Valabik departure could mean another ‘Face of the Future’ becoming part of the past

When I saw the news today that the Thrashers had placed defenseman Boris Valabik on re-entry waivers, my first thought was that the 6’-7” Slovak was heading back to Atlanta…possibly because Freddy Meyer’s mid-body injury was going to keep him out for a longer period of time. But it seems as though Valabik’s placement on waivers has nothing to do with his return but instead looks as if the move was made to give him a chance to be picked up by another team.

Boris Valabik, seen here slugging it out with Shean Donovan last January, may be the latest first round draft pick to depart Thrasherville (AP Photo/John Amis)

Boris Valabik, seen here slugging it out with Shean Donovan last January, may be the latest first round draft pick to depart Thrasherville (AP Photo/John Amis)

I guess Rick Dudley tried but could find no takers in a trade and is simply clearing the field a bit for other defensive prospects such as Arturs Kulda, Paul Postma, Andrei Zubarev, etc.

Valabik, drafted in the first round in 2004, would leave after playing in a grand total of 80 games at the NHL level… scoring no goals, 7 assists, collecting 210 PIM to go with a –14 rating. That’s a disappointing return for a 10th overall draft pick.

But that’s not unusual in these parts, as I’m sure you’re all aware of…painfully so.

So, at the risk of subjecting myself to having you toss cyber-bricks in my direction, allow me to take the opportunity of yet another first round pick departing Thrasherville to review the list of others that have done so.

1999- Patrik Stefan: The first ever “Face of the Future” in Thrasherville, Stefan was selected over both the Sedin twins. He scored a total of 59 goals, 118 assists and was a –41 in 414 games while with the Thrashers before being shipped off to Dallas in 2006 along with Jaroslav Modry. In return, Atlanta received Niko Kapanen and a seventh round selection in 2007. Then-GM Don Waddell then used that pick to draft Will O’Neill.

sigh… Yeah, I know. I know.

2000- Dany Heatley: I really don’t want to go down this road again and rehash in great detail the circumstances that led to this number two overall pick’s departure from Atlanta. The long and short here is that he asked for a “Get Out of Atlanta Free” card shortly before the 2005-06 season. He claimed the desire to move on with his life after a terrible accident took the life of his friend and teammate. Heatley was dealt to Ottawa where he signed a long-term deal with a no trade clause.

Then in the summer of 2009…he demanded to be traded.

What Atlanta got in return from the Senators was forward Marian Hossa and defenseman Greg DeVries…the big name there being Hossa. At the 2008 trade deadline, Hossa bolted for the door after not being convinced this organization was on the right path with Don Waddell at the helm.

In return for Hossa…and Pascal Dupuis…the Thrashers got two NHL players, a prospect and a draft pick from the Penguins. One of those players, Erik Christensen, was traded for a prospect. The other, Colby Armstrong, left Atlanta as a free agent last summer. The prospect obtained from Pittsburgh, Angelo Esposito, is now playing with the AHL Chicago Wolves after having healed from his second ACL injury in as many years. The player selected with the Penguins pick, Daultan Laveille, is currently playing at Michigan State University.

DeVries departed in the summer of 2007 when he signed as a free agent with the Nashville Predators.

2001- Ilya Kovalchuk: Coupled with Heatley, this first-overall pick made up Atlanta’s dynamic-duo whom the franchise would build the foundation of success. Kovy was the new “Face of the Future” from the day he was draft…right up to the day he was traded, that is.

The much-drawn-out Kovy drama that engulfed Thrasherville for the better part of a year ended last winter when he, along with defenseman Anssi Salmela, were traded to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Nic Bergfors, Johnny Oduya and prospect Patrice Cormier. There was some draft picks exchanged as well, which were used in the big trade with the Chicago Blackhawks last summer.

For Salmela, it was a return back to a Devils organization that had traded him to the Thrashers a year prior in exchange for veteran defenseman Niclas Havelid.

New Jersey then owned the rights to try and re-sign Kovalchuk before the July 1 free agency period…something they eventually got around to doing in September after considerable tossing and tumbling with the NHL and the CBA

Kari Lehton was the second overall pick for the Thrashers in 2002. He's now a Star in Dallas with a record of 5-4-0, with a .908 SV% and 2.93 GAA (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Kari Lehton was the second overall pick for the Thrashers in 2002. He's now a Star in Dallas with a record of 5-4-0, with a .908 SV% and 2.93 GAA (AP Photo/LM Otero)

2002 – Kari Lehtonen: The Thrashers “goalie of the future” was selected with the second draft pick…right before some dude named Jay Bouwmeester. However, Kari would have issues with a tender groin and back…and conditioning in general. After being pushed into the starting role when Pasi Nurminem suffered a career-ending injury, Lehtonen debuted as the number one goalie on opening night 2005 in south Florida. He lasted one period before Kari-Down ’05 began.

