Thrashers on-air personalities discuss upcoming season

New players, new coaching staff, new GM… the changes that went on around Thrasherville this summer have certainly created quite a buzz among the Atlanta hockey fan base. And who better to discuss this buzz in the air than the on-air personalities of the team…TV play-by-play man Matt McConnell, analyst Darren Eliot, radio voice of the Thrashers Dan Kamal and John Kincade who will join the TV team to provide reports from rink-side and the locker room.

The four are excited to get this season underway and they’re eager to see how the offseason modifications will play out over the course of the coming months.

Dan Kamal calls head coach Craig Ramsay "One of the best teachers in the NHL" (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Dan Kamal calls head coach Craig Ramsay "One of the best teachers in the NHL" (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

“I just think there’s a real hockey feel around the organization these days and that’s been brought about through the changes we have seen in the off-season”, McConnell told me. “I’m interested in seeing how all of the new pieces fit together as we open up the season. This is going to be a roster with a lot of interchangeable parts. The team has at least a half dozen players that can play more than one position”.

Overall team depth is also a plus for the Thrashers as Matt points out.

“Defensively, I think this is as deep as we’ve seen in 11 seasons”, he continued. “I’m also excited about the goaltending. Chris Mason has won 57 games over the past two seasons and Ondrej Pavelec should only get better and better. I also think the team will have a strong core of players at AHL Chicago, thus providing depth for down the road”.

As for McConnell’s partner on TV Darren Eliot, he’ll be looking to see how the players assembled will fit into the schemes of the new coaching staff.

“I’m enthused about the players brought in and witnessing the process of the team coming together as they fit the vision and plan of the new coaching staff”.

John Kincade says he’s not only pumped about getting another hockey campaign underway, he’s also hyped about working with McConnell and Eliot. That, plus he’s happy to see this organization making steps toward creating some type of identity…something that he thinks is long overdue.

“Other than rejoining one of the best NHL broadcast teams in the NHL, I am excited about the Thrashers finally making an attempt to establish an identity. For years the focus has been on stars and the team never had a definitive style. I think this team will take some time to round into shape, but it will be easy to see what they are attempting to be”.

This is a sentiment shared by the man who has been a part of the Thrashers since day one back in 1999, the Grand Kamalian himself, radio voice of the Thrashers Dan Kamal.

Dustin Byfuglien's transition back to defense will be something the Thrashers on-air four will be watching closely (AP photo)

Dustin Byfuglien's transition back to defense will be something the Thrashers on-air four will be watching closely (AP photo)

“What has me most excited is the evolving identity of this team, as well as the style of play coach Ramsay and his staff are implementing”, Kamalian explains. “The Thrashers are a bigger, faster team, and I believe they’re going to be a tough team for opponents to handle. And I’m anxious to call the games of a team that wants to go, go, go”.

Obviously the new coaching staff will have a major impact on what this team can accomplish this winter. Ramsay and Co. are just as big a part of what has Thrasherville talking as do the new players.

“Ramsay is one heck of a teacher and his knowledge of the game and strategies should go a long way in the development of a roster that’s likely to be one of the younger ones in the league”, says McConnell. “I have yet to read any comments from a player who’s had him as a coach that hasn’t been anything but positive. Ramsay and John Torchetti understand what it takes to win the Stanley Cup and Mike Stothers is a guy that has NHL experience from his days in Philadelphia. So I think each of them will leave their marks on this roster”.

“Sure, the roster has been greatly upgraded, but it remains young”, McConnell continues. “So I think it was a great move to bring in a teacher like Ramsay. It should be a fun story to watch throughout the season”.

Kamal agrees and is happy to see Ramsay, Torch and Stothers behind the Thrashers bench as well.

“I’ve always thought Craig Ramsay was one of the best teachers in the NHL”, Kamal says. “I’ve known Mike Stothers since he was a young Flyers prospect and have always thought of him as an excellent student of the game. And John Torchetti is one of the rising stars in the NHL coaching ranks, as his role with the Stanley Cup champions can attest”.

The question is, however, can these guys take all these new players and get them to perform as a team quickly? Kamal believes they can.

