When I first started this blog, I had named it “Hope, Households & Hockey Pucks” because I love God, my family and hockey….yes, in that order…and I thought I could write about the things that I love. However, I have tried to stay away from the hockey aspect in my blog because I didn’t want my blog to be all about hockey.
Yes, the Stanley Cup playoffs, which start this week, does have my attention to a great degree. I love postseason hockey regardless of who is in or not. Now there are plenty of blogs and articles related to this year’s postseason….certainly, I don’t need to add to the cornucopia of opinions on who will win this year’s hardware. However, I do want to share my feelings on one particular franchise who missed out on the playoffs again this year:
Apparently, this offseason happens to be spring cleaning time for the Atlanta Thrashers.
After another season without a taste of the postseason, the Thrashers made wholesale changes to the structure of the front office staff. They promoted Don Waddell to the office of President, making him responsible for the business operations of the team. The Thrashers also promoted Rick Dudley to the office of General Manager, making him responsible for the actual hockey operations. Finally, the team relieved the entire coaching staff….including head coach John Anderson….of their duties after roughly just two seasons.
I have been a loyal follower of the Atlanta Thrashers for the ten seasons that they have been in existence. Sadly, I have been unable to attend more Thrasher games on a regular basis due to logistics (i.e. distance from home), but have always tried to keep up with their progress on a daily basis.
Having said all that, I do believe that this team needs some major help…a fresh vision…and Rick Dudley could actually be the visionary that puts this team back on the right track.
His previous successes in Tampa Bay, Ottawa and Chicago could give longsuffering fans in Atlanta the encouragement they need, but they’ll want much more than encouragement. They want a winner.
Waddell is no longer responsible for making the choices that shape the team, itself. He believed in this team to the point that he was willing to chain himself to the sinking franchise. However, after ten years, the evidence of a stable, successful franchise under his watch was severely lacking. At some point, when you know that you’re just not cutting it, sometimes you have to check your pride at the door and step aside for someone else to mold the team.
The coaching staff? Well, two years is a very short time to get established on a NHL franchise. However, when one of your veteran players questions your system, then you start to wonder what kind of foundation is being laid out. I do like John Anderson and was very supportive of his hiring two years ago, but it’s time to bring some experience back behind the bench.
I had the opportunity to ask Mark Bradley, sports writer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, to see if any possible coaching candidates have already surfaced. His response: “I listened to Dudley’s teleconference…he wouldn’t give specifics, as you’d expect. But he did say that with a young team, which the Thrashers have, teaching is essential.” (You can see my question and his response in the comments section of his blog post here.) I agree on the teaching aspect, but a great teacher is one who has had plenty of previous experience in his coaching career to fall back on at anytime.
So far, some of the coaching candidates already being mentioned include Craig MacTavish, Ken Hitchcock & Michel Therrien. One blogger suggested John Stevens, formerly of the Philadelphia Flyers, but he seems like he’s still somewhat wet behind the ears to be that great of a teacher.
Another name that has recently popped up is somewhat of a surprise simply because of his previous involvement with the Thrashers: Bob Hartley.
As far as I’m concerned, I loved Hartley when he coached the team from 2003-2007. He is a great teacher and has plenty of experience (and success) from his days both in the junior leagues and as coach of both the Thrashers and the Colorado Avalanche. Today, he is a well-respected hockey analyst for the french-speaking RDS cable channel. In my opinion, despite starting the 2007-08 season 0-6, Hartley should not have been fired as coach of the Atlanta Thrashers. Jeff Schultz, another columnist for the AJC, maintains that the players in the locker room tuned him out and were responsible for the slow start that year…to which I wholeheartedly agree. Do I see Hartley return behind Atlanta’s bench? I seriously doubt it, but would highly recommend him to any NHL coaching post available. He’s been away for too long and would be an excellent asset to any team needing the leadership that he brings.
Obviously, I did have a lot on my mind in regards to the state of the Thrashers….and I do appreciate your willingness to bear through this post (a.k.a. rant). As far as I’m concerned, the 2009-10 season is over and I’m willing to let it go as the Stanley Cup playoffs take place over the next several weeks. The beginning of the 2010-11 season does not start until the month of October. The Thrashers have plenty of time to get their house in order before then.
Let’s hope that these changes are a step in the right direction towards a cleaner house.