‘Embarrassing’ losses like the one to Islanders could leave Thrashers playoff hopes circling the drain

If the Atlanta Thrashers experience any more on-ice flops like last night’s 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders, any and all hopes for the postseason will go the way of too many other seasons…flushed right down the drain. Simply put, there just isn’t enough time left on the schedule to drop stink bombs like that, especially when conference bottom-feeders are in town.

But don’t just take my word for it. Take into consideration what goalie Ondrej Pavelec said after the latest debacle in Blueland.

“We have to realize a few more games like this and we’re done…we didn’t fight like we wanted to get in the playoffs”.

Yes…very true.

Whenever you find yourselves at this point in the season…clinging to the final playoff spot…with a team like the Islanders in town and the Carolina Hurricanes breathing down your neck…you simply cannot allow the two points to leave town with the visiting team without a fight or a struggle…or, heck, even as much as a sense of passing interest in the outcome.

Pavelec has been doing his best to keep his team in games. And as defenseman Zach Bogosian puts it, “If it wasn’t for Pav, it would probably be a lot worse”.

Spot on, Zach.

But then, who better to speak so glowingly of Opie then the players who has far-too-many times had a view of Opie’s heroics from the best vantage point in the house…about 3 feet away from his goal.

Thrasher goalie Ondrej Pavelec said his team, "we didn’t fight like we wanted to get in the playoffs" (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Thrashers goalie Ondrej Pavelec voiced his feelings about his team's effort Tuesday night saying, "we didn’t fight like we wanted to get in the playoffs" (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

There are a few who could be called out on this team, but I’m going to use Bogosian here as just one example. To be brutally honest, he’s been nothing short of a disaster on the blueline for much of this season. Simply saying he looks “lost” out there is being kind.

To use New York’s final goal as an example… Michael Grabner simply moved untouched past the third overall pick in the 2008 draft and was allowed to make the type of pass over to Kyle Okposo that you’d expect to see during a practice drill. And it’s the kind of play we’ve seen too many times from #4.

Bogosian was on the ice for two Islanders even-strength goals, is a –9 in his last 11 games played and is a –14 in 42 games played this season.

No, he’s not 100% responsible for the current “Gloom, despair and agony on me. Deep dark depression, excessive misery” atmosphere that permeates through Thrasherville this morning…and I’m not quite ready to jump on the “Zach Bogosian Must Just So Go Soon” bandwagon. But given how lost he is out there, someone simply needs give him some direction.

Some directions, that is, straight to the press box.

Taking his minutes should be Arturs Kulda, IMHO…at least while Toby Enstrom is on the mend. Not that I think he’d be the magic silver bullet to cure this team of his ills, but I can’t imagine he’d be worse.

Speaking of Toby…his name came up in the Islanders locker room after the game. My good friend Red Light tells me that. Zenon Kenopka, their 4th line center, commented that its clear Enstrom is the glue that holds this Thrashers roster together. And having him out of the lineup with the injury just kills Atlanta.

Given the Thrashers have been outscored 11-3 in the three games Toby’s missed, Kenopka’s comments are clearly on the mark.

After the loss…one that was described as “embarrassing” by Nik Antropov…Chris Vivlamore reported a number of players held an impromptu meeting with coach Ramsay. They demanding certain players should be held accountable for their lack of effort. That’s all well and good of course…and there are several who should be called out. But it seems like we’ve been seeing that “A” word tossed about in the Thrashers locker for quite a while now, and with the possible exception of one Mr. Ben Eager, I don’t really recall any big-name player being held accountable for his actions…or in this case, his inactions out there on the ice.

I’ll close with this from head coach Craig Ramsay. “We lost so many battles in the offensive zone, and that allowed them to keep coming back up the ice. Our work ethic, our commitment, is lacking”.

Bingo.

However, coach Ramsay’s lament about his players “work ethic” has been coming about a frequently as former coach John Anderson”, “A bounce here, a bounce there”, excuses. There comes a time when the actions have to follow the words…a time when the “accounting” that is being demanded is followed up with…well…holding players “accountable”.

Unfortunately for Rammer, if everyone on this team that deserved to sit for a few games actually did, there’d be quite the long line at the press box buffet. But you have to start somewhere.

