Don Waddell has a plan; Is this where we came in?

The two constants in Atlanta hockey since for nine seasons: Don Waddell and the Thrashers' logo.

There have been two constants with the Thrashers since 1998: Don Waddell and the logo.

Eleven years, nine seasons, 16 goalies, three coaches (not including himself twice between firings) and one lone playoff berth after his hiring, Don Waddell is sitting at a table in his office, doing research.

“One, two, three . . .”

He’s counting team logos on the cover of an NHL reference book.

“Four, five, six . . .”

Seven. Only seven other NHL general managers have been in their respective jobs as long as Waddell.

Three run teams that have won Stanley Cups (Detroit, New Jersey, Carolina). Two have been in the finals (Buffalo, Washington). One made the playoff seven straight seasons (St. Louis), the other four straight (Nashville).

And then there’s the Teflon Don.

“I put myself in good company,” he said, managing a smile.

He’s employed. He’s fortunate. He knows that.

More than likely, if he worked in a bigger hockey market and for owners who cared about the sport and maybe something other than the next court hearing, he’d be out of work. So you could say heading an after-thought of a franchise has its benefits.

But I had to ask: Aren’t you surprised you still have a job?

“Not at all,” he said. “We’ve had to deal with a lot of adversity here . . .” And he went on to talk about the usual setbacks: Dany Heatley, goaltending, trades, ownership squabbles and certainly payroll limitations.

The Thrashers ended this season with the NHL’s lowest payroll, less than $42 million for most of the year. The league salary cap: $56.7 million. Twenty-four of the other 29 teams were north of $50 million.

Throw that out the next time somebody with the Atlanta Spirit says, “We care.”

“Youth is where it’s going to be with us,” Waddell said. “Our situation isn’t a salary cap. It’s a budget cap. We’re no place near the salary cap.”

But the draft is in two weeks, free agency begins thereafter, and Don Waddell has a plan. I’ve lost count how many this makes.

The Thrashers finished the season strong last year. But it’s dangerous to get drunk off relative meaningless wins and Waddell knows that. He also realizes the problems haven’t always been about payroll. Sometimes it’s been draft picks. Sometimes it’s been free agency. But it’s always been him. His players, his coaches, his plan, and he has yet to build a winner.

Why should anybody believe he is capable?

“We definitely have a core to build a winning team,” he said.

But are you capable?

“Absolutely. I’ve won at every level I’ve been at. There’s no difference.”

Well, there’s at least one. He hasn’t done it here. Wins with the Orlando Solar Bears don’t carry weight in Atlanta. They don’t even carry weight in Orlando any more.

He had a plan in year one. Build with speed, an attacking style and steady goaltending. Almost every major decision backfired: drafts, goalies, coach.

In year three, he shed some veterans he should have kept and went with youth. Another step back. After the lockout, he spent to the cap. But with playoff hopes on a respirator in 2007, he got desperate and shed draft picks and Braydon Coburn in deadline trades to get in. That worked until the team was swept in the first round.

“We had to blow it all up again,” Waddell said.

Operative word being: again.

“I think we’re real close to breaking out of it,” he said.

Same optimism, just fewer believers.

He knows the importance of this summer. Ilya Kovalchuk’s decision on whether to re-sign here depends on Waddell bringing in another top forward (at least). Without Kovalchuk, the team doesn’t win. Without winning, hockey won’t grow in Atlanta. With neither of those things, Waddell might actually lose his job.

Or maybe not. I’ve stopped assuming.

Waddell talks about his other responsibilities for ownership. A lot of non-hockey stuff.

“Maybe some GMs, the only thing they have to worry about is wins and losses,” he said. “We’re trying to win games here but were also trying to run a big business.”

But Don . . .

“I know — fans don’t care about the business side. I understand that. We’ve got to win.”

But 11 years later, he’s sitting with an exclusive group. Even if in a folding chair.

CHARTING THE MISERY

The Thrashers have the worst composite
won-loss percentage of any NHL team
since they came into the league in
1999-2000. Here’s the bottom five
courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau:
W-L-T/OTL Pct.
Chicago 296-323-119 .482
Tampa Bay 294-329-115 .476
NY Islanders 297-345-96 .467
Columbus 247-325-84 .441
Atlanta 273-367-98 .436

87 comments Add your comment

Bob

June 9th, 2009
4:49 pm

“Same optimism, just fewer believers”

Yep, it’s mind boggling to think that there’s actually some fans left (albiet a handful) who don’t understand that he’s the cause behind all of the woes.

Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. So after he led this club to the worst record in the league in the past 10 years, we’re going to expect that he’s going to do better this year? Next year? Yeah right. Kovalchuk is so gone.

Aaron

June 9th, 2009
4:54 pm

Good article, Jeff – good writing.

Jeff Schultz

June 9th, 2009
5:03 pm

Karl Palutke

June 9th, 2009
5:06 pm

If the Atlanta Spirit were to take all the cash they spend on attorneys and put it into scouting and player development the Thrashers would be winners right now. Don Waddell needs to go, too, but the Thrashers are doomed with the current group of children owning the team.

Jeff Schultz

June 9th, 2009
5:07 pm

BOB I guess he gets points for resiliency. … On Kovie: Yeah, I’m inclined to think he’s gone. I know he loves living here and part of him might kind of like being in a non-traditional market where he’d be hounded all the time. But that said, he absolutely wants to win and I just don’t see the Thrashers taking a huge leap (and it would have to be huge) this year. But we’ll find out.

AARON: Thanks.

Jeff Schultz

June 9th, 2009
5:08 pm

KARL: Can’t even imagine what their legal bills come to. But yeah, it’s probably worth a first- or second-line center.

gcs

June 9th, 2009
5:40 pm

I love that you put “THIRD”. lol

bfred

June 9th, 2009
5:45 pm

I’ll respond to the headline – of course the Thrashers are viable here if fans believe there’s hope of a winner. This is not rocket science.

Darkhorse

June 9th, 2009
5:48 pm

Jeff-What’s the latest on the Spirit group’s court battle? Last I heard the judge was hearing arguments on $$$$ amounts for both sides and would rule in early summer.

The Dust

June 9th, 2009
5:57 pm

Sadly, my Thrashers are as good as retracted and or shipped off to Canada. Kolvy is gone. Don Waddell is the worst GM in the history of the NHL, period. The worst thing that ever happened to sports in Atlanta is the Atlanta Spirit Group, which has yet to get out of a court room.

Sad.

World Be Free

June 9th, 2009
6:00 pm

Interesting how Tampa Bay has the 4th worst record since 1999.

They won a Stanley Cup during the same period!

Ogie Olglethorpe

June 9th, 2009
6:01 pm

Jeff, write more hockey stories-please

Smitty

June 9th, 2009
6:04 pm

Jeff,
I kind of wish the AJC would have covered the Thrahers with this kind of scrutiny in the past. Perhaps articles such as this would have given cause to the ASG to consider their stance on the Thrashers with a little more concern. I know you have been critical of the Thrashers and their management in the past but i just wish it would have been on a more frequent basis. The NHL can succeed in ATL but only if ownership steps up and puts a better product on the ice. How many other cities with the exception of Toronto and a few others would support a team with a history similar to the Thrashers?

BugKiller

June 9th, 2009
6:05 pm

This makes me so angry that it drives me to tears.

I love hockey.

Let me let you in on a secret, Jeff: I love hockey MORE than college football.

But I’ve stayed away for a year and a half, ever since the team Teflon Don gutted and put together quit on their Stanley Cup Champion Coach.

I don’t blog. I don’t write. I stay away.

As long as Don Waddell has a job in Atlanta, I will stay away. And I LOVE HOCKEY.

I love hockey because it is the most graceful sport played by big men who shouldn’t be graceful.

I love hockey because it is the GREATEST spectator sport ever devised by man. No Guy in the Red Hat stepping on to the ice, as he steps on to the field Between the Hedges here in Athens, to disrupt the flow for television timeouts.

Football is best watched at home.

Hockey is a full, live, and in person experience that is best taken in, full, live, and in person.

I love hockey. But I hate Don Waddell. And I hate Gearon. And I hate the Atlanta Dis-spirit.

And I hate, hate, hate that greedy socialist-capitalist, Ted Turner, for bringing this team hear and then abandoning it to corporate ownership.

BugKiller

June 9th, 2009
6:09 pm

Oh, and Jeff… Don Waddell is more than just an abject failure in Atlanta.

Remember what his “eye for talent” did to USA Hockey not too long ago?

The man is horrible. He is absolutely terrible.

I can guarantee, just through sheer force of common sense alone, that if the Dis-Spirit actually fired this moron, they’d get AT LEAST 1,000 new orders for season tickets.

