Can Mark Pop A Surprise?

As the Thrashers players took to the ice at the Duluth Ice forum Sunday, one player that I had my eye on was former Atlanta defenseman Mark Popovic. Recently, the 6’-1”, 210 pound native of Stoney Creek, Ontario was invited back to tryout for a spot on the Thrashers blueline.

When we last saw Pops play at the NHL level, it was during that dreadful 2007-08 season in which Atlanta’s defensive corps  finished last in GA/A, (3.24), last in SA/G, (33.9) and fourth to last in killing penalties, (78.8%). I think we can all agree that was an era of Thrashers history that we all just wish could be ripped out of the hockey record books, shredded, burned and the ashes sent adrift down the river of forgetfulness and sent over It Never Happened Falls.

However, even though the Thrashers finished with a record of 34-40-8 that year, when Mark was skating on the blueline Atlanta played to a slightly better record of 15-15-3.

The 33 starts made by Popovic that year were the most games he played in Atlanta and he accounted for a pair of assists and 10 penalty minutes to go with his –4 rating. He appeared in 3 games in the year following the lockout and 7 the year after that. He also played one game with Anaheim in 2003-04 season.

So, if the 07-08 campaign is the only real year to make a judgment on his abilities, certainly that would qualify the man for a Mulligan, wouldn’t you say?

He played for two years with the John Anderson-coached Chicago Wolves where he played in 138 games scoring 28 goals and 50 assists in Anderson’s system and racking up 117 PIM. During 15 playoff games in 2007 he netted 3 goals and 9 overall points.

Will Mark Popovic earn a spot in the Thrashers' lineup?

  • Yes! He's good enough to play here. (26%, 15 Votes)
  • No! He's Chicago-bound. (37%, 21 Votes)
  • feh...He's got as good of a chance as the rest. (37%, 21 Votes)

Total Voters: 57

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Last year he played with the KHL’s St. Petersburg SKA where he accounted for 8 goals and 14 assists with 40 penalty minutes during 52 regular season games…no points and a single minor penalty in 3 playoff games.

Now, he’s back on the Thrashers’ practice ice and is looking to land a roll within the organization. If nothing else, Pops adds another level of depth for this defensive corps…one in which the term “depth” has more times than not been defined as “how deep in a hole its play can land the team in the standings”.

But this year is a bit different. With the acquisition of Pavel Kubina, the top two pairings of Hainsey-Kubina & Enstrom Bogosian are as solid as we’ve seen in these parts. Then there is Oystrick, Valabik and Salmela that could have easily made up the three D-men left to ice a third pairing and provide adequate patronage of the buffet spread up in the press box.

The team had also brought in Noah Welch earlier in the summer and had the likes of Arturs Kulda and Grant Lewis in the system as well. But you add in a player like Popovic to the mix…and now you’ve got yourself an all-out contest to see who can rise to the top of heap.

This is a good thing, my friends.

Another thing to consider here is, as discussed above, John Anderson is familiar with this player given their days in Chicago. Plus, the team has obviously seen something in his play that impressed them enough to give him a chance to play up here previously.

Personally, I think Popovic has a better than even chance of making the team when the season opens on October 3…rounding out the bottom 3 defenders that would consist of he, Oystrick and Valabik. Even if he doesn’t, he should be around to provide that certain level of depth that we just aren’t akin to in these parts.

So with that, I’ll open up the floor for discussion with the question… “Can Mark pop a surprise by making this squad”?

168 comments Add your comment

World Be Free

September 14th, 2009
3:47 pm

Dan Kolb the “All Star” closer has to be in there too.
Zhitnik, just cause he’s Zhitnik-not even adding what we gave up to get him.

GaVaHokie

September 14th, 2009
3:49 pm

Stroz… hmmm, or even Ed Hartwell.

Rawhide

September 14th, 2009
3:50 pm

Sorry Rawhide, I’ll knock it off before Trixie slaps my wrists with a ruler!!

