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.
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.
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.
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.