Like Pavelec said, there’s just not a lot of games remaining on the schedule left for this team to get this thing turned around. And if we see even just a few more heaping, steaming pile of FAIL dumped on the ice…then the giant flushing sound you hear coming from Philips Arena will be the playoff hopes circling the drain.

By: Bill Tiller – AJC.com Thrashers Fan Blog

179 comments Add your comment

Cornbread

February 2nd, 2011
2:05 pm

That’s what bad hockey looks like folks. The January SO losses and even games against Philly and Dallas – Hell even the 9-3 TOR loss – were not bad hockey. Last night was unacceptable.

There are far too many to blame than singling out any one player. But, Bogosian’s mistake was horrible and he telegraphed what he was wrongly going to do as soon as he crossed the blue-line. Young D-men learn 2 on 1’s early on and why the number 3 draft pick in his 3rd NHL season made such a rookie mistake is mind boggling. Still, that there was not a forward in position to cover for a flailing Hainsey is just as egregious. But, at that point it hardly mattered.

Kane Little Stewart were the only line to show any life. Even still, Kane turned it over in his own end more than anyone – rust. That they, the one line to rarely create a cycle, were the only line to regularly do so is telling. Peverly has been a big question mark since mid-December. 1 goal, -5, and 6 shots in his last 5. He and Ladd need to be split. Bergfors was held accountable like he should have been but has once again reverted back to the soft Sweede. Ladd, where are you? Cormier and Burmistrov – invisible. Big Buff thought he was still at the All-Star game and was going to be allowed to waltz in all by himself uncontested.

The forwards that actually played decent in their limited roles were Stapleton, Thorburn, and yes, Modin. The only D-man – Meyer, who at least tried to implement the Thrashers’ system of engagement.

Tobias Enstrom is one of the best D-men in the game. He’s out for only a couple of more weeks. You have a light schedule. Suck it up and play harder than those below you.

I’m still optimistic about this team because I’ve seen how well they can play even in losing. It is February though. They can not afford to have bad games against teams like the Islanders. The bright spot is that they have 10 more chances this month to make up for it. Another game or two like that this month and you’ll see the SOB in me.

Trixie (Rawhide's Secretary)

February 2nd, 2011
2:06 pm

Mr. Joe Friday – Your 12:43 pm post has been freed from Blog Purgatory.

It was nice to meet so many of you all last night…especially that hunky Mr. Smoothie :wink: . Thrash was a perfect little birdie, too. I hope to get back to another game soon, but Mr. Rawhide says I can’t go again because of how the game turn out with me in attendance. :cry:

He thinks I distracted the players

BMF

February 2nd, 2011
2:07 pm

We could not even bring the puck up the ice last night. We have the whole team circling around our own net, trying to set up some cute passes just to bring the puck out of our zone and into the neutral zone, the Isles wingers basically just stood there and stick-checked us. Like they were toying with us. We couldn’t even skate out of our own zone. Pathetic. We couldn’t even change lines very well, seems like every time we did were were all the sudden on the wrong end of an odd-man rush. And did we hit anybody, I mean, anybody at all? This team is so soft. Guys I think are playing ok: Kane/Little/Pavs/Thorburn. Guys who are just going through the motions: Peverley/Ladd/Antropov/Oduya/Modin/Bergfors/Stewart/Cormier. Guys who are flat out killing the team with their play lately: Bogosian/Buff/Sopel/Burmy. Last night’s game was atrocious. Why was Boulton scratched again? Can Boulton play defense? At least he might scare some other people off the puck as a D-man, because the likes of Sopel and Hainsey and Meyer don’t scare anybody. We’re not going to out-skill anybody on the ice, so we need to start out-working and out-hitting every team we play.

Matt

February 2nd, 2011
2:17 pm

Bogosian… dude came into the league at 18. I think he should have spent a few years in the AHL honing his skills and getting lots of ice time. Of course, our team lacks any kind of veteran depth…

Kane… I like his game, but he also came into the league as a teen, as well as Burmistrov.

We’ve got three key players on this team that aren’t old enough to buy a beer (or at least, in the vicinity).

Not every 18 year is Sid Crosby… these kids need time to develop their game and take on responsibility.

This team needs to veterans. It’s too young. We made the playoffs with one of the oldest rosters in the league a few years back. Fortunately as a team, we got much younger, but now I look through the program and can’t help but think we’re TOO young now.

