It appears Atlanta fans are headed for another regular season disappointment. The Thrashers play over the last 10 days has all but reserved tee times at the golf course.
I could sit here and post up all sorts of numbers and statistics and analysis of players, but we all know the basics. The Thrashers are 0-5-1 since their last victory, which came on March 4th. During that span, they have been outscored 21-8.
Ugly enough for me to stop with the statistics right there.
It is my firm belief that now is the time to seriously question the coaching staff and their ability to lead an NHL club.
John Anderson made his name in the AHL as he won 4 championship rings with Chicago Wolves, the Atlanta Thrashers affiliate. He had the best of the best in AHL talent with Jason Krog, Colin Stuart, Brett Sterling, among others. Needless to say, the success has not carried over to the NHL so smoothly. For a while, it was merely the roster he was working with. Last season’s Hossa-less duct-taped-together roster was a train wreck, and despite a 76-point campaign, Anderson still deserved another shot with an improved roster. He got that chance this year, as Thrashers General Manager Don Waddell brought in Nik Antropov, Maxim Afinogenov, and Pavel Kubina. As it currently stands, the on-ice product still has not made any real progress, especially in the absence of former captain Ilya Kovalchuk.
One topic that gets talked about over and over with Anderson is his “offensively-minded systems.” Such systems have stirred up recent controversy among fans. Just by looking at the shot differential, goal differential, and +/- of the Thrashers roster, it is so blatantly evident that Anderson’s game-plan is not doing much defensively. And don’t point at the roster, because Pavel Kubina, Tobias Enstrom, Johnny Oduya, Zach Bogosian, and Ron Hainsey is a capable defensive squadron under coaches like Bruce Boudreau or Joel Quenneville. There are coaches that have done much better with worse.
Not only is the team failing on the defensive side of the puck, but they are also missing the mark game-in and game-out in the intimidation category. Not one thing about the Atlanta Thrashers strikes fear in anybody’s heart. There aren’t many big hits, there aren’t many fights, and there isn’t much pushing or shoving from the Thrashers. From what we all know of PLAYOFF hockey, that just isn’t going to fly when it matters, as shown in the Thrashers most un-clutch losing streak in history.
But the aspect of all of this that worries me most: Player development. Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, Bryan Little, Niclas Bergfors, Ondrej Pavelec, and Arturs Kulda are all young players that the Thrashers brass is going to rely on to bring this team to success in the foreseeable future. Can these players fill out their responsibilities under coach Anderson? Will they be taught in a way that will help them reach their full potential? Such questions are bouncing all over Blueland as the Thrashers are just about to put playoff-less season #9 in the books.
Turnarounds are possible. Look at Phoenix. Alas, Phoenix got a new ownership, new head coach, and a new way of playing the game. It’s about time Atlanta followed suit.
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Written by Kevin Thurston