Archive for the ‘Thrashers/NHL’ Category

Atlanta sports: So lousy we can’t even top the misery index

"Our one team is better than all four of yours!" (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

"Oh, yeah? Well, our one team is better than all four of yours!" (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Not long ago, this correspondent was moved to bemoan the forlorn fortunes of our local pro teams – 149 completed seasons, one championship. Now comes Forbes magazine to make like Smokey Robinson and second the emotion, and I do mean second it.

Forbes rates the nation’s most miserable sports cities, and Atlanta — that’s us, people! — is No. 2!

And who, you’re asking, would be ahead/behind us? Seattle would. And why? Writes Tom Van Riper:

The loss of its NBA club was just enough to nudge Seattle past Atlanta, a city with one sports title in 153 cumulative seasons, to the top of the misery list. Atlanta’s postseason misery is legendary, led by the Braves’ failure to take home a world championship in 13 of 14 playoff appearances from 1991 to 2004.

You might have noticed that Mr. Van Riper’s second sentence above contains an error. The Braves won 14 consecutive division titles over …

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The Thrashers could be gone because the Spirit, alas, is weak

"Keep this to yourself, Bruce, but we just lost another million." (AJC photo by

"Keep this to yourself, Bruce, but we just lost another million." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

It was a nice idea until they started suing one another, which took just under two years. But in September 2003 the notion of a group with Atlanta ties owning the Hawks and the Thrashers seemed altogether preferable to the thought of a Texas car dealer owning two of our teams and deputizing his brother-in-law to run them.

In the cold light of hindsight, the Texas car dealer has been the only winner in this ongoing mess. David McDavid sued Turner Broadcasting for breach of contract and was awarded $281 million. We locals have been forced to sit and watch as the Atlanta Spirit, which cut in front of McDavid, took two of our teams and have succeeded mostly in trying our patience. And now we’re told these many owners require “outside investors” for the Thrashers to stay here.

Translated: Atlanta is very close to losing another hockey club.

Maybe some angel is willing to lose millions …

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Hello/goodbye? Byfuglien stays, but the Thrashers could leave

That wouldn't be a wave of farewell, would it? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

You make the call: A salute to fans or a gesture of farewell? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

On Tuesday we witnessed that rarity: A big-time hockey player who actually wants to stay a Thrasher. Unlike Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk, Dustin Byfuglien was willing to re-up with the local hockey club. But now we ask: How much longer will the local hockey club be local?

The Thrashers’ corporate brother is having a a lousy year at the box office: The Hawks are 24th among 30 NBA teams in average attendance, down nearly 2,000 paying customers a game over last season. And still that beats the Thrashers, who until lately were positioned to make the playoffs for only the second time in their existence; they’re 28th in the 30-team NHL in attendance.

As if on cue, co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. told esteemed colleague Chris Vivlamore on Tuesday night that the Thrashers could indeed sold and moved if the Spirit doesn’t find additional investors/cash soon. “A sense of urgency,” was Gearon’s …

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Atlanta’s sad sports history: One lousy title in 149 pro seasons

The initial response to the sight of Atlanta patrons leaving an NFL playoff game with a quarter still to play — this happened only last weekend — was to loose the boilerplate harrumph. “Nothing new here! These people are the fairest of fair-weather fans in all the land!”

That’s always the reaction from national voices, and there was a time when it was the belief of this correspondent. Atlanta’s the city that can’t sell out playoff games and then, when finally it does, the crowd goes home early when the scoreboard gets ugly, et cetera. But 26 years and 10 months of residency have had an erosive effect, and now this neutral-by-profession can say:

Folks, I feel your pain.

Since big-time professional sports arrived in 1966, teams sailing under the Atlanta flag have completed 149 seasons. (We won’t count baseball in 1994, when the World Series was canceled by a players’ strike, or the 2004-2005 NHL campaign, which was scrubbed due to a lockout.) Only one has yielded a championship. …

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GM Rick Dudley on his Thrashers: ‘I think we’re for real’

Andrew Ladd: One of many transplanted Chicagoans. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Andrew Ladd: One of many transplanted Chicagoans. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The Thrashers slipped out of first place in the NHL Southeast this week. (They play Boston tonight, so this is subject again to change.) What’s significant is that the Thrashers were in first place this deep into a season. What’s also significant is that Rick Dudley, the first-year general manager, believes the best still awaits his club.

“If you’re asking for a philosophic outlook,” Dudley said this week, “I think it’s fair to expect us to play well the rest of the way. People around the league are coming up and saying, ‘You guys are for real,’ and I think we are. We should be nothing but better in time.”

Dudley was Don Waddell’s deputy last season, and the chief reason the Thrashers dumped coach John Anderson this spring was the belief  they had enough talent on hand, Ilya Kovalchuk’s forced departure notwithstanding, to have made the playoffs.  (They missed by five points.) Dudley was promoted …

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That’s the Spirit! Let Drew coach both Hawks and Thrashers

Hey, how hard could coaching be if Teflon Don Waddell did it? (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

How hard could coaching be if Don Waddell did it? (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Fact: The Hawks just hired Larry Drew, the cheapest option available, as their head coach.