We’ve got a large stockpile of young talent in our organization. I think it’s time we stated looking into deals for proven veterans with something left in the tank (think Slava Kozlov when he first got here). We need to balance out all these young guys on the teams with some deep leadership.

When your best forwards are Andrew Ladd, a couple teens and a waiver claim (Rich Peverley), your offense needs help. Look, I think Pevereley and Ladd are terrific additions to this team and I want them to continue playing in Blueland most definitely, but they’re hardly the type of offensive talents that opponents spend a little extra time planning for.

As always (it seems), this team has no identity.

World Be Free

February 2nd, 2011
2:22 pm

So I am throwing the responsbility back on the coaching staff to fix this mess. That’s their job-this group has already proven it can win, somehow just gotta get back to where they were. If that is possible.

No rumors out there on a possible Trhashers’ deal, so for now we go with what we have. If we can stomach that.

Smoothie

February 2nd, 2011
2:27 pm

Perhaps a couple of our hard-working lads such as Kane, Lits, Stewy, Thorbs etc went to Ramsay to complain about Ladd? He’s certainly not playing well, but he’s hardly demonstrating any leadership on the ice. Does he ever talk to somebody else about what they did wrong? Hell, he has about half a dozen chances every game to advise Peverley to stop floating stupid lazy cross-ice passes or deferring looks from the slot in favor of taking it wide.

Our alternates are both from Chicago now with Toby on the shelf and none of them are leading by example nor chirping it up on the ice. Buff looks completely demoralized as soon as his first shot is stopped and he and Oduya don’t seem to have a lot of comfort with one another. Are the youngest players now looking to Ramsay to call out the leadership core that is not leading nor producing?

Why are Peverley, Bergy and now Ladd exempt from forechecking? At least Stapleton, Cormier and Thorburn try to cycle the puck, they’re just not extremely efficient yet, but they generated chances early in the first period. The effort is there on the bottom lines where the talent is minimal and the talented players are stuck in ruts or the supposed leaders aren’t really doing anything to rally the troops.

Antropov is working harder and trying his best but his lumbering frame can only do so much without any talented / experienced linemates. You can’t have Modin on the same line with Nik nor can he be saddled with two grinders like Thorbs and Boults or Cormer. Good to see Rammer move Antro to C on the 2nd line to actually play with some skilled players.

Eventually, Pevs will get his act together and go back to the 2nd line. I think it might be a good idea to let him play RW and tell him to shoot the puck and drive the net rather than try to create like a 1st line C which he certainly isn’t. I think eventually a 2nd line of Kaner-Antro-Pevs might be pretty good if Kaner doesn’t fall prey to thinking he’s good at anything besides shooting, chasing, cycling and battling along the boards.

VOLinATL

February 2nd, 2011
2:29 pm

Was working late, so didn’t see it, but Dan Kamal was pretty hard on the team when I was listening to the game in the 3rd period while driving home. Will be there tomorrow night, but if they put on another lousy no-effort game, that will likley be it for me for the season. Life is too short to keep banging your head against the same was season after season. I would rather them move than stink year after year.

moriler

February 2nd, 2011
2:29 pm

Tampa has a GM and ownership who are willing to spend the bucks to turn over the roster and get: you guessed it, TALENT on the roster. And Tampa had more talent than we do even last year. Let me recite some names:

Lecavalier
St. Louis
Stamkos

Those three alone mean we’re outskilled by Tampa every night we play them. Go down the roster and tell me you wouldn’t rather have half of Tampa’s guys than our dead slots we’re trying to make work. So go ahead and whine about the system, you fair-weather fan, you, but the reality is that we don’t have the personnel to win even half the time against a team of that caliber. Unless you think Byfuglien is as good as any of those three, that is — and he’s our best player.

Matt

February 2nd, 2011
2:31 pm

I hate to say it, but we could really use an Ilya Kovalchuk right about now…

moriler

February 2nd, 2011
2:34 pm

Someone with his level of skill who isn’t him? Yes, that would be quite helpful at the moment… but if you’re thinking Kovalchuk himself, I am still inclined to say that we’re much better off having made that trade and got rid of him.

Sage of Bluesland

February 2nd, 2011
2:35 pm

“…We’ve got a large stockpile of young talent in our organization….”

