Welcome back for another edition of News and Views. Today, we asked the question: Who will be the next Falcons’ scout to dare step foot in Blacksburg, Va.?
♦ News: Colossal draft bust Jimmy Williams is suspended for a year by the NFL for using some kind of drug.
♦ Why should you care: Because Williams now resides in Falcons’ lore as one of their great day-one draft disasters, along with (you might want to cover your eyes for this): Aundray Bruce, Marcus Cotton, Steve Broussard, Mike Pritchard, Bruce Pickens, Tony Smith, Devin Bush, Nathan Davis, Michael Booker, Reggie Kelly, Bryan Scott … OK, that’s all I can do without falling over. But there is good news. The Falcons will never draft another Hokie! (we can only hope)
♦ Views: It’s scary to think about it, but at one time in 2006 the Falcons had five Virginia Tech players on their roster: Williams, Michael Vick, cornerback DeAngelo Hall, guard Matt Lehr and quarterback Bryan Randall. As it turns out, Randall — who’s now playing in the Canadian Football League — might go through his career with the least amount of baggage. Williams was the “Flounder” of the secondary: fat, lazy and stupid. He was released by a bad Falcons team, then signed and released by a bad 49ers team. To think: The Falcons (who had traded their 2006 first round pick) actually were thrilled to get Williams with the fifth pick of the second round. Rich McKay and Jim Mora gushed about him. They should have known better. Williams was a projected top-15 pick until his stock plummeted at the combine after bad workouts. The other VaTech alums to pass through Flowery Branch: Vick (from franchise savior to disaster); Hall (overpaid, overrated, selfish, lazy, Jim Mora’s best friend); Lehr (played for five teams in eight seasons, was suspended for steroids when he was a Falcon and last year was linked to a federal steroid investigation in Texas; Randall (just loving life as a Winnipeg Blue Bomber). Thomas Dimitroff can go a long way toward ensuring his longevity if he never looks at another Hokie.
♦ News: Thrashers sign goalie Kari Lehtonen to a one-year qualifying offer ($3 million) because they couldn’t trade him and they weren’t going to give him a multi-year deal.
♦ Why should you care: Because it means Lehtonen, after being offered to any NHL team team in trade, will end up competing for the starting goalie job. That seems strange. Also, for as much focus as there has been on keeping Ilya Kovalchuk in the fold — and justifiably so – the biggest key to any hockey’s team’s record is goaltending.
♦ Views: Here’s the problem: General manager Don Waddell (with Ondrej Pavelec and Johan Hedberg already under contract) went to the draft prepared to trade Lehtonen. Maybe even wanting to trade Lehtonen. But with Marty Biron, Nikolai Khabibulin and others available in free agency, the trade market for goalies was unusually dry. “I talked to a couple of teams but I realized on draft day that things would pretty much be status quo,” Waddell said. He then added: “Actually, this could be a good issue. We’ll have good competition between three guys competing for jobs.” Not necessarily. Competition is good. But when a team has an unsettled situation at goalie and it doesn’t know who the starter is going to be, that’s not good. There are reasons the Thrashers made Lehtonen available. While he has undeniable talent, he is often injured, is maturing slower than hoped or expected and nobody is ever quite sure where his head is at. But goalies are a strange lot. Sometimes they mature late — very late. Dominik Hasek? He was waived and available in the expansion draft before he turned into the world’s best goalie in Buffalo in his late 20s and early 30s. Lehtonen is 25. The Thrashers are still waiting.