Thrashers Prospect Games And Town Hall Meeting Roundup

First of all, I gotta tell you, living out here in the twin cities area of Kennesaw/Acworth while so much is going on in Duluthland and Philips these past few days has kept yours-truly on the road quite a bit. I’ve been zipping around the top-end perimeter in the big suburban assault vehicle so much that I’m afraid Al Gore is going to send me a nasty-gram about the carbon footprint I’ve been generating.

As you know by now, along with training camp opening up this past weekend, Atlanta and Nashville’s prospects split the two games played at the Duluth Ice Forum…the Thrashers taking Monday night’s matchup by a 6-3 score, Nashville then skated away with a 3-0 shutout win in Tuesday’s matinee. While unable to find the back of the net in game number two, the young Thrashers were able to ring shots off the post four or five times.

Jeremy Morin scored a couple of goals and added an assists in the first game…the first of which was a nifty one in which he took a feed from Andrew Kozek just beyond the blueline, zipped his way past a pair of defenders, moved right then left and slipped a backhand past the Preds keeper. Another goal that stood out to me was the one notched by Matt Anderson going into the corner to dig out the puck then, after winning it, making a bee-line to the goal to jam it home.

One thing about these kids is that they are a big bunch and they just don’t mind throwing their weight around out there. Very fast and aggressive…and they were very entertaining to watch this week. Morin, Eric O’Dell, Levko Koper and Drew Paris each played well in both games.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun it was to see so many familiar faces as well as how nice it was to meet a few others of you for the first time. Also, I have to say that the Ice Forum crew did an awesome job in making these two days a very enjoyable and fun time for the fans.

After Tuesday’s game…and chatting with Thrashers TV duo Darren Eliot and Matt McConnell…I again jumped into the suburban assault vehicle and motored my way through a driving rain to Philips Arena for the Thrashers Season Preview Party. This event was hosted by radio voice of the Thrashers Dan Kamal, who was joined on stage by John Anderson, Don Waddell, Rick Dudley and Colby Armstrong.

The Rawhide/Blueland Chronicle consortium were represented in full Tuesday night as I was joined by my alleys Razor Catch Pray, Big Shooter, Mortimer Peacock and French Catalogues… nesting ourselves along the top row overlooking the assembled masses that almost filled section 104 below.

After a few minutes of Q&A with Anderson, Dudley and Army, the stage was turned over to the general manager who promptly went straight the “The Big Question” of the evening…Ilya Kovalchuk and the negotiation process to re-sign him.

Waddell indicated, as he has before, that there has been an offer and subsequent counter-offer made…which is a level not reached during the Marian Hossa negotiations. He expressed his believe that a deal would be reached with the captain.

Oh, and in case you haven’t yet heard…Kovy and his wife are indeed expecting their third child. So, congrats to the whole Kovalchuk family.

Don also stated that the team’s salary cap projection is/would be just below the $50 million mark. If certain bonuses kick in, that could push it to just north of that mark. Regardless, he said this season the team will spend more on players’ salaries than ever before.

Mr. Big Shooter asked Waddell about his plans to utilize the depth in goal this past summer to use as trade material. Don responded that he was indeed open to doing so, but that the possible deals that were discussed weren’t in the team’s best interest and is now happy no keeper was move in light of Kari Lehtonen’s situation. However, given the fact that Manny Legace is in camp, they are even deeper now then when the offseason began. Thus, there are still options there.

During the Q/A session, Mr. Razor Catch Prey enquired as to John Anderson’s “system” and how it’s design is meant to play out. The coach explained that in his O-fensive scheme there are about 4 or 5 plays that are drawn up in relation to when the puck is moved out of the defensive zone. Much like a football quarterback, the puck handler has primary and secondary options in which to distribute the puck up-ice. The key, he said, is to not only perform the plays well…but to do so swiftly.

Another thing Anderson commented on was the way his team performed down the stretch of last season. He was very happy in the way they were winning a number of games against team that were “hungry for points”, as they were making playoff pushes. This helped bond the players together and is confident that it’ll translate to a stronger start this fall. To that measure, he’s gone ahead and formed his lines during traing camp in the way he sees them lining up during the season… Antropov centering Kovy, Little… Kozlov’s second line also including White and Peverley… Reasoner centering the third line with Kane and Armstrong on either side… Slater, Bolts and Thorburn forming the forth line…and the defensive pairings on Enstrom-Bogosian as well as Hainsey-Kubina.

Of course as the preseason plays out, lineups are subject to change…but the coach’s thought is to get them together early and allow them to get comfortable with one another sooner rather than later.

In response to the pre-submitted question I posed to Rick Dudley regarding what he thought he could do to help bring the measure of success seen in Chicago here…he stated that his mission with the team is to “best utilize the assets” the organization possesses. Later, he also expressed his belief that the Thrashers have the nucleus of a very good team and that the team here is further along than in other situations he’s stepped into… such as in  Ottawa. In his time there, an 80-ish point Sens team was improved to one that accumulated over 100.

