Thrash Talk: 'Tis the Season

News: Injuries are beginning to take their toll on the Thrashers, although it isn’t as bad as previous years. A bit more depth and experience from their farm team has helped somewhat. That being said, they are still in the midst of yet another funk. Even the full 60 minute effort in a 1-0 win against the Leafs isn’t enough to convince many that the team has started to turn a corner (but any win is meet with enthusiasm by Thrasher fans). Reports from the game have both teams playing poorly, and the refs not helping out at all. At the least, it ended a six game losing streak. Andy Sutton and Mike Weaver continue to get better on the back line, and now other teams are really noticing it. Pasi Nurminen has given up only two goals in his last two starts, playing as if he really wants to be the number one keeper. For those that have seen him, you know his style is pretty much all over the place. As a fan, it’s kinda nerve-racking to watch but damn if it isn’t fun. He didn’t get the nickname “Spiderman” for nothing. Watch for him and Dafoe to have more of a balance in the number of games played, and hopefully they can push each other for the starting spot.Injury Report: Bartecko is still out with a fractured wrist, return date likely after the New Year. Smehlik is out with what is reported as a contusion to the chest wall, and it’s unclear at this point when he will return. Heatley has a groin injury, and has been given the dreaded day-to-day label. He could be out for another 2-3 weeks, or his return may come sooner given his strong will to play (noticed by him getting upset at the end of the Thrashers-Stars game where the injury occurred, when he was told to sit out the last minutes of the game). Krupp still on the shelf with the back problems. No return date ,if any, set.

Prospect Updates: Chicago Wolves are currently on a nine game win streak. Hnilicka is 6-0 with Chicago, GAA of 2.33, SV% of .920 since his demotion. Simon Gamache has five goals in his last five games, Dan Snyder recently scored two shorties in a game and is tied for the league lead in SHG. Mark Hartigan has five points in four games since being reassigned to Chicago.

As for the Thrashers European prospects, the best place to look is Finland. Lehtonen’s stats actually look better when you factor in a recent slump for him and his team in which they got beat handily in three or four straight. Santala’s passing seems to be getting better, and he appears to have a bit of a mean streak. Sixth in the league in points.

Kari Lehtonen: 20-8-1 4 SO 1.81 GAA 93.29 SV%

Tommi Santala: 6 goals, 23 assists in 26 games. 76 PIM, +13

Rumors: No trade talks swirling at the moment, although I’m sure one or two are being discussed. They always are. The only rumor of note is one that has head coach Curt Fraser’s head on the block. Despite a great effort in a 1-0 win over Toronto, the Thrashers have issues. Constant defensive problems, up-and-down scoring, inconsistent play from most of the team. Since they are the ones playing the game, some of the blame absolutely has to fall on them as professional athletes. But Atlanta has too much talent to be playing this poorly and out of sync (and yes, they do have quite a bit of talent other than the dynamic duo). The rest of the blame falls to their coaching staff, who can’t seem to get the team headed in the right direction. As I’ve said before, I like Fraser but I think his style is better suited as an assistant coach. This team needs a teacher and a motivator. I’ll leave it to you to speculate who that could be. Maybe Fraser’s friendship with DW is saving his job, maybe something about how AOL/Time Warner runs its sports teams is saving his job. Who knows? All I know is that a change is needed so this team gets the chance to progress to the next level.

The comments about DW and AOL/Time Warner are actually addressed in Tuesday’s Atlanta Journal/Constitution. The writer does make some valid points, I’ll admit. But in reading it you also have to take into consideration that he truthfully doesn’t know that much about hockey, having covered it very sparingly for only the last few years.

Extras: Well, it’s that time of year again. Time to pile up more debt when you just finished paying off for last December. No, seriously, I’m not being cynical. It’s a great time of the year. You make up wish lists and you actually get some of stuff you wanted. Well I’ve got my own wish list for the NHL this year. Here goes, part of it at least:

1) More NHL Coverage: I’m thankful for getting the local Thrashers broadcasts but unfortunately I don’t get Center Ice. Which means I’m doomed to see the same five or six teams on ESPN, and it’s kinda of a perverse thought for me to be happy that hockey coverage has been scaled back this year. And we all must have noticed that NHL2Night is now only being shown after the few games they show, and even then not after every game. With the NBA deal they made, we all saw this coming. Doesn’t mean you have to like it though. I just hope that one more time this year they show Atlanta, all I ask is for one more game. Two of the brightest young stars in the game (which is something the NHL likes to showcase) only shown once in a season. Something’s wrong with this picture. Hell, I might have seen another great youngster in Gaborik play once in a year and a half, and I know I’d love to see more of that.

2) Make a truly valid effort to sign in a new CBA: I know as well as anyone that it’s not that easy, but the sides need to make a real effort to get this done. Start talking to the other side and really listen to them as well. With the way things seem to be going, the NHL is not in any position for its players to strike. It would take so much time to recover from it. Talk, listen, work overtime, work double-time, work triple-time. Do what you have to do for a resolution, something that both sides can live with. In reality any agreement would not be optimal for either side, but in the end it will pay off. They will get at least some trust from the people who pay their bills, US!

I actually have a lot more, but I feel as though I might lose your interest by rambling on, so I’ll just stop here. Feel free to add your own wishes for the NHL if you like.

Since Christmas is only a week away, the next Thrash report will just have to wait until after that. Even though I’m sure I will post again before X-mas, I just wanted to say here that I truly hope everyone has a very merry and happy holiday season. We may not always agree but deep down we do know what’s really important. Happy Holidays everyone!!!