Saturday, March 8, 2008

Impressions and notes from townhall meeting

With the Thrashers well out of playoff contention, Friday night's game results held no real importance. The important action was actually at the pre-game season ticket holders townhall meeting. This is one of many times that I'm glad I shell out what seems like extraneous money so that I can sit with my SO. The organization served some rather tasty boneless buffalo wings as hors d'oeuvres, but they should have served popcorn because it was good, though quite subtle theater. You had to know what you were looking for.

Item 1: Don Waddell talked for 2-3 minutes about the coaching change and situation, and there was no mention whatsoever of associate coach Brad McCrimmon. I have maintained since shortly after Bob Hartley was fired that the next coach would come from outside the organization (and system). The current situation has been merely about stalling until the summer and the favored candidates become available. (Click the label at the bottom called "new coach" to see all posts on this topic). I've never understood why so many people think McCrimmon was or is the obvious choice. The inmates don't run the asylum so who the players like is irrelevant. A coach is needed who will make them play as a team, which is why they need an inspirational leader. I don't think McCrimmon is that guy. Nor is the defense any good, and he's supposed to specialize in that. Any indication the organization might have given that he was the heir apparent is window dressing so as not to undermine his authority during the season, and probably in response to a direct question on it, not something they went out of their way to say. The next coach will be inspirational not only for the team, but the city as a whole, selling the game.

Specifically what Don said on the coaching question was "I will not coach this team next year" and that candidates available early in the year as are not as good. The search begins immediately when the season is over, and they hope to have a coach in place by July 1, as it helps sell free agents on joining the team.

Owner Bruce Levenson said later in response to a different question that if they had to do it again they probably would have named an interim coach instead of having Don do both jobs because it is too difficult to do both.

Item 2: I wrote in my notes during the meeting: "BL doesn't get it." Levenson didn't seem able to see things from other people's perspectives. His answer to ticket was prices was "ticket prices will rise every year." No explanation of the economic pressures that make them do this, apology for the inconvenience, or anything of the sort. A friend of mine summed it up best right as the meeting ended by calling him a jackass. That's about right. He had a room full of people who are interested but skeptical of the product. He needed to do a sales pitch, but he did nothing of the kind. It was just bad business. He almost certainly lost buyers instead of gaining them.

There did not seem to be warm feelings between Levenson and Waddell during the tag-teaming either. Bruce was kind of steamrolling and Don stepped aside to let him do it. In hindsight they should have just let Don talk because he actually has some people skills, unlike Bruce.

The only other things that were interesting enough to mention is that it sounded like getting Brian Campbell at the deadline as a rental would have cost something like Ondrej Pavelec and a first round pick. I guess you need to explore all options, but it seems pretty ridiculous that the team would have been a buyer.

Don said some things are broke, but "it's not a blow it up situation." In other words, add some important pieces over the summer, don't blow up the entire team. My own thought is that in this era of parity, does anyone blow up their team anymore? There's a much finer line between being at the top and bottom, so it doesn't take as long to rebuild. As such, I don't know if teams raze the landscape now like they used to periodically do.

Don said they would have about $17 million freed up to spend. In goal, "we're fine," with two guys and Pavelec. That made me believe that Johan Hedberg would continue to back up next year. Don said realistically the team has two top-four defensemen: Toby Enstrom and Nic Havelid. Guys like Exelby and Klee have been playing above where they need to be. Sounds like they want to get Boris Valabik a few games this year so they he can experience the speed of the NHL and know what he needs to work on this summer.

Don said they recognized about 10 games into the season they had a big problem on defense, but that it was impossible to trade given the parity and cap. They tried many times. He said if he had to do differently, maybe they would have raised their offers significantly, "maybe it was worth giving up a top player."

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