Just by firing this idiot and showing that they care even “that” much.

ChippersLoveChild

June 9th, 2009
6:17 pm

Finally reason for optimism with the Thrashers and we get another garbage piece by Jeff Schultz… Why not write a story about the young stud Bogosian, or an update on Kovy and his contract status, or the possible free agents we will try and target, etc. etc… no just write negative garbage… How many negative Thrashers pieces can you write? Certainly more than the GMs with a longer tenure than Waddell… He’s actually off to a good start this offseason, this wasn’t necessary.

Hijacker

June 9th, 2009
6:31 pm

Jeff, we need more voices like you. We need a friggin mass amount of them. The media has to play an important in the effort of toppling Waddell.

R. Stroz

June 9th, 2009
6:37 pm

Schultz – From your interview or any other contacts, do you get the feeling ownership will wake up and put some money and effort into the franchise?

Do you think ownership will change their “business model” from a low expense hope to get lucky strategy to an invest in the product to increase revenue strategy?

LAC

June 9th, 2009
6:39 pm

don waddell is THE BIGGEST LYING PIECE OF$HIT I HAVE EVER SEEN !

This man does not know a frozen pond from one that is NOT !

He is STUPID STUPID STUPID, and he should have been FIRED after
season three, period.

What in the HELL can this THING do to justify him keeping his job ?
Not one DAMN thing. BTW, GOOD Artical Jeff, I want SOMEONE at ajc to ask the BUM, well don, a lot of our bloggers are calling for you to be let go or resign, what is your response to that issue ?

The guy is destroying NHL hockey in Atlanta and has kept this team from WINNING because he has ZERO clue as to what the hell is is doing.

I have not been to a game in person in Atlanta for two seasons, now because of my dislike for don waddell and I DO NOT plan on a return until the IDIOT LIAR is terminated once and for all and the poison he has spread through the franchise is gone with him.

He is a disgusting lying human being who says he loves this team, well don is that is so, then do something for the team RESIGN !

After all did he say ANYTHING people, in this artical that would make you think he cares, or give YOU confidence this team will improve ? NO !

We will again be on the CHEAP and # 17 is as good as gone, If he sees Hossa hoisting The Stanley Cup, and sees nothing but lies come from don waddell, he will leave, because if YOU played here or could choose YOUR place to play for a REAL Professional run club who wants to win…
Would YOU stay in Atlanta with ZERO chance at the playofs, let alone dare mention the Stanley Cup and Atlanta Thrashers in the same breath…

Would YOU stay or go someplace where you have a chance TO WIN !

You would leave LEAVE !!!… And so would I. After isn’t WINNING what
it’s all about in professional sports ? But NOT with Atlanta Thrashers !

Brendan

June 9th, 2009
6:42 pm

I think the Islanders had four or five playoff berths since ‘99. They didn’t win any series, though. Columbus just made the playoffs for the 1st time this year. Tampa Bay won the Cup in ‘04, and made the playoffs in ‘06 and ‘07. Chicago made the playoffs twice, I think, since 1999, including this year. Apologies, folks. I really should double-check these.

Getting back to Waddell, I find it kind of “sad,” that Waddell’s response is, “not at all,” to the question, “Are you surprised you still have a job.” Oh, not for the reasons you might think (That Waddell thinks he hung the moon, as a GM. And so forth.) No. What I’m referring to is this: If you asked Waddell, back in 1999, what he would think of a team that went a decade and 9 complete seasons with only one playoff berth and no trips to the Conference Finals, if that team had GOOD OWNERSHIP, and good management, I think he’d say, quite honestly, “No. They aren’t good owners. Their plan isn’t working. They should make changes. Including at the GM position.”

I think that’s what Waddell is trying to convey, quite cryptically. Stop. Can Waddell come out and say, “My bosses are jerks?” Can he? No, he can’t. That’s, perhaps, the one and ONLY thing that would actually get him fired. Clearly, results don’t get this GM fired. And won’t. “7 of 9″ isn’t just a Borg reference, from Star Trek Voyager. That’s how many times this team has finished in the bottom third of the Eastern Conference. But I digress.

Is Waddell surprised he still has a job? No, because he has bad owners. Good owners would have fired him. Therefore, he’s not surprised he has a job. It all follows, quite logically. It’s either that, or he’s clandestinely trying to tell us that, “nobody would be coming here, not with this ownership.” Honestly, that’s what I took away from that response. Maybe, I’m misreading it.

