Coach Ramsay believes defense can be Thrashers strength

So, how did new Thrashers coach Craig Ramsay spend this past holiday weekend? Well, taking advantage of the beautiful weather that was experienced here in Atlanta, he and his wife checked out some of the sights in Buckhead and did a little shopping. Being out and about in the fair climes of the south is something Ramsay says he could get used to.

“I spent 22 years in Buffalo and was asked if I would ever leave”, he told me. “I said ‘yeah if they ever put a team in Florida’. So I’ve been with both teams in Florida and now Atlanta”.

Of course, the weather down here wasn’t the only thing about Atlanta that coach Ramsay had heard of, “The traffic has been found to be everything it was proposed to be”.

However, his commute to the Duluth Ice Forum has been nothing but a pleasure, he insists. The coach says that’s because he truly is enjoying the people he is working with. He and general manager Rick Dudley and team president Don Waddell have known each other for years and Ramsay really is looking forward to building something special here in Thrasherville.

”Don is a great worker, student of the game and he’s going to be an invaluable tool for me and the coaching staff”.

Craig Ramsay, seen here with Milan Lucic, says making the Thrashers defense a team strength will be his top priority (AP Photo / Mike Dembeck)

Craig Ramsay, seen here with Milan Lucic, says making the Thrashers defense a team strength will be his top priority (AP Photo / Mike Dembeck)

He added that he knows what Rick Dudley expects from this team given that they went through the same “changing of the culture” experience while in Tampa. There, the two taught a Lightning team how to play and how to win at the NHL level.  Because of it, their names were etched in the Stanley Cup in 2004.

When discussing what it takes to create a winning environment, the coach said, “If you’re going to be successful you have to have good people in the organization and everybody has to be in this together and they have to understand that they’re part of something”.

He added that the presence of those necessary ingredients is what helped him to make the decision to head south and coach the Thrashers. “They’ve got good people here and that’s what really made it fun to come in”.

Joining Ramsay behind the bench are two other coaches that he’s excited to work with, John Torchetti and Mike Stothers. I asked Ramsay about sharing coaching duties with a man like Torchetti, whom many felt just as qualified to be head coach himself. Among other things, he plans on using him to help address the team’s biggest shortcoming throughout the years…defense.

“[Torchetti] will run the defense during the game and he’ll be overseeing the power play. I’ve generally done the defense with every team I’ve been with, but he will run that during the game”.

When coaching in Boston, Ramsay admitted that they felt comfortable exposing the Thrashers’ Achilles heal saying, “We thought we could take advantage of Atlanta in their own end, but I think we will turn that around…that will be a priority for us”.

But he doesn’t merely want to improve the play on defense… he actually feels it has the potential to become an asset.

“We want to change that attitude, that’s for sure. I think looking at this [team] that our defense could be our strength. That’s what we did in Tampa when we won the Cup. In Boston we were very strong on the blueline. Rick understands that value…and we’ve got good people here and we think they can make this defense work and it can be turned to our advantage”.

“We believe strongly that we have to be good at getting the puck out. Boston became probably one of the best breakout team that I’ve had, probably better than Tampa was, because we did a good job as a team. I have every confidence that we can make our team good in our end. And once you’ve established that, you can break out quickly and strongly and now you can start playing an up-ice and up-tempo game that I feel we can play”.

Ramsay and Torch have also been discussing the team’s power play. The key to success here, he says, is to just keep it simple and get the job done.

“I think our power play can be very effective. I think we have some people that can make it work. John’s got some good ideas on the power play and simplicity is something we’ve talked about already…and that’s something I couldn’t agree with more. We want to start off by getting to the point and shooting it. We’ve got a couple of people who can shoot it. And that’s going to help us get some net presence”.

“I think our power play is going to be [run] simple. We’ll make some tweaks to it but generally we want to make sure we’re not trying to do too much. Just go out and get it done”.

Mike Stothers will start the year off upstairs, maybe coming down for the third period.

And coach Ramsay certainly does not feel threatened at all by having such quality people coaching from his bench. In fact, he rather prefers it that way.

“Part of a head coaches job is to train your successors. These guys [assistant coaches], I want them to be down there working with me. I know for a fact I can work with both of them. So together I think we’re going to have a real good, tight group that works solidly together”.

