Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hartley fired

To the surprise of no one, Atlanta has moved coach Bob Hartley from the hot seat to the scrap heap, and GM Don Waddell is going to take over on an interim basis.

The Thrashers fell apart at the end of last season, and that's something that's continued this year with a lifeless 0-6 start. Atlanta had a 3-7-2 record leading up to the trade deadline last season, and only got back into the playoff race when Waddell bet the farm on a few veterans (Keith Tkachuk and Alexei Zhitnik), only to see his team swept in the first round by the Rangers.

The Thrashers have been god awful this season. Outscored 27-9, allowing 4.5 goals per game, dead last in shots on goal (23.5), 28th in shots against (34.3), a power play firing at 7.7 per cent and a penalty kill that's been putrid (71.4 per cent).

The strangest part of all of this is that this is essentially the same team that won the Southeast Division last season: Atlanta's biggest personnel losses were depth players like Greg de Vries, Andy Sutton and Jon Sim. Granted, they didn't add much, but there was nothing to suggest this team would struggle more than any other out of the gate.

The two Pats: Pat Burns and Pat Quinn, are being mentioned as potential replacements. Dave Lewis is also available. Brad McCrimmon has been an assistant in Atlanta since 2003 and could get his first head coaching gig.

John Anderson's been a successful minor-league coach for a decade and could finally get a bump up here. He played 814 games in the NHL, the majority with the Maple Leafs, and has coached the Chicago Wolves since their IHL days.

Recent AHL coaches of the year include Claude Noel (2004), Randy Cunneyworth (2005), Kevin Dineen (2006) and Mike Haviland (2007), none of whom currently have an NHL job.

Waddell coached this team for nine games in 2002-03, and is really in trouble if he can't get things turned around here. This has been a franchise mired in mediocrity for an awful long time, and the only thing preventing a housecleaning at this point is the tumult in the ownership situation.

UPDATE Someone had asked in the comments for an update on the Thrashers' ownership situation, and Wayne Fish had a pretty good summary of where we're at on the weekend:
In Atlanta, a local business group (Atlanta Spirit) is trying to buy out one of the former partners, Steve Belkin. It's a messy situation, now bogged down in the courts.

The NHL wants to get this over as quickly as possible because the Thrashers are having a difficult time moving ahead with day-to-day operations. Court decisions have placed restrictions on management's ability to sign free agents to long-term deals or to operate beyond salary caps, according to the Associated Press.
The update? It's still a mess, and if you ask me, I think it has more than a little to do with the fact Waddell is still in charge despite the debacle of the last few months of last season.

Here's more info on where the dispute is in the courts.

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At 12:16 p.m., October 17, 2007, Blogger Darrell said...

I don't think either Pat will become the coach. Waddell is a guy who at last years trade deadline proved one thing, and its not a good thing. He doesn't care about the long term prospects of the team, only about saving his position. Don't expect that to change when he hires a new coach, which, IMHO, completely rules out Pat Quinn, who would make a far better GM for Atlanta than Waddell. Burns is a maybe, as he has no GM experience, but I doubt he wants a coaching gig for a team that desperately needs a new GM, preferably, one that believes in defenseman.

At 12:43 p.m., October 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Philly sure got better after they got rid of Hitchcock last fall, right?

It's going to be a long season in Atlanta. Hartley is obnoxious and full of himself but he is not responsible for this joke.

What happened? Two years ago you could make a case for this team to compete for Stanley Cup in near future. Now they have Lehtonen, Kovaltchuk, Kozlov and Hossa - nothing else.

And Hossa is going to leave as an UFA after this season. K-Lowe is going to give Lehtonen an offer sheet to replace over the Hill Rolonson.

Atlanta Trash has an AHL team with AHL growds and AHL management.

At 1:10 p.m., October 17, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

This team overachieved last year big time and is a mess every which way you look at it. Waddell is the problem, and until he's gone there's no hope.

This is a team that has missed the playoffs every year but one (in 7 years) but still ices the 3rd oldest lineup in the NHL. After that much futility you'd think the lineup would be dotted with homegrown players, but there's very few of them.

I picked this team to finish 14th... looks like I might have been generous.

At 1:15 p.m., October 17, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a Hurricanes fan and have my own issues with Atlanta because of that. But as a hockey fan in the much-beleaguered/oft-maligned SE division, I would like to see all five teams here really get it together. The 'south least' jokes got old a long time ago.

At 1:30 p.m., October 17, 2007, Anonymous Frank said...

I haven't heard much recently about the state of the Thrasher's (and Atlanta Hawks) ownership and their legal problems/structure.

I believe at one time the GM had to get court approval before he could offer long term contracts to players. Can anyone update us on the current situation - and whether the Thrashers might be soon moved or sold?

At 1:33 p.m., October 17, 2007, Blogger Jonathan said...

This team is a mess, and that can be layed squarely at Waddell's feet. It's a team with, among other things, no second line scoring, only one good face-off man, and Todd White as a first line centre. The top defensive pairing is Zhitnik and Havelid, which might tread water with decent depth, which Atlanta doesn't have. To make matters worse, the goaltending has been poor. How this is Hartley's fault I don't know, and strongly suspect Waddell doesn't finish the season.

At 1:43 p.m., October 17, 2007, Blogger Adam C said...

That's the dilemma for would-be coaches here: do you take the job from a GM who is likely to be fired before the next draft?

At 11:44 p.m., October 17, 2007, Blogger Bruce said...

That's the dilemma for would-be coaches here: do you take the job from a GM who is likely to be fired before the next draft?

Depends on how desperate and/or how confident the would-be coach is. And maybe how many years he's offered. One of Doug MacLean's parting gifts to Columbus was the hiring of Ken Hitchcock, and Hitch seems to have survived the subsequent purge just fine.

It's an especially good opening for a coach/wannabe GM (Quinn?), but even Don Waddell isn't dumb enough to grease his own skids to that extent. If such a hiring is made, you'll know it came from higher up.


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