo10 (in AT)

May 8th, 2009
1:23 pm

Wow, at quick glance there are some obvious names out there this offseason:

Kessel, Krejci, Stafford, T. Ruutu, Versteeg, B. Boyle, J. Johnson, Booth…and that’s only a hint of the notables through the Ls (Los Angeles).

Did you have a particular player in mind, who is somewhat realistic (i.e., Jack Johnson will be signed in Los Angeles, so it’s not a realistic pursuit).

Sara

May 8th, 2009
1:36 pm

My only comment on the whole RFA thing is just a reminder that karma is a mean, nasty beyotch. We have a lot of our own RFAs coming up soon enough and given how well-documented this club’s financial issues are, we already look ripe enough for the plucking without pissing in someone else’s cornflakes. I’d just as soon not have to get into a bidding war for Bogosian if it’s all the same to anyone else.

R. Stroz

May 8th, 2009
1:43 pm

The picture of Waddell on the AJC Thrashers page sums up his ten year tenure as GM.

R. Stroz

May 8th, 2009
1:45 pm

Sara – That’s why Waddell needs to stop vacationing and start re-signing players

ranallo10 – Zherdev is RFA as well and doesn’t exactly fit Torts system.

World be Free

May 8th, 2009
2:06 pm

Reasoner needs to be locked up. It would be a nice start to proving to the fans that the team is serious about the future.

I am not into signing RFAs, since there will be teams that are cap stressed who will be dumping players for a song before July 1.

Tony C.

May 8th, 2009
2:19 pm

I’m leery of Zherdev-his skill-level is off the charts, but his compete-level is questionable, and really, do we need another slight, talented guy who’s knocked off the puck easily?

That being said, if you can get him from NYR for $2M/yr. +/- I would have to take a long long look. But that’s pretty unrealistic, given the numbers his camp was quoting NYR.

Tony C.

May 8th, 2009
2:21 pm

Honestly I was looking @ Versteeg. If I was DW, I would’ve made an offer for him the night after the Winter Classic. I think he’s just tremendous skill-wise and a high motor also.

World be Free

May 8th, 2009
2:27 pm

Zherdev was ran out of town in Columbus, a team desperate for offense.

He started this year real strong in New York, but faded to the point of being invisible in the playoffs. Another great pickup for the Rangers.

Rawhide

May 8th, 2009
2:52 pm

As I mentioned at the bottom of the post…we are gonna do another playoff viewing party at TJs on Sunday afternoon the 17th.

I’ve update the entry to announce Tim Ecclestone is gonna have 4 tickets to an upcoming Braves game to raffle off that day! Nice seats, too!

Typical Atlanta sports fan

May 8th, 2009
2:55 pm

I hope Waddell does good so I can get back on the bandwagon and root for the team again. Unless of course the team goes with Phoenix up to Canada then I will have a long list of excuses why it is everybody elses fault but mine why the team didn’t do well at the gate because I will only support a winner. #$@% those cities from the north who support their teams in good years and bad years.

World be Free

May 8th, 2009
3:49 pm

I have seen empty seats in Canadian and other northern rinks. Only Toronto shows up all the time regardless as to how good or bad the teams might be.

People forget that Quebec City and Winnipeg had opportunities to keep their teams, but failed to do so. The “rally” to keep the Nordiques drew about 50 people in Que City.

Hamilton is not an NHL city, no matter what people may say. They’d be better to put a 2nd city in Toronto vs. one in Hamilton.

Rawhide

May 8th, 2009
3:54 pm

Just a few years back when the Blackhawks where having some down years, they were playing to a half-full arena.

I would add Ottawa to that list of fans who, like Toronto, show up regardless. They had an off year last season, but the place was still packed.

But for the most part, it’s true everywhere that winning fills seasts more than anything else.