We do?! Stop me where we’ve heard this tripe before….You know, the “Five-Year Plan” and the “Legends of Blueland” and all…

It’s funny–but after 10 years of “stockpiling” talent, the draft has generally produced squat for this franchise. The feeder-system is a joke–and always has been (the ’sharing’ of Chicago AHL).

The scouting/drafting has been a joke–always has been.

The talent “development” has been a joke–always has been.

The point of our franchise ‘rushing’ a teen into the lineup when they are completely not ready–but just for “other” reasons (which vary)–is a wonderful point not to be underestimated.

We truly are what we are–the worst-run professional organization I’ve ever seen. What a sad joke. What an abomination.

Blame what you will–and likely everything deserves scrutiny: coaches, players, owners, management…Unfortunately, there are NO easy fixes. No coach in the world could make this talent-barren squad above mere mediocrity.

Of course, it ALL starts at the top. This is why we fail. This is why we have always failed.

This is precisely why you should stop putting your money in their undeserving pocket. This is the ONLY answer to get the league to step in and put a stop to this utter embarrassment.

Matt

February 2nd, 2011
2:36 pm

my in-laws live in south Florida… driving down 75S there are plenty of TB Lightning billboards… their catchphrase is “All In” (you know, like in poker) for this season with images of the likes of Stamkos, St. Louis, Lecavalier on different billboards…

our slogan? “a brutally good time”

while talking about team slogans seems silly, to me it shows a large difference between the two franchises.

One is saying, “we’re doing everything we can to bring you guys a(nother) winner.”

The other says, “come to a hockey game, you might get to see a fight, doesn’t that sound like fun?”

Matt

February 2nd, 2011
2:40 pm

@Sage

I’m saying it’s time to part with that “stockpile of talent” (I agree with your draft comments wholeheartedly) and deal them for veterans with experience. I’d rather have a very talented player in the twilight of his career for a few years that can really contribute consistently before he retires than a bunch of career third line forwards.

Some of our recent first round (usually high) picks… Little, Bogosian, Kane, Burmistrov

All of those guys could be decent pieces, but not a gamebreaker in the bunch. And the guys waiting in the wings in Chicago? They’re all expendable to me. I think it’s time to start packaging these young guys and draft picks because nothing has panned out all that impressively to me at all.

moriler

February 2nd, 2011
2:41 pm

“This is precisely why you should stop putting your money in their undeserving pocket. This is the ONLY answer to get the league to step in and put a stop to this utter embarrassment.”

Wrong. That action is precisely how to get the Thrashers to be sold to someone who will move them to Winnipeg.

Stop pushing your petty revenge fantasies; you act like the owners came and pissed in your cornflakes one morning, when the truth is that they don’t even know you exist. Start working towards how to get new owners who’ll keep the team here — otherwise you’re a second-rate hockey fan who should just relocate yourself.

Joe Friday

February 2nd, 2011
2:41 pm

Pray tell, moriler, what names on the Isles roster are the ones that are more skilled than our guys? What names on the Panthers’ roster are more skilled than our guys?

S.Y.S.T.E.M.

Matt

February 2nd, 2011
2:41 pm

@Sage (one more thing) I 100% agree with you.

moriler

February 2nd, 2011
2:41 pm

Matt: Propose a trade that other teams won’t laugh at, then?

moriler

February 2nd, 2011
2:42 pm

JF: Was I talking about the Islanders or Panthers? No. Of course, we haven’t lost 11 in a row to them either — probably because we’ve got enough talent to beat them. Know your role and shut your hole.

Matt

February 2nd, 2011
2:48 pm

@Moriler, that’s the idea… I guess.

Since we can’t draft for spit anyway, I see no real reason to keep our first round pick this year.

moriler

February 2nd, 2011
2:52 pm

@Matt: Well? Name names. Who’s available for who we’re willing to give up?

I personally think including the first round pick is a rotten idea, because the odds of someone panning out from any later-round picks are so low — and we took Burmistrov last year, don’t forget, and that looks like a pretty solid choice. He’s having some rookie moments, but he’s certainly got the skills and confidence as long as we don’t screw up his mind.

See, here’s the thing though, all those second-raters in Chicago? Other teams know they’re second rate too — you don’t think scouts only come to the NHL games, do you? So what can we get for the second-raters?

Matt

February 2nd, 2011
2:56 pm

Moriler… yes AN Ilya Kovalchuk (i.e. explosive forward), not THE Ilya Kovalchuk (the one that already had one foot out the door for the last three years.)

