Yahoo! Sports Aug 29, 8:56 am EDT
With the start of training camp on the horizon, the Thrashers will be looking to find the answers to three main questions.
How will the team play under new coach John Anderson’s up-tempo system?
Where will No. 3 pick Zach Bogosian fit in?
Will the team be under new ownership by the end of the season?
As for Anderson’s coaching methods, simply having a full-time, dedicated coach in place is a positive step for the Thrashers. And that’s not saying a lot.
Atlanta played most of its games last season under general manager Don Waddell, while former assistant Brad McCrimmon ran the practices. No wonder the team battled with consistency problems all season. Let’s just hope Anderson makes it longer than Bob Hartley, who was fired after the first six game of the 2007-08 season.
If Bogosian can’t find away to crack Atlanta’s depleted defensive lineup, the Thrashers have bigger problems than it seems.
Described by Waddell as an 18-year-old “man-child,” Bogosian has quickly become the most-highly anticipated prospect in Atlanta since Dany Heatley or Ilya Kovalchuk. Thankfully, Bogosian seems much more mature, mentally and physically, than both Heatley, who caused a car crash that killed teammate Dan Snyder, and Kovalchuk, who sparred with former coach Bob Hartley for years.
Bogosian has a family history in sports behind him. His dad, Ike, was a safety and captain of the Syracuse University football team and his uncle, Steve, played defensive tackle at Army.
But perhaps the biggest shakeup for the Thrashers could come in a Maryland courtroom in February when the current Atlanta Spirit ownership group faces off with Steve Belkin, who was ousted from the group, in a two-week trial to settle an ugly ownership dispute. The case, which also involves the ownership of the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena, could end with Belkin as the new lone owner. If so, the Thrashers long-term future in Atlanta could also be in question.
- Now that top pick Steve Stamkos has been signed by the Lightning and No. 2 selection Drew Doughty has signed with Los Angeles, Zach Bogosian is next in line. Thrashers GM Don Waddell said he fully expects to have his defenseman-of-the-future under contract by the time training camp opens.
- Atlanta hired former Rochester Americans coach Randy Cunneyworth, 47, and Chicago Wolves assistant Todd Nelson, 39, as the top two assistants on John Anderson’s new staff. Goalie coach Steve Weeks and video coach Tony Borgford were retained. Assistant Brad McCrimmon, once considered the leading candidate for the head coaching job, left to join the Detroit Red Wings staff.
- In another bit of related Atlanta-area hockey news, Jeff Pyle, coach of the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators, won’t be moving up to coach Atlanta’s AHL affiliate in Chicago. Pyle recently interviewed, but didn’t get, the coaching job held last season by new Thrashers coach John Anderson. The position instead went to Downers Grove, Illinois, native Don Granato, brother of Avalanche coach Tony and his sister Cammi Granato.
- The Thrashers will play their first home exhibition game on Oct. 1 against the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. Talk about trial by fire for the new coaching staff.
The team will then open the regular season by hosting the Washington Capitals, a game that will pit Ilya Kovalchuk against Alex Ovechkin, the NHL’s top-two goals scorers from last season.
Quote To Note: “Physicality-wise, he’s so much ahead of other 18-year-olds. He looks ready to play.”—Thrashers general manager Don Waddell on D Zach Bogosian, the team’s top pick in the June draft.
Draft Picks Of Note:
Zach Bogosian, 6-2, 197, Peterborough Petes. The defenseman taken third overall in the first round, has been compared to Rob Blake and Ray Bourque, but he likens himself more to Chris Chelios because of his mean streak.
Daultan Leveille, 5-11, 163, St. Catherines. The center, taken 29th overall in the first round, taken out of Junior B. He is ticketed for Michigan State.
Free Agent Focus: Former Thrashers defenseman Marc Popovic became the latest NHL player to join the new Russian pro league, leaving Atlanta to sign with St. Petersburg for about $1 million, according to USA Today.
- Atlanta signed rugged right wing Matt Siddall to a multi-year contact on July 28. A ninth-round pick in 2004, Siddall recently completed his senior season at Northern Michigan, scoring 16 goals with a team-leading 116 penalty minutes.
- Angelo Esposito, who was acquired from Pittsburgh in the last-season trade for Marian Hossa, was signed to a multi-year contract on July 18. The 19-year-old forward is expected to play another season of junior hockey in Quebec.