Ramsay experiments with lines in search of right chemisty

Bob Hartley…you remember him don’t you? He used to coach this Thrashers team of ours back in the middle part of this past decade. I know, I know…the mere mention of his name is sometimes enough to send some of the Thrasherville townspeople into a near-riot. But I still like the guy.

I once heard Hartley talk about how he would break seasons up… dissect them, if you will…into segments of seven games. He came up with that number because that’s how many games are in a Stanley Cup playoff series if it were to go the distance.

Not that we here in Thrasherville have any idea what that might be like.

Coach Craig Ramsay appears to be putting on his lab smock and experimenting with his lines (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Coach Craig Ramsay appears to be putting on his lab smock and experimenting with his lines (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Anyway…Hartley figured that if you condensed your focus down into each passing seven games or so and played well in them, after ten or eleven such “series” went by you would be in position to nab a playoff birth in the last few games.

He also used this “seven game plan” as a timeframe to evaluate how the team was performing…individual players, special teams, defensive parings and forward lines. If adjustments needed to be made after that, he figured a proper amount of time had been given and, if the situation warranted, he made changes.

In stark contrast, the most recent head coach employed by the Thrashers organization must have been a chemist or mad scientist in a former life. John Anderson would mix things up as fast and frequent as your local pharmacist and would experiment with line combinations seemingly from game to game. Sometimes he wouldn’t even wait until a game ended to don his lab smock, using intermission to try and conjure up some on-ice chemistry instead of waiting for the next day’s scheduled practice.

Of course, many times this was out of necessity as he found his team down 2-0 or 3-0 after one period as they had come out of the locker room seemingly ill prepared to play, flat…some might even say, dead. In these cases, the word “experimenting” was less meant less along the lines of a pharmacist and more like Dr. Frankenstein as he was attempting to inject life into a lifeless mass.

And now there is Craig Ramsay. He’s got all of three games under his belt as head coach in these parts, but to date he’s been the model of consistency in regards to his lineups. From one game to the next he’s penciled in the same lineup.

This is in line with something he told me prior to training camp…that he likes to give adequate time for chemistry to be created and for players to gel with one another. He said he would have liked to set lineups during preseason and allow them that time to come together as a unit, but that would not be fair to all of the prospects that had a legitimate chance of making the squad. So, these first few games have acted as the “getting to know you” portion of the season for so many newly acquired Thrashers.

To be honest I agree with the philosophy of not trying to “over-tweak” the lines, instead giving linemates enough time to work out the kinks together and get to know one another’s tendencies. But after two road losses and a few days out west before the next, we are getting word that this weekend may possibly bring with it a change or two. Chris Vivlamore has informed us that Ramsay and Co. are using these few days before their date with the Anaheim Ducks to mix and match some forward lines, though he won’t make a decision on any changes before Friday.

Andrew Ladd, seen here in action Tuesday night against the Kings, has been playing on left wing with Bryan Little centering. The two may be joined by Anthony Stewart (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Andrew Ladd, seen here in action Tuesday night against the Kings, has been playing on left wing with Bryan Little centering. The two may be joined by Anthony Stewart (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

The Eager-Burmistrov-Thorburn line remains unchanged…no sense fixin’ what ain’t broke, ya know…but Evander Kane, Nik Antropov and Rich Peverley have been placed together. Anthony Stewart moved up to join Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd while Jim Slater has begun practicing between Freddie Modin and Nigel Dawes.

Kane-Antropov-Pevs…Ladd-Little-Stewart?

IT…COULD…WORK!

ahem

Slater is reported to be returning to the lineup by Friday’s matchup with the Ducks, but a roster move would have to be made to clear way for that.

C-Viv also indicated that Nic Bergfors practiced with Eric Boulton, who has sampled the food from the press box buffet for the first three games of the season. Bergie’s been a no-show throughout preseason and much of the trio of games played so far. So maybe a little time reviewing the game from the press perch high atop the arena is the right Rx for the young Swede.

Coach Ramsay may also be faced with changes on the blueline as well. Zach Bogosian did not practice Wednesday due to a shoulder ailment and is listed as day to day. If Bogey is unable to go in Anaheim, that would be mean Freddy Meyer or Boris Valabik could see their first action this fall.

Actually, that didn’t quite come out right…allow me to “tweak” that last line. If Bogey is unable to go in Anaheim, that would mean Freddy Meyer would see his first action of the fall, while Boris Valabik is sent to Chicago or the injured reserve to make room for Slater.