Matt

February 2nd, 2011
3:01 pm

obviously, we’re not getting a player of Kovy’s skill level with our dregs in Chicago.

Bryan Little and Niclas Bergfors both come to mind as guys that we could part with. I wouldn’t mind parting with Bogosian either (and I think he could fetch a decent ransom). We’ve got four “offensive” defensemen in Enstrom, Byfuglien, Hainsey and Bogosian. I think Hainsey brings effort and a veteran presence. Obviously, Toby and Buff are off the table.

The whole roster is a mess and I’m not an NHL GM. However, I think that SOMETHING needs to be shaken up on this roster significantly. My biggest thing is that we’re too darn young and we need to do something with these players.

What about landing a guy like Jason Arnott? Think that’s a possibility? Eh, probably not…

jimbo

February 2nd, 2011
3:03 pm

ramsey is the problem. He has no motivational ability. Watch him at the games- zero emotion. Listen to his words and comments- He sounds like a clinical psychologist. How in the world can a team needing a win come out of a long break and be completely listless. BECAUSE RAMROD AIN’T A RAMROD.

moriler

February 2nd, 2011
3:07 pm

Bergfors and Bogosian make appealing targets for trades — Little will prove valuable in the future, so I’d prefer to keep him. The problem is, now what can you get for Bergie/Bogo, since teams know what they’re getting out of those two (a malcontent and a messed-up kid who needs time to rework his mind)?

Which is really the whole point of challenging people to name names rather than just say “Something needs to be done”. Too many teams are still in playoff contention right now so there aren’t any bones to vulture over — and getting a rental is a really bad idea. So that means we need to look for a team who’s out of the playoffs, with a solid veteran who won’t be a UFA ’til at least the end of next season, who can help our young guys learn, AND who’s willing to move that veteran for a couple questionable kids.

My list of “available” names looks really short about now, but I’m open to suggestions. Someone else mentioned above, however, that there isn’t _any_ movement going on right now, and that’s almost certainly for the same reasons — too many teams still in contention, and the teams out of contention don’t have anyone anybody wants that they’re willing to get rid of.

Red Light

February 2nd, 2011
3:18 pm

If there is indeed a stockpile of talent in the organization, then why in heaven’s name would you rely upon under 21 players? If Cormier, Burmistrov, Kane and Bogosian are getting key minutes at the NHL level, then that should signify to all that the organization has diddley-squat in Chicago. If Stapleton, Modin and Meyer are on the extended 23-man roster, that also is a tell-tale sign of just exactly what you’re dealing with. The mid-November to mid-December stretch proved this team could play for a 16-game stretch, but it also has proven that it cannot play for an 82-game season.

The system isn’t broken but seriously challenged by the following…simple rhetorical questions:

On how many rosters would both of your top pair of defensemen be leading their team in points?
On how many NHL rosters would Bogosian be getting No. 4 minutes?
On how many NHL rosters would Stewart be a No. 2 winger?
On how many NHL rosters would Peverley be the No. 1 center?
On how many NHL rosters would Ladd be a No. 1 winger?

There are bonafide NHL players here, playing in the correct role:
Hainsey and Sopel (No. 5 and No. 6 d-men)
Oduya as a No. 3.
Buff and Enstrom as the top pair
Thorburn as a checking line winger
Boulton as a fourth line winger
Pavelec as a No. 1 goalie
Little as a second line winger or center
Kane as a second line winger (when healthy)
Mason as a No. 2 goalie (when healthy)

Outside of those 11 players, all others are playing an unfamiliar role in relation to either their talent and/or experience.

In my opinion, and I am guessing a few others here (Sage leaps to mind), this team is three or four NHL players short of a full load.

Joe Friday

February 2nd, 2011
3:22 pm

“Was I talking about the Islanders or Panthers?”

No, but I was and that’s my point, I’m not talking about a team, I’m talking about the S.Y.S.T.E.M. that confounds us. Try to keep up, it’s not that hard.

Coach’s inexperience as a head coach is beginning to show. When’s the last time you saw him make an in game change of the system we’re playing (something commonly done in the NHL, including by the Isle as soon as they got the lead last night).

Pot

February 2nd, 2011
3:25 pm

Yeah, Kettle, that was me.

