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”.