Of the players he and his staff will coach, Ramsay says he likes the way the roster is taking shape. He is especially excited about the Chicago connection that made their way here along with Torchetti. He’s looking forward to using them them, and veterans like newly acquired Freddie Modin whom he coached in Tampa, to help teach the winning ways of hockey to the other players.

But even those with a few years experience under their belts can still continue in the learning process.

“We’ve got kids coming in from all over the place who have not been together, and I’m going to put in a style of play that’s fun so they can use their enthusiasm to participate with. However, even veteran players have to learn things…they haveto change their games. When you look at a Dave Andreychukand how he came in as strictly an offensive player, but by the time we finished in Tampa Bay he did everything for us…including killing penalties for us”.

For Ramsay, it’s the fine details that can be taught to these players that can make a big difference.

“I’ve always felt my job is not just to tell them to go out and play but to make sure they understand the small subtle differences that separate really good players from just another player…things that will allow them to maximize their talent. But those details make a vital difference”.

“When I talked to Freddie Modin in Tampa about looking big killing penalties, he and the others looked like I had two heads. Well, how do you look big? You can do things with your feet, legs and your body that make you look bigger and scare others from even shooting. Also, you have to be willing to block shots”.

“And if you are willing to go out there and do that, then others will be willing as well”.

Ramsay explains that it’s one thing to try and implement a game plan, but when players have been taught how to cope when “Plan A” goes south then you have a smarter more effective team. This is a lesson that remained with him from his early days from those who taught him the sport.

“I was very lucky growing up. I only played for two coaches until I turned pro. They taught me to look at the game, read the game and try to understand the game. Once you do that, then you can adjust to whatever you have on the ice. If you’re just told to go here or go there then when it breaks down…and in hockey, it does…well, then you have players asking ‘Now what do you do? You didn’t tell us about that’”.

Ramsay he wants to “hopefully make them the smartest team in hockey. And that’s what I consider my ‘job’. They’ll be better players, we’ll be a better team…and that’s what I think teaching is all about”.

Smarter players, he insists, also give him the confidence to place less emphasis on line matchups and more on skating out his best players on his terms.

“We like matchups…we understand the value of matchups…but we’ve also discussed the downside of matchups. You can get so carried away with having you’re ‘matchups’ that you forget to play your players. And have seen that, where at times some of the best players don’t get on the ice because a coach is too worried about his matchups”.

Continuing, “Once you’re on the road, you can’t always have your matchups. So we won’t get so carried away with that that we won’t get our players out on the ice”.

And so, coach Ramsay and his staff will seek to teach the Thrashers’ players how to play the game and instill in them a winning attitude. But Thrasherville’s newest head coach expects his students to participate not only during lesson time, but during the game as well. And not just on one side of the ice…but all sides.

“We want to have at least two sets of defense that can play against anybody. We want to have at least two lines that we can use in situations when we need them…and we expect all of our players to participate on both ends of the rink”.

Give the history in Thrasherville, that’s a lesson we can only hope that everyone on the team takes to heart.

192 comments Add your comment

kracker

September 8th, 2010
9:45 pm

Hokie P. Clisters

September 8th, 2010
10:46 pm

All these “depth” signings have caused me to think about an old tune from the 5 Man Electrical Band:

“Signs”

Sign, Sign, everywhere a Sign,
blocking out the scenery,
breaking my mind,
Do this, don’t do that
Can’t you read the sign?

Tom

September 8th, 2010
10:52 pm

What is the NHL policy on releasing players after camp. I assume they go on waivers, then re-entry waivers like the regular season.

The reason I ask is Dudley’s comment about signing players that will not clear waivers at their salary. He may have brought all these guys in knowing he will waive a few once camp breaks. We get a great look at the players and someone else picks up their salary to fill in holes in their lineups. Even if a couple run through re-entry we are not on the hook for too much.

Brendan

September 8th, 2010
11:04 pm

Zoomo, I guess I just don’t really believe Ben Eager will play here this year … that he’ll find a way to get packaged in a trade, as “sweetener.” But, he very well may be here, for all 82 games. Or, he might be moved at the trade deadline.

