Lehtonen trade is another blemish on Thrashers’ draft history

Kari Lehtonen has struggled with injury and maturity issues.

Former Thrasher Kari Lehtonen struggled with injury and maturity issues. (AP photo)

When the Thrashers selected Patrik Stefan with their first pick in their first draft in 1999, general manager Don Waddell said: “This is a very big day for our franchise. We’ve made it no secret how we feel about Patrik and what kind of player he is.”

Three years later, when Waddell made Kari Lehtonen the first goalie the franchise drafted with a No. 1 pick, the Thrashers’ GM said: “Our scouts say that he is the best amateur goalie coming out for the draft in the last 10 years. He can make the difference for our team for a lot of years to come.”

Stefan was a bust and is now out of hockey. Lehtonen’s career has been a roller coaster and he is now in Dallas. No deep analysis necessary here.

When Lehtonen was traded Tuesday night to the Dallas Stars, it punctuated the franchise’s largely inglorious draft history, primarily with their early selections. We know that the lifeblood of any team — particularly an expansion club — is the draft. Maybe that’s why we’re constantly checking for a pulse in Philips Arena. This deal comes five days after the team’s best choice, Ilya Kovalchuk, was traded to New Jersey over money.  It comes five years after another top pick, Dany Heatley, was traded in the aftermath of a tragic car crash.

Lehtonen has never reached the heights of Kovalchuk or Heatley. He hasn’t played this season and is coming off back surgery. His immense talent has been smothered too often by injury or immaturity. He was never a favorite of former coach Bob Hartley and was benched during the Thrashers’ lone playoff series.

How desperate was Waddell to dump him? He just traded a former first-round pick for a minor-league defenseman and a fourth-rounder. Given what he got back in the deal, what was the rush? It would be just his luck if Lehtonen ultimately turns into the goalie he envisioned.

The Thrashers’ drafts — compounded by poor player development — have been at the forefront of Atlanta’s problems. Consider: The Thrashers have drafted 12 players in the first round since 1999. Of those, one is out hockey, one is  out of the NHL, four are elsewhere in the NHL, one is at Michigan State and only five are on the current roster: defenseman Zach Bogosian (the absolute star of the group);  forwards Bryan Little,  Evander Kane and Jim Slater, and defenseman Boris Valabik (on injured reserve).

Counting only the first two players drafted by the team every season — generally very early selections — Waddell has drafted 12 players in the first round since 1999, six in the second and two each in the third or fourth. Of the 12 first-round picks, six were among the first four selections. Four of those six are gone: Stefan, Heatley, Kovalchuk, Lehtonen. Only Bogosian and Kane remain.

Here’s the year-by-year breakdown of the team’s first two picks every year since 1999. Players on the current roster are underlined.


Patrik Stefan was the first pick in franchise history.

Patrik Stefan was the first pick in franchise history.

♦ 1999

First (1): C Patrik Stefan: The first overall pick was one of the biggest flops in NHL draft history. He scored only 64 goals in seven seasons and retired two years ago.

Second: D Luke Sellars: Played exactly one NHL game with the Thrashers. A minor-league lifer.

♦ 2000

First (2): RW Dany Heatley: He asked out of Atlanta, was traded to Ottawa and eventually forced a trade from the Senators to San Jose. He’s still a talented played but has been plagued by emotional issues.

Second: D Ilya Nikulin: He has never signed with the team. Still playing in Russia.

♦ 2001

First (1): LW Ilya Kovalchuk: Traded in his eighth season to New Jersey before becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Third: G Michael Garnett: A bust. Mostly played in the minors. Had 24 games with the Thrashers in 2005-06 when the team had injury issues. Now in Russia.

♦ 2002

First (2): G Kari Lehtonen: Talented but was held back by maturity issues and injuries. He’s trying to return from back surgery.

First (30): C Jim Slater: Has played most of the last five seasons in Atlanta, but primarily is a third- or fourth-line forward and hasn’t lived up to the expectations of a first-round pick.

♦ 2003

First (8):  D Braydon Coburn: Developed into a solid defenseman but was traded to Philadelphia in 2007 in an ill-fated deal for Alexei Zhitnik, who helped get the team to the playoffs that year but ultimately was bought out by the team.

Fourth: D Jim Sharrow: In the minors. Traded to Vancouver in 2007.

♦ 2004

First (10):  D Boris Valabik: He has developed slowly. He made the roster this season but is out for the year with a knee injury.

Second:  D Grant Lewis: In the minors.

♦ 2005

Alex Bourret: Another one Waddell would like back.

Alex Bourret: Another one Waddell would like back.

First (16): RW Alex Bourret: He’s arguably as big a bust as Stefan. He has never played an NHL game, was traded twice, released by Phoenix and is now in the Czech Republic.

Second: G Ondrej Pavelec: The Thrashers’ current starting goalie. He has struggled with consistency but that’s not uncommon for a 22-year-0ld goalie.

♦ 2006

First (12): C Bryan Little: He had a breakout season last year with 31 goals. But his production has dropped off to nine goals this year.

Second:  C Riley Holzapfel: In the minors.

♦ 2007

Third: RW Spencer Machacek: In the minors.

Fourth: C Niclas Lucenius: In Finland.