Nigel Dawes score two of the Thrashers ten goals during preseason. Is it enough to win a spot on the final roster? (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Nigel Dawes played well and scored two of the Thrashers ten goals during preseason. Is it enough to win a spot on the final roster? (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

“I think the biggest hurdle for this staff is going to be getting so many new players to implement new systems quickly enough and effectively enough that the team can get off to a good start and grow from there. I believe this staff is up to the challenge”.

McConnell also feels Ramsay is the right man for this job adding, “The key to this team and their hopes for a playoff spot will be how quickly they can pull everything together. I’m confident Craig Ramsay and the coaches will be able to do that”.

But it isn’t the sole responsibly of the coaching staff to provide a quick adhesive to this unit. The players will need to do their part.

“It takes everyone to have success, but in the end it is always about the players”, Eliot explains. “I think this staff truly believes and understands that sport truism”.

Continuing his thoughts about the players that will be on the ice wearing Thrashers jerseys, Darren is curious to see how some will adapt to new roles.

“As with any season, there are plenty of story lines to follow. In general, player ‘slotting’ has been intriguing to me: Byfuglien on D, Little in the middle and Thorburn also at center. I’ve also noticed how much Bogosian and Kane have played in their pre-season games. Certainly a substantial move up, particularly for Kane”.

McConnell picks up on this issue adding, “I’ll be interested to see how Dustin Byfuglien does at his natural position as a defenseman. He’s got a cannon for a shot and should get plenty of chances to fire away”.

Kamal points out that success here also depends on the forwards getting along without Big Buff on the front lines. “Like the rest of the hockey world, I’ll be keeping an eye on the Dustin Byfuglien move back to D. If the Thrashers get adequate production from their forwards and Byfuglien can be the consistent force many believe he can be on the back line, it should be a heckuva season”.

However, Byfuglien is just one part of the whole defensive corps that he feels is much improved over the past years.

With the possibility of having young players like Alexander Burmistrov on the squad, Matt McConnell feels the Thrashers have the right coaching staff in place to teach them the NHL game (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

With the possibility of having young players like Alexander Burmistrov on the squad, Matt McConnell feels the Thrashers have the right coaching staff in place to teach them the NHL game (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

“I’m also looking for Zach Bogosian to rebound in a big way after battling injuries much of last season”, Kamal goes on to say. “And I think Johnny Oduya will be an even greater contributor on the blue line in his first full season with Atlanta”.

McConnell also looks for Bogosian to have a good year, “For the majority of last season, he played hurt”, he recalls. “If he can stay healthy, it’ll be fun to watch him from an offensive standpoint as one of those defensemen jumping into the play as a four-man unit Ramsay is looking to develop”.

Much of Kincade’s attention will be focused on the two men that will be between the pipes for Atlanta this season, Chris Mason and Ondrej Pavelec.

“I am most interested to see the goaltending tandem and how this is going to play out. Pavelec has shown glimpses of being a solid NHL goaltender but he will now fight for playing appearances behind Chris Mason. I want to see how Pavelec responds to that challenge and the stability that Mason has afforded teams in previous stops”.

McConnell feels Pavelec must find a consistency in his game, but having Mason to handle the bulk of the starts will help him towards that goal.

“Chris Mason has proven to be a consistent winner in the past while Pavelec has been brilliant at times, yet needs to be more consistent”, he said. “Dudley has said in the past that Pavelec is as good as any goaltender in the league 50% of the time and that they need him to be that way 75% of the time. All in all, the storylines will run deep to start the season”.

Focusing attention to the forward lines, there are several players and situations that have Dan Kamal jazzed about this season.

“I’m very intrigued to see how Bryan Little handles the adjustment back to center. I think with his speed, he’s going to adjust quickly and productively. I’m also interested to see the impact a young veteran like Nigel Dawes can have on the team. I think he’s a very underrated guy who does a lot of things well and can contribute offensively. In my opinion, Ben Eager and Chris Thorburn will play substantial roles on this team. They’re both big and fast, can chip in on the offensive side, and will make life miserable for opposing defenses”.

Transitioning from the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks to Atlanta, Andrew Ladd will be joined by Dustin Byfulien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and associate coach John Torchetti in making a transition to Atlanta (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Coming over from the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks to Atlanta, Andrew Ladd will be joined by teammates Dustin Byfulien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and associate coach John Torchetti in making a transition to the Thrashers (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Continuing, Kamal says expects several players to build off of last year’s successes. “I’m expecting Andrew Ladd to tap into his offensive potential with increased ice time; I’m looking for a fabulous second season from Kane, and I’m confident Niclas Bergfors and Rich Peverley can build off very solid seasons”.