World Be Free

February 2nd, 2011
3:32 pm

Red Light-comes from years of poor drafting, no development in Chicago and the inability to attract quality UFA on July 1. I swore I won’t talk about Stewart anymore so I have to bite my tongue and not talk about “Tony”.

alex

February 2nd, 2011
3:35 pm

we going nowhere with this owners. i stated this from 2005 up and will continue until they gone with poor Mr don. ladd and buff. looking dis-interesting now because of ownership situation, i am sure positive they they going to sign long lucrative contracts but not in Atlanta bog. is a bust and he is also can’t wait until get ufa status to be free from exile in the “capital of the south”. ram. is brilliant man but what he can do with 41 mil. cap hit talent, and i am afraid he finally given up. so again where the end of tunnel. why every NHL city have no problem to sell team, only Atlanta has. nobody stepping up to buy from this terrible owners. with them in power not make any sense even to analyse the team performance.

moriler

February 2nd, 2011
3:36 pm

JF: It must be heavy to keep moving those goalposts. Your 12:28, which I responded to, mentioned Tampa, and not the Isles or Panthers. Which is why I responded talking about Tampa, and not the Isles or Panthers.

If you think any “system” was behind last night’s loss, you need to learn about E.F.F.O.R.T and what happens when half a team doesn’t put any out.

Matt

February 2nd, 2011
3:37 pm

@Red Light… spot on.

How many NHL roster have three starters in key positions under the age of 21?!?!!

It’s just so depressing… there was a time we had Marc Savard (without post-concussive syndrome), Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk on this team. The future looked so bright.

But hey, we got Angelo Esposito (6 pts -6 in 32 games in the AHL)! *maximum intended sarcasm*

moriler

February 2nd, 2011
3:41 pm

Red Light: That looks about right, honestly. There are other players who would be functional if we had more talent to step up, pick up, and carry the load at the top, but as it stands we’re just outclassed by too many teams. And unfortunately, it’s going to be hard to find someone to trade with — who picks up Stapleton, Modin, and Meyer for anyone who can fill those slots?

World Be Free

February 2nd, 2011
3:44 pm

The total irony about last night?
Last night, we watched an arguably lesser team push us all over the rink for 40 minutes. We can talk all we want about talent, but at the end of the day a good potion of this sport is about effort and desire. Somebody earlier today gave kudos to the Islanders for a game well-played, I totally agree. Throw the Rangers in there too.

Something is missing here, like the players’ pride.

Joe Friday

February 2nd, 2011
3:46 pm

“It must be heavy to keep moving those goalposts”

It’s the S.Y.S.T.E.M. that confounds us, a S.Y.S.T.E.M. that Tampa has played against us to perfection for quite some time, and the other clubs who play it also stymie us with. Why do you think we have success against the Caps? Is it their lesser talent?

Mabye if you’d stop tilting at windmills you might just figure it out . . .

Joe Friday

February 2nd, 2011
3:51 pm

“we watched an arguably lesser team push us all over the rink for 40 minutes.”

No no no, it’s their superior talent that outclassed us, right moriler? No no no, wait, it was our lack of effort, right?

Or mabye we just can’t figure out how to break a freakin 2 man forecheck and neutral zone trap (why do you think the reports yesterday had them working in practice on new methods to pass the puck up ice, I know, to overcome the Isle’s superior talent, right?).

Cornbread

February 2nd, 2011
3:54 pm

There have been a lot of comments on the Thrashers system today and I’d like to offer a few observations.

The Thrashers’ breakout all year has been the best it ever has. The D support and communicate well with each other when they have possesion. A reverse is often called, they D to D it till they get a good look, and they all can wheel it – including Sopel. They have options up the strong side and most times a good first pass is made from the D to one of the two forwards. If a forward gets pinched on the half wall, a linemate is there to cover and support. They also do a good job with cross ice feeds to break the trap. This usually occurs as soon as they get in the neutral zone. I have no problems with any of that and it has been a thing of beauty to watch most of the year.

Where they have at times gotten in trouble – like last night – is when teams heavily forecheck them and pinch a D-man down the wall. The Isles did not play a Tampa-like 1-3-1 last night. They had 2 and 3 forecheckers attacking the whole game. That is Atlanta’s game and they beat them at it with speed and commitment. The Thrashers failed in their own end last night because they did not support each other or have the options on the break-out. The whole game I was looking for the two wingers on the strong side but it wasn’t there. They were running around. This was a complete breakdown of their game. The system was not at fault, the players were for failing to implement it.