Typical Atlanta sports fan

May 8th, 2009
4:25 pm

The Blackhawks are a bad case given that they didn’t even televise a single home game. It’s hard to judge an increase when you had the previous owner (in the case the owner’s father) who did things like that to alienate fans. In addition to Toronto and Ottawa both Minnesota and Buffalo missed the playoffs this year and both were hovering around the top ten in the league for attendance. Buffalo & Toronto missed the playoffs last year and were in the top 5. The whole argument for moving Winnipeg was that the weak Canadian dollar would not allow them to sign big players so they moved on that, not based on attendance which was very good for them. Yes winning sells more seats but the reason teams up north deserve hockey more is because they also sell seats when the team is losing. No team can win year in and year out because even Detroit had its bad years. If you only come when the team wins then say Hasta La Vista Atlanta!

Tony C.

May 8th, 2009
4:34 pm

Oh bite me. We let you guys play football even though you can’t do it right.

Typical Atlanta sports fan

May 8th, 2009
4:39 pm

Great comeback Einstein. Enjoy Matt Ryan while we let him play for you.

Tony C.

May 8th, 2009
4:39 pm

P.S. you make our argument for us. When they were the “deadthings” their gate was atrocious. Don’t tell me that Quebekkers would support a 10-year dissappointment especially if ownership never made ANY changes to an obviously flawed management team. Now, they might’ve lynched aforementioned poor management, but they wouldn’t spend $ on the steaming turd that has exemplified Thrashers results.

Tony C.

May 8th, 2009
4:42 pm

“We”??? I wasn’t aware Ryan was a frostback.

Tony C.

May 8th, 2009
4:43 pm

Mr. T. I promise to stop feeding the troll now.

Typical Atlanta sports fan

May 8th, 2009
4:44 pm

And where do you have their gate numbers for those years? Once again you aspire to be just like Detroit. Say hi to Matt Ryan for me while he’s in your hockey hotbed.

Typical Atlanta sports fan

May 8th, 2009
4:46 pm

Matty Ice as you southerners refer to him played college ball in Boston and was born in Pennsylvania. Go back to your high school football blog and leave hockey to the Northerners.

ranallo10 (in AT)

May 8th, 2009
5:24 pm

I’m just curious…I was born in California, so does that make me cool or uncool in this argument? I’m never sure if I’m allowed to like hockey.

kracker

May 8th, 2009
5:37 pm

Ignore the trolls, they have a short attention span.

For the ‘do we sign RFA?’ question, I am very leery of doing that. The cost for poaching a quality player is very high, plus you’re likely to invite similar activity against your team. I’d rather find a trading partner or a FA who wants to play in Atlanta.

The best thing to do, which the Thrash are now doing, is concentrate on drafting quality players. This also the proper answer to the current poll question. Doing a trade or signing a FA should be more of an endgame strategy to plug a hole or two on an otherwise healthy team.

Stupid Waddell

May 8th, 2009
5:41 pm

The idiot GM shoulda been fired years ago!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It seems we have this discussion, EVERY F****** YEAR!!!!!!!!!!
WHY.Is he STILL here????????????????????

“WTF?”

kracker

May 8th, 2009
5:45 pm

**Ranallo** – Northern or Southern California? haha just kidding. I think a hockey fan can come from anywhere, be any age, they just like tha game. Me, I can’t even skate. I followed the Flames years ago here in Atlanta but not nearly to the degree that I follow the Thrashers now.

However, it does seem that there are some narrow-minded people from other hockey cities don’t think I’m a proper hockey fan because of where I live or who I am.

World Be Free

May 8th, 2009
6:31 pm

Well put kracker-we have some real good home grown fans here and in other southern cities. The “Phil” will be packed next year if the team is competitive.

Tony C.

May 8th, 2009
6:32 pm

Granted our RFAs may become the target of “retaliation” offer sheets-but if you’re a team that’s up against the cap-letting the RFA go for picks might not be such an unpleasant prospect.

Or even use it as a leveraging technique for a trade? IDK.