For Waddell to honestly think, “I’m not surprised I still have a job in the NHL,” when other GM’s are getting fired, after 2-3 years, because they never advanced their teams into the CF, is disingenuous. Certainly, on some level, he knows he’s more than just ‘fortunate’ to have a job. I’ve never understood why Waddell wouldn’t seek out a better opportunity, ya know? Doesn’t Waddell want to win another Cup? Can he truly be satisfied with that Assistant GM win with Detroit in 1998? Is his shoes, I’d leave. Although, it might be too late for that. Sincerely, I do hope Waddell can land some other NHL job once his time in Atlanta is through. Just for giggles, I’d like to see what he might have been able to do … with better ownership. Perhaps, the answer is, “Exactly the same.” But if not, I’d actually be happy for the guy to taste some success, real success, somewhere else. And I don’t mean, “one playoff win.” Folks, Waddell is going to eventually get “one playoff win.” He will. The issue will be, can he ever assemble a team, with this ownership, that can advance through 3-4 rounds of playoffs? That’s a tall order for anyone, with the Spirit controlling the purse strings and philosophical direction.

12345

June 9th, 2009
6:58 pm

This is terrible to read. It made me sick to see this man cares nothing about the fans or the team. Why does he keep up this crazy spin,
like Dany Heatley, sure it was awful, but that is not why this team is terrible, is it ? Don Waddell is the reason !

No sir it is Don Waddell and these owners. To read this artical
and see what we need on the ice and see we are resigning the same players who played here last season and we were losers, I have no hope.

Maybe it is best to sell and move the Thrashers to a city where winning is important, to a city where they will not tolorate Don Waddell for
a split second… Because we will never have a winning team here and Don Waddell is the biggest problem… And he should be concerned about winning, let the owners worry about the money side, a GM has no business dealing with that, Oh, But we are Atlanta with childish owners and a GM who, well is so outclassed by any other GM, even our bloggers could preform better as Thrashers GM than Don Waddell…Go Away Don Please !

Jeff Schultz

June 9th, 2009
7:04 pm

DARKHORSE — judge heard arguments. Hasn’t rendered a decision yet. Could be imminent. Or not. How’s that for going out on a limb?

THE DUST: Maybe if they re-design the penalty boxes as jury boxes, the owners might care more about the games. What do you think? Hmmmm.

WOULD BE FREE: I know. But if you look back, there were at least 2 or 3 years where Tampa actually had a worse record than the Thrashers.

OGIE: I’ll do what I can.

SMITTY: I think I’ve always had this kind of scrutiny. And we’ve had (I think) pretty solid beat coverage, actually. Obviously Custance was terrific. Hated to see him go but it was a great move to The Sporting News. You might be addressing more the AMOUNT of coverage, and I feel your pain. But fortunately online there’s NO space limitations, unlike in print. So I can blog hockey every day now if I think it’s worthy. That’s the good thing.

BUGKILLER: Ted Turner brought hockey back and built an arena here so I wouldn’t blame him. But yeah, unfortunately that Turner-Time Warner thing started the devolution.

CHIPPER’SLOVECHILD: I’m assuming because of your handle, you’ve got some anger issues you can’t let go of. So I’ll move on.

HIJACKER: Thank you. Have you met Chipperslovechild?

STROZ: No. Other than Don telling me he’s “hoping” to increase his budget by $5 million, which would be enough to bring in a top-6 forward. But Thrashers will still be in bottom third in payroll (easily) and I’m certain priorities by ownership will remain to limit the financial losses, not do what it takes to put the best product on the ice — whether that’s players, scouting, everything.

BRENDAN: Yeah, the separation from the teams isn’t just with the won-loss record.

Jeff Schultz

June 9th, 2009
7:08 pm

12345: Actually, I’ll say this for Don. He does care. He does want to win. I’m not saying he has been successful, obviously, but there’s no question in my mind he wants to succeed. I’ll never forget seeing him after his U.S. Oly hockey team was eliminated in Italy. He got choked up and had to walk away before he answered questions. Trust me, he wants to win. But wanting and doing are two different things.

wplett

June 9th, 2009
7:11 pm

If DW worked for me, he would have been fired years ago. This is one of the worst excuses for a hockey franchise in the NHL. Poor management from top to bottom. I feel sorry for a star like Kovalchuk who has to spend 1 more season with this lousy team. I think most serious hockey fans would be shocked if he stayed here, especially if DW was still running the show. Look for DW to throw him away at the trade deadline. If that happens, I wouldn’t be surprised to see us lose yet another NHL franchise, thanks in large part to the ineptitude of DW.