There…that looks better.

Regardless of any possible changes, however, one aspect of the Thrashers that I think simply must be tweaked, adjusted, shuffled…or just flat out blown up…is the power play unit. They just haven’t been getting the job done.

Again, this is where I think Ramsay may need to resemble more of a Dr. Frankenstein than an apothecary given that this power play seems to have assumed room temperature…kicked the oxygen habit…sometime over the weekend.

Last Friday I thought it actually looked good for a while, although no goals came from their efforts. The puck was moved side-to-side and in toward the net…none of this ring-around-the-rosy crud looking for some Russian sniper to one-time it from the point.

But it has digressed from that point, scoring only once in 14 chances, scored by Toby Enstrom while on a 5 o 3 in Tampa. Tuesday night in Los Angeles, it went completely Tango Uniform as the Thrashers could hardly keep the zone while on the man advantage. Many times they were relieved of the puck while attempting to cross the blueline.

Possible “tweak” suggestion here…oh, I dunno. Maybe if I were allowed to put on the lab smock and try a crazy experiment, I’d get that big frame of Dustin Byfuglien involved in the power play. For the experiment to be a success, however, he would have to park his large body in front of the goalie. Maybe…just maybe, that would work.

One thing would go without saying, though. It would have an enormous…scoring potential.

95 comments Add your comment

Mikey

October 14th, 2010
9:22 am

Why did I think of Bobby Holik when I was reading this? :)

Joe Friday

October 14th, 2010
9:24 am

“Dustin Byfuglien involved in the power play. For the experiment to be a success, however, he would have to park his large body in front of the goalie. Maybe…just maybe, that would work.”

From your lips to Ramsay’s ears. It’s mind boggling that he didn’t make that the PP, at a minimum, much less skate him at forward, from the get go.

Kane-Antropov-Pevs

This line is an improvement, it should work, but they do seem like three mismatched guys who’s games don’t fit well together. Which brings to mind, this lineup doesn’t have much cohesion, does it? Is that a function of the type of players chosen for the roster or more a function of the new system and new teammates trying to gel. Time will tell.

Ladd-Little-Stewart

I don’t much like this line. The move is really to get Stewart out of there and skate these:

Bergfors – Little – Buf

Kane – Antropov – Ladd

I really think those lines would gel together and work, Buf would create space for Bergfors and Little, who need that help, and Kane, Antropov, and Ladds games would gel well together, methinks

Matt

October 14th, 2010
9:24 am

J-man

October 14th, 2010
9:26 am

Until this ridiculous love affair the coaches have with Stewart ends, this team is going to be in trouble. If there is anybody worthy of being scratched, it’s Stewart.

Bergfors is a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. He’s been taken out of a top 6 role and played only 11 minutes in each of the first 2 games so exactly what on earth does Ramsay expect from that? Stewart was -3 against LA and he’s -4 on the season with 0 points. Bergfors is +1 and has 2 assists. Yes, it must all be Bergfors’ fault for sure.

Inga

October 14th, 2010
9:29 am

“One thing would go without saying, though. It would have an enormous…scoring potential”

WOOF!

J.B.

October 14th, 2010
9:44 am

To Matt: (NEIGH)

Big Shooter

October 14th, 2010
9:48 am

Good point J-man. Keep in mind when Dudley was in Fla he drafted Stewart in the 1st round. And it certainly seems like, sadly, if you are a Dudley guy you are going to play.

Joe Friday

October 14th, 2010
9:57 am

Agreed with Jman and Shooter. To me, it seems like Bergfors is not a Dudley guy or a Ramsay guy. It’s one reason I figured him a shoo in to be traded, his game doesn’t fit this rougher mode they are building.

However, we need goal scoring and Bergfors does bring that. Put him on the top line and skate Buf on the line and watch the space open up for him and the goals go in. MacArthur is benefiting from some of that in Toronto right now, not a physical guy, but his linemates are creating some space for him to bury the biscuit. Bergfors can do the same thing here.

Adam

October 14th, 2010
10:00 am

I’d like to see a line of Kane, Antro & Pevs but with Antro at wing and Pevs in the middle.

