Ryan rants of Blueland’s demise

Jon Barash

It has been one full NHL season since the Atlanta Thrashers took their talents north of the border and transformed into the newly-reincarnated Winnipeg Jets. While many people in Atlanta didn’t seem to notice or care that the city lost its second NHL franchise and did little to voice their support to keep the team, the diehard fans are still bitter about how Atlanta was robbed of its hockey.

In my opinion, the blame goes into the inept management and ownership for the demise of the Thrashers, with zero blame going to the fans. Hockey in Atlanta was already a tough sell, but putting a winning team out on the ice would have assuredly put the butts in the seats at Philips Arena.


During the team’s one playoff appearance in the 2006-07 season, you would have thought the Thrashers were up there with some of the league’s elite in terms of fan support. Despite a playoff sweep at the hands of the New York Rangers, there was hope for the first time franchise history that the Thrashers would become perennial contenders.

Even during some of the early rough stretches when the team dwelled at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the fans, diehard or not, came out to support the team. At one point, two of the league’s best young players, Ilya Kovalchuk and Dany Heatley, were on the roster but meddling ownership and an inept general manager, Don Waddell, didn’t have a clue how to surround them with the pieces necessary to compete consistently for a playoff berth, much less a Stanley Cup. While Heatley would find himself embattled in personal issues off the ice, the Thrashers were able to flip him for a player of arguably equal ability, Marian Hossa, and reached the playoffs.

Going back to Waddell, if there’s one man within the organization’s management that blame could be placed on for the Thrashers failing in Atlanta, it would be him. He was responsible for many head-scratching decisions that not only flopped, but set the team back for years. One of his most notorious moves was the late-season acquisition of then-St. Louis Blues forward Keith Tkachuk during the 2007 playoff run. Yes, you can attribute that move to the Thrashers’ only playoff berth, but that’s exactly what it was, their only playoff berth. Waddell mortgaged the future for him, giving up three draft picks and a promising young center in Glen Metropolit.

After a terrible start to the 2007-08 season, coach Bob Hartley was replaced and Waddell took over as interim head coach, which, judging by his performance as general manager, left few optimistic about his ability to keep the team in contention. As it turns out, he couldn’t, and the Thrashers once again returned to the bottom of the standings.


Following the year, Rick Dudley was given a crack at the general manager’s role but Waddell’s damage was beyond repair. Dudley attempted to shake things up, acquiring Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd from the Blackhawks in two separate offseason deals. After an unsuccessful attempt to find a local buyer, the Atlanta Spirit group sold the team to True North Sports, and Winnipeg got its Jets back.

The question lingers; does Atlanta miss the Thrashers? Atlanta is a tough city to garner big support for any franchise and judging by the quiet reaction of the relocation, the easy answer is no, the city couldn’t care less that the team is gone.

I disagree with that notion entirely, as there seemed to be little effort by management and ownership to put a winning team on the ice and the discord amongst the Atlanta Spirit Group generated an apathetic approach to hockey. Unfortunately, that also translated into the NHL and commissioner Gary Bettman taking that same approach to saving the team. Who knows if Atlanta will ever get another NHL franchise, but for now we are left wondering what could have been if the team received the support it deserved.

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One Response to “Ryan rants of Blueland’s demise”

  1. Krater
    July 3, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

    As you know, I’m not a hockey fan and one of those people who doesn’t really miss the Trashers, but good read! Keep them coming man!

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