Well, I’ll say this for training camp … let the best men win! Rissmiller wants to play here. That’s for sure. He’s got to earn it, though. Petterson wants to be here, I think. Valabik shouldn’t think his position is safe. He might be here on opening night, but if it becomes clear that Postma or Kulda would do better, it’ll be interesting. Dawes and Modin need jobs. If they get them, doesn’t that sort of make Eager available? And yes, Thorburn, too. Holzapfel is still another year away, right? Burmistrov??? I don’t know. You know how I feel about rushing rookies into the lineup. No 1st round of ours that has been “rushed” into the lineup has played the year uninjured.

JLH

September 8th, 2010
11:15 pm

Thrash27 – How did you leave Oduya and Enstrom out on defense? Are we trading them? I like moving Antropov back to RW, but he was pretty effective with Bergie on the wing. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Bergfors goes back to RW. He often moved to the right side of the ice last year to score his Atlanta goals – don’t know about NJ. I’m also voting for Pettersen as the surprise of camp. He’s got more experience than some of the younger guys and fits the Dudley/Ramsey mold. I also don’t see why Kane can’t play on the 1st line, though there may not be any difference between the 1st and 2nd lines for Ramsey.

Kane-Antropov-Bergfors
Byfugelin-Peverley-Little
Ladd-Burmistrov/Slater-Pettersen/Modin
Eager/Boulton-Cormier-Thorburn/Dawes

Oduya – Hainsey
Kulda – Enstrom
Bogosian – Sopel
Valabik

Brendan

September 8th, 2010
11:34 pm

I’ve seen it posted here a few times now, about moving Antropov from center to wing. I must say, I like and support this idea. And I’d add that Bryan Little’s natural position is not that of winger, but center. Put Little in the middle, and the Mix-A-Lot jokes behind.

The Smooth Spark

September 9th, 2010
12:19 am

Uh, hate to break it to you but the ol’ wood apple is turning rotten. He will never play for the Thrashers.

Cornbread

September 9th, 2010
3:55 am

Very good report. Far more accurate reporting than a recent international piece that has the Thrashers finishing 26th in the league.

World Be Free

September 9th, 2010
5:51 am

Hokie-showing your age

kracker

September 9th, 2010
7:34 am

“…the ol’ wood apple…” ??

I have no idea what that means.

hip czech

September 9th, 2010
7:45 am

wow…a Five Man Electrical Band reference!

Seems to me this is the first time there has actually been competition in camp besides just competing for one fourth line position. Competition is a good thing.

This is shaping up to be probably the most NHL talented roster. I’m not saying the top 6 are great, not even saying they are above average, but I think from top to bottom on offense, defense, and in goal this is probably as solid a roster as we’ve seen.

I like Thorburn, but man, where does he fit? For sure there’s got to be another move or two to be made or if not the line at the unemployment office is going to be pretty long when final cuts are made. I’m still thinking Bergfors is moved along with a couple other ‘depth’ types.

World Be Free

September 9th, 2010
7:54 am

hip-the word “fit” is a perfect word to descibe the players on this team. These players will fit wherever their skills, drive and desires take them. I didn’t think Thorny fit with the Thrashers at all last season, I was advocating for the Thrashers to dump him in July 2009. But Thorny showed us all a side that made him valuable, in a penalty killing role. Dawes and Modin both have spots in the lineup if they can maximize what is left of their skills.

Duds is clearly building a bench that has NHL experience, either with the guys he signed this summer, or by fillig the bench with players from the 2009-2010 roster. Should be interesting.

The Smooth Spark

September 9th, 2010
8:20 am

Holzapfel means “wood apple” in German. No room at the in for him.

kracker

September 9th, 2010
8:35 am

TSS, we just added three additional hits on Rawhide’s blog. My initial question, your answer and this reply.

GaVaHokie

September 9th, 2010
8:35 am

I’m going to say that not a single prospect makes the roster… Dawes and Modin clinched it.

Kane Antro Berg
Ladd Pevs Little
Modin Slater Dawes
Eager Thorsy Boulton
Rissmiller

Enstrom Bogosian
Hainsey Oduya
Sopel Buff
Valabik

Rhythmpenguin

September 9th, 2010
8:41 am

No way Hokie. At least one prospect will be there on opening night. Probably Burmistrov or Cormier will make it, maybe both of them.

kracker

September 9th, 2010
8:49 am

Could well be that way, Hokie. I am saying basically the same thing, unless there is a trade to clear some space.

kracker

September 9th, 2010
9:01 am

Dan Ellis: “I am shutting down my twitter because in no way shape or form do I want this to disrupt my team.”