A relatively successful 2006-07 season helped the Thrashers to a playoff birth, but Kari-Down ’07 and Kari-Down ’08 began early in those seasons and limited his ability to suit up for lengthy periods of time. Last year, Kari-Down ’09 began in the summer following back surgery, something he would not fully recover from until shortly before his trade to Dallas in February 2010.

In return for the goalie, Atlanta got defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy and the 4th pick in last summer’s draft. Vishnevskiy was then traded away to the Blackhawks, along with a number-two selection in 2011, for forward Andrew Ladd.

Oh yeah, Jimmy Slater was a first-round pick in ’02, but he was Don Waddell’s choice with the 30th overall.

2003- Braydon Coburn: The 8th overall pick in ’03 was defenseman Braydon Coburn. In February 2007, he was sent packing to Philadelphia when Waddell hit the panic button during the playoff stretch of that season. Heading over to the Thrashers…ducking for cyber-bricks…Alexei Zhitnik.

Now, the Thrashers did make the playoffs…and Zhitnik did actually help his new team do so. But the next fall he then became the poster-child for trades gone bad as his play dropped off significantly. He was relegated to the press box for much of the last few weeks of the season.

Then in the summer of ’08… just after Don Waddell said Zhitnik would “play a big part in the Thrashers’ future”… Zhitnik was waived, his contract bought out, and he was then paid $1.16 million for the next two years to not play for the Thrashers.

Coburn, on the other hand, has become very acquainted with postseason play. Last spring he and his Flyers made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, losing to the Chicago Blackhawks…and Marian Hossa.

That would then bring us back to…

2004- Boris Valabik: Was Boris was ever labeled as the “defensive face of the future”?…shrugs…I dunno. But given he was the first defender taken by the Thrashers so high in the draft…and to date, only one of two who hold that distinction…it’s not a stretch to have looked upon his selection that way. However it seems now that six after slipping on a Thrashers jersey on the stage in Raleigh, North Carolina, Boris may indeed be leaving on that same train out of Thrasherville that Stefan, Heatley, Kovalchuk and Coburn did.

As for 2005…do we even need to re-hash the now infamous first-round draft debacle that gave us Alex Bourret?

No?

Good.

Alex Burmistrov, defending against Carolina's Zach Boychuk, joins Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian and Evander Kane as first round draft picks making an impact on this Thrashers roster (AP Photo/John Amis)

Alex Burmistrov, defending against Carolina's Zach Boychuk, joins Bryan Little, Zach Bogosian and Evander Kane as first round draft picks making an impact on this Thrashers roster (AP Photo/John Amis)

But with all of that said, this brings up to the more recent first round picks… the new “Faces of the Future” if you will. They are… Bryan Little, 12th overall in 2006… Zach Bogosian, 3rd overall in 2008, Evander Kane, 4th overall in 2009 and Alexander Burmistrov, 8th overall in 2010.

The Thrashers had no first-rounder in ’07.

Little, Kane and Bogosian have already played in more NHL games than have Valabik and it sure looks like we can say the same thing about Burmistrov by this time next year. These four are not only playing in games, but are contributing to sense of general optimism that prevails around Thrasherville.

That’s what you’re looking for from “earning” the right to obtain these kinds of players so early in the draft.

With Valabik’s perceived departure, these are the guys who will help close the book on the Thrasher “Faces of the Future” – 1999-2005 edition.

119 comments Add your comment

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
1:33 pm

Hope this new owners runor has legs. The other neccessary ownership requirements: love hockey and have very deep pockets.

JT from Columbus

November 3rd, 2010
1:38 pm

Smoothie: If true this is welcome news!!

World Be Free

November 3rd, 2010
1:39 pm

I have given Boris/Doris a hard time on thes blog, but in truth, I wish him the best wherever he ends up.

He can’t help he stinks.

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
1:39 pm

Ugh…he kills us.

ajcthrashers Stephen Weiss will return for Panthers vs. #Thrashers, according to coach Peter DeBoer.