Sherry Taylor

October 14th, 2010
10:11 am

I remember Hartley well, I thought he was a great coach before he came to the Thrashers and I still do. He would have been while here if he hadn’t been dealt a hand with a couple of, if not several, hard-headed Russians who didn’t like that he made them play by his rules not their own. So, when he would bend to their wishes they made it difficult for him to bring more than a modicum of success. Coaching, good coaching, requires teaching, but it also requires a strong enough hand to make changes that are needed whether or not players like said changes. I’m hoping Ramsay has both, that there aren’t any ‘temper-throwing-brats’ on this team so once he has taught he can implement changes when needed.

Sherry Taylor

October 14th, 2010
10:14 am

BTW, from what I’ve seen of Evander Kane already this season, I take back what I’ve said before about him being too young to be Captain. This kid has what it takes to be a top player in this league for many years and with his performance the other night taking the penalty shot and how he let his coach know, he wanted that chance, I say make him Captain. I believe we are seeing the beginning of a stellar career for Evander Kane. Here’s hoping he will be around so we get to see it first hand for many years and that he leads this team to the play-offs and beyond!

Michael B. Shapiro

October 14th, 2010
10:43 am

Wow, lots of good stuff here. Agree that Stewart has been the no show and Bergie should get the nod on that line. Maybe that’s what Bergie needs. Lord knows we need HIM to step up. Kane for President (ok, Captain is second best). The kid has grit, 110% enthusiasm (like Slates), works well with Pevs and like a great NBA player he wants the “ball” to take (and make) the last second shot). For a sophomore, he’s looking good. Absolutely Boris should be given a one-way ticket to Chicago or maybe even up the road to Gwinnett. He is not prime-time ready and may never be. As for Boults, he’s been a good team member, but does not bring what we need to the table. We need scoring and he just doesn’t fit the bill. Continue to graze at the press box cafeteria or trade him for someone who can put the vulcanized rubber firmly against the twine.

hip czech

October 14th, 2010
10:50 am

Let’s hope Bogosian doesn’t turn into the next Justin Williams (never able to play more than 50 games or so)…I was hoping Hainsey might be a scratch and let Meyer take his spot.

Agree with the Kane comments…he is going to be he leader on this team, hopefully for many years.

Smoothie

October 14th, 2010
11:16 am

“What does it say about a team when your fourth line is +8 and the rest of the team is -18?”

Carryover alert from the previous blog. Mr. Foley, in fairness to the efforts of Ladd, Little and Bergfors, who has actually played better than Peverley, Antropov, Dawes and Modin, their line is a combined +3 and has not been on the ice for a goal yet. So at least our “checking line” is doing their job.

It’s the other two that we need to worry about, hence the recent tweaks to the line combos. Modin-Antro-Dawes is a -8 and the Kane-Pevs-Stewie line is now a combined -9 without a point since Opening Night.

I’m starting to worry a bit about Pevs. Hopefully having the wily Nik A alongside will help him out defensively as he just isn’t strong enough to win battles along the boards. Ducks are still giving up a ton of shots so I would hope Kane-Pevs-Antro could muster about 15 of their own!

World Be Free

October 14th, 2010
11:44 am

Thanks for the “Young Frankenstein” reference, Matt beat me to the punch with “Frau Blucker”. Mix up the lines and get it going, put Buff in front of the net on the power play.

Derrick

October 14th, 2010
11:49 am

Anyone else notice that we’re 3 games into the season and so far we haven’t had a single fight? You think maybe somebody getting into a scrap might help get the team jump started?

Smoothie

October 14th, 2010
11:50 am

Did y’all see the link posted by “chum” over on C-Viv’s blog about MacArthur feeling loved in Toronto? I read it and it made me write this on the spot:

Thanks for the link chum! When are these prissy babies who get traded gonna sack up and show they want to make a tough market into a good one? They all want to “live the dream”…you are you ungrateful son of a gun!! How are there so many spoiled, whiny brats in the NHL? MacArthur and players of his ilk usually get what’s coming to them, but God Almighty I’m sick of the complaining about coming to a city that has been losing for years and then doing nothing about it except sulk and hang their heads. Show some damn pride for the GM that traded FOR YOU and play your ass off to make the TEAM BETTER!! Not just raise your damn salary. The PA is just another shady union that cares more about wages than “fair treatment”. Okay, enough of the soap-box.