♦ 2008

First (3): D Zach Bogosian: On the team. Should be a staple in the lineup for several seasons.

First (29): C Daultan Leveille: Playing at Michigan State.

♦ 2009

First (4): LW Evander Kane: On the team. He has 12 goals in 50 games and looks like he will be a solid player for several years.

Second: LW Carl Klingberg: Playing in Sweden.

166 comments Add your comment

Asheville Dawg

February 9th, 2010
10:56 pm

todd grantham

February 9th, 2010
11:00 pm

and i am second. but first in the hearts of the Dog Nation.

Asheville Dawg

February 9th, 2010
11:02 pm

It had to happen someday, and of course this is about the dreadful hockey team, the Thrashnots. How Waddell keeps his job is amazing, but for over a decade, he drafts poorly, acquires nobuddies for “star” players and leads one of the most inept teams in all of hockey. Thanks Don and the Atlanta Spiritless Group.

philyraeli

February 9th, 2010
11:03 pm

Obama to Seek Up to $4 Billion Boost for Education, Get your share Get a Medical Assistant Degree from http://bit.ly/a80qrv

Jeff Schultz

February 9th, 2010
11:13 pm

Asheville — Yes. Yes you are.

Jeff Schultz

February 9th, 2010
11:13 pm

Grantham — Can you coordinate a hockey defense too?

JB

February 9th, 2010
11:14 pm

I can’t say that I’m totally suprised by this move. Personally, I think that it will be a good one for Kari, and yet another fumble by the most incompetent GM in the NHL. As Asheville Dawg says, “How Waddell keeps his job is amazing”. I had the pleasure of seeing Kari during his rookie camp with the Thrashers, and if he can bounce back to even a fraction of the goalie he was then, he will be an incredible asset to the Stars. I once hoped that D-Wad would [can] make so many screwed-up mistakes that the ownership would have no choice BUT to fire him, but I now know that that simply will not ever happen. I can only hope that WHEN, not if, the Thrashers are moved out of Atlanta (my prediction is they have one or two more seasons here) that the new owner(s) make a public display of Don Waddell’s firing.

Reid Adair

February 9th, 2010
11:18 pm

“Talented but was held back by maturity issues and injuries.”

That pretty much sums up Lehtonen’s career as a Thrasher.

Now that they’re on a roll with trades, can we someone force a trade of ownership and general manager too?

Darren

February 9th, 2010
11:22 pm

It looks like Atlanta is gearing up, through prospects and draft picks, to take a serious run at taking Chicago’s cap problems off their hands. It’s a good thing Dudley would be on board for that sort of thing.

Trash

February 9th, 2010
11:23 pm

It’s just such a sad history when one HAS to look at it. No thanks. It is galling that Waddell is the one that continues to be behind it all even today.

FlamesFan

February 9th, 2010
11:25 pm

Vishnevskiy profile from the Hockey News:

ASSETS: Has a wealth of offensive potential and the ability to quarterback a power play. Is also willing to play the body.

FLAWS: Every element of his game lacks consistency, especially his overall play without the puck. Lacks size and strength.

CAREER POTENTIAL: Power play quarterback.

So, we get another D who can’t play D.

Dave

February 9th, 2010
11:26 pm

I’m surprised, but moreso by the trade of Kovy. Goaltender has always been a weak spot for the Thrashers, from Damian Rhodes, who they chose instead of Ron Hextall, all the way to Kari “Lettin’-Em-In.” Hedberg has been solid, and Pavelic has his best years ahead of him (I hope). I hope and pray the Thrashers will stay here, but the ownership has got to step up and steer this ship away from the rocks along the shore. Either that, or sell the team to someone who will. In any event, they need to give Waddell a new title, “former” GM, and soon.

Don Waddell

February 9th, 2010
11:30 pm

Wow. I am so good..can you imagine how exciting the Thrashers are gong to be for the rest of this year?..and next..This is why they pay me the big bucks.

You know, maybe I should just coach this thing, too.

Mayor of Winnepeg

February 9th, 2010
11:33 pm

After considering the possibility of Waddell and the Thrashers moving here..

We’ll pass.

Zamboni Driver

February 9th, 2010
11:35 pm

This job sux

Whopper Dawg

February 9th, 2010
11:36 pm

I am a Dawg, Hawk, Falcon and Braves fan and have been since 1966 or there abouts. There is a lot of pain involved in being a fan for most of those fanchises, the Dawgs and for a stretch the Braves being the exceptions to that. However, I was blessed with moving to visit my family for a year in 1975 in Phillie during which they had season tickets to the Flyers which also won the Cup that year, so I am a Flyer fan to this day. Thank God.

Varsity naked dog walking

February 9th, 2010
11:39 pm

One day I hope to grow up to be a Whopper Dawg

Rogie

February 9th, 2010
11:39 pm

It’s amazing to see how few first round picks tend to become franchise players. Take a glance at any year and you will see a lot of players that play no NHL games or just a handful. Some have long careers in the NHL. A few are superstars. The Thrashers problem is throughout the draft — few of their draftees in any year turn out to be solid career NHL players. I can only think of 2 players that the Thrashers drafted after the second round that have made it to their roster recently — Toby Enstrom and Garnet Exelby (who was traded). They have absolutely no talent pipeline to the parent club.

