So last night was a season ticket holders' town hall meeting meant to introduce fans (perhaps people who haven't renewed their season tickets in particular) to new coach John Anderson and to let them grill Don Waddell on this and that.
All four scribes from the Chronicle were present. This is what went down (I don't have the will or patience to write this in coherent sentences, so it's all in note form; enjoy):
Nothing that interesting really. It was exciting being in Philips again, and almost as exciting as loafing in the CNN Center beforehand. Hockey season is truly upon us.
Nothing inspires confidence like John Anderson. Very compelling speaker, witty and warm and wise, and his plan for next season basically consists of adapting our system to match whatever team we're playing. Like he told us at the bloggers meeting, he plans to play a much more offensive style of hockey, uptempo and more in the other team's zone than our zone. He intends on people other than Kovalchuk scoring twenty goals and more, and presumably on Kovalchuk scoring 100. Sounds good to me.
A pleasant surprise: Ron Hainsey was there! He took a few questions from the crowd and gave thoughtful, interesting answers. Nice dude, I'm excited to have him in Atlanta (he says he thinks a D-corps of Enstrom, Bogo, and himself looks pretty good; I can't disagree), and best of all he reminds me 100% of Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Columbus fans talk about how he resembles Orlando Bloom, and he does a bit...but when he opens his mouth I literally hear the voice of Christian Bale as Bateman. I think we've discovered a new motif for the Chronicle:
I can't wait for his power play goals.
Now then, on to Don Waddell. Wait, before I get to him, did I mention how much I like John Anderson? He's awesome. And he's going to horse-whip the Thrashers into playing a more offensive game. I mean, why shouldn't we when we have a guy like Kovalchuk? Hainsey said Ilya was one of the main reasons he came to Atlanta. Good for him.
Anderson also said something about our team becoming a chameleon, adapting itself to the opposing team's game. Hainsey noted the importance of each player on the team playing the exact same style/system, whatever that style/system may be. Like those Anaheim Ducks or those Detroit Red Wings, who play very different styles but win Stanley Cups and such. Speaking of Stanley Cups, Anderson said that his goal isn't to get into the playoffs. His goal is to win the Stanley Cup.
Ambition. Confidence. We of the Chronicle like it.
After Anderson and Hainsey finished their spiel D-Wad took the mic and fielded some questions from the audience. Not all of them hostile. Most of the questions were excellent ones, and Don answered them pretty well I thought. I just can't remember anything that was said now. Oh well.
Oh, yes: Apparently Slava Kozlov started sucking in the second half of last season because he was horribly injured and, John McCain-like, couldn't lift his arm above his shoulder or something. Poor Slava....though apparently he's 100% now and will presumably score 30 goals next year. I hope so. I love Slava (he and Hossa's line were the real reason I even got into the Thrashers; them and that other Russian dude) and I hope he'll revive himself this season. Really, why wouldn't he?
Someone asked a question about the Thrashers franchise moving to Las Vegas or Kansas City or some God-forsaken ghost town in Canada. Don said it's not going to happen, as the ownership also owns Philips Arena and something something something.
Basically, we're not moving. Good.
A lot of people asked questions that concerned, in one way or another, the possibility of Kovalchuk being traded. Don said he thinks Ilya is committed to the team and the money we can give him. In response to two questions that recommended urinating on the Czar's skates and running him out of town, Don simply said--as gently as he could--that guys like the Czar don't come along often and you don't trade a generational elite talent (genius, even) for draft picks and the Sedin Twins.
I wasn't give much comfort by Don's answers to questions about how much money the Ownership allows him to play with. I got the impression that he's on a tight stingy leash indeed. He DID say that they firmly supported pursuing Brian Campbell with mega-millions, so that's something I guess. Perhaps I'm wrong, but it seems that the ownership, for whatever reason (the legal imbroglio they're wrapped up in at the moment?), aren't willing to pay enough money for a winning team. Depressing, but not totally hope-destroying. The Atlanta Spirit might inspired premonitions of doom, but John Anderson really does inspire confidence and a hope that doesn't feel totally bogus. Hope that doesn't feel bogus at all, really.
Don also said that "an NHL team" had made him an offer of two "NHL players" for one of our fine goalies. Who who and who, I wonder? I suppose we'll never know. Unless Mike Knobler puts on his muckraker hat and gets seriously dirty.
Some dude from Parallel Universe, USA said something about Hossa being superior to Kovalchuk last year and got applause from exactly one other person. It takes all types to make a world, I suppose.
Before the Q&A Monsieur Catalogues and I had a good time chatting with the Falconer, mainly about music. He doesn't seem terribly confident about the 08-09 Thrashers, and that's fair enough, but my view is more agnostic. Anderson inspires confidence, like I've said a million times, but the team is full of question marks. Not ciphers or black holes, but question marks. We simply DON'T KNOW how Erik Christensen will do as Kovy's top-line center. He's never played that position before, and it might very well be his natural place. He didn't have that opportunity in Pittsburgh, where he was usually stuck on the third and fourth lines as a winger, not a center. How would, say, Marc Savard perform in those circumstances? Players like Christensen need to be given top six forward minutes to see how they'll perform.
Don said that the Thrash will use Marty Reasoner in a more offensive way than Mac-T did in Edmonton...Who knows how that'll turn out? Who knows how Jason Williams will peform? Kozlov, Bogosian, Armstrong, etc. etc. etc...
There are just a lot of unknowns, as some guy once said.
I consider myself a reasonably skeptical and critical guy, but I do choose to be hopeful about this season. There's no concrete reason for fatalism or doom-mongering, I think, and at the very least we will have improved our defense drastically and embraced a style of play that fits us much better than previous systems.
Like Anderson said, at some point last season we were in first place and then went on an eight game skid. Part of making to the playoffs (and, of course, winning the Stanley Cup) is shaving off those losses and increasing our winning streaks. Like I said in my write-up about the bloggers meeting, Anderson offers a way of looking at the Thrashers that deals in do-able particulars (increasing our winning streaks, getting depth players to score more goals than they did last year) and not in apocalyptic generalizations ("the Thrashers suck," etc.). He could, step by step, make us into a serious winning team.
Another reason to be hopeful: Don Waddell knows we shouldn't do something fuck-stupid like trade Kovalchuk.
Do we have the right stuff? Time will tell.