Posts Tagged ‘Thrashers’

Enough about LeBron. What’s up with this Roberto Luongo?

Roberto Luongo after being benched in Game 6. (AP photo)

Roberto Luongo after being benched. (AP photo)

Roberto Luongo plays goalie for the Vancouver Canucks. These are his numbers in the Stanley Cup finals, which remain ongoing largely because of him:

Games 1, 2 and 5: Faces 97 Boston shots, stops 95 of them, wins two games 1-0 and the third 3-2 in overtime.

Games 3,4 and 6: Faces 64 Boston shots, fails to stop 15 of them, loses all three games (one 8-0) and gets pulled twice.

To recap: For the three games in Vancouver, Luongo stood, as they say approvingly in hockey, on his head; for the three games in Boston, he shoulda stood in bed.

Hockey can be an odd game, but this is beyond odd. A world-class goalie — he was Canada’s man between the pipes when it won Olympic gold last year — has been world-class on his sport’s biggest stage only half the time. But it’s not as if Canucks fans weren’t expecting it. Writing in Sports Illustrated last month, Brian Cazeneuve sketched the can’t-bear-to-look feeling the locals had toward their …

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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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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 Rick …

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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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Another special Bradley’s Buzz: All-free agency edition!

The NBA: Hawks on the clock!

In his breakdown of the top 30 free agents (link requires registration), Chad Ford of ESPN.com lists Mike Bibby as No. 7 among unrestricted free agents — Zaza Pachulia and Flip Murray are included among “other notables” — and two more Hawk properties among the top restricted free agents. And now you’re asking: Two?

Yep. Marvin Williams is No. 3, and Josh Childress, who hasn’t played for the Hawks since May 2008, is No. 5. Here’s what Mr. Ford has to say about those two, and also about Bibby:

Williams: “Has as as much raw talent as anyone else in the class of 2005, but he’s been frustratingly inconsistent in his first four years with the Hawks. While he’ll probably stay in Atlanta, he’s not playing well enough to earn anything close to the $60-64 million over five years that [Danny] Granger got last fall, to contrast Williams with one small forward from his draft class.”

Childress: “Shocked many in the NBA by deciding to bolt for Greece last summer. …

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All-Trade Friday: Should the Thrashers deal Ilya Kovalchuk?

This has Marian Hossa written all over it, only in larger letters. The Thrashers dumped their second-best player at the 2008 trading deadline because they knew they couldn’t re-sign him. Their best player is about to enter the final season of his contract, and Don Waddell shouldn’t let Ilya Kovalchuk enter it as a Thrasher.

Kovalchuk was the NHL’s 11th-highest-paid player in 2008-2009, and some club will make him one of the top five come 2010-2011. It would be an upset if that team is the Thrashers. And if they can’t keep him, they should trade him.

Last month Waddell, the Thrashers’ GM, told esteemed colleague Chris Vivlamore he wouldn’t trade Kovalchuk this summer or at the deadline or ever. “[Both parties] will both know where we are way before the season starts, if it is going to happen,” Waddell said. “That doesn’t mean it can’t happen once the season starts. My mission is to keep Ilya Kovalchuk here.”

That, alas, seems a mission impossible. If you knew you’d have better …

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If the Thrashers left Atlanta, would anyone care? Oh, yes.

The Hamilton Spectator reported last week that a Vancouver-based group wanted to buy the Thrashers and move them to Ontario. Don Waddell, the team’s general manager, insists that cannot and will not happen, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t believe him.

Still, that got me to thinking: If the Thrashers left, would anybody miss them? (They ranked next-to-last among NHL teams in attendance, averaging 14,626 per home date.) So, via Twitter, I asked. And of 50 respondents, only four said they wouldn’t care if the Thrash went the way of the migratory Flames. A selected sampling:

John Bragg: “Aside from family, friends, and the basic necessities in life, there’s not much I wouldn’t trade to see Ilya [Kovalchuk] hoist the Cup in Philips.”

Chad Bryant: “This is like asking, ‘Would you miss your dog if it ran away?’ – except in this case, the dog is being stolen from you from rich and crazy Canadians.”

Catherine Olson: “I was born at Georgia Baptist Hospital in 1964. The myth that …

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