Three and a half years ago, early into the 2007-08 season, the Atlanta Thrashers traveled home from Philadelphia after losing to the Flyers 4-0. The loss was the sixth straight to start off the new campaign and it was also the second time they had been held without a goal that fall.
But before they dropped the puck on game number seven two nights later when the New York Rangers were in town, the organization had made one major change…firing head coach Bob Hartley.
The move came the very next morning after that loss in Philly and to little surprise to many. “He simply had lost the locker room”, many insisted, while some said he was simply a pre-lockout coach trapped in a post-lockout world. Others, myself included, just simply disagreed with the move.
Whatever the case, coach Bob became the second Thrashers coach to be shown the door, following Curt Fraser four years before.
In the wake of Hartley’s dismissal, I opined here the final judgment of whether or not the move was the right call would ultimately be decided by who replaced him and how the team finished. As we all know, there was not real “replacement” for the rest of the 76 games that season, instead Don Waddell simply added “head coach” to his “general manager” title. The team then finished 34-40-8 and in 14th place in the Eastern Conference.
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to whether firing him was the right call, but Hartley was held accountable for the 0-6 start to the season following first round playoff sweep six months prior.
Mr. Anderson, meet Mr. Hartley…Mr. Hartley, Mr. Anderson
Fast-forwarding to last spring… newly named general manager Rick Dudley announced that he had let go John Anderson and his entire coaching staff after just two seasons. After many successful years with the Thrashers AHL affiliate in Chicago, Anderson led Atlanta to records of just 35-41-6 and 35-34-13.
One of the main reasons for that firing, Dudley said, was because the organization felt they had assembled a team capable of contending for a playoff spot but the job simply did not get done. Thus, Anderson was held accountable and he was shown the same door Hartley was two and a half year prior.
Mr. Ramsay, meet Mr. Hartley…Mr. Hartley, Mr. Ramsay
And now, as much as I hate to say it, a time for accountability has come once again in Thrasherville. The exit door reserved for Thrashers head coaches should once again be unlocked and Craig Ramsay should be asked to follow behind Anderson, Hartley and Fraser.
I don’t come to this conclusion easily, to be sure. Like so many others last summer I was thrilled to learn that Dudley had tapped the long-time assistant for his first head-coaching gig. He’s a solid hockey man with a very good head on his shoulders and it seemed as though Dudley has pulled off a minor coup in not only bringing him in, but also John Torchetti from the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
I was fortunate enough to interview Ramsay last summer and was very impressed with his belief that his main job here was how to teach these players how to be smart out on the ice. But the teacher doesn’t seem to be getting through to his pupils. And given how they’ve lost so many times in the same fashion lately…completely falling apart in the latter stages of the game…it’s apparent he doesn’t have the ability to properly handle the class.
That sound of rushing water wasn’t Niagara Falls
After last night’s 4-1 loss in Buffalo, which followed a disastrous 5-3 loss to Edmonton last Saturday, Ramsay’s Thrashers have played to a record of 6-15-5 since December 20. In calendar year 2011, they have won exactly three times in regulation and for the month of February they are an abysmal 1-7-1.
Coaches get fired if those types of records come at the beginning of a season.
Should Craig Ramsay be fired at this time?
Total Voters: 470
These Thrashers have now lost four consecutive without even the benefit of an overtime consolation point. In each of those defeats they have lead or been tied in the second half of the game or later. The last time they lost four games in a row was just prior to the 3-2 win over the New York Rangers two Friday’s ago. The point gained via a 4-3 OT loss in Carolina was the only one earned during that particular stretch of losses.
The offense has been…well…offensive lately, scoring but nine goals during the four game slide. If not for Andrew Ladd it would be only four. As for the defense, well they should be building statues of them to place outside of Philips Arena. I can think of no better tribute to illustrate just how they perform in front of Pavelec’s net.
Last night’s loss followed the same pattern as so many that preceded it. The Thrashers again found themselves in a close game late in the second period, tied 1-1 thanks to Andrew Ladd’s power play goal, but a Sabres goal with just 68 second left before the second intermission was followed by another just 30 ticks of the clock later. It was the sixth time this season that they’ve allowed two goals in 39 seconds or less.
Just a buck fifty-four after the break it was 4-1 and the great whooooosh-ing sound you heard coming from western New York was not emanating from Niagara Falls. Rather it was the sound of yet another effort flushed down the drain and quite possibly their playoff hopes as well.
As was the case in Dallas last month, where a 1-1 game in the second became a 6-1 loss…and the last time Toronto was in town and a one-goal game in the second became a 9-3 route…and the 2-2 game against the Flyers entering the third period which tuned into a 5-2 loss…and a 2-2 game in Pittsburgh halfway through the second that soon became a 6-3 defeat…and of course that 3-1 lead early in the third last Saturday that dissolved into an embarrassing 5-3 loss to the worst team in the league…once again the Thrashers played just good enough to last until their all-too-usual collapse.
You could almost smell it coming after Paul Gaustad put Buffalo up 2-1. We in Thrasherville have become very familiar with that aroma lately.
Time to light the Torch in Atlanta
This team is the very definition of fragile as all it takes is one bad turn to cause them to crumble. It’s been that way for two months now and coach Ramsay has failed to address it properly. He doesn’t have the ability to properly motive this bunch, nor can he make the necessary adjustments in games to counter those made from the opposing bench.
Is the cause for the Thrashers fall in the standings solely his fault? No, absolutely not. These players give up too quick, take too many shifts off and certainly deserve their fair share of scorn as well. Some will point injuries to key players while and insist things would be different had they been healthy. Others will point to what the good coach was given to work with this season and ask why he should bear the brunt for it.
But, as they say, you don’t normally fire players. And here in Thrasherville, general managers don’t get fired either…they just get promoted to team president after a decade or so of futility.
And given the way this season has melted into yet another craptacular fiasco, whether it be deserving or not, Craig Ramsay’s time to take the fall has come. To have him remain and the team continue it’s death spiral from atop the conference standings last December towards Lotteryville possibly this spring would indicate the organization is accepting failure and unwilling to do anything about it.
Not a good sign to give to an already skeptical fanbase, let alone any potential new buyer.
The next time we see Rick Dudley should be when he thanks Rammer for his service, wishes him nothing but the best, reminds us all that it wasn’t all his fault…then introduces the next head coach for the Atlanta Thrashers, John Torchetti.
We can then only hope that the head coach’s exit door can at least stop swinging before we begin to think he needs to be shown it too.