Saturday, October 17, 2009

Where are they now? Jimmy Sharrow

I went to Wheeling Nailers pre-game skate today to talk to one of the prospects that Pittsburgh sent down. Jimmy Sharrow is there now, having signed a contract just last week. Wheeling, though it has some very good Penguins prospects come through there, is the place that Thrasher prospects go to die. Both Mike Vannelli and Lane Manson retired after playing just a few games for Wheeling. We'll see if Sharrow lasts all season.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Schell invited to Rockford camp

Former prospect Brad Schell is an invitee at AHL Rockford IceHogs camp. The IceHogs obviously would have seen him play last year in Gwinnett. Click here for the press release.

I'm a little surprised he didn't head to Europe this year.

Friday, September 11, 2009

2009 Traverse City Prospects Tournament review

I attended the Traverse City Tournament this year and was able to catch most of all four Thrasher games. If one had traveled all that way just to see the Thrashers, there wouldn't have been much reward, as the team had just spotty talent. They finished seventh out of eight, but had to go to a shootout to do it.

Let's start with the two best players: Evander Kane and Eric O'Dell. O'Dell doesn't get a lot of publicity, but he's quite good. Not flashy, but solid and effective. The only question is how he'll fit in at the NHL level. But I think he'll make it somehow. Originally drafted by Anaheim.

I talked a lot about Kane in my Day 4 game summary, so you can read that for more detail, but basically he played well, one of the top 5 or 10 guys in the tournament I'd say, but looks like a very good junior player, not an NHLer quite yet because he hasn't filled out. Here's a picture of him talking to his dad outside the rink that shows how thin he is:

Also solid was Levko Koper. Plays a very simple game, but it's effective. Not sure he's a player, but don't see any huge flaws. A checker in any case.

Next we have two goats: Jeremy Morin and Jimmy Bubnick. I didn't like Morin at the U18s in April, and liked him even less after seeing him this week. His puck skills are bad for someone with such a good shot -- a demonstration that when he has the puck he shoots it, no matter what. Doesn't matter if there's a better play to be made. Poor hockey sense in that way, and many other ways too. He also doesn't do the little things correctly, or more to the point, doesn't know what he should be doing. He had to be screamed off the ice by the bench for lining up on a faceoff making it too many men. A faceoff! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. He's going to the OHL because he didn't qualify academically for college. It's all related.

Jimmy Bubnick didn't do anything, but it wasn't for lack of trying, it was for lack of skill. Not much to see here.

On Ben Chiarot, I was writing in my notebook "Effort? Doesn't skate hard," when the two scouts behind me said "that Chiarot is lazy." So there you go.

Others: Postma and Paquette played pretty much as expected. Mike Forney had to be searched for, which isn't good. Cody Sol was fine, for what he is. I'm not sure how Andrew Kozek managed to get all those points. That's a head scratcher. Tryout Philip Paquet seemed unreliable on the blue line. Tryout Josh Unice wasn't great in goal, but neither was draftee Chris Carrozzi.

Here's some video footage I shot from Game 2 and Game 3.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Unice invited to Traverse City tourney by Thrashers

From the Windsor Star:

If the Holland, Ohio native was looking for a confidence boost with camp opening Wednesday he got it Tuesday night when the Atlanta Thrashers invited him to attend their rookie camp in Traverse City.

Unice is a goaltender perhaps best known for his play for Team USA. He is an unsigned draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Teams don't usually have three on the roster, so that says there's likely something amiss with Carrozzi or Pasquale. Unice isn't exactly a white knight though. Here's his profile.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Gladiators to affiliate with Blue Jackets as well

From the Columbus Dispatch:

The Blue Jackets will have a new ECHL affiliation this season, the Dispatch has learned. The franchise will send two or three players to the Gwinnette [sic] Gladiators of the American Conference's South Division.

They are the second team to pull out of Johnstown this summer. Colorado was the other. More evidence that Johnstown is on shaky ground. Financial stability is mentioned in the article too. I wonder if they will even start the season.

The Blue Jackets don't have a lot of guys turning pro this year, which you can tell by how much of their Traverse City tournament roster is invitees. So I don't think you'll see a lot of players sent to Gwinnett. But it will help Gwinnett's roster, there's no doubt about that.

The Blue Jackets' AHL club is the Syracuse Crunch.

(Join me on Twitter:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dudley discovered Mitch Korn back in the day

This summer I worked on a long feature on the very successful goaltending coach Mitch Korn, who has worked in the NHL for 18 seasons. Interestingly, it was Rick Dudley who first gave Korn his big break into the NHL. If there's something Dudley can do, it's spot talent.

