Challenges mount in Atlanta
This last summer I thought Don Waddell should have been moved up to Team President and a new GM brought in. The Thrashers management has made a string of poor bets and this summer they were turned down by all of their Plan A free agent targets. Now it seems that the fans too have given them a thumbs down. And really, who can blame the fans? When there is no change at the top and no big free agent additions why pony up the cold hard cash for another year of getting losing?
I give them credit for forking out to bring in Mathieu Schneider, but for many of the remaining fans, that's not enough, and another rebuilding season will not fill the building. Not even close.
Meanwhile, Ilya Kovalchuk's unrestricted free agency date creeps closer.
Tripp Mickle of The SportsBusiness Journal reported yesterday that the Thrashers were dead last in season ticket renewals at just 40 per cent as of mid-August — this for a team that has finished in the bottom 10 in league attendance every year since the franchise's inaugural season in 1999-00.
(Actually, what's really amazing, if you think about it, is that Atlanta managed to sell more tickets than eight other franchises last season. I can't see that being the case this time around.)
Blogger Dirk Hoag asks "is this a case of a non-traditional market not supporting hockey, or a fan base turning away from a team that has consistently failed to deliver a competitive product and offended season ticket-holders" and I think the answer is a little of both.
It's an ugly combination.