Tobias Enstrom was missing here last night like he was in Tampa. He has skill, composure, smarts, and vision. He is the Thrashers’ Quarterback. Against a team like the Caps that are much more wide open he is not missed as much in that area.

When they do get the puck out they must gain the red line and dump it deep if they don’t have a skating lane or open pass. This is how you break a Tampa-like trap. But, it takes commitment and patience. That 1 guy back is there to retrieve the puck while the other 3-4 guys slow the attackers down in the neutral zone or try to force a turnover. The Thrashers did a good job in the 3 OT losses against Tampa this year but unfortunately could not score on their chances that they did create. Most teams will do this. The difference with the Thrashers is that they are not afraid to send a D-man in as a forechecker. It works with overwhelming numbers but if all 5 guys are not committed they get caught or, more likely, just turn the puck back over for an easy break-out the other way.

When it does work is when the Thrashers use their youth, skill, and speed to battle slower D-men they force to turn around. They win the puck, establish a cycle, and maintain possession. They dictate the play in the other team’s end which tires them out and creates great scoring chances. The best line to do this all year has been the Greek Gods – missing Slater hurts. Very little of this occurred last night. What did was usually one shot and done and a quick exit out of the attacking zone like Thrashers of old. What’s that mean? More time in your own end. Not good.

The biggest area of concern I have seen all year is when the other team gains possession and breaks out into the neutral zone. I thought Ramsay and Torchetti would have them playing better here by this point of the season. There is supposed to be a third man high to not only get rebounds but to be able to quickly transition to the backcheck. Far too often – all season – 3 forwards are way too low. This causes the D-men to leave the zone early and not engage the attackers until the forwards catch up which is usually in their own end.

The best teams do not trap or clog the neutral zone like Tampa. Instead, they pressure the breakout with the third man and engage or hold their strong-side D while in the other team’s end. The other two forwards must get back and support at that point while the weak-side D skates out towards center ice. When they are too deep or fail to do so – Peverly, Bergfors – teams can freely skate out of their end with space and speed and face only two or three guys deep in the neutral zone. This has been the biggest reason why the Thrashers give up so many shots. It has very little to do with the quality of their defenceman. You want less pressure on Bogosian? Support him better with your forwards.

The Thrashers have repeatedly played their system well for most of the year. In many of the January losses they may not have gotten the better results they deserved because they just could not score. In losing they still looked good. That has got to be frustrating but at the same time you can’t get down on yourself or question what you have done to get in contention and must instead build off the positive. The last Tampa loss was understandable and forgivable that they failed to play their game. Last night’s loss against the Islanders was not.

World Be Free

February 2nd, 2011
4:03 pm

J/F- no doubt that a lack of a breakout strategy AND lack of a forecheck are the 2 major issues facing this team right now. Toss in just an overall lack of hardwork and you have a team that looks real bad.

Smoothie

February 2nd, 2011
4:06 pm

“Where they have at times gotten in trouble – like last night – is when teams heavily forecheck them and pinch a D-man down the wall. The Isles did not play a Tampa-like 1-3-1 last night. They had 2 and 3 forecheckers attacking the whole game. That is Atlanta’s game and they beat them at it with speed and commitment. The Thrashers failed in their own end last night because they did not support each other or have the options on the break-out”

I’d say this is spot-on. Especially the part about speed and commitment. Throw in a lack of physicality along the boards and some brutal attempts to lamely clear the puck along the wall and there you have it. Gaps b/w forwards and D has got to be better. Too bad this team seems to get away from its system when it gets the lead. It’s almost as though they relax and forget what got them the lead; too much freelancing and concern about scoring. Of course, if Litte’s shot last nite, which came off a beautiful transition feed by Kane, doesn’t ring off the post twice, perhaps we’re not even having this conversation.

Dwayne

February 2nd, 2011
4:19 pm

Would someone please give Ramsey a bottle of water to drink while he is being interviewed??????

Hockey Biltong

February 2nd, 2011
4:21 pm

A brutally good time, was had by all.And I stayed to the bitter end!!!!

Iron League 13

February 2nd, 2011
4:22 pm

Let’s face it…fluuushhhh. I’m not going to tease myself anymore, this team showed a bit of playoff potential over the course of about a month all season and every once in a while they show some of the same (ONCE IN A BLUE MOON). Unless a miracle happens at the trade deadline it’s not going to be pretty.

