OK kids…preseason play is over and we now await the final decisions from the judges to see who is the last group of players to be voted off of Thrashers Island. The judges of course being John Anderson and his coaching staff…Don Waddell and Rick Dudley will certainly have a say so in this matter as well.
Now, speaking of voting players off of the island, I have to admit that I was a little surprised to see which player was the top vote getter in the Thrashers Fan Poll that I incorporated into Sunday’s blog. At the time of this posting, Evander Kane led the pack with Boris Valabik close behind.
I expected Kane to get some votes, but not be the one with the most votes off the island.
To hear Waddell tell it, Kane is going to get an eight or nine game look-see to begin the season before a decision is made to send him back down to the WHL. My take on this is… if Maxim Afinogenov is signed here… I just don’t see whose place Evander would take in the lineup.
Kozlov? White? Peverley? Armstrong?
I don’t think so.
However, I can see this happening if Colby Armstrong…who has not seen action since leaving early on in last Monday’s game against Carolina…is not healthy enough to play come Saturday. Kane could easily handle his slot in the lineup pending Army’s return.
Outside of that…I think it’s best to sending him on his way to Vancouver unless the team decides to tell Max, “Thanks for your time and consideration to our organization, but we’ve decided to go a different route”.
Either way it goes regarding Evander Kane, he will not wind up where I think he truly belongs right now. I don’t think he’s ready for full time duty in the NHL…and I think he’s proven all he can in the WHL. If he were able to go to the AHL Chicago Wolves, I think that’d be the best for him and the team. But of course, the rules of that league prohibit him from fine-tuning his talents there given his age of just 18-years old.
So, this is one of the tough choices the team faces in the next couple of days.
Speaking of choices…as stated above, we should soon find out if Maxim Afinogenov has passed his audition with the team. Did he have a stellar game yesterday? Ahhhh….no. But really, outside of Rich Peverley and Anssi Salmela, no one did. Salmela’s good showing helped his cause to try and stick around here for a while longer.
Another decision facing the Thrashers has to do with the goalkeeping situation. For weeks now Don Waddell has indicated that he feels Ondrej Pavelec should be the one to start against the Bolts this weekend and probably handle the bulk of the duties until Kari Lehtonen is ready to go.
And for a while there it looked like Opie was becoming that solidifying force the team needs between the pipes. In his first couple of games, he got off to a good showing. In the second exhibition game of the season, he held Tampa Bay to a pair of goals on 34 shots on goals during an overtime loss. In his second game… last Wednesday versus the Preds… he held Nashville to one goal on 24 SOG during the first two periods. That’s 3 goals on 58 shots in five periods plus almost a full overtime period. This is very good.
However, since that time he has surrendered 8 goals on 39 shots in his last four periods of action. That equates to a .795 SV% in the most recent 80 minutes of work. This is very un-good…and unfortunately it is also an all-too familiar pattern with Pavs. Start off strong for a couple of games, then fall of the edge.
Granted, three of those five goals Sunday came while Tampa Bay was on the power play…one of them resulting from Opie’s handling of the puck outside of the trapezoid…but this still doesn’t instill a lot of confidence that he’s ready to have the keys to the goal store handed over to him just yet. Not to me, at least.
To that point, Don Waddell did say prior to the game that he planned on being in touch with Manny Legace’s agent soon.
Hey Don, here’s a quarter. Call someone who…well, someone who represents Manny.