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

R. Stroz

September 15th, 2009
8:28 pm

Sara – Who do you think is tying Waddell’s purse strings?

I’ll give you a hint:

He drinks too much and never shuts up.

I just want to know the truth: did Kovy want Zherdev signed, did Waddell or did FUBAS nix the deal?

In other words, accountability.

World Be Free

September 15th, 2009
9:56 pm

GaVa-I am with you and others about Zherdev. It would have been nice, but it’s not the end of the world. If Kovy would have been all for it, I am sure the Thrashers would have made the effort. You notice no other NHL teams were jumping over Atlanta to sign Zherdev before the Thrashers. That tells you how he’s perceived throughout the league.

Signing or not signing Zherdev will have no impact on whether Kovy resigns with Atlanta. He already has enough Russian “hommies” to hang with.


September 15th, 2009
10:34 pm

i’ve read the posts now and i don’t feel he’ coming.


September 15th, 2009
10:57 pm

Stop the presses!!!

OK, Ben had a tweet tonight that said Waddell pointed out the Thrashers were going to spend the most $$ this season that they have ever spent – over $50M. And I thought to myself, how’d they manage *that* math. And then I went and checked some cap websites and realized, Don’s right (potentially, give or take the bonus issues). shows a current cap hit of $44.3M with $1.85 in bonus cushion. What it does not show is payroll for Army ($2.4M) or whomever fills that 3rd line LW spot. If it is in fact Kane, his contract is bound to be pretty much on line with Bogosian’s. Which means a $2.725M cap hit. Add all of that together and you get a total gross payroll of $51.3M.

I went to and same revelations. They show a cap hit of $48.9M without Kane, who they say would add $3.1M. That’s $52M.

Holy cow…..someone pinch me.


September 15th, 2009
10:59 pm

I’ll never be able to prove this, but I think Kovy HAS given Jay Grossman “specific” marching orders for negotiations. He is THE CLIENT, after all. He pays his agent to represent HIM. I agree with Sara that if “numbers” were exchanged, the should NOT be any “counter-negotiations” going on.

Here’s another way of thinking of that. Pretend Kovy was a pending RFA instead of a UFA, and some team made him an OFFERSHEET, and now it’s up to Atlanta to match the offer or lose him. Well, duh. The negotiations should be over and the offer MATCHED. If it were “numbers” that were exchanged, it ought to be a matter of holding a press conference to announce the signed deal.

So, here’s my wild-haired speculation of the “counter-offer.” Kovalchuk submitted a list of names. He said, “Get these guys here and my name goes on this contract. Perhaps, Kovalchuk ‘may’ have even (wilder speculation ALERT!) said, “I’ll even postpone signing with ANY CLUB until July 3, 2010, just to give you TIME to go get the names on this list.” I don’t know. I have no idea. I wish did know. But if Jay Grossman and Don Waddell are talking about “dollars and cents,” the negotiations should be over. Agree to whatever his demands are, financially. Well, what if it’s the league max?

Sigh. Look, Atlanta is one of the unfortunate markets that has to pay more. And if ever a pending UFA were going to get the league max out on the open market, it’s Kovalchuk. There are GM’s out there, salivating like a Pavlovian dog, ready to CLEAR SPACE, if need be, to accommodate Kovy’s LEAGUE MAX deal. I’m not a big fan of league max contracts. Honestly, I think they’re a bit irresponsible. But in Kovy’s case, I’m prepared to make a HUGE EXEMPTION from that philosophy. Kovy’s the pot of hunny that will bring all the other free agent bees to Atlanta, down the road. Think of his contract as a downpayment on those future Free Agents. If that helps any.


September 15th, 2009
11:07 pm

Well, I was wrong on my guess of 48.1 for the cap. Surprise, surprise…And what happens to that number if they sign one of the tryout guys?