In 1990, Korn was breaking down some video at a camp held at the Buffalo Sabres practice facility. Rick Dudley, then the head coach of the Sabres, walked into the classroom and took in a lesson. A year later, the Sabres called up Korn and wanted to interview him to be their goaltending coach

This chance encounter that led to his big break has become one lesson Korn stresses with young goaltenders: "You never know who is watching."

Korn also talked about completely redoing former Thrasher Steve Shields' game when he turned pro. It's rare that he's done that, but with Shields it was necessary.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Alabama-Huntsville hockey on shaky ground after CCHA snub

The closest college hockey to Atlanta, University of Alabama-Huntsville, was looking to join a new conference this summer due to the demise of College Hockey America. They applied for entrance to the CCHA, but were denied, in what was a surprise to most watchers.

This raises the specter that UAH could shut down its hockey program altogether. Yes, the team can play as an independent, but for how long? It's hard to get opponents to fill your home dates.

The Fairbanks Athletic Director give insight into what the issues were, and Mike Eidelbes of Inside College Hockey speculates that maybe they will get together at a later time.

There's a Save UAH Hockey Facebook page if you want to keep up with events and show your support.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Rookie games against Nashville will be Sept. 15 and 16

Per the Predators' press release:

Date Opponent Site Time (CT)
Mon, Sept. 14 @ Atlanta Thrashers (Rookie Game) Duluth IceForum 6 pm
Tue, Sept. 15 @ Atlanta Thrashers (Rookie Game) Duluth IceForum Noon

"Rookie" is a bit of a misnomer here, since there aren't enough actual NHL rookies to make two teams. These guys entering pro, and those with a year of pro played. Some junior players too, before they get sent back to their clubs. "Prospect" games would be more accurate.

Last year these games were played in Nashville, at the Sommet Center, which is where the Predators play. Atlanta isn't renting out Philips for it though, opting to play them at the training facility. Note that the times given are Central, so this would be 7 pm and 1pm Eastern.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Alumni who are free agents now

The free agent list came out today and there are lots of Thrashers prospect alumni on it, and some alumni of affiliates too. I'll list them alphabetically by former team. These players are free to sign anywhere now. Some might end up in Europe like Mark Popovic did last year.

Chad Painchaud (ANA) -- he was a throw-in to the Mathieu Schneider trade last fall.
Dan Turple (ATL)
Colton Fretter (BUF)
Pascal Pelletier (CHI) - former Gladiator
Adam Berti (CHI) - former Gladiator
Jimmy Sharrow (CHI)
Brent Krahn (DAL) - former Wolf
Kurtis Foster (MIN)
Junior Lessard (NYI)
Derek Nesbitt (PHO) - former Gladiator
Alex Bourret (PHO) -- it will be interesting to see if he even stays in hockey.
Mike Weaver (STL)

The one with the most chance of seeing another NHL contract is Foster.

Pat Dwyer re-signed with Carolina, a two-way contract.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

2009 Traverse City tourney Sept. 6-10

According to RedWingsCentral, the dates for the annual Traverse City Prospects tournament will be Sept. 6-10.

The usual teams will be there, including the Thrashers.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rookie games with Nashville would be in ATL this year

Assuming both teams are still agreeable as the summer passes, those two "rookie" games that were played at Nashville last year will be moved to Atlanta this year.

From the Nashville City Paper:
In its first few seasons, Nashville participated in a prospects tournament in Traverse City, Mich., with several other franchises. Last season, two rookie games with Atlanta were held during the first week of training camp.

Trotz said any rookie camp this year would include reciprocation on those two games with the Thrashers’ prospects, this time in Atlanta.

Last year they were around Sept 23, which was after the start of training camp. If you're going to do them earlier, it would be around the same time that the Traverse City tournament is going on.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Levenson rants on the AJC

Entertaining, if nothing else. From Sports Business Journal, Thrashers co-owner Bruce Levenson:

Yet, from the IT department, to former sports editor Ron Ramos to Swartz, the AJC squandered precious dwindling resources chasing a meaningless dead-end story; one it sought to manufacture from one of a thousand sentences Whammer wrote in an e-mail the AJC should never have traced.

In these tough times, there is a premium on good judgment.

While I'm not a fan of Levenson, kudos for admitting his self-interest in writing that up front. I am surprised Levenson doesn't at least bring up (to then beat down) the reason why newspapers will tell you they don't filter out reader comments. It's because legally if they start doing that, they become liable for them. If they leave them completely unfiltered, then they can't be liable. The lawyers tell them to do this.

