Thrash Talk: Respect
You may say it’s just that rush many teams get when a new coach is hired, and you could be right. But this looks like a totally different team under the direction of Hartley, with only one loss in his first six games. They will cool off in time, of course. But his teaching, demand for hard work and defense-first philosophy is rubbing off on the players and they are responding well. Even with this improved play, a top five pick in the entry draft still looks to be the Thrashers fate. However, they are slowly but surely gaining the respect of their opponents. News and Notes:
Thrashers are starting to embrace a more defensive game with their new coach. Their intensity is up, their defensive positioning solid, their puck support getting better at both ends of the ice. Atlanta has outscored its opponents 20-13 in six games under Hartley (considering what they’ve done before, this is pretty significant). When Dafoe returns from injury, he will get the chance to reclaim the number one spot. But Pasi Nurminen will continue to be the starter, unless Lord Byron returns to his good form. Since coming back from a three game suspension, Slava Kozlov has 5G and 10A in his last 9 games.
Dafoe (groin) – ready by middle/end of this week but won’t be rushed due to excellent play by Nurminen
Bartecko (groin) – should be ready to play Tuesday if needed
McEachern (groin) – placed on IR and will likely be out another week or so.
Uwe Krupp (back) – began practicing with the team. Another week or two needed for conditioning
Marc Savard (hamstring) – left Saturday’s game. Day-to-day
-Stephen Baby (Cornell) 27 points in 19 GP
-Jim Slater (Michigan State) 28 points in 24 GP
-Tommi Santala (HPK) 40 points, +20, tied for league lead in scoring, tied for fourth in PIMs
-Kari Lehtonen (Jokerit) 20-8-3 1.8GAA 93.31SV%
-Simon Gamache 17G, 21A +14
-Mark Hartigan 8G, 20A +3
-Derek McKenzie 11G, 10A +12 Excellent faceoff man, hardest worker on team finally scoring
GM Armstrong and Guy Carbonneau of the Stars attended the recent Blues-Thrashers game, most likely scouting Slava Kozlov. Vague rumors have mentioned Matvichuk or Erskine going to Atlanta, but to me it seems unlikely; Matvichuk is hurt for a while, Erskine still has a lot to prove and Kozlov is on a hot streak. The possibility still exists that Kozlov and/or McEachern could be traded at the deadline, depending on whether management wants to sign one or both of them to a new deal. In my opinion, they are both worth keeping for their talent and experience. There are others on the roster who are much more expendable than these two (ex. Tamer, Tremblay, Bartecko, Cowan)
A recent article on CNN/SI’s hockey page makes mention of Marcio Campos from Brazil, who recently made a trip to Atlanta in order to attend five games on a Thrashers homestand. For several months on the message board at AtlantaThrashers.com, Marcio has stated to those of us viewing the board about his impending trip. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend any games on that homestand and was unable to meet Marcio. You have to admit though that the article was correct in saying that he is one of the more die-hard NHL fans (especially when he comes from a country where the people obsess about soccer more than Canadians do about hockey).
Even though I’m very excited about the Thrashers winning ways of late, I am a realist. I know their play will level off at some point and they will still remain one of the worst teams in the league, point-wise. But this is one of the very few happy times that any Thrasher fan has had in almost four years, the rest being futility and frustration. And like myself, there are many others that have waited two decades to get a hockey team they could finally call their own again. For a true fan, rooting for your home team even if they have played poorly for 20 years is infinitely better than having no home team to root for at all. Whatever you may think of this team (ie we should be contracted or we should be moved north), don’t be surprised at my excitement and enthusiasm about this run of good play and that Atlanta might finally be on the right track. Three weeks of enjoyment about my home team over the span of 24 years. That’s not too much time to ask for, is it?