Don Waddell is right about the Thrashers needing new identity

For those of you who have been regulars around here since I’ve been hosting this little online forum for the past three seasons, you know I’ve not been shy about dipping the pen in poison ink before opining about the Thrashers general manager on occasions. But tonight, I happily write about something I totally and completely agree with Don Waddell about…and that is his statement recently about how this team needs a new identity. As he said, the roster for the longest time had been constructed around him.

But with Kovy’s departure, the organization is in a bit of an identity crisis…and I think Don was correct in pointing it out.

For too long, whatever identity the Thrashers might have had was based on icing a team that formed from the idea of winning 4-3 and 5-4 games almost every night. As we have seen over the past several seasons…that simply does not work. If you have to rely on 4 or 5 goals every night, you aren’t going to win more games than you lose.

Given that, I have to say that I hope…I pray…that the type of team Waddell is thinking about as he sits down again at the drawing board is one that takes the form of a tough, physical, defensively responsible, hard-nosed squad that is made up of quality character guys who fight for each other each and every shift. A kind of team that opposing players simply do not want to travel to Atlanta and play because they know they are going to have a fight on their hands win lose or draw…OK, win lose or overtime loss.

In short, the new identity needs to be, in a word…tough.

The kind of Thrashers team I would love to see in the future, to be honest, was on display during Saturday night’s 4-2 win over the Florida Panthers. I hope I see it more often…and that style of play is what Don builds around, not just one player.

Thrasherville celebrates with Niclas Borgfors after he scores his first goal for Atlanta. It put the Thrashers ahead 3-2 in the third period (AP Photo/John Amis)

Thrasherville celebrates with Niclas Bergfors after he scores his first goal for Atlanta. It put the Thrashers ahead 3-2 in the third period (AP Photo/John Amis)

This was a gut-check night for the team. They had departed Atlanta with Kovalchuk, said good-bye to him later in the day, and then were beat by probably the best team in the league…their third loss in a row. Adding to their misery was a commute back home Saturday that resembled something out of the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”…departing Washington D.C. that was in the midst of a snowstorm by bussing themselves to Richmond where they caught a flight to Atlanta.

I believe Don Waddell even mentioned that the airport closed shortly after they got off the ground. Regardless, they arrived at Philips Arena around 6:30 or so…and there was some sort of fender-bender along the way.

The game was pushed back to allow time to dress and adequately warm up…but they found themselves down 2-0 after the first period. Honestly, if they had been blown out of the barn on this night, I think most people would at least understand why.

However…instead, what emerged from the locker room was a group of players that decided they might was well play hard since they were there anyway, put some bodies on opposing players, busted their collective humps in the defensive zone and evened the score before heading back in for the second break.

It lead to an eventual game-winning goal by new Thrasher Niclas Bergfors with 4:26 remaining in the game…and what a wonderful way to introduce himself to Thrasherville…but it all began with the gritty, tough, focused, edgy attitude that accompanied the team when they came out for the second period.

The team played tough tonight…worked themselves out of a funk, they did.

The Ilya Kovalchuk era in Thrasherville is over. With that is a chance to rethink and retool this organization…to actually start building a team from the goal-out and put ice a team that will bring the hurt with them night in and night out.

That’s what I hope Don has in mind.

One Jacked-Up Crowd

I wasn’t planning on being at Saturday night’s game. I spent know I was spending the entire day at Ft. Benning down in Columbus…and would need to get up at O-dark thirty to get down there. But once it became clear this was going to be the first game of the post-Kovalchuk era, I know I needed to be there.

So…I broke a few speed-limit laws on I-85 to make it by 7:00.

What I was most curious about was what type of mood the fans were going to be in. As was the subject of my last blog, it looked like Waddell and the ownership could face some tough questioned at the town hall meeting and the assembled masses could be loaded for bear given the current state of things in Thrasherville.

What I witness, however, was an emotional welcome to the team as they took to the ice…and all through the game they were loud and raucous. A lot had to do with the game itself and the way the home team played…but it seemed as though most came to the arena with the mindset that they wanted to show full support for the players on the ice and even welcome Bergfors and Johnny Oduya, whom the Thrashers picked up on their trip to D.C.