YellerSkeeters Are PeterEaters

February 9th, 2010
11:46 pm

Can Herschel Walker skate … he’s run on ice for US Bobsled, bet he can “walk on water” … we know he can fight!

Sean

February 9th, 2010
11:46 pm

Jeff, get a grip. Lehtonen is not a microcosm for anything except grand hamburglary. Don’t blow it up into a giant glass-is-half-empty piece. Given the situation TODAY, we got a pretty good return. And I’m very happy with the Thrashers recent draft history. They did a lot by bringing in Dudley.

Buzz

February 9th, 2010
11:47 pm

Anyone that would pay Ron Hainsey $5 million a year and balk at paying Kovalchuk double that is apparently retarded.

Matt the Brave

February 9th, 2010
11:47 pm

Jeff, I’m still pretty new to hockey, especially their draft. I’m guessing that it’s not normal for this many players to still be playing in Europe? Specifically the ones that you named that were playing in Euro or Russian leagues, did they play at all in the minors or in the NHL (other than where noted)? If so, that’s not a good track record either. It’s not getting your players pinned down and into the system.

Sean

February 9th, 2010
11:52 pm

@Matt the Brave – The biggest disappointment from our draftees who never signed in the U.S. is Ilya Nikulin. He’s an all-star every year in the Russian league. Plays for Russia in the Olymipcs. For some of them, like Karl Klingberg, they just play over there until they’re old/good enough to make the NHL. That’s what Enstrom did. He didn’t come over until he was like 24 or 25 IIRC.

Sage of Bluesland

February 9th, 2010
11:53 pm

Jeff Schultz (JS) is firing on all cylinders this past week–and he’s stirring up a sheep-storm, too…I love it.

JS was the first to begin to wonder if all was not well in Thrashersland a long time ago–and I believe it all began with that silly playoff “promise” that Waddell made as we were faltering down the stretch one year (my memory has deserted me on when that was?) Of course, we don’t make the playoffs and blustering Donny states he said it on purpose to take the pressure off of the boys…

Sure. The sheep bought it then and, unfortunately, they’re still buying it now.

Oh well, you get what you pay for oftentimes…This is no different. When the sheep applaud the ownership and the GM during the asinine town-hall meeting, do you honestly expect any different result???

You are getting the product you DESERVE. Hey, if you’re simply happy being in the NHL club, then enjoy your fodder-status….You have successfully subsidized the incompetence…Congratulations!

CrazyDiamond

February 9th, 2010
11:54 pm

We are so screwed. GAME OVER.

Kane337

February 10th, 2010
12:07 am

Great article Jeff. Thank you for putting this together. Man, it sure paints a strong picture of how poorly the team has drafted since its inception into the league. It’s sad that the players that were good have forced their way out.

JimmyO

February 10th, 2010
12:13 am

Hey, where is the idiot a.k.a know as ( Thrashville ) ? He always has something derogatory to say about Jeff. Athough he has NO CLUE about hockey. Well thought out article. WADELL HAS GOT TO GO !.

LAC

February 10th, 2010
12:25 am

You are right again Jeff ! When will Kane/Zach/Little and on and on and on want to leave Atlanta ? Answer ASAP ! Who in their right mind would enjoy playing for this bunch of pure IDIOTS, with the constant stink or LIAR waddell ! With NO chance of winning !!! NO CHANCE !!!!

It is just unreal how other teams are run in a professional manner and we are run like some freak show, by a bunch of total FOOLS lead by Mr.Pottymouth himself little coward levenson, oh yes “bruce” My offer still stands, my 4 companies for your ownership spot, who will win in a good old fashion Street fight, You’d get you A$$ kicked and I would take over… But you are just like your other owners little cowards who think this waddell THING is a hockey God, when in effect he has all but destroyed the hockey market here.

What a trade some nobody defenseman who will play what ? Maybe a dozen games and we never hear from him ever again and they all sign… with other teams ! Just sick how this franchise has sunk to the WORST in the NHL. Remember the Commissioner IS watching you and let’s hope you get the boot very soon and lose all your money !

10 yr plan

February 10th, 2010
12:28 am

Jeff,
Great article! Seems to be one constant, our GM Don Waddell. I’m actually okay with this trade which I hope Dudley orchastrated. Any chance Dudley is calling the shots? My perfect scenerio would have DW moved to President of ASG or director of media relations and hire Dale Tallon, former Chicago GM as GM and let him & Dudley re-build this franchise after 11 years of poor results. They did wonders in Chicago. When will Gearon get more involved in the hockey side? He seems to be a better fit than Levenson due to living locally? Keep up the good work!

Want My Floor Seats?

February 10th, 2010
12:33 am

Sage of Bwueswand: Looks like you got some help with the lisp in your posts! Now if you can just learn to come up with some ORIGINAL material for your posts every now and then…..

Cntrl C + Cntrl V can only get you so far in your bloggin life. But I must say you’re making the most of it.

Brendan

February 10th, 2010
12:37 am

ALLL FIIIIIVE of this franchise’s 1st round picks are GONE, just GONE, by its 10th season. You tell me if Atlanta’s franchise knows what it’s doing.

