Friday, January 25, 2008

Don Waddell at the All-Star coaches roundtable

Thrashers GM and coach Don Waddell was named as an assistant coach for the Eastern Conference All-Stars this morning when New Jersey's Brent Sutter had to withdraw because of a family emergency. DW said he only found out about it this morning. It was a logical solution to a very late withdrawal by Sutter, with Atlanta as the host team. I wonder what they would have done if a Western assistant had withdrawn. I guess someone else would be on a plane right now.

Anyway, Waddell had some interesting things to say at the coaches roundtable. Notable also was that Turtleneck Don was the only one who wore a tie. A snazzy tie at that.

As most who have seen him in public speaking sessions know, Don jokes around a lot, but he seemed especially funny today next to the deadpan John Paddock. Don said he told Mike Babcock a week or so ago, something everyone on the panel could agree on, that NHL coaches don't get paid enough. There's a lot of sleepless nights getting ready for practice the next day when the game you just played didn't go the way you wanted.

The moderator asked how much of a coach's job is motivating the players, noting that the answers to this have varied widely. Don said that the Thrashers lost Mellanby this year and don't have that guy who steps up. The coaches have to step up. The amount of motivation depends on the chemistry of the team. Right now, it's a decent part of the Thrashers coaches' jobs.

Regarding whether the media are too intrusive, Don said the Thrashers are always looking for new avenues. What he doesn't like is speculation and rumor -- "let's deal with facts," he said. "Some guy in Ottawa makes something up -- not John (pointing to Paddock, laughing) -- and suddenly it's the Bible." He said they had to deal with this just last week. Babcock said the media are very important in hockey because we have glass between the players and fans. I thought that was an astute comment, one I wouldn't think about since I only do hockey. (Below is Babcock meeting with the important people. The woman next to him is
I think Helene St. James from the Detroit Free Press).

Is lack of scoring a problem in the league? Don said no, not the brand of hockey the Thrashers play, where they try to outscore the other guy. Babcock said the goalies are just too good, and mentioned Kari Lehtonen in particular. His 48 saves against Detroit are fresh in his memory.

Don finished by joking he was glad to be behind the bench "because they'll all be free agents someday," and the Thrashers could showcase the facilities and city. The moderator promised not to turn him in for tampering.

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