Dan Kamal also believes that there is a decent blend of veteran experience to go with the plethora of youthful talent on this team. “I’m very curious to see what impact young guys like Burmistrov and Pettersson can have, and I’m hoping Freddy Modin can bounce back to his usual 20+ goals now that he’s healthy”.

McConnell as well likes having the soon-to-be 36-year old Modin on this squad. “I’m also interested in watching the impact Modin will have on this roster”, he said adding, “Rick Dudley often gushes about Dave Andreychuk, whom he had on his 2004 cup winning team in Tampa. And all summer long, Dudley looked to add a veteran to the roster. Modin is that guy. He’s big, he’s a leader and as of today, he’s healthy, not to mention he’s a pretty good penalty killer”.

Lastly, one unknown factor that any team faces is player injuries. All feel it is important for Mason to remain healthy and give the Thrashers a stable presence in the net. But Dan Kamal also points to Nik Antropov, who performed so well in his first season as a Thrasher, to help lead the Thrashers offense…health permitting.

“To me, though, one of the biggest factors is the health of Nik Antropov. If he can get back to 100 percent very early in the year, I think he’ll be the offensive leader he was last year”.

141 comments Add your comment

Brendan

October 4th, 2010
9:36 am

R.Stroz, I saw that Jose Theodore signing on Saturday and meant to post about it. I was thinking, “Geez, Minnesota, it took you until AFTER preseason to decide you like and want to sign Jose Theodore?” Nice price. Came even CHEAPER than Chris Mason. If that was “asking price,” why didn’t we get in on the bidding? Theodore’s season didn’t SUCK last year. He does have playoff experience. He’s actually won two (2) playoff series. Unfortunately for him, much MORE than that was expected of him.

Well, Red Light, what do you think of Theodore at $1.1 million?

Brendan

October 4th, 2010
9:40 am

Flames, for sure, I don’t want to see hockey leave. The truth I believe about the Atlanta hockey market is this one. We’ve yet to see a true measure of its capacity. If we get a winner here, and people just DON’T SHOW UP, then “outsiders” can call us a “bad market.” Remember, I’ll post it again, the Thrashers sold out 38 of 41 home games in the Inaugural season, while setting an NHL Attendance record. That’s the truth. Anyone can look it up. The Minnesota Wild subsequently broke that record. But it spoke to the “interest level” of hockey … in these parts.

Brendan

October 4th, 2010
9:44 am

J.B., I have an earlier post from you at 103-points, 2nd in SE Division, 5th in the Conference. Are you that same poster, or was that “James Brown” who made that entry? I need clarification on that. Are you James Brown, or “J.B.?” And if you, is this guess of 93-points, 2nd in SE Division, and 7th in the East … a REVISED guess. Please let me know. If you’re not “James Brown,” I need the real James Brown to come forward to confirm that 103-point guess.

puckhead

October 4th, 2010
9:48 am

TV Schedule – from the Thrashers Fan Club – The info we have received about the TV schedule is that Fox SportSouth had to wait to confirm dates for the Thrashers until the Atlanta Braves season was either over or they went into the playoffs. Now that the Braves are in the Playoffs, the schedule for the Thrashers should be released in the next few days. Hopefully.

sisu

October 4th, 2010
9:49 am

Anyone catch the show Thrashers 360? Seemed ok, nice to see some insight into new players.

The Jose Theodore signing was due to the injury to Harding, they lost their back up for a while. Funny how the goalies salaries have taken a nose dive recently.

What is this over/under on Modin?

Brendan

October 4th, 2010
9:56 am

Sisu, the over/under is 14 goals, all must be scored as a Thrasehr, and playing in 56 games, as a Thrashers.

Congrats to the Atlanta Braves for getting back into the playoffs after a four season hiatus. Hopefully, this town will come out to support the Bravos in their quest to at least extend the series to five games.

Jeff97

October 4th, 2010
10:00 am

Thrash finish with 97 pts, 2nd in the division and 4th in the conference. I will take the under on Modin.