Smoothie

November 3rd, 2010
1:48 pm

kracker – indeed, Weiss loves playing against us. The key match-ups will probably be:

Booth-Weiss-Higgins vs Ladd-Pevs-Bergie or Eager-Burmy-Stewie if DeBoer thinks they can exploit the rookie and Stewart. For us, we gotta hope that Kaner-Nik-Thorbs can get theirs against Stillman-Reasey-Dvorak and Dvorak has been another thorn in the side of the Thrashers recently.

I hate not having Little’s speed and back-checking for this game. Burmy needs to be good and the defense solid to win this game 3 to 2 I hope.

Brendan

November 3rd, 2010
1:59 pm

WBF and other Sabre fans, if you want to see a pic of Craig Ramsay during his playing days, I found him as # 7 in the list of Buffalo’s “All-time Top 40″ players. http://galleries.buffalonews.com/photo.php?gname=gallery_1285003304.txt&item=7

Brendan

November 3rd, 2010
2:27 pm

Ya know, I can’t understand all this outpouring of respect for Dany Heatley, knowing what WE DO KNOW of the man. Do you honestly, deep down in your heart, BELIEVE … I mean TRULY BELIEVE … that Heater wouldn’t have asked for a trade out of Atlanta, even if there WAS NO ACCIDENT? That everything was progressing great, in Thrasherville, in Heatley’s eyes??

C’mon. The accident was a BELIEVABLE excuse, to request a release/trade. Twice in Europe, during the lockout, Heatley asked for a release. In Ottawa, he asked for a trade, saying he wasn’t being “used correctly.” What kind of drivel is this, from a respectable player. You do what you coach tells you to do. Dany Heatley is WHO he is. A leopard doesn’t change its spots. Yes, we certainly had trouble re-signing Kovalchuk, coming out of the lockout. Imagine what re-signing a “healthy, uninjured” Dany Heatley would have cost, at the same time? Gotta think it would have been about the same $6.0 million cap hit that Hossa was. Or, it might have been equal to Kovalchuk’s $6.5 million cap hit. And the performance of Heatley, on that 3-year deal, would have probably been about what Hossa’s was, including the “drama” over “will he or won’t he re-sign” in the 2008 season, if he even last THAT long, before requesting a trade outta here. In the end, folks, Heatley would have been dealt at the 2008 trade deadline, maybe to Pittsburgh, for Esposito, Christensen, Armstrong, and Pick # 28 in the 2008 draft. Heatley for Hossa was pretty close to being a “wash.” It’s at least … in the ballpark. Heatley might have just demanded his trade, right there, in 2005, asking for Dan Snyder to be part of the trade, for all we know.

My whole point is … the team was able to, and did certainly, move on from the departures of Heatley and Snyder by 2006. The team was NOT derailed, irreparably damaged. Barring the Lehtonen injury, 2006 was a playoff year. 2007, also, was a playoff year. The “irreparable damage” that set the franchise back 5 years … was the “standing pat” response by ownership on the heels of the 2007 playoff sweep by the Rangers. We are, still, to this VERY DAY, trying to overcome the INACTION of 2007, when SWEEPING REFORMS were clearly necessary. Bygones.

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
2:39 pm

Nice find, Brendan! No wonder Rammer likes Little :) It’s his number.

Brendan

November 3rd, 2010
2:44 pm

Kracker, I loved the sideburns. You don’t see that, today.

Flames

November 3rd, 2010
2:52 pm

I would really love a new owner for this franchise. Smoothie I just put in a call to my friend. Did you hear his name mention in this?

Adam

November 3rd, 2010
3:03 pm

“Balls!” said the Queen.

“If I had two I be King!”

JB

November 3rd, 2010
3:03 pm

Dave’s tweets do not mention a name. Other than those two posts, I can’t find anyone else even mentioning new ownership for Atlanta.

LAC

November 3rd, 2010
3:12 pm

Just more evidence on how Stupid don waddell has ruined this franchise, The owners stink, but waddell drafted and he showed us time and time again, HE Stinks at drafting. But he gets promoted, I liked what Stroz once said…. “waddell should have been fired before he was hired !”.

That says it all…

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
3:17 pm

I loved the sideburns, too, Brendan. Had to be a pic from the 70s.

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
3:19 pm

Or maybe the early 80s, he is wearing a helmet.

Spud Webb

November 3rd, 2010
3:29 pm

Redlight, so what does this mean about Boris? IS this essentially a cut? Why not let him play in Chicago? Even Gwinnett??? Not sure I understand why he’s essentially just cut???

Alan R.

November 3rd, 2010
3:35 pm

Flames, no name has been mentioned. The “new ownership” thing is being reported by David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period on Twitter: http://twitter.com/TheFourthPeriod

It’s a source better than Eklund, but it’s also something I’ve heard before a few times, as recently as this past offseason. So, at best, I am skeptical.