Smoothie – You ain’t kiddin’…believe you me, that Trixie is quite talented wielding a ruler in a disciplinary fashion.

GaVaHokie

September 14th, 2009
3:52 pm

Hokie, let’s not forget Chris Chelios, Mark Recchi, Doug Weight, Bill Guerin. Keith Tkachuk. Some guys can do it. Even in their 40’s.

I didn’t forget… those are exactly the guys I was thinking of… I think Slava can keep himself in better shape then those guys… add Messier and Mellanby as well.

Smoothie

September 14th, 2009
3:53 pm

GVH, bingo!! He didn’t have the injuries to use as an excuse…he just plain sucked for us.

GaVaHokie

September 14th, 2009
3:53 pm

I’m not even sure I’d put Lehtonen in the running over a guy like Damian Rhodes and Patty Stefan.

World Be Free

September 14th, 2009
3:57 pm

Aadd Nick Esasky, though it wasn’t his fault

Thrashers27

September 14th, 2009
4:07 pm

Sweet! Just got tomorrow off and bought tix for the prospects game! Finally, some hockey! Maybe the withdrawal symptoms will stop now.

Smoothie

September 14th, 2009
4:11 pm

Speaking of injury / busts, don’t forget Steve Rucchin…poor guy. Never saw it coming. I think it was the same game in which XLB popped three guys in one consecutive sequence at the blueline…awesome.

GaVaHokie

September 14th, 2009
4:15 pm

GVH, bingo!! He didn’t have the injuries to use as an excuse…he just plain sucked for us.

Sorry, which person are you agreeing with? :)

GaVaHokie

September 14th, 2009
4:17 pm

Speaking of injury / busts, don’t forget Steve Rucchin…poor guy. Never saw it coming. I think it was the same game in which XLB popped three guys in one consecutive sequence at the blueline…awesome.

I thought he was injured in practice by Andy Sutton kicking him with a skate, or a collision of some sort.

GaVaHokie

September 14th, 2009
4:18 pm

Sweet! Just got tomorrow off and bought tix for the prospects game! Finally, some hockey! Maybe the withdrawal symptoms will stop now.

I would have done the same thing, but I just took all of last week off. :(

Smoothie

September 14th, 2009
4:25 pm

Sorry, was talking about Peerless (hardly) Price!! I’m pretty sure Rucchin was laid out like Jeff George in Edmonton on the ‘06 winter road trip debacle.

Sara

September 14th, 2009
4:25 pm

Smoothie – actually it’s more like 11 teams…that’s how many have more than $4M of cap space left, therefore even room to sign a guy like Zherdev. Plus you can toss out a team like Phoenix – heck is anyone even answering phones over there anymore? LA Kings maybe could have thought about it but I think Lombardi’s already got “Kovalchuk” written all over his $9.4M of cap space (hope he wrote it in pencil *snicker snicker*).

My point is, I think you are over-exaggerating his character flaws. If that were as anathema compared to talent as you think, Heatley would still be a Senator.

GaVaHokie

September 14th, 2009
4:36 pm

So, on the Hossa and Heatley trade comparison…

Esposito, Armstrong, O’Dell and Leveille

vs.

Michalek, Cheechoo and a TBD 2nd Round pick.

Brendan

September 14th, 2009
4:44 pm

It’s a comparison between proven players vs. prospects, with the except of Colby Armstrong. Unless one removes O’Dell and substitutes Christensen back in.

I think Ottawa did well, all things considered. I don’t know what happened to Cheechoo after that 56 goal season. But if he could recapture that form and those minutes of ice time, who knows if he’s bloom in Ottawa?

Brendan

September 14th, 2009
4:52 pm

Dare I talk about how much Kovalchuk’s deal might be? If we’re going to adhere to “Self-imposed” budgets, Kozlov’s money has pretty much got to get tacked on to Kovy’s present deal, for his next contract. Now, it’d be “nice” if Kovalchuk would give Waddell and Co. a “hometown discount,” but that’s really asking for a lot. He doesn’t have to play in a market with “self-imposed” budgets. I’m sure he’d like a market with depth. And that means four lines, and defense, and quality goaltending. Which is going to butt-up against the cap, in any given year. Does Kovy really care about “revenue-sharing dollars?”