1999: Patrik Stefan, traded to Dallas, for Niko Kapanen and Will O’Neill. I guess Will O’Neill is still here, right?

2000: Heatley, traded to Ottawa, for Hossa and DeVries. DeVries walked in free agency, I believe. Hossa = Daultan Leveille (#29 overall, 2008), Erik O’Dell (via Eric Christenson), Colby Armstrong (Stay tuned, dealin’ Don is about to part ways with him, too. As he should), and Angelo Esposito (the new Kari Lehtonen, Uwe Krupp and Jani Hurme of the organization).

2001: Ilya Kovalchuk, traded for Nik Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, 2010 2nd round pick (think #54 overall), and prospect Patrice Cormier

2002: Kari Lehtonen, traded for Ivan Vishnevski (sp?) and a 4th rounder

2003: Braydon Coburn, traded for Alexei Zhitnik

And can we project 2004’s: Boris Valabik for ?????

What was the purpose of these picks? I want an answer. No, I want a SERIOUS answer. Don’t say, “Don Waddell is like a mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it, and d*mned if he knows what to do with it.”

Folks, let Stendec have his fun. Part of me actually is hopeful that we’re now ‘turning the corner,’ but the other part of me thinks this. And this is straight from my heart. I thought it was the wrong move to pick Lehtonen in 2002. Not because we should have taken Cam Ward instead. If I posted that, I’d be lying. Kari Lehtonen was the top goaltender prospect of his draft year. No, my objection over his drafting was the requisite number of YEARS and YEARS and YEARS it would take to develop him. I felt thennnn, as I still do Nowwww, that we just didn’t have the TIIIIIME to wait for him to be ready.

Flash forward to 2010. Okayyyyyyyy, it’s 8 years later. We’re done INVESTING TIME in Kari’s development. I guess it’s time for some other organization to SWOOP IN and take him from us, with THEIR THANKS to Atlanta for developing him for them. Sheesh. I’m sorry, folks. Even if you believe Kari stinks. The handling of that 2002 draft stinks more. And don’t scream, “But Brendan, without that deal, we wouldn’t have Jim Slater, today. And Jim Slaters … they just don’t grow on trees. You can’t replace them.”

My gosh, what would it have cost to retain Lehtonen? $2 million? He’s back from the surgeries. He’s supposedly this high pedigree goalie. “Don found his man.” Is this, or is this NOT, an admission of FAILURE by Waddell, yet again, in his goaltender decision-making? Yes … or no.

It’s a “yes or no” answer. I can’t wait to hear Waddell’s take on this. When he traded Jason Williams, he said this, “I guess I can’t say we were entirely happy with the player, since we are trading him.” And Williams was merely a ‘try out’ free agent signing. Make no mistake about this, Don Waddell hung his hat on Kari Lehtonen. We were going to sink or swim with him. Guess which one we did?

Well, I’ll give you a hint. Zero playoff wins.

Gang Blue

February 10th, 2010
12:41 am

Whether the team moves or not I expect Waddell is gone. Definetely trying to mop up his mess and give the next GM a chance to fully rebuild. Probably see him on ESPN wearing a headset next season…

Want My Floor Seats?

February 10th, 2010
12:46 am

GREAT TRADE!! How can ANYONE find fault with dealing Lehtonen anywhere for anyone who can actually get out on the ice and contribute? Has a screwed up back (not his fault), hasn’t played a Thrashers game all year, is about to be a RFA and sucks down $3 MILLION/yr.

Yeah, “we are so screwed” now…..Guy hasn’t played a friggin game ALL YEAR LONG. Now he’s gone and it all falls apart…LOL The Jeff Schultz Groupies are out in force tonight!

Now can we go shopping for a TOP GOALIE and deal pathetic Pavelec too? He has a concentration/focus problem that only attacks him when he’s in front of our goal.

Who the F has a 190 foot goal scored against them in the NHL?? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Szwjh4ogCkM

Jeff97

February 10th, 2010
12:59 am

Jeff,
so if this was your decision what would you have done? Kept Kari? Why? He has been inconsistant, injured and is usually not in the best of shape?
Would you have traded Moose? He is right now our best chance of making the playoffs this year, and is having the BEST season that a Thrashers goalie has ever had. Would you have traded Pavelec? He is only 22 and has shown flashes of greatness. Also, trading Kari saves the team a few million.

I agree, i think that Don and Rick Dudley are preparing for the off-season and hoping to land some of Chicago’s overstocked players, or those of another team. Dudley is a great talent evaluator with a great track record.

and by the way, you did not even mention that the player that we got in return for Kari was drafted in the 1st round by Dallas and is only 21…stop trying to paint everything so negative.

Want My Floor Seats?

February 10th, 2010
1:03 am

Funny how only Jeff Schultz Groupies can find fault with this trade….They’re CRYING in Dallas:

Comments
Posted by hckyfn80 @ 8:12 PM Tue, Feb 09, 2010
McKenzie is indeed reporting this trade via Twitter. I’m having a hard time believing it – not because I don’t trust McKenzie, but because it’s a horrible trade. The Stars need to upgrade the defenseman corps and Vish is the top prospect in the system. After that there’s not much except for perhaps Larsen. Trading away a defenseman asset (who is the only one that has the real potential to “replace” Zubov as an offensively-minded puck moving dman) for an injury prone goalie who has done nothing really to prove he is exceptional?? And a 4th round pick to boot? Holy h*ll, someone call the police because Nieuwy is getting robbed.