We don't have reader comments at the bottom of articles at Hockey's Future, it's just bad news. Instead, we invite readers to discuss the articles on the message boards, which have strict, enforced rules. You shouldn't need the traffic that badly to have to resort to having crap on your site. Having quality content drives traffic. This doesn't seem to be the AJC model though.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Kevin Doell on Oliver Ekman-Larsson

I was writing a story on draft-eligible Oliver Ekman-Larsson, one of Kevin Doell's teammates from Leksand this year, so I decided to contact him for his input. Doell went above and beyond in helping, which has always seemed to be his approach on everything.

Here's the finished product, which should be interesting to Thrasher fans primarily because OEL is someone the Thrashers are looking at seriously for their No. 4 overall pick.

"He has improved a ton in just the time I was with him in Leksand," Doell said. "He's a great skater with very good hands and makes smart plays with the puck. He has a lot of potential, but probably the most impressive thing about his game is his patience and calmness when he has the puck...


Saturday, April 18, 2009

How you know you have a good GM

Answer: He will only sign year-to-year contracts. This is the sign of someone who knows he can get another job in the NHL and doesn't want to be tied down to a bad situation. He doesn't ask for a long-term deal when he's on a crest.

From the Tennessean:

Predators General Manager David Poile said Friday he's agreed to a new one-year contract through June of 2010.

Last summer, Poile decided to sign year-to-year contracts as a safeguard against unforeseen circumstances like ownership change. His current contract would have expired this June.

Poile's name had come up in speculation regarding the vacant Minnesota Wild general manager's position...

Poile was GM of the Washington Capitals before he came to Nashville. He's done amazing things with the amount of payroll he's given by Nashville. Their coaching staff and scouts have a fantastic reputation around the league.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Prospects the Thrashers have and haven't talked to for the 2009 draft

I'm at the U18 World Championships, and when I interview players, I generally ask which NHL teams they've talked to. It's not always a good gauge of which teams are the most interested, since some wait to talk to a guy so as not to tip their hand, but it is a good gauge of how much general interest there is in a player. So that's why I ask.

But in the process, I've been able to come up with a list of players that the Thrashers have talked to. Add to that knowledge of Kane from a news report, and my knowledge of Holland, Beck and Latta from my OHL trip and we have a list. I'll update it as I talk to more players.

Have talked to:
Oliver Ekman-Larsson (first-rounder)
Evander Kane (first-rounder)
Carl Klingberg (second rounder)
Anton Lander (third rounder?)
Peter Holland
Taylor Beck
Michael Latta

Have not talked to:
Simon Bertilsson
Robin Lehner
William Wrenn - he said he's done surveys from teams but not talked to them.
Toni Rajala
Chris Lynch

Oliver Ekman-Larsson with Klingberg behind him.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Gladiators, start your mustaches

Last night in Charlotte, the Gladiators clinched a playoff spot. The players had already decided more than a week ago that they would all have mustaches for the playoffs after Matt Siddall brought one back from Chicago. Adam Berti got a jump on things last weekend, and has been showing off his plentiful lip hair:

Kaleniecki has his going, as do Southern, Youngclaus and Turner. Mason has a beard that can be converted. Jeff Pyle is ready for playoffs year-round.

After the clinch I asked alternate captain Andy Brandt, who has some scruff going, "time to get the mustache, huh?" He said "some guys have them already and the guys who don't better get started. There are a couple guys who are sparse up top there. Mine personally comes in red, so that's not too attractive."

The first-round home games are Thursday, Friday, Sunday, April 16, 17 and 19.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dr. Stuart fixed knee of top prospect

Dr. Michael Stuart, father of Colin and Mark Stuart, performed knee surgery on one of the top prospects for the 2009 draft, Jared Cowen. Dr. Stuart works at the Mayo Clinic Rochester, Minneapolis, and was previously the team doctor for the US national junior team.

“Our team has its own surgeon, but my agent recommended Dr. Stuart because he has a lot of experience performing the surgery," Cowen said. "We wanted to pick a guy who NHL teams know. I expect there will be questions about the injury and the surgery at the NHL combine, so I don’t think it will hurt that many of the teams know about Dr. Stuart.”

Monday, March 23, 2009

Marks to Blades as assistant coach

John Marks, who lost his coaching job when the ECHL Augusta Lynx went under, has a new gig. He's going to assist Malcolm Cameron coaching the league-leading Florida Everblades (who the Gwinnett Gladiators will likely meet in the first round of the playoffs).

From the press release:
“I wanted to look at the possibility of having an assistant coach for this year’s playoff run,” Cameron said. “Once the decision was made to bring someone on board, I thought of John immediately..."

Translation: We have a lot of talent but I've lost my team.