Smoothie

June 9th, 2009
7:29 pm

Jeff, would u say his hope is to add $5M to the already self-imposed cap of $43-44M (their hit was 43.6 last year) or do u surmise the budget has now dropped to $38-39M?

ChippersLoveChild

June 9th, 2009
7:39 pm

Jeff, I do have father issues… maybe you can take a break from writing fluff pieces to mentor me?

World Be Free

June 9th, 2009
7:52 pm

Jeff-thanks for the interaction. This is pretty good stuff, especially when Detroit wins tonight. The season will be over for a few weeks. We do have the draft, the week before free agency and then the feeding frenzy at 00:01 AM on July 1.

One more thing-we are all very thankful that we do not have to weather any more Terrance Moore hockey articles. Terrance doesn’t know a hockey puck from a steak biscuit. But he will be happy when we draft Evander Kane.

Brian Rudisel

June 9th, 2009
9:04 pm

Jeff, I’ve been a pretty harsh critic of your Thrashers writing in the past, but I like what you’ve presented here.

Let me ask rhetorically, how many more offseasons of “we’ll be stronger next year” will I see? How many more 3rd/4th-line centers are we going to put on the top-6 with false hope that they’ll instantly click with Kovalchuk? And this is a critical offseason, and Waddell has to finally figure that his job is on the line. If Kovalchuk goes, I’ll finally have had it if Waddell doesn’t take a pink slip.

But even after 11 years, we have to be realistic. Contractually, no other GM can save the team any better or destroy the team any worse than Waddell. The team is what it is, and Waddell will have to fill the missing pieces just like any other GM would have to do. To be fair, the ownership groups this team has seen have not given the GM the resources to make a successful franchise.

I’m by no stretch a DW apologist. If it were practical, I’d want him fired right now, but with Kovy’s contract the critical subject, Don needs to stay put. But I’m sick and tired of people tagging these backhanded insults on him as I’ve seen in so many of these comments. Those people should apply for the GM job, and then you and I can call some moving vans. I hear the Peg wants the Jets back.

Anyway, thanks for this piece. It’s negative, and I’m not a fan of the negative stuff, but whatever pressure is put on Waddell to save this team is good pressure, and your questions and statements did a fine job.

Brian

Smoothie

June 9th, 2009
9:21 pm

True that the hard questions must be asked, but would it kill the sports dept to do a positive feature on the up and coming young gun named Bogosian or the exploits of a fine talent supressed turned sparkplug — I’m referring to the near PPG Rich Peverley — after Casino Nite?? And what about Casino Night and the work done by the Thrashers Foundation in the community?

Just sayin’…

Jeff Schultz

June 9th, 2009
9:24 pm

SMOOTHIE: The Thrashers’ payroll floated around $42 million. DW’s hope is that it jumps to $46 or $47 million.

CHIPPERSLOVECHILD: Sure. Tomorrow go for a 2-mile to clear the mind. On Thursday, drink to scotches on the rock. Then call me Friday for further instruction.

WORLD BE FREE: I will not tell my wife (the Pittsburgh girl) you said the series will end tonight. And right now Pens lead 1-0.

BRIAN RUDISEL: You’re excused for the past and thanks for the present. I never have a problem with people having a different opinion than mine. If everybody agreed with, I’d probably worry. As to the how much longer questions, I don’t know. I honestly believed there was going to be a GM change last year. There were some indications that something was going to happen that I won’t get into, and you may recall ESPN.com even wrote a change was imminent but it didn’t happen. Now, I would say it depends on two things: 1) How team does next season; 2) any potential change in ownership situation.

As for Don and people being “negative” and the budget constraints, let me just this: The budget he is working with now obviously is difficult. But: 1) Every GM in every sports has to work with constraints in some way, shape or form. His job is to build a winner; 2) I firmly believe if the Thrashers had performed better in previous seasons and had a stronger following, they would be generating more wins and more revenue and they would have a bigger budget to work with. So either way, it comes back to him.

