Monday, March 15, 2010

Thrashers Playoff Chances All But Oveur

Is it just me, or does this picture remind you of the guys in charge at the top of the Atlanta Thrashers organization? By now you've all read the news about Captain Oveur. I salute you, sir. You will be missed. If only he hadn't eaten the fish (too soon?).

On to the hockey Thrashers. You, constant reader, will know that I have not been all that optimistic about the Thrashers chances in this post Kovalchuk era. As you can read here. I wanted our team to succeed and prove me wrong. And they got off to a decent start after the trade. The problem is the season is not 6 games long. Flaws and lack of talent will shine through in time. The problem with this post Kovalchuk roster is no one can score goals. It's just not there people. Bergfors put a few in the net, but he is a rookie and the fact that he has been put on line 1 and is now the savior is, to put it in the words of one Mortimer Peacock, "comical". With this team prone to falling behind early, there is little chance of a comeback due to the lack of fire power. So, in the past when Kovalchuk could come to the rescue we could still make a run at it. Now, most games are over in the 1st period with no chance of a comeback. As I've said many times before, at the start of the year I thought our weakness was secondary scoring. Turns out that it is a big problem. You take Kovalchuk out of the picture and all you have left is secondary scoring.

I often giggle when I hear people say that Waddell or Anderson should be fired and then they have no idea of what the replacements should be. It's fine to throw those accusations around, but have a plan in place if you do. With that said, if I were in charge (and lets be honest, it's surely only a matter of time) here is what I would do:

Fire Waddell. The logical choice is to replace him with Rick Dudley. And if Waddell goes, I'm sure that will happen. Me? I'm not a huge fan of this. I think Dudley can help scouting wise, but I think he made a mess of things in Florida. He did make some key moves in the eventual rise of the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he still scares me as a GM. He is, after all, the guy that during our first game after the Kovalchuk trade said he didn't know how our team wasn't in first place. Most fans love him for the lone reason that he isn't Don Waddell. What would I do? Keep Dudley on and hire this guy named Craig Patrick as GM. I have been calling for this move for years but I know it won't happen. He is a winner. A two time Stanley Cup winner, that is. Due to money issues he had to dismantle his team in Pittsburgh, but was on his way to building it back. Nearly all of the key guys on that team were drafted by Patrick. Unfortunately for him they developed one year too late. No one ever talks about him but I know he is the guy to get the job done.

Fire John Anderson. Some say two years isn't enough time and they may be right. Some say he hasn't been given the talent to win with and I know they would be right. The problem we have is we desperately need a change in culture. And that means making big changes with the top guys involved. Ever notice how it seems as though we can't play a full 60 minutes. Don't you think that is partly the fault of the, oh I don't know, THE HEAD COACH!! So, you fire Anderson and replace him with Craig MacTavish. Can you honestly tell me that this team wouldn't play a full 60 minutes of tough, hard nosed-hockey with him behind the bench? And with the change in personnel I think he would be a good fit. Oh, in addition to getting the boys to play hard every game, MacT is a damn fine coach.

That's where you start. And a short message to all the Kovy haters out there that thought we would be better off without him because of his poor defensive play here is a little stat for you:

Goals For: 3.01
Goals Against: 3.20


Goals For: 2.61
Goals Against: 3.46

So maybe it wasn't all Kovy's fault after all. Now, I'm not a huge stats guy and these numbers certainly don't prove much. But they can be used as a guideline to help some of you understand that while having a few flaws defensively, it is no reason to give up on a guy that is going to score 50 goals a year. Let this be a lesson, you don't call for the head of your best player and try to run him out of town and then expect to be better off once he is gone.

Oh, one more thing... if you would like to send hate letters directly to me, you can now follow me on the Twitter with your Twitter machines @BiggieShooter.


j_barty_party said...

Nice rant, but why is everyone copying Bill's blog on the Airplane theme. What happened to TBC originality! ;-)

But that's one man's opinion. Much like this diatribe. While there are several good points throughout, most of which I agree with, there is one major mis-statement. Kovalchuk gave up on us, not the other way around. Of couse there is going to be a backlash. But when you boil it all down, can you really blame the guy for giving up on us?

What the hell have we done to merit his attention for a new contract? Not a GD thing.