Smoothie

October 14th, 2010
11:51 am

Here’s the link y’all.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/leafs-beat/macarthur-aims-for-big-goals-after-tough-summer/article1756252

Some of these spoiled young veterans need some counseling from Chris Mason on how to swallow some humble pie and do it with class, dignity and grace.

Warren Shaw

October 14th, 2010
11:52 am

Bill:
Great article. The lines badly need shaking up. I still think the core competency is there. It takes the correct proportion of sugar, flour, eggs, and butter to make a cake taste good.

Wayne stuck in AL

October 14th, 2010
11:54 am

Back when he was coaching the Flyers, Mike Keenan also used to break up the season into little segments.

Sara

October 14th, 2010
12:02 pm

Thrasher history lesson: Bobby Holik had more to do with Bob Hartley getting fired than anyone else (other than perhaps Hartley himself – aka that guy that still can’t get an NHL coaching gig 4 years later).

Thrasher history short essay question: How can Bergfors not be a “Dudley type player” when Dudley orchestrated the trade that brought him here?

Joe Friday

October 14th, 2010
12:22 pm

“How can Bergfors not be a “Dudley type player” when Dudley orchestrated the trade that brought him here?”

No brainer, Cormier was the prize Dudley sought in that trade, not Bergfors. And Oduya was the roster player he valued over Bergfors. That’s clearly evident not only from the praise that has come repeatedly from Dudley’s mouth, but also from the silence about Bergfors over the summer and the way they treated him in re-signing him to a 1 year $900k deal. And the way he’s been left out in the line pairings and now apparently will be benched tomorrow?

Any more questions, teach?

Darren

October 14th, 2010
12:30 pm

I think it’s telling the team just doesn’t want to give up on Valabik just yet. I think they’re wanting to see if the team of Ramsay and Torchetti and salvage his development. Can’t say I blame them.. not that it’s a direct comparison, but it took years for Chara to bloom.

hoosier_hoser

October 14th, 2010
12:33 pm

Rawhide!

You and I must observe a different universe. I have a completely different set of observations.

“He also used this “seven game plan” as a time frame to evaluate how the team was performing…individual players, special teams, defensive parings and forward lines. If adjustments needed to be made after that, he figured a proper amount of time had been given and, if the situation warranted, he made changes.”

Hartley’s time frame was shift to shift. When play was going sideways, Bob would juggle lines and defensive pairings within a match. I always thought his special skill was to juggle players incessantly and still put players on the ice that had rested for at least a shift.

ThrasherTim

October 14th, 2010
1:06 pm

I wish I could comment on all the games so far and propose line combinations but I haven’t been able to watch a game yet on the telly. I have loved DishTV and their DVR set-up for many years but my patience it wearing thin as it’s painful to not be able to watch the games….and now even their NHL Center Ice feed for the upcoming weekend games are again blacked out.

I was at the opening night home game…but I wasn’t able to piece together a sense of lines except that they all seemed to work and the Caps were lethargic.

My 2 cents on Valabik is that the organization doesn’t want to give up on him just yet. I would think he would get claimed if we try to send him down to Chicago — possibly by our next opponent.

Pevs hasn’t been the same since he signed his 2-year deal. Coincidence? I hope not, but I haven’t seen him or Little on the scoring sheet yet and those +/- numbers since about January are pretty poor.

Brendan

October 14th, 2010
1:35 pm

What Knockers!!

Brendan

October 14th, 2010
1:38 pm

Put … zee kindle … beck.

Trixie (Rawhide's Secretary)

October 14th, 2010
1:41 pm

What Knockers!!

Mr. Bendan – Why…thank you, doctor.

Thrashers27

October 14th, 2010
1:49 pm

“Roll, roll, roll. Roll in zee hay.”

Adam

October 14th, 2010
1:56 pm

Igor, help me with the bags.
Soitenly. You take the blonde, I’ll take the one in the turban.
I was talking about the luggage.

World Be Free

October 14th, 2010
2:07 pm

“You seem a little bit nervious, her doctor.”

Derrick-any time is a good time for a hockey fight and it does get your teammates moving. Dudley dropped them a time or two to get this mates going. I think it is exactly what we need!

Buzilla in CT

October 14th, 2010
2:09 pm

Ahhh…FrankenBobby. Holik was sewn together from dead hockey players when the Chek republic was breaking up. He was the strongest puss ever to play hockey

Nikita (in PA)

October 14th, 2010
2:28 pm

No joke, Buzilla. He wasn’t necessarily fast or super skilled, but he was unstoppable.