DWTOO

November 3rd, 2010
3:43 pm

WBF – Will have to disagree with you about Boris. He doesn’t stink, he just doesn’t have the talent to play at the NHL level. He’s probably a career AHL’er. I’d probably give up body parts to play in the A League, even the ECHL. You’re still one of the best 2,500 players in the world.

Red Light

November 3rd, 2010
3:45 pm

It means that Valabik is free to become the tallest dog sled musher in Slovakia!

World Be Free

November 3rd, 2010
3:49 pm

I have eased up on Heatley-time to move forward

DTWOO-if you woudl have seen him during the one preseason game he played, you would say he stinks. I expect more from a guy who was #10 overall, and pretty well rated going into the 2004 draft. Hee was awful in the game we saw. If he is one of the best 2,500 on the planet, let’s say he is way down the list. But I wish him the best.

Brendan-Rammer was one of the best all around players of his era or any era for that matter. He deserves his place in Sabre history that’s for sure.

Red Light

November 3rd, 2010
3:51 pm

Spud:

I think the Wolves/Thrashers want to give time to other d-men rather than tie up ice time in a guy that isn’t in their long-term plans. Nothing more.

Red Light

November 3rd, 2010
3:52 pm

Perhaps he’ll find a spot in the KHL?

Smoothie

November 3rd, 2010
3:53 pm

Flames – no names yet, but get on the horn!! I will start praying.

MashaPlayer7

November 3rd, 2010
4:14 pm

Believe it or not, I’ll give Waddell a free pass on Valabik. He was drafted in the pre-lockout era, where big, lumbering defensemen who can stick-hold and interfere with skilled players were of high value. Valabik would be a top 6 D in the pre-lockout NHL….but definitely not know.

It pains me to think that the Thrashers’ 1st ever draft year was arguably the worst draft year in a generation. And remember, the Sedin twins were only going to play together. The Thrashers didn’t have any way of trading up to get the 2nd pick in that draft.

Russ

November 3rd, 2010
4:26 pm

Masha – Don’t give him a pass on Valabik. He was drafted right after the last season before the lockout. At the time he was drafted it was clear there was going to be a lockout and it was also clear whenever the game returned it would be with new rules in place and a crackdown on obstruction designed to open up the game. I knew this simply from reading my subscription to the Hockey News. If I knew this just from reading a magazine, don’t you think a GM of an NHL franchise should have known this? Oh, and by the way, DW even sat on the committee that approved the rule changes that would emphasize skating ability over the old clutch and grab mentality.

Brendan

November 3rd, 2010
4:50 pm

Russ is right. DW sat on the “Rules Committee” that designed the league to favor youth and speed. It’s hard to give him a pass on that. I’d rather that DW use the 10th overall pick to actually trade for a player with 3-5 years left on his contract, than to make this pick. And those of you who read my stuff know … I rarely advocate doing that. I prefer to build through the draft. I cannot rightly tell you who I would have drafted in his stead, so … I’ll stick with the “Gimme somethin’ off your roster for pick #10″ when it came to the 2004 Draft. Then listened to offers. The mulled it over with my trusted colleagues, and agreed to a trade. If I heard nothing but crap, I’d either make a selection at # 10, or maybe even move back, to stockpile some 2nd rounders, if I truly felt there was no dropoff in quality of players picked after #9 and before #12, 13, or 14, or something like this, that is. If there were a noticeable decline, like I said, I’d just make a pick at #10, then hope for the best.

ThrasherTim

November 3rd, 2010
5:04 pm

No sale is imminent unless Jon Kincade reports it as such…[eyes rolling]

ThrasherTim

November 3rd, 2010
5:09 pm

Brendan – I’m not sure why you thought management would take action after the playoff sweep. We had gotten better every year under Hartley and won the division. A banner was being hung in Philips Arena. Being in the playoffs would give Kovvy and other playoff newbies a ‘taste’ of what it took to play in mid-to-late April and the team would naturally improve again under Hartley. Did you foresee a 0-6 start the next season? And Zhitnik’s downward spiral? And Kari getting hurt again? {Wait, scratch that one}.

Cherokee

November 3rd, 2010
6:33 pm

I give DW a bit of a pass on Boris because the game really did change around him after the lock-out. Boris was drafted for a clutch and grab league that simply didn’t exist once he was ready for the NHL. The big guy just simply can’t keep up with the pace.

