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

English Teacher

April 13th, 2009
8:29 am

Terence Moore? More like Terence Less. This is the same guy that wanted to hold hands and cuddle Barry Bonds and we’re supposed to care what he says about hockey? No.

Dave

April 12th, 2009
11:02 pm

The Thrashers stink, their organization stinks, their sales people stink, the arena stinks. The only thing associated with them that doesn’t stink is the Jr. Thrashers youth program, and that’s only because they don’t actually manage or operate it. I will never spend another nickel on those idiots and I hope they leave town tomorrow. Good riddance.

Mike

April 12th, 2009
6:50 pm

I’m surprised that Moore is writing about hockey after the “Thrashers need some fire on the ice” article, where he blatantly showed that he doesn’t have a clue about hockey or the Thrashers. How can we take you serious after writing “They haven’t a choice, not after following last season’s first and only trip to the playoffs”?

DW has done a good job revamping the team with a limited budget. Please don’t sign a bunch of free agents this summer (Holik, Schnider, Williams…) Stick with the plan and build a TEAM with young talent.

Captain Kovy, respect your teammates!

Najeh Davenpoop

April 12th, 2009
4:04 pm

Terence Moore writing about hockey? What’s next, Furman Bisher writing about the NBA?

Ben Gunby

April 12th, 2009
3:35 pm

Why would anyone expect anything different from this jackass? He despises all things Atlanta, and we know that, so what do you expect him to say about the Thrashers? He probably has to write one Thrasher column per year, so this was it, and it was Terence Moore doing what Terence Moore does.

Veteran Fan

April 12th, 2009
12:37 pm

Mr. Moore this is HOGWASH! We have been stockpiling talent in Chicago and it is finally paying off. This young goaltender is pushing our veterans for a job and our very young players are maturing. We have a very good coach and if we can sign Ilya to an extension and as he says pick up a solid defenseman and another scoring threat our future looks extremely bright! Only a fool would predict a Stanley Cup, but this team will be a contender NEXT season! Congrats to Mr Waddell for his patience and forsight!

Krust

April 12th, 2009
10:52 am

Terence,

You know just about nothing about Hockey. Stick to Baseball, Football and Basketball.
Yes the Thrashers have put the same average product on the ice year after year. But, something different happened around the first of Jan. Bogo came back into the line-up. We traded Justin Williams, picked Rich Peverley off of waivers (on the advice from Coach Anderson!) and traded Shnierder. And the single most important change was making Kovy Captain.

The Thrashers wining games in Feb. and March was no fluke. The team came together. It was no longer that horrible Hockey team we saw in Oct., Nov and Dec. They play as a team now And I hope to God that DW doesn’t screw it up now. He finally did a few things right. Still I hope they fire him.

Make Dan Bouchard and Erik Vail CO GM.
That ought ah be good for some laughs.

TheAntiMe

April 12th, 2009
10:23 am

Coach John Anderson did very well this season, all things considered, but I, like many others, feel the time is 5 years ago for the Thrashers to find a real GM. Considering that every year in the franchise’s history the Thrashers have enjoyed prime NHL draft real estate Ilya Kovalchuk should have skated across the ice with the Stanley Cup high above his head by now. Instead, at this same time every season we find the Thrashers in need of being extracted from the dumping facility of the NHL port-o-let.

One can only imagine the number of playoff series that the Thrashers could have won by now if only there had been a good GM in the front office for the past decade as opposed to the guy who has, by all reasonable standards, failed quite miserably.

Sara

April 12th, 2009
9:11 am

I don’t think good teams took the Thrashers for granted … if they did then they were idiots. The Thrash might have caught some teams by surprise in February when they started playing really inspired hockey but by late Feb/early March, every other team should have been clued in that the Thrashers were no longer an easy two points. Even some folks in the MSM had picked up on that point into March.

One of the things too I think people leave out in terms of the progression of the season is that we did have so much youth on the roster, particularly on the blueline. Lots of rookie mistakes got made early on, whereas that happened less and less as the season progressed and the players started developing as NHL-level players. And guys like Enstrom, Bogosian, Little, Boris (lord please) are only going to get better and better as the next few years go by.

But at the end of the day/season, fans (and the media) ultimately need to remember that one of the biggest crutches the last couple of years has been the poor financial situation the owners are currently in. That hasn’t changed to my knowledge, nor will it until the lawsuit is settled. This team barely made it over the cap floor this season and under those circumstances, it’s unrealistic to expect big flashy free agent signings.

We’d be better served to see what we can get from the draft this year (and at our position it’s going to be a good one) as well as focus in on our prospects to see who might be the next wave to make the jump to the bigs.

It’s frustrating after so many losing seasons and a play-off appearance two seasons ago to face the prospect of another few hard years. But the Thrashers need to tread carefully here – don’t do anything stupid with a contract, give the drafting a bit more time to pan out (and it has been good the last couple of runs). There’s a chance to finally have this thing built right this time and for the long-haul, so don’t push too hard to win it all now when the process isn’t fully complete…that was the thinking that cost us Coburn and a first round pick a couple of years ago.

Algonquin J. Calhoun

April 12th, 2009
9:04 am

Does anybody really care about Ice Puckey here? It’s a boring game with three halves, which makes it last too long. I’d guess this franchise would be ripe for the sellin’ and movin’.