Jeff Schultz

June 9th, 2009
9:26 pm

Smoothie — you’ll see player features during the season, not in June when their season is long over. As for casino night, it’s a nice event but they’ve had it every season in the team’s existence. It’s not exactly “news.” But it’s worth noting the money it raises.

Roswell Ed

June 9th, 2009
9:29 pm

Jeff. next time you post could you please make about a subject where you’re not the most frequent poster 5 hours later?

Who is Don Waddell?

http://www.libertarianhumor.com

R. Stroz

June 9th, 2009
9:34 pm

Schultz – Based on your interview with Waddell combined with Kovy’s upcoming contract issue and his end of season comments about the team acquiring some top line talent, did you get the idea Waddell is trying to deflect some of the team’s past poor performance on ownership and postion ownership as the scapegoat if Kovy doesn’t re-sign with the Thrashers?

Smoothie

June 9th, 2009
9:46 pm

Fair enuf Jeff but I was referring to the obvious error of omission w/r/t Peverley. I know the team was out of the playoffs but without Pevs there was no “turn-around” over the last 35 games.

As for the SCF, your wife has got to be feeling pretty good especially after the near miss by HankZ off the post. I’m pulling for the Pens cuz I’m decidely anti-Hossa these days. But thx to him we have Army to keep us entertained.

Jeff Schultz

June 9th, 2009
9:48 pm

Roswell Ed — I’m answering questions. Sorry if that doesn’t blow wind up your shorts.

Stroz — Let me answer that this way: If a GM is dealing with some difficult issues, he’ll almost always make sure you know about them. That doesn’t mean Don doesn’t recognize that mistakes have been made. But yes, there are some things out of his control, and if Kovalchuk leaves because Don can’t spend money to make the rest of the team better, I’d imagine he won’t hide that fact. How’s that?

Smoothie

June 9th, 2009
9:49 pm

Oh yeah, thanx for taking the time to interact with the “diehards”; ur always a class act and good sport even if u r a bit of a “negative nancy”! ;-)

R. Stroz

June 9th, 2009
9:54 pm

Schultz – Thanks for responding. You make reading between the lines “so easy a GM could do it.”

Smoothie

June 9th, 2009
10:09 pm

Mister KENNEDY!!!!

Kennedy…2-0 Pens

Secondary scoring

LAC

June 9th, 2009
10:35 pm

Hey Brian, I’ll take the GM position and do 200% better job in 60 days than waddell has done since he came here.

He is simply put…. Nothing Happening Street TRASH !

He has ruined this team from day ONE. Look at all the other expansion teams of the same time, Nashville, Minnesota, Columbus…

Two have made the playoffs more than once, Columbus was like us with a BAD GM, Doug Mclean, the OWNER finally got wise and fired him and Columbus has been the BETTER for it.

No brian waddell is a LIAR of the highest order and a CAREER LOSER, so stop trying to make him out to be anything less than what I said.

[...] Jeff Schultz | ajc.com – [...]

Eddie Shore

June 10th, 2009
12:21 am

Okay Jeff, time for my annual appeal to bring back Brad McCrimmon, only this time as both coach and GM.

Brad McCrimmon is having a heck of a year as an assistant coach with Detroit. He’s ready for a head coaching job and I’d bet that he’d come back to Atlanta – assuming that Waddell is gone. You have a team at the bottom of the NHL payroll and players like Kovalchuk wondering if the Thrashers are serious about hockey or not. McCrimmon brings instant credibility. Brad is hard-nosed but he gets the players respect, like Bobby Cox does with the Braves, because he has walked the walk, tells it like it is and is genuine. He could get the most out of the talent that we have – maybe even keep Kovalchuk in the fold – and with limited funds that is what you need in a coach.

As to making him GM, why not? He knows talent and certainly could do way better than Waddell. He would develop a vision for the style of hockey that he wants and build the team toward that goal. Hire someone from AccountTemps to do the business tasks that Waddell mentioned, take the money saved from dumping Waddell’s salary, and get that top player to keep Kovy in town.

Brendan

June 10th, 2009
12:29 am

Nice “survival” game by the Penguins. I wish them all the success as they tackle Game Seven in Detroit. That’s a tough hill to climb, folks. The 1942 Leafs and the 1971 Canadiens are the only teams, in the Finals, to win a best-of-seven series from a 2-0 series deficit.

