Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Schneider to Montreal... West Coast Swing... LaVallee Watch

Alright, nearly a week has gone by and I’m itching to update this Web Log… Last time on Slightly Off-Topic, I got slightly excited about the prospects of Jordan LaVallee entering the Thrashers lineup after his call-up to Atlanta from Chicago. A little bit later on in this entry I’ll share my thoughts on Jordan, his time with the Thrashers, and when he might get a look on the ice.

But first, there is more pressing news… though old by now, Mathieu Schneider has been traded to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2nd round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft (originally Anaheim’s) and a third round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. The Thrashers also sent a conditional pick to Montreal for this year’s draft that will be determined based on how the Canadiens wrap up their playoff story.

I’d diagram this trade from a Canadien perspective, but I just don’t care. The Thrashers were essentially able to trade Ken Klee and Brad Larsen for two third round or better picks in the next two drafts. An additional second rounder this year could be an extremely valuable asset. Due to the projected depth of this year’s draft class, holding two second round picks could be a large bargaining chip if Atlanta wants to try to A.) Move up for a second first round pick (Atlanta will undoubtedly have a lottery i.e. top-5 draft pick) or B.) Package the second rounder with other picks/players/prospects to pick up a prospect/NHL player.

What this deal does for Atlanta is give them options for this year’s draft… We already know that Atlanta is going to end up with a top level talent, whether it’s Victor Hedman, John Tavares, Magnus Svenssen-Paajarvi, Evander Kane, Matt Duchene, etc.

Two second round picks, in such a deep draft, are going to be very important in complimenting whatever the Thrashers end up doing with the top-5 pick. If Atlanta goes defenseman (Hedman), then the Thrashers may be able to package the two second rounders to get a first round talent forward or Atlanta can go with the two second rounders to address forward depth.

The acquisition of Mathieu Schneider, though not necessarily successful on the ice, was a smart move by Waddell. Schneider filled salary requirements, relished a role of mentor for our young Zach Bogosian, brought a professional attitude to the ice every day, and then was moved for assets more valuable than what he cost to bring him here.

All-in-all, the Schneider saga in Atlanta was a success for the Thrashers. The part of this whole process that makes me most pleased was that in an interview with Darren Eliot on SportSouth during the Kings game, Waddell made clear that he had tried to pry away some prospects from the Canadiens.

Waddell did the right thing by moving Schneider now and getting a solid return. Since Schneider was the only blatently obvious tradable commodity, Waddell can now pick and choose on potential deals for the likes of Marty Reasoner, Colby Armstrong, Niclas Havelid, and any other Thrashers that might draw interest come March 4.

With Schneider in the review mirror, how about the Atlanta Thrashers and that killer offense, eh? Where did this come from?

Over the past two games, both wins over Anaheim and L.A., the Thrashers have scored 14 goals in regulation and put 70 shots on goal in 125 minutes. This… is Thrashers hockey? I’d like to think so. I’d like to think that this current stretch out on the coast is the meshing of John Anderson’s system within his players. I’d like to think that…

But… (dang, not a but!), let’s be honest here. Anaheim’s Jean-Sebastian Giguerre and L.A’s Jonathan Quick didn’t exactly have great starts in goal. Both were victimized on goals that, on a normal goaltending day, would have been stopped. The statistics are inflated, yes, but the results are not.

Atlanta thoroughly out-played Anaheim on Sunday and Monday’s evaporation of a 6-3 lead over the Kings was a combination of tired legs on back-to-back nights and an extremely hungry L.A. squad led by the Slovene Machine Anze Kopitar!!!!

Okay, I got the best of both worlds on Tuesday… watched Atlanta get a win after another sweet shootout move by Erik Christensen and also saw Anze score two goals and an assists. For those that may not know, I’m of Slovenian decent and Kopitar is the first to play in the NHL (but hopefully not the last… Go Jan Mursak in Grand Rapids!).

As bad as the starting goalies were for both teams, nobody can take anything away from Ilya Kovalchuk. You see that article that is at the bottom of the blog? Cross that sucker out because Kovalchuk is back! The last two games, he’s been Ilya good. Ahem, by the way, Kovalchuk is now on pace for 41 goals (Monty… this is your big fat “I told you so.”).

Great start on the road trip, but Atlanta has the capability to keep this going with a Phoenix Coyote’s franchise that has lost nine out of their last 10 games and has just one win in February. Could this be our first Jordan LaVallee sighting?

Personally, I don’t think it’s going to happen on Thursday. I want it to happen, but I don’t think so. Coaches are weird creatures and John Anderson hasn’t won enough at the NHL level to change things up after a two game winning streak… unless somebody is banged up.

One guy that won’t be coming out of the lineup in favor of LaVallee is Colin Stuart. With back-to-back games netting a short-handed goal, Stuart might be making a player like Eric Perrin expendable on the trade market. Stuart has an NHL skating stride and he’s playing the type of game that could earn him an NHL paycheck. The key for Colin is to continue on the path… he played really well in his initial call-up last season, but eventually fell into a pattern of mediocrity. Hopefully, Colin learned his lesson and now knows what to bring on a nightly basis to stay in the NHL.

Great start to the trip. Great trade by Waddell. Great seeing Kovalchuk get hot. Even greater watching Atlanta win. Hey, for once it feels kind of good to be a Thrasher fan… I’m not going to get used to it.


  1. I think our games against a struggling Phoenix and San Jose were proof that we got some mighty good breaks during Anaheim and Los Angeles. By the Phoneix game, we had great puck possession in the third, but man...we couldn't get anything past Tellqvist to save our lives. Then for San Jose, something must have gone right defensively for the first two periods, but it all crumbled by the third. Bryan Little prevents the total humiliation.

    Besides Ilya Kovalchuk, Bryan Little has his mojo back. This is exciting news, and I hope it stays with him when the Avalanche rolls into town.

    I hope Laura isn't reading this, but we've become like St. Louis. Always playing hard, but always unfortunate. You can only have so many victories until you say effort just isn't enough. I'd hate to be the team that's always close-but-no-cigar next season. With our franchise in trouble financially, we need to figure out something fast instead of baby steps.

  2. RE: Effort just not enough... Effort is the start. We've all said all season long that the Thrashers are just not skilled enough to win on a consistent basis.

    This season, with the development of the younger players, the accumulation of draft picks and potentially prospects, and the learning curve of a new NHL coach are all steps in the process. There is no win-quick scheme for a franchise like Atlanta... that cannot draw in top quality free agent talent with money alone.

    If the team gives 100 percent effort, then Atlanta will get back some of the core fans that have been drifting and absent this season. The ownership group/front office needs to buck up and quit giving the fans the cold shoulder.

    Winning will bring in money, but Atlanta just isn't in position to win instantly. The Thrashers are going to have to follow a route similar to what the L.A. Kings have done. This year they are in the hunt, but are ahead of schedule really... maybe next year Atlanta can do the same in a weaker division.