My impression was that Thrashervillians were ready to move on from this whole Kovalchuk drama and get back to simply pulling for their team. We can discuss and debate the trade and reasons for it…but in the end, when the game is on, that stuff gets put aside.

From what I understand, the THM was mostly civil…a good two-way discussion between fans and management.

As I said at the top of this entry…I can be tough on Don Waddell, but I’ll give the an kudos for not shying away from standing up there and answering the to the paying customers.

188 comments Add your comment

R. Stroz

February 8th, 2010
11:08 pm

Es Carter loco en cabeza?

Saga of Bluecheese

February 9th, 2010
12:41 am

I’d like some sage with that morbier, please. Oh and do pass the aged gouda, it’s good for my ‘roids.

stendec

February 9th, 2010
12:51 am

Good morning Rawhide.

All of you thought I was way off base about Ilya Kovalchuk being a cancer to my team!

The following is from a New Jersey Devil fan:

So far I think you guys got the best end of the deal*. Kovy is altering the way the Devils play*, esp(ecially) on the power play* — and so far they’re not looking too good when he’s on the ice*. He took, what, 9 shots tonight* — and (only) God knows how many he fired into the glass****.

Consider these things (*) smiling faces since I do not have a clue how to place them in my posts. Maybe soon Devil fans will be ready to tar and feather the choker themselves.

All of us have been watching the Kovalchoke ice follies for years. Not a critical success in another venue either. Tsk tsk tsk. Maybe New Jersey will take Sori Letemin too. Just asking!

++STENDEC++

LAC

February 9th, 2010
1:28 am

Gee Stendec, you are right…. AS ALWAYS !!! Very interesting yake on the game and play… I liked the move of our new guy the other night to score the winner, never saw #17 do that very often.

Plus we have outshot both DC/FLA byu wide margins since #17 left, even Zach started to play defense again, roughed up a couple guys which I was HAPPY to see !

Keep up the GREAT work Stendec, you are always spot on with 99% of your comments !!!!!

World Be Free

February 9th, 2010
5:47 am

I am not sold on a Carter suspension. I thought his hit was borderline cheap, actually one heck of a hockey hit. Always pushing going to the net, but there’s a price to pay driving the net as well. Hope Anssi is OK, good kid.

Kovalchuk-Kovy is going to find NJ fans allot shorter on patience and higher on criticism. He basically did what he wanted in Atlanta for YEARS and got away with it.

First Class Organizations = High Expectations

R. Stroz

February 9th, 2010
7:41 am

Kovy is going to find NJ fans allot shorter on patience and higher on criticism.

Kovy may also find their form of criticism to be considerably more distasteful.

World Be Free

February 9th, 2010
7:43 am

The Kovy situation could turn out to be alot like the Jay Bowmeester in Calgary. Jay Bow wanted to fulfill his dream of playing in a “hockey city”, even his father derided Florida as being not worthy of having his son.

Now Jay is in Calgary having a subpar season, not playing to what Calgary expected or what they are paying for. Add to this, the fact that Calgary had too much $$$ invested in the backline. They had to ship off one of their stud defenseman to Toronto for poor return (in my opinion).

All of a sudden, it’s not so rosie in Calgary; Florida is not looking too bad right now. Especially in the dead of winter! This is what YOU wanted Jay, live with it!

HookyBob

February 9th, 2010
7:54 am

Carter’s hit was legal,…but dirty none-the-less. It is up to the NHL to make hits like that suspendable. Not sure what needs to be done,..perhaps hits from that angle (almost behind), hits after puck is released, or hits that contact the head need to have some sort of capital punishment. This needs to be addressed for the sake of our grand old game.

Interestingly Philly exemplifies both sides of the issue. They give out these hits and have had several players seriously injured from them.

I wonder if Kovy is feeling some pressure to produce now? He should, he asked for it. Maybe he is squeezing the stick a bit to tight, or trying to do it all alone (still?). If his production, and the team’s, doesn’t get better (and 3 games is far too soon to judge this) he may not get any NHL contract offers over $8 M.

R. Stroz

February 9th, 2010
8:25 am

I would be willing to bet Kovy is saving some juice up for the Olympics.