Let’s be honest. How many fans care about “revenue-sharing dollars?” Say … compared to … fielding the best team that the NHL’s budget allows? I think that’s what most fans want. They want to TRY, every year, to go as far as the hockey gods permit. I think this is what Kovalchuk wants, too. I just hope ownership will see it in time.

R. Stroz

September 14th, 2009
4:59 pm

You don’t have to worry about revenue sharing dollars if you put a good team on the ice, as your revenue will come from ticket sales.

Besides, revenue sharing is also based on improving attendence year over year, so winning is part of the equation.

Brendan

September 14th, 2009
5:21 pm

And those are all excellent points, R.Stroz. Will the Spirit Group, “get it” in time? Because if the light bulb goes on after Kovy signs elsewhere, it’s a bit “late.”

Yeah, yeah. “They’re real close to a deal. Any moment now. Everybody’s got ‘real good feelings’ about it.” And I want to believe that, too. I hope it is true. But the proof is in the pudding. And the pudding is the signed contract, ideally before training camp ends.

World Be Free

September 14th, 2009
6:25 pm

Glovesave-neat idea on Boris, I just don’t he has the hands or skating ability to play up front at the NHL level. Some guys can do it, others cannot. Dustin Byfuglien in Chicago made the transition up front. Alot others have failed.

World Be Free

September 14th, 2009
6:34 pm

Smoothie-all we Bills’ fans can remember are the old time.

Time to get ready to watch New England drill the Bills into the turf-this is going to hurt alot.

The Dick Jauron watch begins!

Dwayne

September 14th, 2009
7:41 pm

biggest dud…and I mean biggest…Tony Mandarich.

World Be Free

September 14th, 2009
7:54 pm

That kid Pickens that the Falkcons drafted 3rd overall, the shut down corner that couldn’t cover a sauce pan.

Eileen

September 14th, 2009
7:57 pm

Rawhide and Sara, I am a little behind with reading the blog. It was great to see you Rawhide and talk hockey. Sara, I am also so glad I finally met you. I have been reading your comments for so long. They are very thought provoking and informative.

Brendan

September 14th, 2009
9:17 pm

WBF, don’t look now, but it’s 17-10, Bills. And they haven’t looked awful. Their defense is better than we thought. And their offense has produced a TD, at long last, as well as a 40-yard FG by Lindell. Tom Brady looks disoriented. He doesn’t look like himself. He looks … hurt and tired. But he’s not having a bad game. The Patriots have shown the Bills D “no respect,” and failed to convert on both 4th down attempts. Bilichick’s response, “unbelievable.”

Bob, unless I missed it, you’ve been quiet on Zherdev. I also don’t have a points guess from you yet. Or Toby. Or Darkhorse.

Glovesave29

September 14th, 2009
10:29 pm

I don’t care if Slava got higher marks than everyone on some fitness test. That shows he’s in shape. Great. It doesn’t simulate game situations. The game is played faster than the level that test is administered. Don’t get me wrong…I like Slava, always have. Fantastic in the shootout. But his time has gone for us. He even stated after the last contract he should have moved on, but his wife wanted him to stay.

WBF – I made that suggestion because you must be a much better skater to play defense than to be a forward. The hands I can agree with you, but the skating I don’t. I truly do not know what to do with Boris, other than send him down to Chicago for some re-training.

Daculafan

September 14th, 2009
10:42 pm

Hey Rawhide!!

Was great getting to meet you at the training camp…now on to Pops!!