I’ll tell you this … the Penguins were flush against it in the CSF vs. the Capitals in Game Three. It was overtime, and a Washington goal would have made the series, 3-0, Capitals. Letang scored for Pittsburgh. Crisis averted. The Penguins clearly won that series. So, they’ve done this before, and fairly recently. Sidney Crosby is a “centerpiece” of the NHL’s marketing strategy. He’s now one (1) win away from legitimately being compared to many of the sports previous legends. Anything can happen in Game Sevens. Poor officiating? Bad bounces? An untimely slip and fall leading to a breakaway goal? Thems the breaks. This series has had the appearance of the 2003 Finals, where NJ took all four of its games over the underdog Anaheim Mighty Ducks. In 2001, NJ led Colorado, 3-2, but the Avs won Games Six and Seven. In 2004, Calgary led Tampa Bay, 3-2, but lost Games Six and Seven. So, winning the final two games of the Cup Finals is something has been done fairly recently. Good luck, Penguins!

JD

June 10th, 2009
12:40 am

Jeff – any beef I had with you over the Glavine fiasco was just dropped after seeing your “THIRD!” post….hilarious my friend.

I’m not a huge hockey fan but I pull for the hometown Thrashers…it’s so frustrating and sad knowing they (and the Hawks….and the Braves) have an ownership group that doesn’t care. A team’s not gonna be strong for long unless it’s on a firm foundation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there’s hope in the near future.

polskidawg

June 10th, 2009
1:07 am

Great article Jeff – DW is no idiot as some like to suggest. He KNOWS he’s quite fortunate to have a GM job in the NHL. He also knows that he’s done a terrible job “building” this organization and team – regardless or “circumstances” and “restraints.”

I apologize for the overzealous use of quote marks.

BugKiller – I also agree with your first post. I’ve been a huge hockey fan since ‘76-’77 when I first discovered it.

Wayne from AL

June 10th, 2009
1:33 am

Brad McCrimmon for coach?!?! Last season, he ran the practices for Waddell, and the team forgot to show up for 7 pm gametime every night! Let him ruin someone else’s team: like the Red Wings!

B. Thenet

June 10th, 2009
7:29 am

It will take a couple more seasons of winning and the playoffs before I believe Don Waddell is a viable GM.

This is a hockey market, we just haven’t had much of a hockey team for the last decade.

mr. mike

June 10th, 2009
7:45 am

Jeff; excellent writing; when you deign to cover the Thrash; you always give it to the populace “straight”. I’m 100% with Bugkiller; hockey makes college football look like a sily little girl’s game; but the Thrashers have just about killed my interest locally. I’m glued to the Cup Finals; but have steadily gone in last 4-5 years from attending 15 games per season to 12 to 10 to 8 to 4-5. Waddell is the worst GM of any of the 4 major team sports in the US. Kovalchuk will absolutely leave; especially I imagine watching ex-teammates like Savard have great years withe Bruins & Hossa in his 2nd consecutive Cup final.
I’ve never been in better sports crowds than the Thrashers 2 home playoff games in 2007; but Waddell has just murdered this franchise & destroyed that level of fan involvement.

Jimbo

June 10th, 2009
7:58 am

Teflon Don! Love it!

Jeff Schultz

June 10th, 2009
8:29 am

Brad McCrimmon ain’t coming back, people. Besides, you can’t knock the job John Anderson did last season, especially with what he was inheriting. I don’t know what kind of NHL coach he’ll turn out to be. But it’s not easy to get a team to win games that don’t matter, particularly when you’re playing playoff contenders in March and April, but the Thrashers did that. So right now I’ve got to hand it to him.

GaVaHokie

June 10th, 2009
8:35 am

Everything will be just fine everyone… just calm down until at least July 10th. Everyone seems to forget the breath of fresh air that John Anderson has brought to this organization. When have we ever been able to say that our young players are our best players? If Waddell can convince ownership to spend another $5 million like Jeff points out, than we’ll have $21 million to spend when most teams are trying to shed salary.

Jeff… Nashville also lost 4 straight Round 1 appearances, so I don’t see how they’re that much better off. Buffalo can’t hold a roster together to save their life… Drury gone… Briere gone… Campbell gone… and probably Stafford this summer.

And to point out that we were the lowest salaried team at the end of the year… well duh… you’re supposed to dump salary when you’re out of playoff contention in March… Let’s talk about what we got in return for that “loss in salary”. Let’s pay attention to what happens with that Montreal draft pick we got for Schneider. Are you really knocking Waddell for freeing up as much salary as possible for free agency?!