I think you'll see Marks become the lynchpin here. He's a real heart and soul kind of coach, something that the Everblades don't have a lot of right now. This move makes Florida stronger for sure.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Vannelli's comeback

Well, this could have been predicted. Mike Vannelli, who quit hockey after being assigned to the ECHL Wheeling Nailers at the beginning of the 2007-08 season, has developed the itch to play again. He's over in Germany right now as an insurance player for the Dusseldorf EG Metro Stars in the DEL.

I was reading an article about how the Las Vegas Wranglers could be sold, and it mentioned that they had suited up a pharmaceutical salesman this year. I thought, I wonder how our favorite medical device salesman is doing? So I Googled him.

Vannelli signed with the German team at the very end of January, but has only played in one game so far. The team is coached by Canadian Lance Nethery, and also features former Gophers Chris Harrington and Evan Kaufmann. Vannelli said he had been training on the ice every day, and I think he said he's been coaching high school.

He told a German newspaper that he came to Germany because if he stayed in North America, he'd have to swtich between teams, and he didn't want to do that. Read: he'd be sent to the ECHL.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

HF on Atlanta-trained Landon Ferraro

Former Thrasher Ray Ferraro's son Landon is eligible for the 2009 draft, and quite highly rated in fact. Hockey's Future did a feature on Landon, and I made sure we asked him about the time he spent playing travel hockey in Atlanta while his dad was playing here. Those were his formative years.

..."In Atlanta I was a bit older so I could actually figure some stuff out. Just seeing where my hockey league [in Atlanta] started from and the fanbase for the Thrashers to where it ended when we left in ’02, it grew tremendously.”
Ferraro began playing competitive hockey while based in Georgia but explained that in order to get enough teams into one league, the boundaries were extremely stretched.
“My league was the whole south-east of the United States,” he smiled, “So I was playing and every other weekend we were on the road and we’d go to Tennessee or North and South Carolina or Florida.”

Another former Thrasher has a son eligible for this draft -- Bjorn Krupp, who also learned to play hockey in Atlanta. He is considered a long shot in the draft though. He has his father's size, but perhaps not his skill.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Desbiens a hot commodity

From the Winnipeg Free Press

MILWAUKEE -- Last week there was Oscar buzz, but this week in the hockey world there is Dezzy buzz.

Dezzy, as the Manitoba Moose refer to right-winger Guillaume Desbiens, is hot among NHL scouts these days and likely the next in a growing line of Craig Heisinger reclamation projects.

Desbiens was cut adrift by the Atlanta Thrashers last summer and was unsure if his hockey career was over when the Moose came calling with a second chance.

It goes on to say that more than one NHL team is interested in signing him for next year.

Good for him, though I would say that he improved his stock on his own by improving his skating and commitment level, it's not like the Moose discovered someone that no one else knew about. This turnaround is mostly effort, which was entirely under Desbiens' own control.

Friday, February 20, 2009

On vanRiemsdyk

There's been some speculation that James vanRiemsdyk could be traded to Atlanta.

I met vanRiemsdyk at the 2007 draft and chatted briefly with him. I made sure to ask him about the spelling of his last name, and he confirmed that it is all one word, small "van." I've been militant about that spelling ever since. If I see thread titles on HFBoards that have it wrong, I change them. I noticed that the Flyers official page has it wrong though, so it's an uphill battle.

Impressions of him? I thought he was an odd bird. That sums it up well. Kind of in the Chad Denny vein, if you've met him.

Anyway, the reason for this post. My sources are hearing that the Flyers are really worried that they made a huge mistake in taking vanRiemsdyk so high and want to trade him now while he still has some value. Sounds a lot like the Angelo Esposito situation, doesn't it?

Sounds like he'll probably be traded, but whether that's to Atlanta or not, we'll see.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Former Georgia Tech goalie Rice backs up Gladiators

This has some local interest, so I'll post it.

Normally when the Gladiators are short a goalie, they call on Curtis Ryser, a former UGA goalie who lives in Duluth. Ryser was out of town this weekend though, so the Gladiators had an emergency backup to their emergency backup.

Coach Jeff Pyle called up a guy he knows from a local men's league and asked for a referral for a goalie. He was given Nick Rice's name. Rice played for Georgia Tech a few years ago, for their club hockey team (Div 3).

Rice did a fine job opening and closing the door tonight. Easy money.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Jared Ross at Philips photos

Jared Ross has two ties to Atlanta -- he grew up in Alabama and played for the University of Alabama-Huntsville, the closest DI school to the city. Ross also played for a while for Thrashers affiliates before being traded to the AHL Phantoms. The Thrashers had indicated to Ross that he could work himself up to an NHL contract, but that never materialized.