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Posted by Greg @ 8:16 PM Tue, Feb 09, 2010
Our top prospect and a pick for a guy who is injured ALL THE TIME? Thats a really high payment….I hope they get good return for Marty….and I hope they dont trade Neal, or Erickson in a package with him.

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Posted by jt13 @ 8:17 PM Tue, Feb 09, 2010
Unless they are going to trade Turco before the deadline for a defenseman, this does not make sense. But since Joe took over not much has made sense.

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Posted by Chris Clark @ 8:17 PM Tue, Feb 09, 2010
Terrible trade. Lehtonen spends too much time on IR, and seems to always be getting lit up. Too bad. I was excited about getting to see Vish play full-time with the big club next season.

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Posted by Taylor @ 8:19 PM Tue, Feb 09, 2010
Hopefully Marty gets traded to a team that plays well both at home and on the road. And has a good D-corp. He deserves a Stanley Cup after all his time in Dallas.

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Posted by Sully @ 8:19 PM Tue, Feb 09, 2010
wow…i’m stunned like hckyfn80 said… aren’t we supposed to boost up our defensive corp ?…i do hope that Niewy is not done with his trading cuz we just lost a very good prospect in Vishnevskiy !

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Posted by BenS @ 8:19 PM Tue, Feb 09, 2010
Lehtonen’s is 26 this summer with 6 years in the NHL. He would be a UFA after next year if the Stars signed him to another 1 year contract (cutoff for UFA that I found is 27 or 7 years).

Decent save percentage. GAA not great. Low games played every year but one. Injury issues. I don’t think this is a good idea at all.

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Posted by hckyfn80 @ 8:21 PM Tue, Feb 09, 2010
Furthermore, and this is a “heat of the moment” reaction, but if this trade is legit, then I’ve officially taken my “benefit of the doubt” from Nieuwendyk. As most others, I was stoked when Hicks hired him. I thought his on-ice knowledge/resume coupled with his ivy league education and calm/rational demeanor would be the perfect fit for GM. I was fine with firing Tippett (still am to a certain degree), but the Hiring of Crawford was strike 1 and this trade is strike 2 (maybe even strike 3 as well)? Nieuwy, to me, you’re officially failing now.

Don’t get me wrong, perhaps eventually this trade will work out in the Stars’ favor (plus we don’t know what else Nieuwy has up his sleeve), but for face value this is a HORRIBLE trade. Why trade away the best prospect in the most needed area (defense) when the system has an overload of young, talented forwards? And why Lehtonen??

Brendan

February 10th, 2010
1:05 am

Jeff, I liked this article. But there’s just one sentence in that needs an edit. It’s this one: This deal comes five days after the team’s best choice, Ilya Kovalchuk, was traded to New Jersey over money.

Why do I disagree? Supposing the Thrashers agreed to pay Ilya 12-years/$135.6 million. Does Ilya sign it? No frekkin’ way. I can almost guarantee, Ilya never affixed his signature on any contract that Atlanta could sign, to make it legally binding. Jeff, had Atlanta offered $201 million, Ilya wasn’t going to take it. He simply doesn’t want to waste his PRIME YEARS playing for an organization that cannot figure out that it needs a new GM, after a decade of failure.

Ilya was looking for (1) Competent, stable ownership, (2) Good GM, (3) Good scouts, (4) winning climate in the lockerroom, (5) Good Coach, (6) Commitment by the entire organization to winning a Cup. Well, did I just describe the Atlanta Thrashers, or didn’t I? I guess it’s the latter. I hope Ilya finds a team he likes. He didn’t fail the Thrashers. The Thrashers failed him. And when he takes a comparatively pedestrian contract with the club he feels confident in, the faces of the Atlanta Spirit, LLC, will turn to alabaster. For they might just have their LONG OVERDUE EPIPHANY. But until then, they’ll continue to think that they can ‘throw money at a problem’ to solve it. It never works.

Pending UFA’s and UFAs 6, Waddell 0. And the shutout will continue as long as he’s in charge. The Players have made their voices heard. The votes have been tabulated. And it’s unanimous. There is a vote of “no confidence” in this GM, this organization, this ownership. And nothing will change until meaningful changes are made (Poster Bob, all rights reserved).

Perhaps the strongest indictment of this team came in the 2008 offseason, when Top Tiered defenseman Dan Boyle, fresh from signing a six-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning, was strong-armed into waiving his no-trade-clause. He said he ultimately acquiesced … because with six years left on his contract, he couldn’t run the risk of being claimed off waivers by Atlanta. Ouch.

JimmyO

February 10th, 2010
1:16 am

@Jeff97, Read Brendens comment. Jeff S. is making the point on Wadell’s complete Failure as a G.M.(let alone his horrible head coaching). Do you see any team in the league trying to lure Wadell away? This is because he is to SUBPAR. Average talent evaluator and one of the worst G.M’s. Do you actually think he would have lasted this long anywhere else?

Want My Floor Seats?