JT

February 9th, 2010
8:29 am

Enough Thrasher talk already I Love Hockry but we Need New Management for crying out loud!! Waddell just ain’t cuttin the Mustard, no Good Players wanna play for a Losing Org!!!

R. Stroz

February 9th, 2010
8:31 am

On a different subject, given the list to follow, which of the following pending UFAs would you keep and which ones would you move before the deadline? For the sake of the discussion, assume none of them are willing to re-sign until after July 1, 2010.

1) Armstrong

2) Mad Max

3) Kubina

4) Hedberg

5) Slater

6) Schubert

7) Popovic

Kozlov is not on the list for obvious reasons.

World Be Free

February 9th, 2010
8:40 am

HookyBob-no matter what happens, I think Kovy will be getting $.60 on the dollar in his new deal, compared to what he was offered by ASG. It goes back to something I said months ago-you either want the maximum contract ($11.36M/year) or you want the Stanley Cup. Take your pick cause you can’t have both.

I saw the hit again; I just don’t know if it deserves a suspension. I remember when Scott Stevens hit The Jelly Head (Eric Lindros) on a similar hit about 10 years ago. The hit wasn’t as high, but he knocked Lindros out. I just don’t know, I have been knocked for a loop going over the middle myself.

Stroz-agreed, how long do you think he’s been holding out?

rob

February 9th, 2010
8:43 am

Didn’t see the hit so I can’t comment on it specifically, but here is my take on going to the net. REAL hockey players go to the net, and you know when you go to the net that you are going to get hit, that is a given. Ask Pat Lafontaine if he didn’t think he was gonna get hit every time his CRAZY a$$ crashed the net? OF COURSE he knew it. This isn’t basketball, it’s hockey. It is a contact sport and as such there will always be hard hits. Will it end guys careers early? Sure but that is the nature of the beast. Unless the hit is so obvious a cheap shot, it is a part of the game and always will be. Just like fighting. To tell the guys to stop hitting each other is to change the game into something it isn’t meant to be. The physical nature of the game is what makes it one of the most exciting games to see live, and one of the toughest to play. That being said, I think obvious cheap shots deserve the contempt of everyone, and I would say that an obvious cheap shot that results in a player missing games due to it should result in a large suspension the 1st time and a life time for a second. That was why I was concerned the other night when Kane made Pronger look soooo bad going around him, because I am sure most have seen that cheap bastard hurt someone just for the sake of it. But that is just my opinion on it so…. LOL

rob

February 9th, 2010
8:45 am

Anyone know what happens to posts that get sent but not posted?

rob

February 9th, 2010
8:55 am

Stroz,
I have to think that the new team makeup will make the future interesting. I REALLY think Armstrong will stay, Slater, Schubert, Popovic, and Kubina I would also like to see stay. But honestly, I don’t want ANYONE on the ice that doesn’t want to be here. Fthem if they can’t take a joke, but seriously if you don’t want to sign, trade them to Vancouver or Edmonton. I think the welcome Mad Max has gotten here should earn us some loyalty. Anyone know off hand if we have any tough D men in Chicago? I mean, physical hard hitting kind? Unless Hainsey has decided to change his mind and is gonna give us 100% and show Bogosian the way, I would like to see that kind of player in the lineup here.

World Be Free

February 9th, 2010
9:02 am

ROB-TOTALLY AGREE
We don’t need any players who consider Atlanta a second or 3rd option. They want to play in Calgary or anywhere else, let them go.

Dwayne

February 9th, 2010
9:03 am

Put players on notice that these last 25 games are an audition for a job in Atlanta next year….I’m with anyone who say “If a player does not want to be here, GOOD BYE”!!!!

Russian

February 9th, 2010
9:09 am

**to R. Stroz**
From your list:
1) Armstrong – let him go. We got young players for 3-d line

2) Mad Max – keep him at least two years

3) Kubina – keep him for 3 years (but I do not think so)

4) Hedberg – let him go, if Kari play good

5) Slater – let him go. He is playing good, but he is still 4-th center. White can take his position.

6) Schubert – keep him. He is good and strong D-man

7) Popovic – let him go.

