Hi, all. You’ve probably seen my half of the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets 1.0 Essentials post over at Puck Daddy that I co-wrote with Drew Mindell of Illegal Curve. There are parts of it that you will agree with, and parts that you don’t. Maybe your favorite arena food was the Nutella crepes (that was #2 for me). Maybe your essential goal was when Kovy potted a hat trick a few years back against the Senators and almost won the game for the Thrashers. Maybe your unsung hero is Nelson Emerson or Scott Mellanby or Bobby Holik. Perhaps your swag is the third jersey or that awkward bird throwing a punch logo hat.
We’re going to differ in opinion on a lot of aspects of this, but I think the one we’re going to differ the most over is the “Franchise Villain” section. I chose several under-performing Thrashers — whipping boys, if you will — for a reason. Over the eleven years that the franchise existed, the team never had a team or an opposition player that you could consider a villain. Sure, some like Steven Stamkos and Jordan Staal owned the Thrashers, but there’s no point in calling someone a villain when your team isn’t being held back from a great accomplishment. The only people that did the holding back for the Thrashers were those on the ice, behind the bench (on occasion) and those in the front office. You can’t look outside of the team for a bad guy — you have to look within.
The go-to bad guys are Don Waddell and the Atlanta Spirit Group. That goes without saying, which is why I didn’t say it. I’m getting tired of having to rehash and explain to everyone why the team relocated. I believe that most hockey-savvy people have at the very least a bare-bones grasp of how mis-managed the team was. Everyone knows that a decent share of the relocation blame lies on Don Waddell and ASG’s shoulders. Why go over it again? You’re flogging a dead horse.
I wanted to take a look at franchise scapegoats because consistently they’ve been the ones dogged for under-performance. Waddell had a few seasons worth of a grace period, and ASG was really a flagarant issue starting in 2007-2008 when they fired Bob Hartley and replaced him with Waddell. But every season except maybe the first one, on-ice performances shot this team in the foot. There were good teams put together — the last season that squad ruled the roost the first half of the season before everything collapsed due to shoddy on-ice performances and the propensity to put terrible people out there on the PK. The Thrashers weren’t always necessarily short on talent, but there were times where they were short on effort and short on willpower, and to me that’s what needs to be called out more so than saying “blah blah Atlanta Spirit Group’s incompetent blah blah Don Waddell can’t draft blah blah Winnipeg.”
It’s been tiring to repeat the same line ad-nauseum for a year and a half, and frankly, I wanted to make the Essentials about the team that we loved, not the people that we hated. Why ruin a perfectly good chance to look back at the frustrating franchise that we called our own?