Thrash Talk: More of the Same
Another tough stretch of games for Thrashers fans to endure, not exactly new territory. It’s always been tough to be a Thrasher fan but we somehow trudge along. All we ask for is a bit of hope, and hopefully some will be coming in the next week or two.
Most of it bad. After playing three tough, defensive games with Waddell as coach to start, the Thrashers have fallen back on old habits. The past three games have been riddled with defensive mistakes, and subsequently have all been losses. One of the few positives is that Marc Savard is showing signs of life with goals in his last two games, his first tallies as a Thrasher. His spark is sorely needed if Atlanta wishes to maintain a consistent offense. Pasi Nurminen looks to be the de facto number one goalie now, even though Dafoe will get a chance again when he comes back from injury. Slava Kozlov finally shows some passion that seems to be missing from the team. Unfortunately, it cost him a three game suspension. The frustration has set in for the Thrash; hopefully a new coach will inject something more long-term into the team’s play.
Lubos Bartecko is set to return within the week. Byron Dafoe is suffering from a groin strain again; this time he will only return when it is fully healed (if that’s possible for a goalie). He’s most likely out for another few games. Uwe Krupp and Richard Smehlik are tentatively scheduled to return near the end of January.
Bit of a change here. The only info I get on the Chicago Wolves are from news reports, and without any first-hand knowledge the little notes I normally write are pretty useless. Until I can get reliable knowledge, there is little use in commenting based solely on news reports. If I can find a way, I will post updated stats for the Wolves as well as Thrasher prospects currently playing in college. (Note: D Garnet Exelby is the lone Wolf to be named to the AHL All-Star Team)
Coaching candidates dominate the rumors about Atlanta. Terry Murray seems to be the front-runner at this point, but that is mostly due to the fact that Don Waddell hasn’t interviewed his other choices yet. DW has said he wants to interview at least one other candidate, so that he can get a comparison and pick the coach that is best for the team. But he has not received permission to talk to another of his leading candidates. The other candidates include Bob Gainey, Larry Robinson and John Paddock. As for the players, nothing new or vaguely accurate has surfaced recently. But with Atlanta pretty much out of it, look for contending teams to target certain veterans in the coming weeks. McEachern, Kozlov, Hrkac, Tamer among them. Don’t know how much value they have individually, but some team is likely to make a pitch for them as the deadline nears.
It’s a real shame that I’m bringing up the Entry Draft with half a season to go, but I gotta find positives somewhere. I don’t normally like to speculate on the draft this early because the eligible players have quite a few months where their stock could rise or fall. But it looks as though the upcoming draft will be a deep one, which bodes well for Atlanta. In all likelihood, the Thrashers will get an extra pick or two at the trade deadline. Come draft time, they could possibly use those extra picks to leverage out a deal for a current NHLer to improve their roster. Or they could possibly use them in some combination and actually trade down in the draft. Considering the apparent talent of this draft, that could get them an impact player while still allowing the team to pick up an excellent young prospect. Combine that with three skilled and improving players coming over from Europe (Lehtonen, Santala, Dobryshkin), the great youth already on the team will just be that much better.
Exelby and a free agent or two should greatly improve the Atlanta defense. And the new coach will have the summer to evaluate and teach his players. I’ll give absolutely no predictions on what next season might bring, but I think that I will like the look of it.