DWTOO

February 9th, 2010
9:18 am

As for who to deal at the deadline – the season really comes down to next week. If we’re succesful on the road trip and within legitimate striking distance of a playoff spot think we’re more in the buyers market. However, I don’t want us to mortgage the future becuase don’t we’ll go far. So, I think we stand as is – keep everyone and see how it plays out.

If we’re out of the playoffs then I think we look to keep Max, Army, and Slater hoping that they’ll want to stick with the Thrash. The Moose has as much value as ever and would probably bring a good return. I doubt there’d be much demand for Shubert or Popovic. The big question is Kubina. If he shows some inclanation to sign a reasonable short term contract for next two years I’d keep him around. Otherwise I’d trade him. With the arrival of Johnny O. and having Kulda in the wings we’re stacked at D.

WBF – appreciate your remark about getting knocked for a loop. Lost a battle for the puck with a guy who had about forty pounds on me. Hit butte, back, and head on the ice. Took about five minutes to get my wind back and the whole rink swayed for about half an hour. Fortunately I’m at the advanced age where you appreciate the fact that it’s time to get off the ice for the night.

Trixie (Rawhide's Secretary)

February 9th, 2010
9:21 am

Anyone know what happens to posts that get sent but not posted?

Mr. rob – I just freed your post that was hung up in Blog Purgatory.

Nikita

February 9th, 2010
9:40 am

1) Armstrong — maybe. He really is crucial to our physical game, and has consistently displayed a good Corsi number.

2) Mad Max — again, maybe. Yes, if his end-of-season play warrants it.

3) Kubina — YES! Top priority here. And btw, I have now decided that Kubina would look good with an A.

4) Hedberg — hmmmmm. No. Unless we still don’t have a competent #1.

5) Slater — No. It’s been long enough.

6) Schubert — mmmaybe. I’m thinking no. He’s got a lot of developing to do, and I’m not sure how skilled he’ll be at the end. Plus at the STH meeting it was indicated that we plan to carry our top 5 into next season, if possible. That leaves Pops, Schubie, Valabik, and all the potential callups battling for two spots, right? I’m not sure Schubes is the best of that field.

7) Popovic — no. well, maybe. how cheap is Pops?

rob

February 9th, 2010
9:46 am

Trixie,
LMAO thank you ma’am, no need for the Mr, just rob.

Russian,
Really? You would let go of Slater’s grit for White’s lack of…..ugh. That line has been a catalyst to feed off of. Kane/Slater/Armstrong IMO is the most entertaining to watch and playing true hockey. I would hope the fun they are having keeps Armstrong here if he was considering leaving. But as I said, f anyone that doesn’t want to play hockey here.

World Be Free

February 9th, 2010
9:48 am

Russian-I’d keep Slater. Jimmy’s earned a spot, as much as I hate to admit it. He has played smart and tough all year. Better late than never. Agree on Army, we can get alot for Armstrong on March 3rd.

DWTOO-I got him by Jim Burt during a high school hockey game. Burt went to Univ. of Miami as a nose tackle, then went on to win 3 Super Bowls with the Giants and 49ers. Burt was remembered for many things, including knocking Joe Montana out of the 1990 or 1991 NFC Championship game.

He hit me once so hard that I swear I flew 10 feet. Somehow, I got right back up and went looking for the guy that hit me, until I found out it was him! He was the best hockey player I ever played against-true story.

Smoothie

February 9th, 2010
10:08 am

Wasn’t it Leonard Marshall, or was it Harry Carson, who knocked Montana into next Sunday during the 1990 NFC Championship? I remember flying high that week after the Bills trounced the Raiders 51 – 3 to make it to their first Super Bowl…actually got to watch the game while on vacation in south Fla. That’s all I’ll say about that…it was a great week to vacay in Florida!!

Schroeder

February 9th, 2010
10:09 am

If the rumors are true of Army to Tor for Ponikorovski,I’m in,can you see a line w/Kane-Slater-Poni.I could work w/that!!

Smoothie

February 9th, 2010
10:10 am

Oh, one more thing, I can’t imagine Jim Burt playing hockey…he must’ve been a beast on skates! How unfair, especially if he was a good hockey player and not just a big, lumbering goon looking to unload on people.

World Be Free

February 9th, 2010
10:13 am

Smoothie-it was Burt on Montana in the Meadowlands and Leonard Marshall on Montana at Candlestick in 1990 before they played the Bills.

