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.
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.