February 10th, 2010
1:23 am

Brendan:

Waddell said Kovalchuk wasn’t concerned about the future of the franchise in his decision: “I don’t think so. If we would have paid him the max amount, he would have signed the contract.”

Since Waddell was intimately involved in the negotiations, you can choose to deny this statement if you like….But he would’ve signed for max money. That makes everything else a secondary consideration for him. MAX MONEY was his primary demand.

Brendan

February 10th, 2010
1:24 am

There was a time when the top prospect in our organization was Patrik Stefan. And had he been traded, people would have been angry. This Dallas prospect very well may be a decent one, but if Lehtonen is “just fine” and able to contribute as a high-pedigree goalie, will those Dallas fans who are hopping mad come back to issue “attahboys” to Nieuwendyk?

I’d have a hard time believing Dallas, or ANY team, would trade for an injured goalie yet to play this season, if he hadn’t passed a physical with flying colors. And Dallas must have been scouting Lehtonen during his time with the Wolves, in his conditioning stint.

If Kari’s career is over, then I’m glad we won this trade. But if Kari comes back and plays well, to the point where Stars fans say, “Why did Atlanta trade this guy?,” then we moved our #1 goalie for what is presently an AHL player. Time will tell the tale. That’s for sure.

I, personally, hope we won! I always hope the Thrashers win a trade. If it were ever true that the Flyers were offering James vanRiemsdyk for Lehtonen at last year’s deadline, which potential trade do you like more? Vishnevskiy or JvR?

Another thing to consider is … Atlanta’s history in the Core Area of “player development” is lacking. Even with Kovalchuk, arguably our most successful draftee, he is a -85 in his career. He’s not a fully complete player. If this Vishnevskiy is going to be a permanent fixture in Atlanta for the coming years, he’d better be developed properly. And I never support “rushing prospects.” They need proper time to develop.

Marcus_in_Toronto

February 10th, 2010
1:28 am

Yeah, you folks have it bad; but it could be worse. Much worse.

I live in Toronto and have had to endure the most pathetic excuse for a hockey team for the 17 years I have lived and watched them. The Toronto Make Believes last won the cup in 1967 (43 years ago), back when it was a 6 team league, and have treated their fan base with utter contempt since then.

The Make Believes consistently sell out the building everynight, win or lose. Emphasis on the lose. The idiot Leaf fans (for all their supposed hockey knowledge) are not hockey fans- they are Toronto fans. They cheer any team that wears a Toronto jersey and will pay the most outrageous ticket prices to attend the snore fests. So what motivation is there for the ownership to change anything? The season tickets are often put in wills and stay in a family for several generations. The waiting list to purchase season tickets are longer than kidney transplant lists.

The Leafs are in last place because of errors made in the past. Their scouting, inept coaching and terrible and inexperienced GM (John Ferguson) has resulted in legacy errors that will not be soon overcome. The farm system is bare, they have traded away their first round draft picks for the next 2 years to Boston for Phil Kessel (bust) and have nothing else in assets to make them better.

Atlanta is 9 points ahead of the Make Believes in the standings and has a far brighter future and potential than Toronto.

Barry

February 10th, 2010
1:35 am

Just want to comment on the latest two picks that were traded. Kovy is an awesome goal scorer but he’s a one dimensional player. For a team that isn’t built around defense first Kovy hurt the Thrashers as much as he helped. That’s why his +/- was either negative or around even. Ovechkin on the other hand I think is like a +35 which is just amazing. Kovy didn’t want to stay here. He said he did but it was obvious he didn’t. If you wanted to stay with a team you would have tried to accept a reasonable offer to sign with the Thrashers and not hurt management’s chances to resign and keep the young core of players around him. Also Kovy and Jay wanted max dollar and he’s not worth it. Ovechkin isn’t even making max dollar and he’s a much better all around player than Kovy is. Kari is been inconsistent on the ice and every year I remember him playing was injured for a month or more each year. He hasn’t been dependable because of his injuries. I know people complain about trading Kovy but I think the Thrashers will become a better tigher team because of it. It will finally force them all to step up their game instead of looking for Kovy all the time. It may take a little time but with Kovy gone I really believe this team will start to buy into a more team oriented game and when you got all 5 players on the same page and with great chemistry they are much harder to defend and become a much more dangerous team.

Brendan

February 10th, 2010
1:46 am

Want My Floor Seats?, The key words in your post are, “Waddell said.” Or, said another way, “Waddell believes.” He got duped. Moreover, Waddell could have made him a $101 million offer that expired on July 14, 2009. If this were all about money, he’d have known then, too. I don’t put stock in Waddell’s testimony on anything.

We can agree that Kovy misrespresented himself, in terms of his commitment to being a life-long Thrasher. I believe Kovy strung Waddell along. But it takes two (2) to lie. One to doing the fibbing, and the other to BELIEVE IT. At a certain point, Waddell could have said, “You’re not going to re-sign here at ANY price, are you, Ilya?” An awkward silence would follow. Then Jay Grossman would nudge his client, “Say the line, Ilya. You have to.” And Ilya would say, right on cue, “… Well Don, I’d really like some time … to evaluate the team more. And then we’ll talk at Christmas.” To which Waddell could say, “I’m not letting you hold the cards. This offer is already insane. If you’re not taking it, it’s because you don’t want to be here. And if you don’t, just say so. Maybe we can even work out a mutually acceptable trade.”