Just because you have a place to talk doesn’t mean you have to say something.

rob

September 9th, 2010
9:08 am

There are so many people here who will be fighting for a spot, it is impossible to say what the lines will be. I will say that if there is ever going to be a time for some prospects to make it, it has to be now.
Concerning Bergie, didn’t Salmella make a quote after being traded back to NJ that he told Lou he would be back to play for him again? I sure hope Bergie isn’t thinking the same thing, but if he is…. 1st time he steps foot back here I hope there is quite the greeting for him. This is shaping up to be a TEAM, so get with it, or tell them who you would except a trade to and get the F out! If he isn’t signed by camp he needs his head examined.

rob

September 9th, 2010
9:11 am

And as for Antropov, if his hip has taken all summer to come around, I would far better have him on wing than carrying the responsibility of center around and being more likely to reinjur it, IMO.

J.B.

September 9th, 2010
9:18 am

Here’s another good reason to walk away from McArthur… he’s a giant douchebag. I realize he’s right to an extent, but I hate when they point it out like that… doesn’t help grow the sport down here and gives the Canadians more ammo.

http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/article/858472–new-leaf-macarthur-credits-phaneuf

Buffalo was good, I went through their system and learnt a lot. Atlanta wasn’t exactly a hockey market. I’m glad to be back where hockey means something.

The Smooth Spark

September 9th, 2010
9:26 am

Dan Ellis should have kept his foot in the goalmouth and out of his proverbial one.

Alan R.

September 9th, 2010
9:29 am

Hey! I thought we were told there was no Traverse City Prospects Tourney this year?!

No. We were told Atlanta isn’t participating this year. The tournament has been around for a good while, though.

Atlanta wasn’t exactly a hockey market.

That’s cool, MacArthur. You weren’t exactly a good hockey player, either.

Alan R.

September 9th, 2010
9:30 am

Oh, damn. I forgot to close one of my italics. Need more coffee, I guess.

lemon drop the gloves

September 9th, 2010
9:53 am

hokie-you can’t be serious about buff and sopel paired together. puck movers/retrievers they are not. still don’t think buff is going to play d. also dawes on 3rd line? maybe for the wolves with that two-way deal.

R. Stroz

September 9th, 2010
10:08 am

Yep, MacArthur learned alot in Buffalo. He learned how to play like a wuss. I’d preferred to state something else beginning with a P.

When we play Toronto in the regular season, we should toss tampons at MacArthur.

Twisted Wrister

September 9th, 2010
10:12 am

The president of the Atlanta Thrashers fan club has either had a Freudian slip or thinks the Thrashers Fan Club members have been eating well this summer.

http://twitter.com/HockeyWench/status/23236357481

Alan R.

September 9th, 2010
10:15 am

Twisted – I’ll go with the latter ;)

kracker

September 9th, 2010
10:21 am

Wow…back-to-back typos there.

Smoothie

September 9th, 2010
10:28 am

Oh dear, she almond.

Perhaps she and Dan Ellis can hang out when we go down to Tampa.

Smoothie

September 9th, 2010
10:30 am

Alan – took the words right out of my mouth (re: C-Mac). What a dolt.

Does anyone still follow Colby on twitter? Notice how he’s so much more engaged now that he’s in Tronna. Makes you a bit sick on the inside. We’ll just have to show these ingrates what they’re gonna miss. Break out the brooms (or at least a couple of cans of whoop-a$$) for Tronna, Tampa and Jersey!

rob

September 9th, 2010
10:33 am

MacArthur sounds like a jilted lover. Don’t hate the fact that the ATLANTA THRASHERS decided you weren’t capable of playing hockey in a market that hockey doesn’t mean anything to you CLOWN! When do our ex-slackers Colby and Clark come back? Can’t wait to see the look when they don’t see any figure 8’s on the ice and instead get smacked in the corner. PLEASE…….PLEASE let that be what awaits them!

Twisted Wrister

September 9th, 2010
10:37 am

Based on the spelling in that twitter post, I’m convinced Sage is the alter ego for the president of the fan club.

rob

September 9th, 2010
10:37 am

And if that is what awaits them……I can only hope there is some rabid fan there to bang on the glass and laugh at the shocked look on their face…..before the usher comes over and tells them they can’t do that, of course. LMAO

World Be Free

September 9th, 2010
10:41 am

Hockey won’t mean as much to MacArthuir when Leafs’ fans boo his ass out of the Air Canada Centre for being such a candy. This guy is not exactly a Ron Wilson type player, his only positive attribute is that he can score 20 goals in the right situation. But any player that lasts as long on the UFA market as he did is not a core player, fringe at best.