I think that Pops has a better than average chance to make the team also. He looked to me to be in very good physical condition..he was fast..and had very good positioning…I saw him deny Kovy once on a poke…and he made life difficult for several forwards driving to the nets during the drills. His endurance didn’t look to be a problem at the end session skate…

Like you said Anderson is fully aware of what he’s capable of..and so is Waddell..I think that he will catch on here..I think most likely with a 2 way contract and he’ll spend a good deal of it in Chicago…but I think he’ll be one of the defensive call ups when we need depth on the bench. I like his grit and I think he can carve a niche out in this group of defensive players.

Darkhorse

September 14th, 2009
10:43 pm

Brendan, I will give you my guesses by mid next week. I’m gonna catch both preseason games at Phillips to get a feel.

Anyone go to the prospects game tonight? What did you think?

Hockey’s back tonight if you have the NHL Network. Isles and Canucks preseason on right now.

Oh, and those poor Bills found a way to give Brady the spotlight tonight. Not quite as insane as the end to the Denver/Bengals game yesterday though.

Rawhide

September 14th, 2009
10:57 pm

The Thrashers prospects beat Nashville’s 6-3. Jeremy Morin with 2 goals and an assists. Scott Lehman, Daryl Smith, Eric O’Dell and Matt Anderson had the others for Atlanta. Peter Mannino was in goal for the Thrashers.

Smitty

September 14th, 2009
11:00 pm

If you think DW is bad it could be worse. They tell me Yale is a good school. How did Dick Jauron make it through? Thrasher fans do not despair. Someone always has it worse.

Brendan

September 14th, 2009
11:10 pm

Darkhorse, you could see how Buffalo was going to “choke” this game away. They got scared that they might win, so they played “prevent defense,” so they would lose. It worked. And the decision to bring the ball out of the end zone with 2:00 left … was … poor judgement and bad coaching. Didn’t they talk about the possibility of New England kicking it deep, with 3 timeouts and the 2:00 warning? Unbelieveable. Total choke job. Aside from the final 4:00 minutes, though, the Bills looked good. Their defense STUNNED me. I know. I know. “It’s a national TV audience, they’ll revert to their TRUE SELVES later.” Probably so. If you’re the Bills, … isn’t the 1st overall pick in next year’s draft something you’re at least “thinking about?” Detroit is bound to win one-game this year. If the Bills were to have won, that makes it a true “duel” for that top pick. In the Bengals/Broncos game, that was just a “fluke” play. In Buffalo’s case, it was a series of miscalculations at the game’s most critical point. Sorry Bills fans, I don’t mean to be dumping on you.

Darkhorse, you can make your pick as late as “puck drop” on Opening Night, so there’s no rush. Eileen, if you want to get in on the fun, have at it. Pick the points, place in SE Division, and Conference rank when making a submission. So far, guesses have ranged from 80-100 points.

I’m watching NYI vs. Vancouver from some local rink. I just saw Center Josh Bailey take a fine hit. He was okay.

Sean

September 15th, 2009
4:32 am

GaVa – Big difference: Hossa was a deadline deal. Heatley is on a fresh contract. Look at it the other way around. What did Pitt give up for March-June of Hossa? What did San Jose give up for 3 or 4 years (maybe more? I don’t feel like looking it up) of Heatley?

World Be Free

September 15th, 2009
5:44 am

Brendan-we’ve heard it and seen it before. Your posts normally touch on new material, not the SOS. We can expect no less from a Dick Jauron coached football team.

Like I said last night-the Dick Jauron watch is on. 3-4 more losses and he’s out the door.

DWTOO

September 15th, 2009
7:01 am

Brendan – 92 Points 2nd Southeast 5th Conference

Zoomo

September 15th, 2009
7:31 am

Morin had a nice game last night. Lehman’s goal came from the work of Levko Koper. Koper had the best up ice rush of the game, went behind the net and did the dirty work to move the puck out to Lehman for the score. Play of the game.

I also thought that Kozek looked decent and I was pleasantly surprised by Ben Chiarot on defense. Postma had an OK game too. Postma plays with his head up and really looks like a guy who understands the nuances of the D position.