Oh, and not to be overlooked is the fact that Dudley compared Evander Kane to another young player he’s seen up close…Jonathan Toews.

And lastly…during the proceedings Tuesday night, those occupying the stage did so down on the floor of Philips Arena which already has the ice surface prepared. I’m sure many of you will be relieved, as I was, to learn that the Thrashers tenth anniversary logo was NOT emblazoned on the surface.

Don Waddell alluded to the fact that it had been met with “mixed reviews”.

136 comments Add your comment

Smoothie

September 17th, 2009
10:13 am

http://www.kuklaskorner.com/index.php/hockey/comments/report_malhotra_will_sign_with_sharks/

Well Bill, looks like XM NHL was on top of things. Don’t really know how the Sharks can afford him unless he is agreeing to roughly $1.25 M per season. Enjoy your time with cry-baby Heatley Manny!

Sara

September 17th, 2009
10:36 am

Tonight’s line combos courtesy of the Thrashers website:

Forwards

21 Brett Sterling- 40 Jason Krog- 22 Anthony Stewart
9 Evander Kane- 57 Angelo Esposito- 46 Spencer Machacek
36 Eric Boulton- 16 Dan Fritsche- 27 Chris Thorburn
24 Josh Gratton- 41 Tim Stapleton- 15 Joey Crabb

Defense

5 Boris Valabik- 3 Mark Popovic
44 Arturs Kulda- 48 Mike Vernace
7 Nathan Oystrick- 25 Anssi Salmela

Goaltender

30 Drew MacIntyre
31 Ondrej Pavelec

GaVaHokie

September 17th, 2009
10:43 am

Here’s the whole primer for tonight’s preseason game, including Sara’s posted line-ups above.

Wish we could actually watch it… grrrr.

http://thrashers.nhl.com/club/preview.htm?id=2009010017&navid=atl-home-dl

GaVaHokie

September 17th, 2009
10:44 am

Looks like I was fairly close on my line combo’s yesterday… thought Crabb would get the look with Krog and Sterling.

Very interesting that Fritsche is playing in Slater’s spot.

GaVaHokie

September 17th, 2009
10:49 am

Enjoy your time with cry-baby Heatley Manny!

Yeah, enjoy your linemates, Jed Ortmeyer and Torry Mitchell because you’re never seeing Lines 1 and 2.

GaVaHokie

September 17th, 2009
11:00 am

I’d say the biggest disadvantage goes to…

Gratton Stapleton Crabb
Kulda Vernace

Zero familiarity between those guys, Crabb should hope to swap out with Stewart at some point in the game… my early verdict is, “grab a coat guys, it gets cold in Chicago” to Gratton, Stapleton, Kulda and Vernace.

Smoothie

September 17th, 2009
11:17 am

Yeah, I’m not sure why Crabb is playing with those two instead of Krogger and Sterling. If Stewart is already ahead of Crabb due to performance in practice, Joey could be in trouble. But then again, this could be Stewart’s one oppty to prove he can do something on a “scoring” line. Or JA is simply trying to put some “nasty” on each line: 1) Stewart 2) Macho-man 3) Boults / Thor 4) Gratton / Crabber

Smoothie

September 17th, 2009
11:28 am

AFINOGENOV!!! TALK ABOUT YOUR GAME OF RUSSIAN ROULETTE!!

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

R. Stroz

September 17th, 2009
11:39 am

Holy “Crazy Legs” Batman

Rawhide

September 17th, 2009
12:11 pm

Hmmmm. a Kovy – Antropov – Afinogenov line????

Possibly the “Alias” line?…(a.k.a).

Or maybe…the “Bill the Cat” line….”aak”!

How about…The Comrad Connection?

World Be Free

September 17th, 2009
12:35 pm

This keeps up, we may run into a Vodka shortage in metro Atlanta

Sara

September 17th, 2009
12:59 pm

“This keeps up, we may run into a Vodka shortage in metro Atlanta”

That would be completely unacceptable.

DWTOO

September 17th, 2009
1:10 pm

Good Move – Max has good speed, good stick handling, problem is putting it in the net. But, with Kovy and Nik there may be some chemistry. Second line would be Pevs, White, Little. Slava moves to the open spot on the third line. Would give the checking line some scoring punch along with Slava’s defensive ability.

Kane gets another year in Juniors.

Daculafan

September 17th, 2009
1:34 pm

One thing is for sure…they are generating a lot more fan excitement than they were a year ago…BOOM bring in Manny for a try out…BOOM bring in mad Max…they really are making it more interesting that last year’s off season and camp..

To be honest….they really are keeping the heat cranked up on the players this year in camp..there may be only a half dozen guys in this camp who really aren’t sweating any of the moves being made…I have to imagine everybody else is feeling the tension…it’s really good to see that

Zoomo

September 17th, 2009
1:34 pm

It’ll be intersting to see how this works out. Max was a turnover machine last year. Seemed lost on the ice. I wonder if Anderson thinks he can get more out of him and cut down on his turnovers by playing Andy’s ssytem.