One last thing, our PP has been miserable of late. For that short 6-game post-Kovy stretch, we were actually seeing some PPG (5 in 6 games), but now it's almost as dry as the desert where our last opponent resides. Strangely, we scored two PPG after being in a five-game oh-fer drought. Of course, not having Kovy has a lot to do with that as he is considered exceptional on the PP. But I will point out that we only saw 5 PPG scored in Kovy's last 14 games as a Thrasher. We have 7 PPG since his departure over 13 games.

What do you say to that GM-to-be?


Big Shooter said...

Captain Oveur died today. Come on man!!

j_barty_party said...

Where's the Corey Haim tribute??

Big Shooter said...

And to your point about Kovalchuk giving up on the team... that is more fan made up than anything else. People were emotionally upset when they realized he wasn't signing.

His stats for the last 16 games before the trade (1 month): 8 goals, 8 assists, and for all you +/- lovers he was a +1. Maybe not his best numbers but I hardly think that is giving up on a team.

But Speaker, we just need to agree to disagree so this thing won't be 75 comments.

Andrew said...

The question that needs to be asked, is the current winless streak without Kovy any more damning the winless streak without Kovy? Seems to me it's a wash, but the Thrashers now have 10million dollars to spend on improving "the team". Something that would not have been possible if Kovy signed. In other words, the status quo has been broken and things should improve in the future.

Andrew said...

>> The question that needs to be asked... is the current winless streak without Kovy any more damning then the winless streak WITH Kovy?

Why can I not type?

j_barty_party said...

I meant he gave up on them as a Captain. You can still put up good stats as a good player and at the same time, fail to provide any leadership. I don't even think you are so Kovy-loyal as to argue his protracted contract situation combined with his incomplete (for lack of a better word) commitment to the team as captain didn't have a huge impact on the team's psyche.

We were barely over .500 with him and we're not much worse without him. Once the pressure of the playoff race subsides, watch them play well for the last 10-12 games and give people more fodder for their "we're better off with Kovy" argument. While I don't subscribe totally to that theory, I still think the potential is there to be a better "team" without him.

But like you said, we need new direction and a new paradigm.

Yes indeed!

See? We agree!

Mortimer Peacock said...

R.I.P. Cory Haim.

But come on dude, Peter Graves was/is a freaking legend. Best pilot I ever had.

Big Shooter said...

Hope they do improve, Andrew. Just wonder who we can spend it on that is good enough to replace Kovys production and actually want to come here. I hope they are out there. If not you are spending $ on guys that can't match the production, so it's not a given things will be better...

Mortimer Peacock said...

Also: bring on the Two-Headed Craig Monster.

j_barty_party said...

Morty - I was just joshin'...I realize he's a legend round these parts...just like to bust chops.

Shooter / Andrew - we don't need to replace Kovy with one player. The key is to bring in another guy who, combined with Bergfors upside and 25+ goal potential, can score another 25 goals and not be a defensive liability. As opposed to a Clarke MacArthur who might get you 15-20 goals but end up a -10 or -15. I think the goal should be to ice 6 or 7 legit 20+ goal scorers and play good 5 v 5, defensively responsible hockey.

Proven scorers: Antropov, Fins (but will he be back?) & UFA

Potential w/ upside: Bergfors, Kane, Peverley

Potential w/ questions: Little & MacArthur

It would be nice if we could get a guy like Poni, Frolov or Sharp as they are all proven 20+ goal scorers, not lacking in physical stature and solid 2-way players.

Get a real # 1 goalie and another bona fide Top 2 D-man to replace Kubina, but I hope we can re-sign him because I'm not sure about the UFA market for D-men. Hope that Bogo can rebound from this poor season and hope Kulda is ready. Hainsey & Oduya are are a solid 2nd pairing. Is Enstrom a Top 2 D-man tho? Close, but not quite.

We may not be that far away from at least competing for a bottom 4 seed in the playoffs next year.

$13 M to spend on a # 1 goalie, a 25 goal scorer and Kubina or another Top 2 D-man. Do-able.

the jointhead said...

Steve Yzerman: stanley cups, check; cure our loseing culture, check; teach the youngsters how to lead, check; revered as a golden god in cunuckistan and would attract talent, check; would trust him to hire a competent coach, check; hockey gold in olympics, check.

Big Shooter said...

Steve Yzerman leaving the only organization he has ever known to come to the Thrashers = Uncheck

Mortimer Peacock said...

