Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cabbages and Kings

The Blueland Chronicle's reporters can confirm that last night's pre-game meeting of Thrashers GM and coach Don Waddell, owner dude Bruce Levinson, and legions of cranky season-ticket holders was a fascinating thing to behold. I didn't know that Levinson was going to be there to answer questions along with Waddell, and it might come as a surprise (given my anti-ownership post yesterday) that I found Mr. Levinson totally convincing, sincere, intelligent, and committed to the team. I've always been a Don fan, so I went in expecting my feelings to be up in arms defending him against complaints about everything under the sun; but I was surprised by Levinson's persuasiveness.  Grand Shooteur, no fan of the owners, tells me that Levinson is an exception to the sad rule and seems to actually know quite a bit about hockey and actually, you know, feels passion for the sport. 

I was taken off guard by Waddell's and Levinson's candor about the team's troubles. They openly admitted that Zhitnik has had a disastrous year, that our defense could use serious reform (but that Toby Enstrom is awesome), and that, in Waddell's words, "some veterans have seriously let us down this year." That means Slava Koslov and Bobby Holik, by the way. 

And yes, I like Koslov and Holik too. Slava is a brilliant hockey player whose best days are behind him; Holik is still quite good, but inconsistent and probably not the best choice for team captain. Anyway, back to the meeting:

During the long Q&A session all the predictable subjects were raised: was the Hossa trade deal done wisely, are we handling our money well, why don't you answer my emails, and is this rise in season ticket prices highway robbery or is it not? 

Some rotund kid with a lisp instructed Waddell that Kari Lehtonen is not a good goalie and that he needed to be traded (to make room for Ondrej Pavelic); Waddell and Levinson both gently told the youngster that he had no fucking clue what he was talking about. When Bruce Levinson (who I keep wanting to call Barry Levinson; have you seen Diner? Great film; rent it) said that the average ticket price at Blueland was lower than the price average for the rest of the NHL, the sound of pious and populist feathers being ruffled swept across the room and not a few people shouted that this was untrue. My take (not that you asked)? Levinson knows more about the business of hockey, including ticket prices and the realities of reporting back to the Central Committee in Moscow, er, Toronto, than you do, fair fan . Levinson was honest enough to say that prices will keep rising year after year, but that he'll do everything he can to keep them at league lows. Seriously, the people able to find fathomless outrage in the raising of ticket prices are the same people who send food back at restaurants and complain about all these Mexicans about these days.

Another guy said that the Hossa trade was "good riddance," but that he misses Pascal Dupuis (or as we call him at the Blueland Chronicle, Little Kovalchuk) and thinks it might have been unwise to get rid of him. I was quite a big Dupuis fan too, but Waddell's answer satisfied any qualms I had about his departure: the fact of the matter is that we had a choice between sending Eric Perrin  to Pittsburgh along with Hossa or sending Dupuis. I think they made the right decision. 

Waddell said that there was no way in hell he'd want to get rid of Kari or Kovy; he's awfully fond of Enstrom and Havelid, whom he says had a rocky season last year because of personal troubles but seems back on track this year...hmmm, what else? The team's central problem, he thinks, is similar to the central problem in any lagging team, business, organization, nation-state, strip club: on the Thrashers, or on any team or in any strip club, there's going to be roughly four players/strippers who are passionately committed to the team/strip club and pull the rest of the team/strip club along with them on a wave of enthusiasm and commitment. Inevitably, there's also going to be roughly four players/strippers who languish at the back and don't much care. The rest, the majority, is in the middle, and which direction they get pulled in influences how the team/strip club fares.

The only other significant question was about avoiding a Hossa situation with Kovalchuk. As anyone who knows about either player, their contracts and agents, and the relationship between Don Waddell and Czar Ilya  knows, Kovy is committed to Atlanta and won't be leaving. I have to admit I was relieved to hear Don confirm that towards the end of his current contract the Czar is going to be signed to an Ovechkin-esque deal with Atlanta. Sweet.

I believe that's all my memory can muster right now. Grand Shooteur, I trust, will offer another installment about the meeting. I'm off for now. Nice win over the Wild last night. Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen were both splendid, Moose did his Moose Dance, and I think that Kovalchuk guy has a future. 


The Falconer said...

I'd cut the kid with the "lisp" some slack. He reminded me of someone who is partially deaf who pronounces words in a slightly odd way.

Mortimer Peacock said...

Yes, perhaps he was deaf. That invalidates everything I say. What a heartless monster et cetera et cetera...

Tiffany said...

Unless there are significant changes made geared towards defence, or something done to get Kari help, I would not be surprised at all to find out he's shopping for a trade over the off season. Granted, DW would have to approve it - but how long will DW be here? No one knows, not even him. Would someone be batshit crazy to let him go? Absolutely. But that batshit craziness has already been proved by not addressing any of our problems, other than recognizing them publicly months after everyone else has been screaming about it.