Hockey Biltong

November 3rd, 2010
7:01 pm

Hell, what if David McDavid owned the team????
We’d prolly have three Stanley Cups by now…..
BTW., Boris’ injuries have really held him back… this year compared to last year are way different. He had a jump to his step [yes and hold your tongue] that he did not have this year. He took his shot in the NHL and may now end up with Schroeder and Artuhkyin and ‘name that player’ who have moved below the level of top flight play……. sad to see, but it happens.

swede

November 3rd, 2010
7:54 pm

it´s fking chaos in our zone. They skate into it soooooooo easy and enable pressure, which we cant.

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
7:57 pm

Crap…we give Garrison his first goal of the year :( SOG 2-8…need to stabilize this one quick and pick up the pace. Time for Coach Ramsay to do some coaching.

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
8:17 pm

Woah! What a nice last few minutes by the Thrash! Nice little pass from Buff to Freddy and he buried it past Vokoun for a huge late goal. Out shot them 5-2 to finish out the 1st period. Time to exhale a bit…

Brendan

November 3rd, 2010
8:38 pm

Modin has scored??? (Peeking out the Window) Nope, no signs of the Apocalypse, so … I think we’re good. Remember what happened when Homer Simpson thought the Rapture was upon us? He frantically screamed, “Quick, Marge. Get Bart out of the house before God comes!!”

Thrasher Tim, I’d be LYING if I said that I would have bet my life savings on an 0-6-0 start for the 2007-08 Thrashers, back in April of 2007. That’s for sure. But, and this is a SIGNIFICANT but, if you couldn’t figure out … after mortgaging the future for a playoff berth, that resulted in a SWEEP, that reforms were needed … after SEVEN (7!!) years of Waddell … then … well …. No, I’m not good a ’sugarcoating’ things. You either see that, or you don’t. Especially, if YOU’RE the ownership … and it’s YOUR MONEY being squandered. If it were MYYYYY Money … being squandered by Waddell … he’d be fired. Over the results. Like, by 2003.

Brendan

November 3rd, 2010
8:41 pm

Biltong, always admire the enthusiam, but we really don’t know that McDavid would have been a Godsend for hockey. The Ilitches try, EVERY YEAR, to win the Cup, and they’ve got 4 Cups since 1993. And Detroit is favored to win the Cup for most of that time. I’d settle for one (1) Cup, per 10-15 years. That’s, actually, doing quite well.

litz

November 3rd, 2010
8:47 pm

Modin!

2nd of the night!

(anyone else missing the liveblogs?)

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
8:50 pm

Nice pass Boults to Freddy for his 2nd goal. Very nice to see and we go on top 2-1!

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
9:06 pm

What a crap goal by Fla! But they all count.

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
9:10 pm

Mason needs to sue (again) for non-support. SOG is 12-33 after two and his own guy (Thorbs) deflected in the first Panther goal while trying to stop it. Even being out shot, we could be leading this game.

Time for a locker room speech by somebody. Sopel again?

litz

November 3rd, 2010
9:25 pm

3rd is underway, we’ll see …

litz

November 3rd, 2010
9:30 pm

So far mason’s doing all the work … Vokoun could go play a round of golf.

litz

November 3rd, 2010
9:31 pm

And … not surprisingly … when they have all the shots (and we don’t), it’s now 3-2 FL

Nate

November 3rd, 2010
9:34 pm

This may be worse than the Buffalo home debacle. A very pathetic effort tonight considering the days off in between. Mason deserves some hazardous duty pay for the lack of effort being displayed by the guys tonight.

litz

November 3rd, 2010
9:42 pm

and Buff ties it up!

litz

November 3rd, 2010
9:42 pm

Yeah, it’s pretty damned stunning we’re sitting here tied 3-3 …

litz

November 3rd, 2010
9:44 pm

Wow! Bergfors, and it’s 4-3!

kracker

November 3rd, 2010
9:54 pm

Way too many sog being given up, 21-49. Hope the Thrash can hold on.

litz

November 3rd, 2010
10:00 pm

And it’s all over … dunno how, but they pulled out and won this one!

Joe Friday

November 3rd, 2010
10:02 pm

I turned it on with us down 3-2 and it was pretty good from there, but they had 55 SOG? Bergfors looked pretty good, Mason had an incredible save there with 1:20 left, wow.

Alan R.

November 3rd, 2010
10:03 pm

Ugly ugly win, but I’ll take it. WE NEED TO WATCH THESE SOG! Giving up 55 shots is UNACCEPTABLE.