The ‘buy out’ period in the NHL began this week. Teams have until June 30 to determine if any of the players currently under contract should be dropped from their payroll…paying them a portion of what that contract is worth and sending them on their way.
The last time the Thrashers used such an option was in the summer of 2008 when Alexei Zhitnik was bought out. This happened just days after then-general manager Don Waddell stated that the defenseman would “be a big part of our future”. Since then, the organization has spent the last two years paying him $1.16 million to not play for them. However, it opened up a roster spot for another defender to fill and freed up about two mil of cap space.
The current general manager, Rick Dudley, has indicated recently that he “doesn’t think it’s an option the team will use this season”. That may be so, but I can’t help but wonder if this topic might still come up between Dudley and [insert name of yet-to-be named new head coach here] if the new coach does arrive in Thrasherville by the end of the month.
Now if …even if just for grins and giggles…the pair do sit down and over a cup of coffee share thoughts on how to allocate the soon-to-be-freed up Zhitnik Buyout Fund, don’t you think they might at least breach the topic of moving that money over to the column of another player? Someone like …oh, I don’t know…let’s say, Todd White?
The 35-year old White will be entering into the last year of his four-year contract that pays $2.4 mil per season. He was brought in by Waddell in the summer of 2007…just after the organization had made it’s one-and-only showing in the playoffs…and was sold to us as the team’s top-line center, the man who would center Ilya Kovalchuk’s line.
His stats for the three seasons played here…43 goals, 91 assists and a –32 during 221 games. He followed up a 14 goal, 37-point 2007-08 season with a very impressive 22 goal, 73-point year…a career high in overall points. But then he dropped a 7 goal, 26 point steamer on the ice of Philips just last season.
Highlighting his efforts was a 34-game goalless drought that spanned from Halloween to January 12. During this time he dished out but 12 assist and was a –11. This caused his picture to be plastered on the milk carton labeled “Missing” for several weeks.
White was a –17 in the middle of March before doctoring that stat with a +6 over the last four games he suited up for. Fellow forwards Maxim Afinogenov and Rich Peverley finished –17 and –14 respectively, but they were at least contributing on the other end of the ice with 61 and 55 points.
Now honestly, I didn’t go into last fall with any expectations that we would see a return of the 2008-09 version of Todd White. But I must admit I wasn’t expecting the abysmal showing that we witnessed in 2009-10.
So, what was the difference between the two seasons for Whitey?
Well, the simple answer could be found with his power play production. In 2008-09 he amassed 12 goals and 22 assists while the Thrashers played a man-up. Why, he even tossed in a shorty to boot. Last season, 2 goals and 8 assists came while on the power play.
Also, one could credit the strong numbers put up in in 08-09 at least in part to the play of the men skating either side of him for much of that year…Bryan Little and Slava Kozlov. Little was playing in his first full season with the Thrashers and scored 31 goals and 20 assists in 79 games. Kozlov rebounded from a disappointing, injury-riddled 07-08 season to produce 26 goals and 50 assists while playing in all 82 games.
Not to be overlooked is White’s “soft” play on both ends of the ice, specifically in the defensive zone. Not just soft…but “Charmin soft”, as some have said.
However, IMHO, the reason for last year’s “drop-off” has more to do with the fact that the numbers put up two years ago were more an exception than the rule when it comes to Todd White. I mean, answer me this… if White does return next season, do you think it’s more likely that he’ll come close to his production of two seasons ago…or last season?
While I would be surprised if his numbers resembled anything close to last year’s, I’d be absolutely shocked if he put up the type of stats he did the season prior.
Outside of a buyout, are their any trade options out there for the Thrashers to deal away White? Oh sure… sure, I suppose. But if Dudley can net anything more than a year-old swimsuit calendar featuring the ice girls from the team Todd is shipped off to, I would consider it a steal for the Thrashers.
ahem…moving right along…
I’m sure that there are those who might ague in defense of White, and they’ll no doubt point to that 2008-09 “career season” of his. “If he did it then”, one could explain, “Then it is possible he could do it again this year”.
Whitey battled through a couple of injuries last season as well…in fact, he required surgery just after the season ended.” So how much did that calculate into his play?”, some may ask.
Should the Thrashers buy out Todd White?
Total Voters: 124
Also, while his +/- numbers have been un-good here, it can be noted that for his career White is a +21. During his four season’s in Ottawa he was a +48.
But as I stated above, we’ve had three seasons in which to observe his play…and many feel that’s enough and it’s time to move on.
In closing, allow me to add this one other observation in fairness to Todd White. It is entirely possible that he is the victim of “perception” in these parts as much as anything else.
If there is such a thing as a “poster child” for the Don Waddell era as general manager, White very well might just be it. Waddell did not/could not re-sign a player like Eric Belanger in 2007 and was unable to procure a true top-line center during that offseason. So, the Thrashers dangled $9.6 million over four seasons to White, who was 32-years of age then. Who could blame him for taking the money?
looking around the blogosphere…Uh-huh, me either.
But he was viewed as the number-one center, and that can be argured as a bit unfair to man. He came here with that label hung around his neck and was not able to fulfill the expectation.
Plus, given the way the past three seasons have played out, there has been quite a bit of blame to toss around. Certainly Todd White’s gotten quite a bit of that blame splattered on him.
The question is, does he deserve the lion’s share of it.