I think you all know I’m awfully worried about the team right now.

Matt

October 14th, 2010
2:38 pm

“No, it’s pronounced Eye-gor”

kracker

October 14th, 2010
2:41 pm

ajcthrashers Ron Hainsey left team to be with wife who went into labor.

Smoothie

October 14th, 2010
2:50 pm

kracker – interesting! Had no idea she was expecting. That could explain why Ron’s head seemed to be some place else during pre-season. Perhaps he was thinking he’d get a call about pending labor at any time. Best wishes to the Hainsey family for an easy labor and healthy baby with a full head of curls! :-)

English Teacher

October 14th, 2010
2:54 pm

I’m just hoping the team can get help with that hump.

Rawhide

October 14th, 2010
2:54 pm

ajcthrashers Ron Hainsey left team to be with wife who went into labor.

kracker – Well, first and foremost…congratulations to the Hainseys and I hope everyting comes out OK there :cool:

So if he will be unable to be with the team tomorrow and Saturday, then theres Meyer to fill in. Which means…if Bogosian’s shoulder keeps him out of the lineup, we’ll see Boris. Additionally, if Slater does indeed return to play Friday or Saturday, then a forward will have to be sent down to make room for him.

Smoothie

October 14th, 2010
2:56 pm

I’m thinking Bogey will be fine. We know he’s a tough kid and had it been more serious an injury, I think we’d know by now. They weren’t exactly cloaking Jimmy’s wrist issues in secrecy. Bye bye Boris.

Igore

October 14th, 2010
2:57 pm

“I’m just hoping the team can get help with that hump”

What hump?

Rawhide

October 14th, 2010
3:08 pm

Smoothie – I’m hoping you’re right about Bogey.

kracker

October 14th, 2010
3:11 pm

I keep hoping some team will want to trade for Boris, assuming he can’t get coached up here. Sooo…the with Ducks needing defensive help and with the Thrashers playing them tomorrow…and now we are told Bogosian has this ’slight upper body problem’…which makes it a great excuse to get Boris in the lineup w/o it looking like an audition….now Hainsey is gone so we just gotta play Boris for the Ducks game….

alex

October 14th, 2010
3:36 pm

ok, we have two stars in making slater and kane, please slow down. let see end result. sure kane has potential but what he achived so far. drafted 4 been 7, 8 in line for best rokie. 14 goals last year, let see his sta after this season. i know a lot players with much better 1 year, and than disappear. it’s not simple in nhl. i am rooting for kane baddly. still not sure he get 20 goals. and remember we all been happy after la. passed on bog in favour of doghty. they on different level now. so i am against making slater or kane thrashers captain right now, stamkos not a captain, tavares not, duchene not subban not and they much better. let him develop. so far don first picks slater, valabik, bog. and kane have a lot of games to prove that they belong to nhl.

Thrashy Thrashy

October 14th, 2010
3:47 pm

As best I can tell, these boys have played three damn games.

When we’re 20 or 30 in, we’ll have a much better idea of how terrible these guys actually are. Barring some truly atrocious hockey during that time, I think it’s worth cutting all of these new folks some slack.

js

October 14th, 2010
3:54 pm

If Boris plays tomorrow the Ducks will never want him. After seeing him play in the preseason, he’d be lucky to see time in Gwinnett.

Hockey Biltong

October 14th, 2010
3:54 pm

EYEgore, ya beat me to it!!!

kracker

October 14th, 2010
4:09 pm

Yeah, I know js, but I figure the Ducks would want to kick the tires, etc, before trading for this lemon.

Red Light

October 14th, 2010
4:49 pm

Is this Philly?

Joe Friday

October 14th, 2010
5:04 pm

“Is this Philly?”

Why, did someone boo Santa or throw up on a little girl?

EB

October 14th, 2010
5:38 pm

The reason we have to do this so often is because we still have several guys on the team who don’t score enough goals or points. Slater will do nothing I’m afraid but get knocked off the puck as Dawes does. Ice Berg has tons more talent than Slater, who should not have been picked in the first round to begin with, and I’d rather watch Ice Berg NOT score than play Slater over him. I like tweaking the lines for chemistry and knew it was coming but using Slater over a much more talented player is a BAD MOVE by Ramsey. I’d say if he has to, use Slater over Dawes and KEEP Ice Berg on the ice, he will score eventually!!