He has played eight games for the Flyers this year.

Ross defended by Boris Valabik.

The advantage of being 5'7 is that you can get really low on a faceoff. Reeeeally low.

Interestingly, the other player out of UAH who is doing well in the pro game, Scott Munroe, is also in the Philly system. Someone from that organization was keeping an eye on this cohort.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thrashers have talked to three '09 Guelph prospects

Taylor Beck told me that he, Peter Holland and Michael Latta were taken out to lunch after practice by someone from the Thrashers early in the year. All three are rated highly for the 2009 draft (Holland a bit overrated).

It wasn't hard to determine based on description and that the rep was based in Toronto, that it was Dan Marr who took them out. This kind of thing isn't unusual at all, as it's the team's philosophy to talk to top guys early in their draft year. But that's not to say that the team has taken guys out from every team either. A couple other OHL players I talked to who are rated pretty highly said they haven't had any personal contact with NHL teams yet.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kennesaw State buys land capable of housing hockey arena

You may remember back in 2005 there was talk that Kennesaw State University would add Division I hockey as a sport. They would have played at Philips Arena temporarily until they built an arena. The University of Alabama-Huntsville would be a natural rival. But adding hockey didn't work out at that time and they continue with just a club hockey team.

About a year ago I heard from someone involved with that club team that starting DI hockey was back on the table as Kennesaw was acquiring land on which an arena could be built and working on re-zoning. I've kept my eye on this since then, and finally today something came out on it.

Within the last year, the KSU Foundation has cobbled together 88 acres between I-75 and I-575 and below Chastain Road. At least seven soccer-sized athletic fields will be laid out along with a track and restrooms.

A jogging trail will encircle a 10-acre lake. Intramural and club teams, including lacrosse, rugby and flag football, will use the fields.

Wesley Wicker, executive director of the KSU Foundation, said a minimum 2,500-seat soccer stadium also will be built. It could be expanded to handle 7,500 spectators.

Wicker added that the site could accommodate another stadium — for football.

KSU is considering adding the big-dollar, high-profile sport.

Hockey isn't mentioned in the article, but that doesn't mean it isn't in the master plan. We'll see what it looks like next month.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

2009 Gladiators Teddy Bear Toss

Tonight was the Gwinnett Gladiators' annual Teddy Bear Toss.

What the heck is that, I wondered as the crowd filled in.

This guy is loaded for bear, er ... bunnies. I would venture to guess he's been married most of his adult life.

It's not easy being green.

Nor being sand and mauve-colored. Stoezer laughs as he shows this soccer ball to Sully. Hey, this isn't an animal.

The bears actually rained down on a no-goal. It was this guy's fault, as he had an itchy goal-light finger. But given that the Gladiators only scored one actual goal mid-way through the third, maybe the premature toss wasn't so bad.

Team photographer Dale Zanine takes a picture of mascot Maximus swimming in the bears.

Mottha f'ing snakes on the mottha f'ing ice.

Awwww. Stoeszer with a heaping of bears.

Near the loading docks the boy scouts bag up the bears. And dragons. Ah, so that's what that yellow thing was.

Sadly, not everybear made it.

Note to Gladiators readers: As previously mentioned, the rate of posting on this blog is going to go down drastically. I've created a thread at HFBoards in which to discuss the team. I'll post information in that thread from time to time (tonight it will be who's starting the next three games). Please join the discussion there. I will also sometimes post information on NHL prospects in the ECHL at my new blog. But if you continue to come just here, you will be disappointed.

Friday, January 16, 2009

AJC losing $1 million a week

From Creative Loafing:

On Wednesday, during the newspaper’s quarterly staff meeting, employees got to meet the new publisher, one Doug Franklin...
Franklin also told the assembled crowd that the AJC is currently losing about $1 million every week...
The AJC is owned by a private trust, but ultimately controlled by family scion Anne Cox Chambers, a charter member of Forbes‘ “Richest People in America.” The story goes that Cox bean-counters are afraid to suggest to the company matriarch that they want to shit-can her hometown paper, the one her daddy bought back in ‘39. But even with a reported $13 billion in assets, how long will Cox Chambers, who’s pushing 90, want to float the family newspaper in its present form?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Changes, maybe a new bookmark

Over at HFBoards, I posted a notice that I’m moving on from covering Thrashers prospects at Hockey’s Future to more general topics in prospect development. Change is in the air, and this is a happy one.

