Remember the pouring rains that came our way a couple weeks ago that were almost of Biblical proportions? Well, on that soggy Monday afternoon I engaged the 4-wheel drive of the big, gas-guzzling suburban assault vehicle and trudged my way through the flooding deluge down to Hudson Grille in Brookhaven. The reason I was traveling through such a mess was to have lunch with my good friend John Kincade who, along with former UGA quarterback Buck Belue, handles the afternoon drive show on the Thrashers flagship station 680 AM The Fan.
We had attempted to get together to break bread all summer long… however, our schedules just couldn’t seem to sync up. But we had agreed to do so on this day and, by golly, if John wasn’t gonna let a few trillion-gazillion raindrops stop him that day…well, I wasn’t going to either.
So, what is a fan blogger for the Atlanta Thrashers and an on-air sports personality going to chat about over grilled buffalo chicken sandwiches? Well…the weather, of course. But eventually, we found our way around to the subject of hockey.
In the mid to late ‘80s, John worked with Mike Keenan during his days with the Philadelphia Flyers. Along with the coaching staff, Kincade would chart shots during the games. He also provided analysis for the TV side of the Thrashers broadcasts during their inaugural season and, as he likes to point out, “during their one and only playoff season”…wryly smiling as if he had something to do with it.
This season, Thrashers fans will again see Kincade during TV broadcasts starting in November. “I will fill-in on the TV side for Natalie Taylor some games and will even do the in-house stuff I used to do for some games”, he told me. “I am thrilled to be once again working with a great group of people on a ‘situational’ basis”.
During some of these games he may even come to us from the area between the team benches…much like Pierre McGuire does for the NHL on NBC.
Always a big supporter of the Thrashers since they have been in existence, Kincade… like so many others… has seen a lot of good from this team over the past decade. Unfortunately, there have also been way too many disappointments experienced as well. Recently he opined about those observations in this column listing the Ten Defining Moments of Ten Tumultuous Years for the Thrashers.
Of course, no discussion of the Thrashers these days can be held without the topic skating it’s way to Ilya Kovalchuk and the team’s efforts to re-sign the captain. Like myself and so many others, Kincade feels that it is imperative that Waddell and the organization accomplish this mission. Not just because of the caliber player he is, but also because he is the face of this franchise… to die-hard fans as well as the casual Atlanta area sports fan. He and I also share the belief that Kovy is of the frame of mind to wait until he sees just how this team fairs before putting ink to paper here.
Regardless of the timing, I asked what he thought the chances were that a deal would ultimately get done. He replied, “I think that if the Thrashers are in the hunt at Christmas and things are looking up, there is a chance to get the deal done”.
And what if things don’t go so well this fall?
“Another poor start and we may see him gone even before the trade deadline”.
Given that response, I also asked for his feelings about the team and the general direction of the franchise…is he optimistic going into this, the tenth NHL campaign for the Thrashers?
“I’d say that I’m ‘cautiously’ optimistic”.
He went on to explain that he likes the lineup that Waddell has iced and believes a lot of last spring’s success will carry over. “I think they have been better 1 through 10 before but NEVER 1 through 20”, he told me. “I’m also a believer that what we saw down the stretch [last spring] was not a mirage and that the Anderson system had caught hold… We should not see the learning curve be so tall this season”.
Continuing about coach Anderson’s system, “I love the style of play”.
So why is there the disclaimer of “cautiously” attached to his optimism? Well, he has been “optimistic” before about this team…seen good players brought in…had his hopes raised…felt good about draft picks…only to see that “optimism” soaked by harsh reality as the season unfolded.
“I guess I’m just jaded by the past”, he lamented.
Are the playoffs a possibility at all this coming spring? Well, yeah…of course he thinks they’re possible. And if things go according to plan and players play to their potential, it’s not inconceivable. But a lot has to go right.
If there is one main area of concern of his, something that could prevent things from going well for the Thrashers, what would that be? Not surprisingly, John pointed between the pipes…citing that, given that the forward lines are as solid as ever and the defense, (while not without some questions), looks to be much improved over seasons past…the goalkeeping issue remains as Kincade’s top worry. And what happens there…especially now that we are experiencing “Kari Down ‘09″ so early in the season… will be the major factor in determining whether wins will rain down upon Thrasherville this season or if any and all thoughts of postseason play are washed down the same stream that so many others have gone over the past decade.
“Without goaltending, all hopes and dreams of a playoff push are not a reality…I’m hoping that we see somebody step up quickly to fill the void until Kari is ready to go 100%”.