Zombie Steve

October 4th, 2010
10:07 am

92 pts, 2nd in the SE, and 7th in the Eastern conference (this team will gel, and when they do, LOOK OUT!)

Adam

October 4th, 2010
10:11 am

I was wondering if someone like Flames had any idea if the scouting staff has been attending any preseason games. If so which ones?
This could give us an idea if there are any last minute trades in the works before the official drop of the puck.

J.B.

October 4th, 2010
10:13 am

Brendan, if it was me I’d forgotten about it. However, I can’t see myself guessing 103 pts for the thrashers as much as I’d like to. Please use today’s entry for me. Thanks.

GaVaHokie

October 4th, 2010
10:20 am

FYI… Dish Network subscribers… NHL Center Ice is refundable up until the start of the season… you have until Thursday to cancel if you want to switch cable/satellite providers.

Adam

October 4th, 2010
10:24 am

When does the league view the start of the season for teams to be under the cap? Is it when the 1st game is played by any team, Thursday, or is if before each teams 1st game, which could be as late as Saturday?

Diego from Lilburn

October 4th, 2010
10:28 am

Brendan, ¡no he olvidado!

Color me optimistic: 95 points, 2nd in SE, 7th in Conference. Baaaa! Baaaaaa!

And Modin is gonna rock it! He has something to prove to the score of rookies and sophomores on this team and it is gonna motivate him.

I think we might be off to a bit of a struggle early on (too many new parts to think otherwise – new players, new coaches, new strategies, etc.) but I think the youngsters are gonna pick up the heat later on when other teams are getting tired.

Diego from Lilburn

October 4th, 2010
10:33 am

AND we’re gonna make it through the first round of the playoffs! How’s THAT for a prediction!!!

Jameson

October 4th, 2010
10:38 am

Hokie- Keep in mind that DirecTV does not carry Versus at all.

DWTOO

October 4th, 2010
10:42 am

Brendan – Play in a begginer league at the MIC on monday night. Went stick to stick last week over a puck and that did it. It’s a fun league, but, still feel it on tuesday morning. Moreso with the fat finger from last week.

Ray

October 4th, 2010
10:46 am

I’m a long time DirecTV subscriber and yes, they DO carry Versus. Last year there was a dispute and Versus wasn’t carried on DirecTV, but this was rectified prior to the playoffs.

Nate

October 4th, 2010
10:47 am

Jameson & Hokie – I don’t think that’s true. I have DirecTV. They resolved the dispute with Comcast last year just before the playoffs. Versus is listed on the DirecTV website and on comes on channel 603 on my TV.

five hole

October 4th, 2010
10:55 am

Brendan I’ll take the over on Modin. Although admittedly I haven’t seen him play myself, what I read seems to be positive, like he’s still got his wheels.

I believe Versus on Direct TV is channel 603.

Jameson

October 4th, 2010
11:01 am

I just checked the Braves schedule, and it looks like TBS is carrying all of their wild card games. Why would that effect Sports South’s schedule? Maybe they don’t want to compete with the Braves games?

Jameson

October 4th, 2010
11:05 am

Ray & Nate- That’s news to me. I’ll have to check into that when I get home. I had no choice, but to go with DirecTV earlier this year when I moved into a new apartment complex, and thought the issue was still on-going. That may actually keep me from switching back to cable the next time I move.

Mr. Willson

October 4th, 2010
11:07 am

Brendan,

I’ll be overly optimistic because, well, why be gloom and doom about it.

100-pts, 2nd div, 4th conf

ChippersLoveChild

October 4th, 2010
11:11 am

Why do people expect anything out of Thorburn? He has never shown me much of anything when given the chance. I don’t get why people are hyping him up to have a good season… just don’t see it at all.

3stripes

October 4th, 2010
11:13 am

87 points
2nd SE
9th conference

Dennis the Menace

October 4th, 2010
11:15 am

Gooooood ole Mr. Wilson!!!!

Tom

October 4th, 2010
11:20 am

JAmeson, my guess is that they will need the camera’s, equipment, and labor for the Braves over the Thrashers. It is not worth it for the SS to bring in contract labor and rent equipment for what they makes cover Le Thrash…

Spud Webb

October 4th, 2010
11:20 am

We are soooooooooooooo close…just got 4 tickets (for opening night), section 112, not a bad price!!! GREAT WEEK, baseball playoffs, football, hockey, a chill in the air, oh god- Heaven……………….THANK YOU LORD. Late nights, lots of beer.

