Sunday, November 2, 2008

Taking Stock

Last season, the Thrashers began a February road trip by beating the New Jersey Devils in a dramatic come-from-behind game that culminated in a long shootout. Moose was in goal.

After such an exciting win, I figured that the Thrash would begin a march of victory through the Northeast and secure themselves first place in the Southeast Division and a playoff spot. The next game was the opening of the infamous eight game skid that plunged the team into the bottom of the NHL.

After last night's rout at the hands of the same Devils, with poor hapless Johan Hedberg in goal, I figure that the Thrashers are as good as dead. Is it too fanciful to hope that I'm mistaken and that they're about to embark on an eight-game winning streak?

I doubt we'll be so lucky.

I might be wrong, but the following seems to be the case:

- Don Waddell has pulled off some good things as GM. A few excellent trades (Heatley-Hossa), a few steals (Savard), some eagle-eyed draft picks (Tobias Enstrom, and now, thankfully, Bryan Little). He seems to have a good working relationship with the Czar. These are all isolated incidents though. A few good moves does not produce a legitimate playoff team. Waddell has made his share of good moves, and I'm very grateful for them, but it's what he seems to consistently lack that's led the Thrashers to so much defeat and disaster. He has no overarching plan or strategy for the team, no grand vision for how to develop a strong franchise. However much he talked in the past about five year plans, from what I can tell he's never had a coherent long-term strategy to build the team. Again, he's done some excellent things. But, again: a series of excellent moves does not necessarily create a Stanley Cup contender. To achieve that, a GM needs a larger vision for development. History suggests that Waddell has never had one.

- Something is awry with Ilya Kovalchuk. Whether he's simply having a frustrating, slightly "off" few weeks (like he did last summer during most of the World Championship tournament, which he eventually won for Russia) or not clicking with any of his line-mates or isn't buying into Anderson's system (which would be odd, given that Anderson's style suits him so well) remains to be seen. What we know is that he isn't delivering clutch goals that can win us games. A lot of this might have to do with him being drastically shut down by the other team's defense; the exact same thing is happening this season with Alex Ovechkin. But Kovy (and Ovie for that matter, if I were giving advice to the Caps) needs to find ways to transcend their opponents' shut-down tactics and score more goals.

- Kovy is either losing his mind or, Hamlet-like, playing at losing his mind. I hope he can work that out. Otherwise, I fear his future with this franchise is short indeed.

- Hainsey and Exelby have been our best defensive pairing by far. The other D-men desperately need to sort themselves out.

- Related to the last few points: Exelby's comments to today's AJC about a divided locker room are quite startling. A divided locker room would explain the lack of delivery from certain players, though. If a player isn't playing the same system as his line-mates, how can you ever expect them to "click?"

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

daily, the temptation grows to start calling them "the atlanta sybils."