What does that mean for this blog? Well, it was always meant as a complement to what I was writing about for HF, so since I won’t often be working on Thrasher prospect topics, I won’t often post on the blog. I figure that occasionally I’ll post things I happen across that would be relevant, some notes on prospect alumni, maybe a touch of local hockey, and out of a sense of justice, efforts to seek truth when all that’s coming out is spin and well, lies. Not to put too fine a point on it.

I’ve created a new blog to complement my broader prospect topics. If you like prospects as a general thing, I invite you to read it. If you’re only interested in the Thrashers though, you probably won’t dig it. Maybe just do an RSS feed and if there’s a title that interests you, great. I was always taught to under-promise and over-deliver, so I'm not going to try to sell it to you. There are other blogs that self-promote and then when you click over it's disappointing. And some of them do it for a living.

To Gwinnett Gladiator fans, the accidental audience, first thanks for reading. I’ll still be covering NHL prospects in the ECHL, so you may still find things that interest you, but they’ll likely be on the other blog. Teddy Bear Toss photos will be here though (to me that's more about local hockey.)

The Teddy Bear Toss a load of fun for those who haven’t seen it. And it’s coming right up, Saturday night at 7:05. Bring a stuffed animal, or several, to throw. I actually made a stop to get some TBT material today, but came up empty-handed.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

This and that

Just a few things that aren't quite worth an entire post for.

1. A well-respected sports publication is going to move into hockey in a few days/weeks. I'm not at liberty to give any details right now, but it's something people have been wanting and waiting for. I feel lucky to have a small role lined up with it -- a prospects angle, naturally.

2. With all praises to the original Big and Little Balls of Hate, I hereby dub Nicklas Lasu the Swedish Meatball of Hate. That came out of my mouth in conversation the other day and I'll now stake a claim to it. For those not familiar, he's a 2008 pick who is meaner than he is tall. Well, for a Swede, who are usually not mean and on the tall side.

3. I've had a lot of traffic coming from Winnipeg lately, thanks to the photos I posted of the Thrashers attendance. Jets fans smelled blood in the water. You can't pick your audience I guess. (Stream of consciousness moment: Winnipeg is one of the very few words I have trouble spelling. I learned to spell Winnebago before I learned Winnipeg, so to me it should have two Es.)

4. Speaking of both attendance and blood in the water, regarding my post on Setoguchi, a Sharks fan wrote in response, "I guess we should thank the Thrashers fans for Setoguchi. All five of them." Touche.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Peverley claimed off waivers by Thrashers

The Tennessean is reporting that the Thrashers have claimed Rich Peverley from the Predators.

Four years ago Peverley was a rookie in the ECHL, and after watching him play two shifts, you could see he didn't belong there. I interviewed him in January 2005 when he wasn't under contract with anyone but South Carolina, and have followed his career ever since. I remember talking to him very well -- that was the night I got into it with the Show Pro who wanted to try to tell me where to stand in the hall. Dustin Bixby intervened, saying I could stand wherever I chose, and could do snow angels in the hallway if I wanted. Someday I may take him up on that.

Having been in Milwaukee, he was an all too often opponent for the players who were on the Wolves.

I found a couple photos with Peverley in them that I took during 2008 preseason. He wore #37, which obviously is going to change when he joins the Thrashers. That was Dan Snyder's number, and off-limits.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Saving Boudreau for the shootout

There was a small storyline tonight at the Gladiators/Stingrays game. Ben Boudreau, son of Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, has managed to stick with the South Carolina Stingrays for 19 games now, in large part due to the injuries at the top of the system on his dad's team. But Ben isn't let out on the ice much. The Stingrays are playing short-handed, but they still only found a couple shifts for Boudreau. He doesn't have the experience or skill typically found in the league.

Boudreau at warmups.

Here (center right), he's ready. And waiting. As far as I could tell, he got one shift in the first period, and one in the third. He didn't play in the second.

That made for rare photo opportunities.

Short shift, he's right back to the bench.

Stand, sit, wait, cheer (center left).

The two teams went to a shootout. Lo and behold, coach Jared Bednar sent Boudreau out to shoot. He had a chance to be a very unlikely hero.

But it was not to be. Instead, Joe Fallon was victorious.

Are we teammate or are we dancer?

After the game I was waiting to talk to Bednar, and Boudreau was the first one showered and out of the locker room. He said "hey, how ya doin" as he walked by. Later he came back in, probably to get more bags, and asked who I was waiting for to make sure I was taken care of. That was really nice. If I knew him at all (and was quick enough on the draw), I might have teased him about being saved for the shootout. But we're not on those kinds of terms.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2009 and the return of the mustache to faces everywhere

Are we at the dawn of a return of the Lanny MacDonald trademark statement?