Isn't Yzerman pretty much expected to take over from Ken Holland next season? Or sometime very soon, whenever Holland leaves?

the jointhead said...

Yzerman is expected to take the next GM opening in the nhl. Holland isn't going anywhere as far as I have heard.

Mortimer Peacock said...

Really? Well, saddle up Steve, and ride on down to Atlanta.

Mutton Sourdough said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mutton Sourdough said...

Shooter - You like to bust chops, eh? I hope not (looks side to side, puts on sunglasses) MUTTON chops

Jay said...

I've heard Yzerman is open to any GM job, not just Detroit's. I do like the Craig Patrick idea, too. I'd give Anderson one more season. There have been glimpses of hope with his system. He inherited a lot of players that were too slow(Kozlov, Armstrong, White who still remain) to succeed under him. Some of the youngsters might be different. I want to keep Dudley in the organization, too. He is a great scout. I'm excited to see Cormier and Vishnovskiy. I have a feeling his hands were all over them becoming Thrashers. I think Waddell has improved as a GM, but at this point it's too late for most of the fans. For the sake of public relations a change has to be made.

Mutton Sourdough said...

Jay - I tend to agree with you about Anderson, and I think the current crew of assistant coaches is probably good enough to put the Ws on the board. I also agree about Waddell. He seems to have made infreakingcredible strides as a GM, but it's just too late. He's always seemed like the guy who would make a great associate GM brought in to do people-management, be it fans, players, other management, traffic cops for the inevitable Thrashers player getting a dui, etc. Either that or like many have suggested take the GM off his title and let him stay the EVP. But he never really seemed quite like the top dog to me. And I agree with the general consensus here that Dudley is much better doing what he currently does than being the full-fledged GM.

So basically I like the options being tossed out there for discussion, even if it sounds unoriginal. But I think if we have 1 more season of standing pat in the front office regarding Waddell and miss the playoffs, the Thrashers will have failed Atlanta so epically the NHL might just allow the team to move as a F--- YOU to the Asshat Suckers Group, LLC.

Big Shooter said...

I would be surprised if StevieY left the Wings, but I defer to Jhead on all things Red.

MChopps - All in good fun. I am the crazy Uncle in this wonderful Blueland Chronicle family we have. Not sure who Morty is...

Razor Catch Prey said...

First of all, Peter Graves will be sorely missed. I will be watching Airplane! on an actual airplane this Thursday in tribute.

I agree with much here, but I'm on the fence about Anderson. Yes, the fact that this team comes out totally flat at the beginning of games and the beginning of periods is damning. Jason Arnott even made comments to the press after our game in Nashville that they were aware of that tendency and took advantage of it. The team still didn't respond.

On the other hand, I think that two years isn't enough time. If you bring him in to coach an established winning roster, then two years is plenty of time. But he was brought in to coach in the NHL for the first time, and in that first year had to teach his reluctant (see comments by Kozlov, performances by Christiensen and Williams) players to play his system. Then in his second season was still stuck with several pieces that don't fit his system and the whole Kovalchuk contract debacle.

So I can see that to give Anderson a fair shot, he should get next year with a roster full of young, fast players who will buy in to his system.

But there is still that little matter of playing 60 minutes, that that little matter of Craig MacTavish sitting out there waiting on a job...

As for DW, I would like to agree with MS that he be allowed to semi-retire as the Exec VP and do public relations. However, that doesn't address Shooter's point about the culture of losing. It also leaves him in charge of hiring front office personnel, which means that he is still de facto in charge of our marketing. Our marketing is as much in desperate need of a change as every other part of our organization.

So I think he needs to be let go. Bring in an Yzerman, Messier, Pang, or even Hedberg as the new GM and retain Dudley as Associate GM to be the talent guru.

I think with the young talent, prospects, and cap space this team has, they could have a resurgence in the city if they show a changing of the guard and rehaul the team's image with a sweeping new marketing campaign. They need stuff that will capture people's attention like the Bruins Bear commercials and they need to cover the town the way the Preds do.

I am also not totally closing the door on spending all of that cap space to bring Kovalchuk back. The bridge may be burned, however. If Kozlov was upset over Waddell's "we haven't won anything in seven years with Kovy on the team" comments, then Kovy himself had to be hurt.

Mortimer Peacock said...

I'm the talking family dog with a liking for cocktails.

YES. You and your Joke Shades have won the Great Patriotic Comment War of March 2010.