Ilya looks over at Jay Grossman, “Say the line, Ilya.” “Well Don, what I’d really like to do … is have some more time to evaluate.” At best, Waddell can give him until Halloween. Kovalchuk’s wife was pregnant, with two little kids running around the house. If Ilya can just manage to stay put this season … he can pick his next team in July, without having a separation from his home and family.

Brendan

February 10th, 2010
1:50 am

Barry, the Kovalchuk Camp’s claimes of “league maximum salary” were just a smokescreen. It was a way to prevent the Thrashers from coming to terms with him. Kovalchuk cannot be so thick, so dense, to think that a cash-strapped organization could field a team around him … at that salary.

In Waddell’s shoes, I grab a water soluable pen and the 12-year/$135.6 million contract and say, “You do realize, this is legal and binding. It makes you a Thrasher for life, since we will NEVER trade you. And you’re fine with that, right?” Then I’d sign the contract and push it over to them, saying, “I’ve met your demands. Now sign away your prime years with the Thrashers.”

Jay and Ilya pause, “We’d really still like to have some more time to evaluate the team.” You see where this is heading….

EastCobbThrasher

February 10th, 2010
1:53 am

WMFS…..Even though you are still drinking the Kool-aid or related to or employeed by a member of the Spirit family I appreciate your passion for the franchise.

Although I agree with your arguement on why it was time to drop Kari, I still respectfully disagree with your continuious defense of “Big Daddy Don Waddell.” I’m also a season ticket holder and am fed up with the excuses and mismanagment of this franchise. It could easily be debated that this franchise in now in worse shape than it was in season three.

We are now rebuilding with only the hope that the next Kovy will come into the ATL and I guess we can only hope he’s good enough to trade for another first round draft pick and a bag full of hockey sticks in a few years. Tell your sugar daddy thanks for nothing. I love hockey and can’t be accused of not attending the games or buying the beer. I would love nothing more than to buy your argument, Don, that we are rebuilding again but excuse me if I’m ready to start winning in the playoffs for a change.

Enough is enough, the Kari deal is a bigger joke than the Kovi trade. Let’s not forget that Kari was also a First Round pick! Where is Patrick Stefan when I need him?

Want My Floor Seats?

February 10th, 2010
1:53 am

Be careful Marcus & Barry or you’ll turn Schultz’s latest Thrasher-bashing blog into an actual rational discussion with posts like yours!

I feel your pain Marcus and thanks for the reality check that it actually could be worse in Blueland than it is. I truly hope these guys pull together like Barry says and have a strong finish to the season. These 3 road games before the break, then 12 home games in March….Can’t wait!!

What I really hate is having to go jersey shopping again for my 3 boys since their Kovy and Lehtonen jerseys are now “out of style”. I also have to break the news about Lehtonen to one of them in the morning, since Kari’s his favorite player…I’ll try not to crack a smile when I tell him. ;)

Good night all…..

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Brendan

February 10th, 2010
2:16 am

Folks, do any of you really believe … that a player like Kovalchuk would put “no stock” or something “close to no stock” in evaluating a franchise’s future, before he agreed to play there for the rest of his career?

Well, this is what Waddell would have you believe. He wants you to think … that Kovalchuk thought everything was fine with Atlanta’s hockey club. The only problem was meeting his exorbitant salary demands.

“Smokescreen.” Kovalchuk made salary demands that he knew Atlanta couldn’t match. As GM, Waddell’s got to say, “If you don’t want to stay here, just say so. Don’t insult me by saying my offer is inadequate.”

What Don Waddell never understood, and still doesn’t, is that his club is mismanaged. By him. Folks, William Hung thinks he’s a great singer. He isn’t. And Kovalchuk won’t ignore that seven seasons out of nine saw Atlanta finish in the bottom third of the Eastern Conference. Kovalchuk won’t ignore that Savard, Hossa, Karberle, and others were not retained by the franchise. Kovalchuk will not simply ignore that when Hossa’s future with the team was on the line, Atlanta’s answers up the middle with Steve Rucchin, Eric Perrin and Todd White. Kovalchuk will not simply ignore that when the team was swept out of the playoffs, neither Harley nor Waddell was fired, as a result of it. Kovalchuk will not simply ignore that once Hartley was fired, Waddell and the organization did not name a Head Coach, instead making Waddell coach the remaining 76-games. Kovalchuk will not simply ignore that the organization had nine Top 10 overall picks, including six inside the lottery draft, to build this team.

But wait, Waddell SAYS … Kovy’s only concern … was MONEY. And that Kovy’s concern over MONEY occured … not before, but AFTER he’d already made $47 million playing hockey in the NHL. Kovy … doesn’t need to make another dollar in his life. His decision over his future is entirely about finding an organization committed to winning the Stanley Cup. And he’ll come wayyyyy off his “smokescreen” salary demands. And it won’t be because no one is foolish enough to offer him what he’s “supposedly” seeking. If Columbus meets Kovy’s salary demands, he’d still say no. Same deal with Florida. And Phoenix, despite their great season so far. He’s not going to sign with ANY TEAM that isn’t close to winning a Cup. And that’s why he wouldn’t agree to sign in Atlanta.

scottbravesfan

February 10th, 2010
2:30 am

How the hell does Don Waddell keep his job? Unbelievable!!!