September 15th, 2009
11:21 pm

Darkhorse you answered your own question. Either lg min or they won’t


September 15th, 2009
11:26 pm

Darkhorse, remember the rules of the Budget guess contest? For OUR Purposes, it’s whatever the CAP NUMBER SAYS at at the moment of puck drop, “Opening Night.” It could say $48.l million at that time, and YOU’D BE THE WINNER!! Even if Colby Armstrong’s contract NEVER gets listed, and the number is PATTENTLY inaccurate? YES!! The rules were spelled out on August 28, 2009, between 11AM and Noon. Roughly. It doesn’t matter what Capgeek says, the Thrashers announce, hockeybuzz says, etc. That’s why we had rules. Posters were supposed to adjust their guess, per that site. Even if the Thrashers Accountants published their confidential budget, in violation of league policy, the rules of the contest were SPECIFIC. The poster who guessed CLOSEST to that number, whether above or below, is the winner. Period, the end. And all entries concluded at 11PM, on September 11th, and had to be posted at to count. Allrightee then.

R. Stroz

September 15th, 2009
11:32 pm

Sara – Kane only gets 3.1 million if he achieves ALL of his bonus clauses. Otherwise, if memory serves me, the Falconer stated that his base pay is just over 1 million/year.

R. Stroz

September 15th, 2009
11:35 pm

Someone needs to tell to put Colby’s contract in at 2.4 million.


September 15th, 2009
11:44 pm

Stroz – hence my plus/minus any bonuses stipulation. But I’d wager a guess that both Kane and Bogosian will get at least some of their bonuses – it’s not like they set those target numbers ridiculously high. Bogosian’s cap hit shouldn’t be $2.725M for the same reason – his base salary is only $850K. Both are looking at nearly $2M in bonuses a piece. So there’s nearly $6M in bonuses running around based on the site (Kane’s + Bogo’s + the other $1.85 bonus cushion). Assuming the team pays none of it, payroll will be around $46M. Odds are though, enough of those bonuses will get met to shoot the team over the revenue sharing threshold. Whoops. :p


September 15th, 2009
11:47 pm

The $50 M comment is intriguing but it could be posturing on his part to spin things favorably for the ASG by pointing out they are willing to spend money if certain bonuses are met. And I think we can expect at least one more moderately priced FA or Legace to be signed by late September.

Of course, some here object to spending so much money on an unproven 18 y/o rookie. But if he tanks and goes back to JR, then the ASG is only out 9/82 *$900 K. And then we can bring in one of the 20 or so still unsigned veteran FA on the market.

Also, the Zherdev rumor hasn’t been confirmed or denied and could be another ruse by his agent.


September 15th, 2009
11:51 pm

Per the CBA, the ELC max for base salary is $900 K in Kane’s draft year and next.

Dany Heatley

September 15th, 2009
11:55 pm

This cap rules contest is unfair. I should be able to pick the website which best serves MY salary cap guess. I’m getting emotionally distraught just thinking about it. Where’s my pacifier?


September 16th, 2009
9:03 am

It’s in San Jose. :)


September 16th, 2009
10:46 pm

Jacksen, Justus, and I think Popovic has what it takes this year.

mike a

September 17th, 2009
3:46 pm

Enter your comments here
I think that Jacksen & Justice might have to beef up a little more, to make the team but who knows


September 18th, 2009
11:42 pm

Keep in mind that Popovic has succeeded at every single level he had played at and has won at the international level (Spengler Cup, 2 World Junior Silver Medals). Add his KHL experience to this and he’s as well rounded and experienced as you can ask for a player at his age and skill level. For a team like Atlanta that is still very young, he’s the type of presence that contributes intangibles that can’t always be quantified, especially if the team is successful and battling for a playoff spot.

The bottom line is that he has had success at every level because the coach and organization had faith in him and provided him with enough ice time to build his own confidence which ultimately led to personal and team success. If Atlanta, and his former Wolves coach John Anderson display this faith again, I think everyone will be pleasantly surprised.