Midfield

September 15th, 2009
7:42 am

There’s a report on a Russian web site that Zherdev has just signed with the KHL club in Russia.

GaVaHokie

September 15th, 2009
8:21 am

Sean… I wasn’t stating one deal was better than the other. :) I just merely posted what the difference was.

I think it still looks pretty even myself… minus Heatley and Hossa, it’s still an even swap to me with the current players involved. Could you trade Armstrong, O’Dell, Leveille and Espo for Michalek, Cheechoo and a 2nd Round Pick?… sure, why not.

Brendan

September 15th, 2009
8:25 am

DWTOO, you’re registered with 92-points, 2nd in SE, and 5th in Conference. So that you know, “ben” has 92-points, 2nd in SE, and 4th in the Conference and “mutton” has 92-points, 3rd in SE, and 9th in the Conference, and Alan has 91-points, 3rd in SE, and 8th in the Conference. DWTOO, at 91-points, 2nd in SE Division, and 5th in Conference … is Hockey Bilton. So, for you and Biltong, your tie-breakers are the same, it’ll come down to 91 vs. 92-points in your battle with him. “Scotty” has 91-points, 3rd in SE, and 9th in the Conference. If the T-birds are sitting at 90 or 91-points after 81 games, it’s going to be very, very close for our winner.

WBF, the Jauron watch is on. Didn’t Buffalo just fire its Offensive Coordinator a week before the season?

GaVaHokie

September 15th, 2009
8:27 am

I don’t care if Slava got higher marks than everyone on some fitness test. That shows he’s in shape. Great. It doesn’t simulate game situations. The game is played faster than the level that test is administered.

http://tsn.ca/nhl/teams/?hubname=nhl-thrashers

But his time has gone for us. He even stated after the last contract he should have moved on, but his wife wanted him to stay.

Actually his dogs liked it here, but I don’t recall him saying “I should have left”… do you have a link for that?

Smoothie

September 15th, 2009
10:08 am

I call BS on the Slava comments as well. That doesn’t even make any sense as there were only two teams interested in him during the summer of 2007, Dallas and ATL. Even if Slava was thinking that it was “time to move on”, he’s too stoic to ever say it publicly. Other than moving on to retirement, what should he have moved on to?

GaVaHokie

September 15th, 2009
10:11 am

Exactly, and he visited Dallas, got wined and dined, and chose to stay with Atlanta.

Smoothie

September 15th, 2009
10:24 am

Zoomo – great summary of the game last night in Duluth. Koper and Chiarot (how in the world do we say his name…Chee-a-rot??) were very pleasant surprises. Chiarot especially as I was not expecting much from him at all; he seemed very aware and poised and always seemed to make the smart play.

Also, Drew Paris seemed to show some very astute hockey sense and great hands in front of the net blocking several shots during the PK. Mannino was very solid with good positioning all night. He was only truly beaten once as the first goal was redirected off a stick and the second goal was thru a screen (I was right behind the shooter) as it looked like it went between a D-man’s arm and side on its way to the top right corner.

Morin surprised me with his motor and he even passed the puck a few times. His feed to O’Dell on the PP for the re-direct was a very good play from the corner.

Lastly, the hitting in the first 5-10 minutes of the game was ridiculous! Guys were taking serious runs at one another in the hopes of making a statement. It was as intense as a Stanley Cup playoff game. For awhile there, I thought someone was going to get hurt and the refs weren’t calling a thing. But luckily, the reckless play led to a 2 on 2 rush for Morin and Kozek and Morin made the D-men look silly on his way to making the goalie cry for his mommy…sweet goal (check out the highlights posted by Ben on the Blueland Blog).

As always, it was great hanging out with Rawhide in the midst of a large and passionate group (def 500 strong) of hockey fans. Had the privilege of meeting Libby and her husband “pinhead” (very nice people indeed!) and met the esteemed blogger and creator of the Pevs Dispenser, Aaron, formerly of Blueland Roar and now part of the growing team at Birdwatchers Anonymous.