Burt was about 230# when I played against him, I was about 155-160#. We all had our heads up when he was on the ice and he was fast too!

Badger Bob

February 9th, 2010
10:22 am

Stroz, great question. And realistically we apparently have the budget to keep all of them (and take care of Little, Bergie and Pavs RFA contracts too). Since all are worthy of at least an offer from les Thrash, I’m going to prioritize them:

1) Kubina – he’s a stud, no doubt, with at least a couple good years left. Some say we don’t need a $3M dman in our third pairing, but if we can get him for $3.5M or so I’d jump at having that kind of depth. I suspect a sticking point will be length of contract – I’m sure he wants at least a 3 or 4 year contract at this point in his career.

2) Slats – he was on my sell list for the first 20 games (as my pick for last off Schneid Island), but has really impressed since he’s been on lines with some offensive ability. Plus I doubt he’s on any other team’s radar, so we’ll get him at the right price.

3) Mad Max – we won’t get him for 1 yr / $0.8M again, seeing as he’s stayed healthy, but I think we’ll need his offensive ability while Kane and Bergie continue to develop

4) Army – We don’t have to have him, especially with Cormier in the wings, but he’s an asset to any team. Plus, with Ex gone, we need him for the comedic spots on the video features…

Hedberg is 100% dependent on the Kari situation, which is a whole separate controversy. The rest, I like them all but frankly they are a bit interchangable with others we could pick up as UFAs. If we sign Kubes, both Popper and Schubie are gone (with Kulda moving up).

Regarding Kulda, I know some of you watch Chicago closely. Looking at +/-, I assume Kulda is paired with Chelios. So the question is, which of those two is most responsible for the impressive +/-? Is Kulda just riding the Chelios coat tails, or is he the real deal?

And dine on, GVH and Saga!

ben

February 9th, 2010
10:29 am

Slater-3 yrs

Kari-bye

Mad Max 2

Kubina 3

Hedberg whatever he’ll agree to

Army-4yrs make capt

Bob

February 9th, 2010
10:34 am

1) Armstrong – moot point, he wants out of here bad

2) Mad Max – mooter point, he wants out of here badder

3) Kubina – probably also a moot point and I’d be amazed if he signed and I think it’s pretty obvious why they took Oduya in the Kovy deal, Oduya is Kubina’s replacement for next year

I’d like all three of those guys, but I don’t think there’s a chance in Hades any one of them re-signs with the Waddell/Octocluster show.

“I think Kovy will be getting $.60 on the dollar in his new deal, compared to what he was offered by ASG.”

Come on now, guys. That’s just silly talk. Kovy will sign for about the exact same as what we offered, or slightly less. No one will pay him the max, but that’s just not realistic to think he’s going to get much less. He will get paid and there will be multiple bidders.

I also am lol-ing about some of the comments above about Kovy. While I think we’ll be better off in the long run without him, as we’re not a club that can spend to the cap max, some of you are just pulling the “she was a whore anyway” after your girlfriend broke up with you. Kovy will do great in NJ and we’ll struggle to make the playoffs without him, even in this ridiculously untalented East this year.

Smoothie

February 9th, 2010
10:42 am

WBF – oh yeah, I forgot all about the game at the Meadowlands. Sounds like Burt was a terror everywhere he went and I’m sure buffets like Golden Corral and Ponderosa hated to see him walk through the door!!

On the topic of UFA’s, here’s my quick take:

1) Kubina – go after him hard if he expresses any desire to be here. Tricky part is he may still see himself as a Top 2 guy (and perhaps rightly so) so the ASG may not want to pay him top dollar to stay. Perhaps a 3 year deal with a sliding scale? $4.5 M, $4.0 M and $3.5 M. That way he’s a tradeable asset later if he declines or we’re out of the playoff hunt.

Okay, so that wasn’t so quick, sorry.

2) Armstrong – the fact that he didn’t sign for 2 years I thought was telling. Doubt he’ll stay because he’ll get better offers in FA. We’d be foolish I think not to trade him at the deadline.

3) Slater – should be a very affordable target for some stability on the bottom 6. Ideally, he will continue to flourish in his new role as 3rd line checking catalyst. No more than 2 year deal though.

