Peachy news from Atlanta
The recent offseason has been a busy one for the Thrashers. They’ve added offensive depth and defensive depth. Are they in position to contend for the playoffs? Who knows? But things are looking up and Atlanta fans are hopeful.The acquistions of Kozlov, McEachern, Smehlik, Krupp and Herperger have added the much needed elements of depth and leadership that the Thrashers were sorely lacking in their first three years. Atlanta fans would love to see these players put up good numbers but their impact is more likely to be felt in stabalizing a shaky team.
Kozlov should be a calming influence on Kovalchuk’s budding potential as a superstar; he should be able to keep the young Russian in check and instruct him on how to mature in the NHL. The other acquisitions should have a similar effect on the team. If they can teach the young Thrashers how to play and win as a team, the numbers they put up will be by and large immaterial. And a good thing for the fans is that many of us realize this, so we won’t be quite as upset if they don’t put up big numbers.
As for more acquisitions, the Thrashers appear to be done. GM Waddell said before the draft that he would increase the payroll by $8-10M and that’s what he has done. And he appears happy with the players he has now and is just waiting for training camp to start.
Despite the talk among hockey fans, Dafoe is not headed to Atlanta. I have read many times over that the Thrashers need to acquire his services but unless I’m completely mistaken, that won’t happen. Now, I keep up with the Thrashers as much as any fan. No official source or unofficial source (even the most reliable) has stated at any time that the Thrashers are pursuing Dafoe. Waddell set the $8-10M increase and he is firmly sticking to it. I understand it’s logical for people to say this, but the Thrashers are content with their goaltending. Contrary to his numbers, Hnilicka played very well last year. He just had an abysmal defense in front of him; this year it should improve. Nurminen and Cassivi are capable backups. An unknown named Garnett is impressing Thrashers management and potential superstar Lehtonen will be here in two or three years. Since the Thrashers are no threat to contend for the title in that time, bringing in Dafoe would be a waste. He would take up too much salary and would take time away from the other goalies who need and deserve a chance to play.
The question pending is “Will Atlanta contend for a playoff spot?” Can’t say. It’s way too early for anyone to be speculating about how any team will do this year. We base our speculations on the players performance in the past couple years and the history of the team. But each year brings something new and things unforeseen (last year, only die-hard Canes fans said they would go to the finals and even most of them did not truly believe it). I won’t bother to spectulate of the fate of my beloved Thrashers for the above reasons. However, this year holds a great deal of promise and future looks extremely bright. I’ll always keep hope alive here in Dixie.