Thrash Talk: Auld Lang Syne
Expected to be a light report due to the holidays, there has been quite a bit of activity with the Thrashers in the past few days. The axe finally falls and Atlanta fans now hoping for a new start.
Head coach Curt Fraser, along with assistant Tim Bothwell, were fired on December 26. This move has been expected for quite a while now. The question is: what now? In the interim, GM Don Waddell is taking over the coaching duties until a replacement can be found. He is helped by remaining assistant coach Steve Weeks behind the bench. Injured defenseman Uwe Krupp is serving as an off-ice assistant. DW has given no timetable for hiring a new head coach. Candidates include – Terry Murray, Larry Robinson, Bob Hartley, John Paddock, Kevin Constantine, etc. There most certainly has not been a lack of names mentioned in regarding this job, and as such I have only listed a few of the possible candidates. Waddell has received permission to talk to a couple of his candidates. No names have been specifically given, but based on the information given certain assumptions can be made which are likely close to the truth. The team has stated they are looking for a coach who is defensive minded and has good track record of working with youth. Whoever the new coach may be, DW will let the new man name his own assistants in due time. Waddell will remain behind the bench until he has found the coach he wants (which should help him to assess his team and pick a coach who can best address the team’s needs).
Byron Dafoe should return to the lineup in the next few days after battling through a groin injury. Jeff Cowan and Lubos Bartecko are also close to returning to the Thrashers lineup, though no specific news of their return has been stated. Richard Smehlik continues to be sidelined with a bruised chest. He will be assessed again in hopes of determining how long he will have to sit with the injury. Uwe Krupp still out with back problems, no specific date of return given (the broken record continues).
After a bit of a slip before Christmas, the Chicago Wolves look to be back and playing well. Here are some of the tallies for the last five games:
Zdenek Blatny – 3g
Kamil Piros – 1g, 4a
Dan Snyder – 2g, 4a
Mark Hartigan – 1g, 2a
Simon Gamache – 4a
Kurtis Foster – 1g, 2a
Garnett Exelby – 2g, 1a
Bit of a surprise that D Garnett Exelby has put in a couple of goals recently. Not that he isn’t capable, it’s just that he loves to play the physical side of the game more. It would be a great bonus for Atlanta if his offense comes around as well. As of now, he seems to be the best prospect the Thrashers have behind Kari Lehtonen. Speaking of…
In the World Junior Championships in Halifax, Lehtonen and the Finns have gotten off to a 2-0 start. Lehtonen pitched a shutout in a 4-0 win against an out-manned German squad. In the second game against Sweden, the Swedes came back from a dreadful performance in their first game. Lehtonen was, however, the difference. He made more than a few outstanding saves and the Finns pulled out a 3-2 win.
Rumors: Still no solid speculation about any impending Thrasher trades. The organization is now more focused on finding a good replacment for Fraser, so any trade talk is put to the back-burner. However, DW has shouted to the world that he is looking for a defensive dman for some time now. While it seems unlikely that such a player could become available, this is the only trade possibility that would be entertained by Atlanta until their coach-hunt has finished. Nothing else springs to mind, except the constant speculation about Shawn McEachern and Slava Kozlov. There is more than 2 months to the trade deadline and Atlanta still has to inquire about the possibility of signing these players to a new deal(s). We’re probably gonna have to wait a fair time longer before we re-visit this rumor again.
One monkey is finally off our back. For the first time in 18 meetings, the Thrashers beat the Carolina Hurricanes. In the three and half year existence of the franchise, Atlanta has always found a way to lose when these two teams face each other. After looking nervous and trailing 2-0, it looked as though another beating was coming at the hands of the ‘Canes. But the team relaxed and Milan Hnilicka actually looked like a confident goalie in the final two periods, in route to a 5-3 victory. I know that this may not seem like a reason to be excited, but for Atlanta fans it feels as though a curse has been lifted. Finally beating a team that just seemed to have our number, and what made it worse was that they are a divisional rival. One down, one to go. Next on the list of monkeys to purge are the Pittsburgh Penguins, another team that Atlanta can’t figure out. But now that we’ve solved the Carolina puzzle (at least this time), the lads can try their hand against the Pens. With the franchise trying to turn over a new leaf, I have a feeling about this one. We will see very soon.
Until next time, enjoy your New Year’s celebration!