Rawhide, Congratulations, your son is making you proud no doubt!! Good job!

Great blog and very interesting, I was fortunate enough to into McConnell friday night. Said he knows Red Light very well!!! GREAT guy and had some great insights about the team, he’s very, very excited. Also gave me a couple of good stories about Elliott & Kamal from some of their road trips over the years, helarious for sure.
Who’s meeting in front of Gorins Friday night? I got the boys meeting up should be around 5:15. I’ll be the bald guy with 2 other Thrash fans and an Idiot caps fan (taking him for a bachelor party). So look for us.

GaVaHokie

October 4th, 2010
11:23 am

re: Dish Network… I canceled my Center Ice package for now.

I’m gonna be on stand-by for Dish to resolve the Fox issue. I know Time Warner Cable in the Northeast went through the same dispute not long ago and it got resolved.

It’s just ridiculous for me to change providers and pay installation fees if this gets resolved by November.

Red Light

October 4th, 2010
11:23 am

Brendan:

For a guy who went 30-7-7 last year, even if he was playing with the Caps and had a 2.81 gaa, that’s pretty good value. People forget the off-ice issues Jose had to deal with before the season started when his two-month-old son died. I wish him nothing but the best and was surprised by the signing because of the 24-year-old Khodobin played a few games for the Wild last year. If he plays 20-25 games this year in relief of Backstrom, then the Wild could scrape together enough points to make a playoff push.

Red Light

October 4th, 2010
11:25 am

See you there Spud! Try to make it through the 2nd period without getting tossed out. Know how much you love the Great 8!

Spud Webb

October 4th, 2010
11:31 am

hahhahahhaha, I know, I CANNOT get kicked out. We have a general rule, no cussing. We keep to that and teh rest is fun!!!!!
I’m ready for 8. I’m ready for this game, Monday is much better when you know you’re going to a game this week!

Smoothie

October 4th, 2010
11:36 am

No cuts yet according to C-Viv. Looks like all 28 “active” players were at the rink this morning for practice. Good news is that both Jimmy and Nik practiced. Bad news is that Ron Hainsey is still a Thrasher.

I kid, I kiiiid!! ;-)

Zombie Steve

October 4th, 2010
11:39 am

Morin in #27 – Think this might start to chafe one Jeremy Roenick? Lord I hope so >=)

iamtheratio

October 4th, 2010
11:42 am

Spud, ain’t that the truth! I can not wait for Friday!!!

hip czech

October 4th, 2010
11:42 am

Is Boris still a Thrasher though?

Bogosian, Buff, Enstrom, Meyer, Oduya, Sopel, and (cough) Hainsey on D…did Kulda play Saturday?

Assuming Slater doesn’t begin the year then I guess it comes down to one of Stewart, Thorburn, or Burmistrov for the last forward spot.

Rawhide

October 4th, 2010
11:52 am

Is Boris still a Thrasher though?

hip czech – If I had my way, the answer would be ‘no’.

Who’s meeting in front of Gorins Friday night?

Spudster – I’ll be there. Question is, who will be on the ice for the Thrashers that night after they make their final cuts this week?

Tom Lysiak

October 4th, 2010
11:58 am

Please put me down for:

91 pts, 3rd in the SE, 9th in the conference.

I’ll take the over on Modin.

Budget guess is $50,898,998.

Oh, and I’ll take the under on those that give a s#!^ what Sage says.

kracker

October 4th, 2010
12:41 pm

Ok, Brendan, put me down for 91 pts, 2nd in Division, and tied for 8th in East. I think I am already down for the over on Modin.

Plus, I predicted 20 goals for Bogosian.

Jameson

October 4th, 2010
12:48 pm

Tom- That makes sense, except I’m pretty sure that Fox owns Sports South, but not TBS.

R. Stroz

October 4th, 2010
1:39 pm

Flames

October 4th, 2010
3:08 pm

Adam-There is scouts at every game during the pre-season games. I am praying that Duds pulls off a trade with the New Jersey Devils for Zajac. Right now everyone is watching the wavier wire to see who is being released.

Brendan-I agree with you 100%. You win and they will come.