Fact: The Thrashers have been without a head coach for 67 days.

Fact: The Atlanta Spirit, which owns both clubs, conceded Friday that it is seeking additional investors while insisting the teams aren’t for sale, which is kind of like saying, “We’re not selling — but we’d love it if you’d make us an offer.”

Conclusion: The Spirit, its protestations notwithstanding, is strapped for cash.

Solution: Have Larry Drew coach both teams.

I know, I know. You’re saying, “It’ll never work.” But you, I contend, are the same sort of stick-in-the-muds who told Ben Franklin not to bother flying his kite in the thunderstorm. Me, I’m Mr. Outside-The-Box. And Mr. Thrift, too! (Think of me as a cross between MacGyver and Clark Howard.) I really feel this is a dollar-stretching no-brainer, and I demonstrate by anticipating your …

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Why Teflon Don Waddell had become toxic for the Thrashers

ADon Waddell looks upstairs, which is where he was just kicked. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Don Waddell looks upstairs, which is where he was just kicked. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

The Thrashers don’t have many fans, which is a problem. Except in his own organization and, we assume, his own household, Don Waddell had no fans. That was a bigger problem.

Even those few folks disposed to support this hockey team couldn’t bring themselves to endorse the Teflon Don. And there wasn’t  much to endorse. In place since 1999, he’d presided over one playoff appearance and no postseason victories. He’d traded away the two best players in franchise annals because they wouldn’t re-up. Yet he clung to his job like grim death.

As of Wednesday, the Teflon Don clings no longer. The Thrashers positioned his move to president as a promotion, but it’s way more than that. It’s a re-branding.

Advertising 101: When you’ve got a faulty product, fix the bugs and change the name. The Thrashers feel there’s nothing wrong with their personnel that a bit of seasoning can’t remedy. Said …

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Icy topic: How much longer will the Thrashers be in Atlanta?

John Anderson and Slava Kozlov are both pictured here. (AJC photo by Jessica McGowan)

John Anderson and Slava Kozlov are both pictured here. (AJC photo by Jessica McGowan)

Perhaps you’re fascinated by this whole John Anderson/Slava Kozlov back and forth. Or perhaps you have no idea who John Anderson and Slava Kozlov are.

I submit that more Atlantans fall under the latter heading. I submit more folks around here have forgotten the Thrashers even exist.

(For the record: The Thrashers are the Atlanta entry in the National Hockey League. Hockey is played on ice. The players skate and carry implements known as hockey sticks, with which they attempt to move a small rubberized disk known as a puck.)

This  leads me to today’s question(s): Given that the Thrashers traded their franchise player a while back and just finished 28th in a 30-team league in attendance, how much longer do you think they’ll be in Atlanta? Will the Spirit, as has long been rumored, sell the team to somebody who’ll then move it to Canada? (See, Canadians like hockey.) Or will these owners bite …

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Grading our GMs: Dimitroff’s at the top, but where’s Wren?

The "D" also stands for "Don" and "dean of Atlanta GMs. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

The "D" also stands for "Don" and "dean of Atlanta GMs. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Two are in their offseasons. Two are approaching their midseasons, one with a monumental decision to make. Three of the four are relatively new to their positions; the other is Teflon Don Waddell. Today’s assignment: Assess and grade the general managers of Atlanta’s four major sports teams. We start at the top.

Thomas Dimitroff, Falcons

Start date: January 2008. Recap: Two winning seasons in two tries, one playoff appearance, no playoff victories. Major achievements: Hired Mike Smith, the 2008 NFL coach of the year; drafted Matt Ryan, the 2008 offensive rookie of the year; signed Michael Turner, who rushed for 1,699 yards in 2008.

Assessment: Has brought precision and professional calm to a franchise roiled by the abrupt departures of Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino; made the absolute most of his first NFL draft, landing three starters — Ryan, Sam Baker and Curtis Lofton — with his first …

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Presenting 5 top storylines for Atlanta sports in 2010

Santa Claus will be comin' to town soon enough. Will the Eastern Conference finals follow? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Santa Claus will be comin' to town soon enough. Will the Eastern Conference finals follow? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

1. Will the Hawks reach the Eastern Conference finals? Step by inexorable step, this team keeps moving. It made the playoffs in 2008 and won a series in 2009. Can it do what the Hawks haven’t done since 1970 — when they were based in the West, not the East, and you needed only one series victory fo reach the conference finals — and play for the right to go to the NBA finals? Bradley’s prediction: Yes, they can. Yes, they will.

2. Will Ilya Kovalchuk re-up with the Thrashers? This isn’t so much about a player as it is a franchise. The Thrashers have made a bright start to the season, but all that goes poof if Kovalchuk won’t agree to stay. It has been a decade-long struggle to sell hockey in this Southern city, but if the franchise player leaves, will the franchise itself be long for the A-T-L? Bradley’s prediction: Kovalchuk stays, simply because Don Waddell …

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