Hold your applause: Bad teams do what Thrashers just did

Despite the Thrashers’ latest season of woe, there is their player of wow, which means there are several reasons to hug Ilya Kovalchuk. For one, he can score. For another, he can inspire.

Then you have that honesty thing. That was shown when Kovalchuk suggested during a recent chat after practice that anybody who knows a puck from a Zamboni should consider the Thrashers’ wonderful play during the last month or so as somewhat of a fraud.

Said Kovalchuk, the team captain and three-time All-Star, “Yeah, it’s a little bit different, because we’ve been playing with no pressure.”

He’s right. Near the end of seasons, good teams take bad teams lightly, and bad teams play loose. Then again, none of that applied to Saturday night at Philips Arena. The Thrashers spent their season finale against the Tampa Bay Lightning, so this was bad team against bad team. In fact, the Lightning was among just three NHL teams worse than the Thrashers.

The spirited evening featured a trio of fights, a 6-2 victory and a 35-41-6 final record for a Thrashers roster dominated by talented youth. Kovalchuk is the old-timer in that group, and he’s 25. In other words, you could make the case that the Thrashers’ sprint to goodness down the stretch with young faces bodes well for next year.

You also could do something wiser and proceed with caution. For instance: Are these the real Thrashers heading into next season, or are they just a tease along the way to ending next season out of the playoffs for what would be a ninth time in 10 tries as a franchise?

Don’t know. We do know that such late spurts by bad teams should be labeled suspicious until proved otherwise.

“We should have played the same way we’re playing now at the beginning of the year,” said Kovalchuk, whose team has evolved since then. Let’s start physically, with the subtractions of Erik Christensen and Jason Williams and the addition of Rich Peverley. You also had the Thrashers becoming more accustomed by the spring to the systems of John Anderson, a highly successful head coach in the minor leagues who nevertheless just finished his first season in charge of an NHL bunch.

Even so, Kovalchuk added more truth for a team that needs a defensive-minded defenseman and another superlative forward. Said Kovalchuk, “We need to make some changes, I think. We need to sign some good free agents and get our team really competitive for the playoffs. You see a team like Detroit. They’re competitive for the Stanley Cup. Two years ago, we made the playoffs, but we lost in the first round.”

The Thrashers were slaughtered back then in the first round. They were outscored a collective 17-6 by the New York Rangers during a sweep. But now, despite finishing 27th out 30 NHL teams, Kovalchuk claimed there is hope for those who still bother to show up to Blueland. “We have lots of young guys and lots of talent,” he said. “In a couple of years, maybe even next year, they’ll be better.”

Thus the problem with the Thrashers: It’s always “maybe” and “next year.”

26 comments Add your comment

[...] season and it was way too late by that time for John Anderson to steer Atlanta into the playoffs. Terrence Moore in the Journal-Constitution says this could bode well for next year — or it could just be a tease by a team that had the [...]

Robert

April 13th, 2009
5:59 pm

TM have you ever been to a game or even watched one. Or are you upset with the thrashers and calling them racist also since they don’t have a black player on the ice.

But what do you expect from an AJC writer.

Alan

April 13th, 2009
12:38 pm

I will never spend another nickel on those idiots and I hope they leave town tomorrow. Good riddance.

You’re welcome to leave town yourself. I would be more than happy with them staying put, like they should (and will).

The young guys are finally paying dividends, and I feel quite a bit of optimism for this offseason and the start of next season. Is my optimism misplaced? Sure, maybe it is. We won’t find out until early October.

Mark

April 13th, 2009
10:49 am

The Thrashers have had young, capable teams before heading into the off-season, and DW has dismantled the teams and started from scratch again the next year. If they add a couple of key pieces, they can contend next year – if they dismantle, we are starting another 10-year DW plan.

Mr. Heat Miser

April 13th, 2009
10:40 am

Moore leave the hockey stuff to Knobler.

Otto

April 13th, 2009
9:18 am

Why does the AJC keep Terrence? Getting flamed in his own blog again lol.