Also this is a reply to a column on bleacher report about the Kovalchuk thread and I thought I would post it here as it pretty much sums up the Thrashers and the city of Atlanta as the original poster was actually trying to compare Atlanta’s situation of only having Kovalchuk with the Toronto Maple Leafs only having Mats Sundin. Clearly the guy is nuts for comparing any American city with a Canadian city when it comes to hockey. But here was my reply to the guy.

Look Atlanta is a transient town. Only how people are going to go to the games is if the team wins and the team has not won in 11 years. They do not care about one player nor should they. The Thrashers are horrible. I’ve been a fan since 2000 and watching this team play this season and seeing they are actually battling for a playoff spot is laughable and shows just how awful the eastern conference is in the NHL. If you want to compare Atlanta to other cities the two obvious ones are Washington DC and Dallas. Atlanta and DC are very similar. Both have a ton of transplants and both have terrible traffic. Their fan support is also very similar. Remember when the Capitals had Jagr? They didn’t draw flies and yet they made the playoffs. I remember watching a playoff games a few years ago when they had Jagr and there was an announced crowd of 15,000 fans for a playoff game. So what happen to the Caps? They drafted Ovechkin, changed their jerseys to red, and started winning games and the fans came in droves. The Washington Nationals and Wizards can’t draw flies and even the Redskins have a ton of empty seats at their games. Atlanta is the same way. If the Thrashers started winning and were one of the best teams in the east they would start to draw. Hell they set an expansion attendance record their first year and the year they made the playoffs they averaged around 17,000 fans a game and Philips Arena was packed and loud during that one playoff series, when they were swept by the Rangers. The Hawks are drawing well now that they are winning. The Falcons started drawing well when Arthur Blank bought the team and the Braves drew 3 million fans 6 times in the 1990’s and have drawn over 2 million fans 19 straight years. All it takes for the Thrashers to succeed off the ice is to win on the ice. Simple as that. Then the bandwagon fans would jump on and hopefully if the Thrashers can have five or six years of sustained success of making the playoffs every year then those fans would convert over to real fans.

But right now the Atlanta Thrashers are the Pittsburgh Pirates of the NHL.

Also look at the Avalanche. They moved to Denver and immediately won a Stanley Cup and then won one again 5 years later. Now that they don’t have Sakic how well are they drawing this year? They are barely outdrawing the Thrashers and they are battling for their division. Same thing with Dallas. The Stars moved to Dallas and won immediately and they sold out every game. Now they haven’t made the playoffs in a couple of years and are battling this year to even make the playoffs and their attendance has dropped off quite a bit. If Atlanta had gotten the Avalanche or Stars and won immediately we would not be having this conversation about the Thrashers moving.

Want My Floor Seats?

February 10th, 2010
2:37 am

ECThrasher: FWIW, if Waddell was fired tomorrow morning, I’d still be the same Thrasher Fan I am tonight. I don’t know the guy personally, but he does have a reputation for screw-ups as well as a reputation as a stand-up guy. Makes no difference one way or another to me. My boys and I LOVE Thrashers games (and Hawks games), and we bring the wife along to carry the blankets, scarves, beer, Cokes, etc. (that’s a JOKE). She “tolerates” the games with us…But it’s a male-bonding event.

The main problem I had with the whole Kovy thing is how there was nothing in the local press pointing a finger at him for basically lying to the fans and turning down huge money. A professional player just HAS to be brought before the fans to personally answer for those things and the local guys failed miserably there…Preferring instead to whip up the crowd almost daily with owner/GM/franchise bashing. That’s biased reporting by definition.

I understand both trades. I also think Waddell did decent jobs with what he was faced with in the time he had. Nobody wants to trade away a #1 pick, but I’m sure ATL isn’t the first franchise to do so and it won’t be the last (although it may be the first to trade TWO away in 1 week).

I’ve also been around long enough to see what a change in ownership can do, and it’s sometimes better, sometimes not. Blank is obviously an improvement over the Smiths….But remember when Time-Warner destroyed the Braves? So we’re enjoying the Thrashers while they’re playing here and we hope they stay, ownership change or not. That’s from someone who grew up in SE GA and hockey was something “they did up north”.

I’d also like to see the bashing wait until a later time. This team needs fan support right now, not whiners and complainers. I’m one of the AJC hard copy subscribers left and I gotta say I’m really getting tired of the hometown sports bashing. Who wants to read how BAD a franchise is EVERY DAY and then go buy tickets to see them play? Schultz can’t figure out that he might be part of the problem.

If you’ve got time, this was a really good read about how this team came together in truly tough circumstances. It’s so different than a Schultz “My Opinion”:

It won’t let me post the link. Just google “thrashers weather two storms” by Darren Eliot.

And Brendan, check your trade details for Kovy above. We got a 1st rounder (maybe 25-27) and swapped 2nd rounders. You left out the 1st rounder. This time I’m really out for the night!! (yawn)

Sharon

February 10th, 2010
2:55 am

Finally, we’re off the Kari-Go-Round!

Good riddance.