And frankly, who cares what he sez.

Smoothie

September 9th, 2010
10:43 am

WBF – indeed, who cares!? I’d rather spend time worrying about how much money Dan Ellis might lose to escrow!! LMAO

Don’t these players get some life-lesson and financial training for orientation when they enter the league? The escrow is there to protect your future interests, ya big dummy!!

Zombie Steve

September 9th, 2010
10:45 am

Clark MacWho???

World Be Free

September 9th, 2010
11:09 am

Smoothie-you would think a guy on a one year contract (like MacArthur) should learn to keep their mouth shut. He needs to focus on making the Leafs and securing a long term deal. Not smart to burn a bridge with ANY team or gain the reputation as a guy with a big mouth. Especially when MacArthur does not have the tools to back up what he sez.

He can think it, but don’t say it!

Smoothie

September 9th, 2010
12:09 pm

Wow, an hour and 15 minute lull on Bill’s blog. There must be an international crisis or something! Oh wait, it’s just Dan Ellis being Dan Ellis on twitter. Still LMAO!

World Be Free

September 9th, 2010
12:14 pm

Toronto is not a baseball town either-maybe we should move the Blue Jays to Birmingham, AL?

Smoothie

September 9th, 2010
12:35 pm

Toronto isn’t a footbal town and the Bills think they need to play games there. Such a shame. Perhaps the NHL should trade Bettman to MLB for Bud Selig so Canada can get over their complex about Bettman. I don’t really think Bettman is out to get CA, he wants to grow the league and make everyone richer. Despite escrows and financial matters that may affect the league year to year.

World Be Free

September 9th, 2010
12:43 pm

The Bills are in Tronna for money, they get a bundle for the games up there. when Ralph wilson dioes, the Bills will move to Los Angeles, not Toronto.

Bettman and Selig-2 basket cases

Smoothie

September 9th, 2010
12:50 pm

Money from the city though right? Did they even come close to selling out the Rogers Centre or whatever the hell its called for the Jets game last season? I agree that Buffalo could end up moving to LA. Who will die first? Ralph or Davis?

kracker

September 9th, 2010
12:54 pm

Really? The Bills moving from Buffalo….

John

September 9th, 2010
1:04 pm

Joe Friday

September 9th, 2010
2:09 pm

Ellis is a moron. He’s a crappy goalie too.

MacArthur? Keep your head up, son.

Colby will be fine, he’ll play pretty well up there, he was just another of the guys biding his time till he’s out of here, but really, when Don Waddell is your boss, there’s not much hope. There’s a new sheriff in town now, I like Ramsay more every day, they just need to keep Waddell away from the practice rink and locker room.

I smell a trade coming, that’s why Dudley is building this stash . . . and we need a top sixer

Smoothie

September 9th, 2010
2:29 pm

“I smell a trade coming, that’s why Dudley is building this stash . . . and we need a top sixer.”

And I am smelling what Rick Dudley is cooookin’!!

kracker

September 9th, 2010
2:47 pm

Hope so. C Viv said they thought they were done before the Dawes deal. So he still thinks they are done.

DWTOO

September 9th, 2010
2:56 pm

I am extremely underwhelmed at the Modin/Myers/Dawes signings. We need a winger who can play on the top lines. Instead we’re signing another series of third liners. Just looks like the same old crap we’ve been seeing for years.

Hoping that there is something brewing, but, as C Viv states roster is probably set. Damn!

Smoothie

September 9th, 2010
3:01 pm

No disrespect to C-Viv, but he apparently doesn’t know Duds’ tendencies. Look at how many trades he made before the ‘99-2000 season when he first took over in Tampa. For better or for worse, he generally gets the players HE wants. He may make mistakes, but what GM doesn’t? The bigger concern would be the internal budget. Judging by the lack of progress in the Bergfors’ situation, I’m thinking we’ll be lucky to get up over $49 M, with bonuses. Then again, perhaps we’re saving $3-4 M for that big trade?