Hockey Biltong

September 17th, 2009
1:46 pm

Zoomo, that is the key. Will he fit the system???? He may inspire the youngsters to play at a higher level, but I have my doubts that he’ll be a responsible 2 way player….

Old Man Jenkins

September 17th, 2009
1:49 pm

Maxie AffinEEgenoff? Bah, who needs him or that Nikkie Andropoff guy? Same with that Manny Legicing character.

Since when did we need to bring in talent around here?

Why, in my day, we were given players like Norm Maracle, Niko Kapanen, Serge Aubin, Uwe Krupp, Zhitnik and that Stevie Rucchin boy.

And we were THANKFUL!

Took our beatings like real men, we did. And at the end of the day we took our 60 or 70 points that we earned and were proud of it!

Maxie AffinEEgenoff? BAH!

ben

September 17th, 2009
1:50 pm

If he makes the team, our line-up could get scary! I hope this city proves me wrong and shows up. Come on down you guys! It ain’t scary down here. Just give it a whirl!

Alan

September 17th, 2009
2:27 pm

I hope Afinogenov proves me wrong and shows up. Or else this is going to be very harsh.

Toby

September 17th, 2009
2:46 pm

Why does this have to be bad or harsh? It’s a free tryout…If he sucks in the preseason games, he’s gone…

TableHockey

September 17th, 2009
2:48 pm

Could we actually have some depth this season???

Bob

September 17th, 2009
3:10 pm

“This keeps up, we may run into a Vodka shortage in metro Atlanta”

No worries. We’ll just wring out Levenson’s liver if we run low . . .

Alan

September 17th, 2009
3:21 pm

It’s a free tryout…If he sucks in the preseason games, he’s gone…

Because he’s not here just for a brief reprieve from Buffalo. I believe he’s going to be extended an offer, he will sign it, and he will change from Buffalo’s Human Turnover Machine into Atlanta’s Human Turnover Machine.

lee

September 17th, 2009
3:24 pm

toby-exactly, waddell made a good point: it wont hurt. i actually think he could help us out a little, i mean no kovy or antro, but fair guy.

tablehockey-no offense dude, but where u been??? r u new??? if u r i totally understand, but most of these blogs have been bout depth. if u haven’t been following the offseason, we traded ex for nik antropov and pavel kubina. we got some fair free agents, we hav players such as max afiniganov, many legace, dan fricthe and others for tryouts, and i personally think we got a fair amount of new players this season. im down for the thrashers finishing 3rd in division and 9th in conference. (wait, maybe it’s 8) oh well.

bob-heck, im in!

lee

September 17th, 2009
3:26 pm

sry tablehockey i meant (wait maybe its 8) typo!

lee

September 17th, 2009
3:27 pm

ugh!!!!! i meant eight not 8

Brendan

September 17th, 2009
3:28 pm

I only asked if Afinagenov had a contract. I didn’t tell Waddell to invite him to camp!

R.Stroz, maybe the Flames will put Colin Stuart on waivers.

lee

September 17th, 2009
3:29 pm

wat the crap!!!! ???

i meant eight not smilie face!!!!

Brendan

September 17th, 2009
3:30 pm

Does anyone know if Kovalchuk “wanted/asked” for Afinagenov? Just curious, is all.

Sara

September 17th, 2009
3:43 pm

“No worries. We’ll just wring out Levenson’s liver if we run low . . .”

Brilliance

Brendan I’m beginning to think Kovy asked for the entire Russian Olympic roster.

Bob

September 17th, 2009
4:28 pm

Is Fetisov in game shape?

GaVaHokie

September 17th, 2009
4:45 pm

I think it’s all just a ploy to get Nikulin to come to Atlanta. :)

ben

September 17th, 2009
8:46 pm

ya’ll, it’s pouring out . . . i foresee a lot of blogging tomorow

Brendan

September 17th, 2009
10:41 pm

Anyone know what Nikulin is making, converted into U.S. Dollars, in the KHL? I’d bet we can’t even touch that figure. But, I could be wrong. And even if I am wrong, Nikulin wouldn’t sign in Russia and play in Russia … if that weren’t where he wanted to be.

I’m done waiting for Nikulin. I’d still take, Federov, however. But that ship has sailed, correct? He’s all signed and sealed in the KHL for next year, right?

Junk not Trunk

September 17th, 2009
10:58 pm

Holy crap. That ten-year logo is just atrocious. Perhaps even worse than those red third jerseys they came out with last season.

This team can not do anything right when it comes to branding. I mean, they are just plain awful.

Don Waddell

September 17th, 2009
11:15 pm

After a start like that, the Cup is ours. Well, then again, on second thought, we are still one or two players away.