4) Schubes / Pops – both are great guys and are probably good for the room. However, we’ve got too much talent in the pipeline and I see no reason why Kulda won’t make the club next year. If not, Oystrick is still there for depth. In two years, we should be welcoming Postma.

5) Moose – this one is so tough and it does hinge on the Kari situation. If DWad is that down on Lehtonen, then we must be careful in handling the Moose situation. He’s given us his best and deserves another year, although he may want a 2 year deal. If we tell him that he’s on our radar before trading him to a contender, I have no doubt he will do a Tkachuk for us.

Finny) Totally depends on his new price-tag and his willingness to play within the system. Lately, he seems to be playing just as hard and battling in the corners more so than most of January. He’s such an enigma. If he could finish more often, than we’d be talking about whether or not we should pay him $4 M or more to stay. I’ll say pass. Plenty of FA in the pond and we should be sitting outside of Stan Bowman’s house waiting for him to give us Patrick Sharp or Versteeg.

rob

February 9th, 2010
10:48 am

To those who say trade Kari,
If Kari goes who are you going to let go to egt a quality goalie? THAT has to be priority #1 or everything else is for nought. Pavs can’t/isn’t ready yet if he ever will be. Wanna ride it all on Moose? I love the guy but being realistic here. The goalie situation here will be the REAL season dilemna, not 17. We went all season with mishmash waiting on Kari, so to dump on him now would be a complete waste of the entire season, I think. Of course if he comes back and isn’t solid/dependable, we have to reconsider again huh? I say throw him at this westcoast road trip and have the Olympic break to scratch heads and ponder.
ben,
not comfortable w the C there, not now. I think the C is gonna take awhile to sort out and BETTER go to a true team captain this time.

World Be Free

February 9th, 2010
10:48 am

Bob-Kovy on his money; let’s talk on July 2nd. Like I said, the money or the Stanley Cup. Which do you want? Most teams that have overspent on individual players (Brian Campbell, Danny Briere) are spending alotta time trying to unload them. Kovy, being in his age/prime is more desireable than others, that’s for sure.

Kovy is a great player, I didn’t diss him as a Thrasher, but I am concerned about his ability to play in a team game. He had the freedom to do what he wanted here, only us as bloggers called him out on his shortcomings.

Would I like to have hinm back? Sure thing, but he’s gone and we will have to “struggle” to get to the 8th spot. So many teams in the mix, we will need a hot goalie and 4 lines playing all the time.

Smoothie

February 9th, 2010
10:49 am

Bob, you’re probably right on Army, Kubina and Max. However, the FA may prove to be a bit funny this summer as there are so many salary cap-strapped teams and only a few big names on the market. While Finny and Kubina will be coveted, will they get what THEY think they are worth on the open market. The ASG may be one of the few owners who can offer either one not only market value, but above that. Question is: will they? And I think most of us have the same answer to that question.

Badger Bob

February 9th, 2010
10:58 am

Smoothie, big thumbs up on Sharp and Versteeg, and perhaps Byfuglien. Not sure what we’ll have to give up – just non-first round draft picks hopefully, but more likely some prospect forwards. I expect Dudley still has Stan’s phone number.

Smoothie

February 9th, 2010
11:12 am

I would love to have Patrick Sharp because he is the quintessential two-way forward. He can do everything and play in all situations. And his price-tag is really not unreasonable. But the lure of either Versteeg or Buffy due to their youth may be too good to pass up. Plus, they are RFA’s which makes them easier to sign.

Bergie – Little – Antro

Kaner – Pevs – Sharp / Versteeg (I druel at this possibility)

Slater – White – Machacek (not ideal, but will we spend on FA when we have Klingberg, Morin and Cormier waiting in the wings?)

Boults? – Reasy – Thorbs

Trixie (Rawhide's Secretary)

February 9th, 2010
11:15 am

:!: RANALLO WARNING!! :!:

This is your official 10-minute Ranallo Warning!

Brendan

February 9th, 2010
5:44 pm

R.Stroz, Slater, Hedberg and Popovic are the ones I’d consider re-signing. And if I had a glimmer of hope that Kubina would re-up, I’d talk turkey with the guy. No more than 3 years, however, at age 32.