In the playoffs last spring, several hockey teams grew mustaches as a team-bonding exercise -- the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, the AHL Toronto Marlies and the Chicago Wolves.

(You can see why Valabik's nickname Borat is quite fitting.)

The wearing of the mustache was done tongue in cheek. And lately mustaches have been uncool enough to be considered punishment. Larry Bird threatened to make his NBA Pacers wear blond mustaches and short shorts if they didn't make the playoffs. Among the Chicago Wolves players, the punishment for losing a shootout contest in practice this year is to grow a mustache for a month.

But if you pay attention to New York City and Hollywood, which is where most of the nation's trends come from, there's a serious mustache trend brewing. It started out being ironic, but seems to be cementing itself.

Brad Pitt wore a mustache out and about in November. People Magazine quoted him as saying,

"It's fashion. Who am I without creative facial hair?"

Who indeed.

The two-time 'Sexiest Man Alive' was donning the moustache for his role in the Quentin Tarantino movie, Inglourious Basterds in which he plays a WWII soldier, but Pitt embraced the hair as a statement.

And just this week, Entertainment Weekly declared in their year-end edition that mustaches were in for 2009, while soul patches were out, and sideburns were five minutes ago.

Artie Kulda saw himself as a mustache victim when he lost the Wolves shootout competition on Nov. 22. Here's his growth near the end.

But if staches are on the comeback, is being forced to grow one a punishment or a push towards hep cat-ness?

In early 2008, some visionaries were already heralding the comeback of the serious mustache, but much like man skirts, it was too soon. Now, with political and economic change in the air, the time is ripe. Liberals don more mustaches, and they are about to take the executive branch. Indeed, the serious mustache will be an international trend.

Maybe it won't be until 2010 or even 2011, but in the next few years, the younger, fashionable British gent will begin to wear the moustache in cold blood. Not as a statement and not as a bet. Just as a thing he wants on his face.

The lip service is over, let the face-scaping begin. And while we're at it, we need a cooler name for the thing. They call it a "mo" in Australia because they spell it the British way, moustache. That'll do nicely.

A few weeks ago, an ill-informed 24-year-old David Backes made fun of the famously mustachioed 29-year-old George Parros.

"I can't really look at the guy," Backes told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "No one has a mustache anymore and he's got this caterpillar on his top lip."

Get with it, Backes. The cool cats have 'em.

Right now it's a hipster thing to have a mo, but soon it will be mainstream. And then will begin mustache envy by those who can't properly grow one.

And what say the ladies? The ones who have to look at and kiss these things? Blackhawks draft pick Kyle Beach said of his early-season accidental turned team-bonding mustache:

"Girls love it. That's really all that matters."

So dig out those Magnum PI reruns. Work on your "hey baby." It's a good time to be follicly-endowed.


Thrashers still keen on Tavares for 2009 draft

The WJC didn't change the Thrashers' thinking on who the top guy is for the 2009 draft -- to them it's still John Tavares. From CBCsports:

“You have very few chances to get that kind of player,” said Thrashers executive vice-president and GM Don Waddell. “We still have four months left in the season to evaluate, but if it was the Atlanta Thrashers, we’d take John Tavares.”


Hedman not NHL ready?

“Hedman will be a top defenceman in this league - no doubt. But it may take him a little longer,” Waddell added. “Tavares is ready to play and that may be a factor.” (By the way, the undrafted Swede who really impressed him was forward Magnus Svensson Paajarvi.)

Waddell also related an interesting story about Hedman and last year’s draft. After Steven Stamkos, the next four picks were defencemen: Drew Doughty (Los Angeles), Zach Bogosian (Atlanta), Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis) and Luke Schenn (Toronto).

“I asked our guys where they would take Hedman if he was available,” he said. “They told me not ahead of Doughty and not ahead of Bogosian. I then went outside our organization to another scout I trust and respect. He said the same thing.”

One could quibble with the statement that you have very few chances to get that kind of player. If you're the Thrashers, you have quite a few chances actually. They've only gotten out of the first row of tables, what, twice? Three times?

Svensson Paajarvi was really good for sure in the tourney. He looked just as dynamic as Tavares.

I recently talked to a goalie who played with Tavares, who talked about his shot. That was interesting. Now I just need to remember I have that material for when the right time comes.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Atlanta as a hockey marketplace

Lest anyone think that there's something wrong with the Atlanta marketplace for hockey, a few observations.

1. I recently went to a late afternoon open skate at the Cooler in Alpharetta that was so crowded I left early.
2. My rec hockey league is filled to capacity, despite the economic crisis, and many people were left out when registration closed.
3. The Gwinnett Gladiators are fourth in attendance in the ECHL with 5,281 per game. This may be down from last year, but it's in line with the economy.