Here, I’ll give the team the benefit of the doubt and entertain the nearly impossible possibility that THIS ROSTER squeaks into the post-season. What I will not entertain is the possibility that they’d do well unless they were fortunate enough to play against Wash. Put a fork in this one and just enjoy what’s left of the their season. I know you’ll want to tell me I’m wrong about this and I’m being a pisser (fair enough), but I heard that when I called this in the PRESEASON!!! Regardless…

LET’S GO THRASHERS!!!

Always Hoping

February 2nd, 2011
4:28 pm

WBF…….I think it started in the third period at Toronto the night before the St. Louis game. We had the leafs down by 5-1 or something like that. In the third we had to hold on as we were forced to chase the Leafs up and down the ice to hold them off. Ramsay chose not to put some fresh legs in against St. Louis the next night and we’ve been suffering since.

Tom

February 2nd, 2011
4:28 pm

Red Light, great analysis on players playing in the right position.

What really got me thinking is that this would be fixed if the Thrashers used about 2/3 rds of their unused cap allotment.

That is, if the team engaged in the league and had the payroll that is expected of a contending team of 52-54 million, the team would have fixed their holes in the line up.

Fan from Carolina

February 2nd, 2011
4:59 pm

Hey Matt, I hate to say this but Tampa has 3 starters 21 and under. Stamkos, Hedman, and Tyrell. Hard to believe Downie is only 23. Seems like he has been around for awhile. Also Carolina has 3 starters 21 and under in Skinner, Boychuk and B. Sutter. Age isn’t the problem with the proper mix of veterans like Staal and Cole. Yeah. Bogo was rushed too fast but Kane was not. I still think Bogo can be a good NHL defenseman if allowed to ’start over’ in a new system with fewer minutes.

Fan from Carolina

February 2nd, 2011
5:01 pm

Tom, exactly as many have said before. Just think of the quality players that could be wearing Thrashers uniforms right now if the cap space was utilized. It boggles the mind.

Tom

February 2nd, 2011
5:13 pm

Okay kids, I just saw this on the Thrashers Facebook Page:

We are proud to announce our partnership with Huggies and the Every Little Bottom Campaign!

After last nights performance they may need to form a partnership with Depends for those in the stands.

http://www.facebook.com/AtlantaThrashers

Red Light

February 2nd, 2011
5:55 pm

So, according to C-Viv’s latest post, Peverley skated on the 4th line today in practice.

glovesave29

February 2nd, 2011
5:55 pm

JF – The Lighting play a system that eats ours alive…well, that and having much more talent than us. There are teams that play a certain style of game that overcome an opponent when it makes no sense that it should happen. Last year we dominated Philly – a SC finalist. The Oilers back in the Gretzky / Messier heyday struggled against Winnipeg while hammering the rest of the league. Things like that just happen.

If we don’t start forechecking and make teams work the entire 200 feet, these next 30 games are going to be pretty damn painful. You cannot expect to stop a team that was given from their goal line to center ice a free reign to pick up momentum.

We also get suckered into protecting the weak side and leave the near side and slot wide open. If the puck is in the corner, the strong side D should attack (without crossing the goal line) and the other D play the near post – NOT THE FAR POST! Make it harder to thread a pass into the middle, and let the trailing center cover the slot / far post.

As much as I hate it, a dump and chase will help now and again and take away this teams predictability. Right now we are like the freshman quarterback who stares at his intended receiver for the entire play.

Sage of Bluesland

February 2nd, 2011
6:15 pm

“…I know you’ll want to tell me I’m wrong about this and I’m being a pisser (fair enough), but I heard that when I called this in the PRESEASON!!!…”

No–I would say you were sage-like with that prediction…Even I thought the pretend-new GM and new coaches would bring us to consistent mediocrity….I know, I know–I was being a hopeless dweamer on that one….

(I’ll trust my instinct from now on…and expect nothing but the worst as long as this ownership and Don Waddell have anything to do with this abomination of a franchise…)

thrasherdawg

February 2nd, 2011
6:15 pm

It’s simple, we need more talent and ownership that cares. Don’t see why we couldn’t get 13,000 fans to spend 10 k each and let’s buy the frik’n team.