Friday, February 05, 2010

In defense of Don Waddell.

Sympathy cards should be sent to Don Waddell, c/o Atlanta Thrashers...

Talk about words I never thought that I would type. Wow. What a difference a couple of years makes. He's gone from drafting Alex Bourret to Zach Bogosian. Good first round picks like Bryan Little and Boris Valabik (far improved and finally finding his ice legs this year), as well as diamonds in the rough like Tobias Enstrom have made the Thrashers into a strong young team that should be competitive soon in the future. Hockey's Future ranks the Thrashers' farm system at #6, and that's only because Little, Valabik, and Bogisian are no longer prospects. We have more outstanding future goalies than you can shake a $200 easily breakable stick at. Recently, Don's done well. Evander Kane is going to mature from a sparkplug on the ice into a semi-truck engine in a few years. I have no complaints.

Fans are having conniption fits over the trade of Kovalchuk. Please, allow me to say, calm down. Don't bring your "Fire Waddell" chants to Philips on Saturday. Breathe. Ilya Kovalchuk was not this team. Yes, it's an end of an era and it's unfortunate to see him go, but think about it. How many turnovers that led to goals was he responsible for this season? How many times have we seen him in the past 8 years just float - not even remotely try? He was benched by Hartley not only as a learning experience, but because Hartley was the only coach who had the stones to call him out on his one-way play. It's exciting to see him on a breakaway. It's flat-out frustrating to see him turn away from a player with the puck in his own zone because he thinks someone else has it. For God's sake, he was booed Tuesday night. He's been booed at about the past 5 home games because of things like this.

We didn't lose the most dynamic player in the game - that implies change. Kovalchuk's style has never changed, and it probably won't fully in Jersey. He does everything himself, takes everything on his own shoulders, and for as many hat tricks he's had, he has helped cause massive blowouts. Look - he has 615 lifetime NHL points - and he is a -84. He has never stepped up to even attempt to play a two way game, and that is why him leaving doesn't hurt the team. Yes, it might hurt attendance and sponsorship until the Thrashers start to win, but on the ice, they'll be better off. This isn't a dog and pony show anymore, people. This is the Atlanta Thrashers. Everyone will have to pull their weight scoring, but frankly, the pressure'll be off having to constantly defend against breakaways that Kovalchuk has caused, or watch for passes no one expects.

Waddell sent out a very well-stated e-mail to the fans. In it, he explains the issues behind the deal, and it was all about the money. There was nothing Waddell could do, unless he wanted to scrap the young talent we have in a few years for an aging star who still isn't pulling his weight. As Waddell told AJC beat writer Chris Vivlamore, it was all about the money:

As we found out, it was all about money. We built a team that Kovy liked. We knew Kovy wanted to stay in Atlanta for the rest of his career if he could. But when you start looking at trying to sign a player to that kind of contract, tell me which one of our young players -- [Evander] Kane or [Zach] Bogosian -- you want me to trade, because there is no way you can be able to afford these players going forward.

There is nothing that he said that I can find fault with.

Yes, I'm gonna miss Kovalchuk, and the arena'll look empty without his mug plastered all over the place - the framed photos of him scattered around will just be for the history books in this, the Thrashers' 10th anniversary. But when we show consistent success down the line, we'll realize how much building a team around one player and focusing entirely on that one player has held us back.


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