There's a good market here for hockey. Atlanta is being affected at about the same rate as the national average, and hockey is continuing on the same despite the downturn. With 5 million people, a large chunk of whom are transplants from the north (present company included), it doesn't even need to be a conversion project.

Documenting the Thrashers poor attendance

This is what an announced crowd of 10,750 looked like on Sunday at the beginning of the third period of a lackluster 4-1 loss to Tampa. The photos pretty much speak for themselves, but I would add that there have been several times over the years that I thought the Thrashers had hit rock bottom as a franchise, only to see an even lower bottom. Can it get worse? Sure because they're not yet living in a van down by the river.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Lasu may miss WJC gold medal game

Thrashers 2008 draft pick Nicklas Lasu is playing in the 2009 World Junior Championships for Sweden. But an injury could hold him out of the final game against Canada, the gold medal match.

From the Canadian Press:

Like Canada, the Swedes are a little banged up.

Los Angeles Kings prospect Oscar Moller has not been the force that was expected, but he played well and got his first goal against Slovakia. And winger Nicklas Lasu, a human wrecking ball who hits everything that moves, skated gingerly in practice with a sore thigh and may not be ready to play.

He has 2 goals in the tournament, but they both came in a 10-0 rout of Latvia.

Three Thrashers pro scouts in the building today

For those looking to blow up the team, some good news. The presence of a team's own pro scouts often precedes a trade because you need to know what you're giving up as well as what you're getting. Mark Dobson (Dir of Player Personnel), and pro scouts Pete Mahovlich and John Perpich were all in the building for the game against Tampa, and so was Wolves GM Kevin Chevaldayoff, who really doubles as a pro scout for the Thrashers.

Scouts in the GM's box. The photo has poor lighting, but you could see better through binoculars. Larry Simmons and Don Waddell are on the ends.

Secrets of drafting a rec league team

Yesterday I was a proxy GM in a recreational league draft, filling in for a friend who couldn't make it. Given the shenanigans that go on in the league on and off the ice, I thought drafting would be entertaining, and it was. And still pretty serious too, because people pay a lot of money to play in the league.

How it worked: All the players were rated 1-10 on consensus (kind of like Central Scouting) and then the list was printed out and distributed to the captains. Players can make comments when they sign up online, and those comments were on the sheets too. The league has an average age of about 35. With 15 players on a team, the draft goes 15 rounds.

Each of the 10 captains had to select themselves when players of similar ratings were going, which led to comments like this when someone took a long time in picking: "You could take yourself. Sure, you could reach."

There was one signup who hadn't been in the league before, but put down had been playing since he was 5. He could be really good. I took a gamble on him in the second round, because no risk, no reward, right? On second thought, there's no reward for me here since I play on a different team. I guess all I'm going for is that at the end of the season the comment is "You should let Holly pick your team again."

When in doubt, take the player with the French-Canadian or Russian name. Generally they can play.

There were a lot of moving parts in this draft, as many if not more as in the NHL draft. One guy needs to play a Sunday-heavy schedule for religious reasons. Some skaters also play goaltender and have to keep those obligations first.

Everyone gets picked, even Angry Bob. There's one guy who is not only no good, he has a bad attitude. He was the booby prize at the end, and people took preventative measures to avoid getting him. What kind of preventative measures? Well, there are about 30 twosomes in the league, relatives or carpools that need to play on the same team. It's like the Sedin twins in the NHL, except there are a lot more of them, and they aren't of the same quality. So if you take the player rated a 7 and they're part of a pairing, you have to take the player rated a 3 as well. In this draft there was even a threesome.

There are lots of things besides talent that can affect your draft position, and we're not just talking great attitude. The comment on one player as he was taken: "He's a 6 -- a 4 who brings great beer."

Fellow Stingray rookies pummel Neuvirth in 3, 2, 1...

Sometimes people say more than what's good for them.

Tonight I was talking to Michal Neuvirth, a top goaltending prospect for the Washington Capitals. I had asked him all the questions I had written down, but for some reason I kept going. The equipment manager was rolling stuff out to the bus and I asked Neuvirth if he has to carry bags as a rookie or do anything else like that. He replied with something that he regretted the moment it came out of his mouth. Meanwhile I'm thinking "this is gold." He didn't want to elaborate, but the horse had left the barn at that point, so I got a bit more out of him. I'll let you read for yourself. As a taste, Neuvirth had trouble with the word "heels" meaning high heels (he called them girls' shoes), and also the word underdog.

Normally I don't write up feature stories late into the night after games, but between the timeliness of the groin pull and the comedy noted above, I knocked it out.