Also, was surprised to see our beloved poster PJ who must’ve offered up a few silent prayers for our young Thrashers before the game ensuring none of them got hurt during the physical exhibition…very good to see you again. And it was a pleasure yukking it up with you, Tillzy and your friend Stacy (I’m terrible with names so forgive me) who tipped me off about Patrick Swayze’s passing (RIP Derek Sutton…we’ll miss you long time!).

A great night all around!!

PS — Evander Kane was there for the entire game watching in street clothes from the far corner to support his Traverse City teammates. A class act indeed!!

Pam on Weck

September 15th, 2009
10:28 am

Sheesh, Brendan. You might have to add a rock-paper-scissors clause after the tie-break questions.

I disagree on Kozlov. As long as he’s got the legs and buys into the coach’s system, he is worth having here. He is adaptive and has a crazy-good work ethic on and off the ice. That’s a role model. Of course, the compensation should reflect a player in his twilight years (Twilight! What am I saying? He’s the same age as me!).

As for Pops, I am really enjoying that he and so many other young players are trying hard to make the team. The competition is exciting and can inject enthusiasm into everyone’s game whether noob or veteran.

Rawhide

September 15th, 2009
10:34 am

Zoomo – “Ditto that” in regards to Kopar’s feed from behind the net to Lehman. I also like Matt Anderson’s goal in which he went into the corner to win the puck…drove to the net and beat the keeper. Nice work.

It looked like our guys were a lot more in sync with each other than Nashville’s guys. Of course, they just came of the Traveres City Tournament games, so that helps.

Nice to see you last night…tell Ryan I said, “Hello”.

Smoothinator – Wonderful to have spent the game with you and the lovely Ms. Ten as well. Libby and “Pin head” are indeed a wonderful couple to spend time with…yes, ranallo10 in AT, those are the two you think they are. Obviously we picked the “cool” section to sit in, what with PJ and her friend Wendy there as well as Aaron, Razer Catch Prey of the Bluelnad Chronicle, Zoomo & Ryan, Sean Grace of the Bluland Road and his lovely wife Stacy in front of us…also Wayne the “lurker”.

Definately a good time!

Bob

September 15th, 2009
10:38 am

“Bob, unless I missed it, you’ve been quiet on Zherdev. I also don’t have a points guess from you yet. Or Toby. Or Darkhorse.”

Sorry, actually been busy at work (doing more work with less staff) and haven’t kept up on the blogs much. Zherdev doesn’t do much for me, I read a couple people say “why’s he still available with those #s?” and I agree. there must be some locker room issues with the guy. Now we do need another top 6 guy and I would be suprised to see Kane be the one to fill the slot at barely 18 yrs old. I would guess old Don is going to fill that slot via the waiver wire near the start of the season.

Are we guessing points on the season this year? Didn’t see that, but I don’t have a feel for it yet, when is the guess due by?

Rawhide

September 15th, 2009
10:48 am

Sorry, actually been busy at work (doing more work with less staff) and haven’t kept up on the blogs much.

Bob – Boy…ain’t that the truth for many of us these days!?! As for the points predictions, Brendan is taking those right now…projected points, place in SE and conference. We have until the drop of the puck on Oct. 3 to make and ammend such predictions. Personally, I’ll provide mine during the week leading up to openening night.

Smoothie

September 15th, 2009
11:26 am

I feel a tingle in the base of my skull…what’s that? I feel a ranallo alert coming on! T-minus 10 – 9 – 8…

Russian

September 15th, 2009
11:27 am

It was a news that Zherdev got contract with KHL team “Atlant”. I read it, but it is official yet. He is in Moscow now. His agent are still working to get contract. I do not know all details, but I want to see official notes about it. Damn, I do not want to loose him. :-(

Rawhide

September 15th, 2009
11:32 am

Smoothie – Actually…what you are experiencing is “Premature Ranallo-Alertation”, as a new blog is not yet immanent.

R. Stroz

September 15th, 2009
12:01 pm