Friday, 3 June 2016

Atlanta Hockey Part Deux: The Trash Thrashers

Atlanta: Hockey's dumpster fire for hockey

As I wrote two years ago, the Flames problem was not bad play, it was a bad time to be a team in a new market, that got little to no publicity. Anyone who tells you the Flames were a bad idea and a bad team....they're wrong and don't know hockey.....They're likely thinking of the Thrashers.

To give you an idea of the NHL in 1999/2000, when the Thrashers entered the leagues, hockey was heading south. Tampa Bay, Sunrise, Nashville, Dallas, Phoenix, Raleigh, San Jose and Anaheim were now NHL cities with varying degrees of fanbases, but were relatively successful teams, all finding the post season before the end of the decade with the exception of Nashville, who were only 1 year old at this point. The Thrashers obviously couldn't do this, but how long did it exactly take them? Try until 2006/07...and ONLY 2006/07.

Biggest problem with the Thrashers: Horrible teams in almost every aspect!

The Thrashers were in the 2000s what the Florida Panthers were for most of the past decade, a dumping ground for washed up players and mediocre salary fillers with a few exceptions. The Thrashers never had a real franchise player aside from Slava Kozlov or Ilya Kovalchuck, who in 2016 are not household names. The Thrashers had a few good players over the years, a young Dany Heatley, a young Kari Lehtonen, Johan Hedberg and most of the 2010 Blackhawks the team could not afford (Buffs, Ladd, Eager). However for those players, there were MANY mediocre at best player choices that are hard to justify, even at the time.

Here's just a few: Patrik Stefan, PHP (past his prime) Byron Defoe, Pavel Kubina, PHP Scott Mellanby, a very PHP Chris Chelios, Jim Slater, Nik Antropov,  Garnet Exelby, PHP Mark Rechi amongst others

On top of that, the Thrashers had a tendency of taking on players like Marian Hossa and Maxim Afinogenov, players who certainly could help a team that HAD more pieces, but instead were used to get wasted draft picks, rental players or just walked when the team couldn't piece things together

The Thrashers were a team with players that on a team with a good base could do well (Antropov and Hossa are the best examples of that), but when those guys are your base...not a good start.

Furthermore, similarly to the Flames, the Thrashers had an uphill battle competing for attention in Atlanta without winning. The Falcons made into the Super Bowl in 1998, and later had a young Michael Vick in the early 2000s and Matt Ryan by the end of the decade, with some good teams. The Braves were the best team in the NL East from 1995 until 2005, were in the best division in baseball after that, first with the Marlins, then the Mets & Phillies and in the 2010s the improved Nationals added competition, won the 1995 World Series and had an exciting team. The Hawks had very similar issues to the Thrashers, and were both owned by Atlanta Spirit Group (how interesting). That being said, the Hawks hit rock bottom by 2005, and were playoff ready by 2008, and despite not making the playoffs from 1999-2008, the Hawks haven't missed since and made the playoffs 3 more times than the Thrashers did in their entire history.

This might not matter to some...but the Thrashers only had ONE good jersey in their entire history. Their 2003-04 - 2006/07 Baby Blue jerseys with the hem stripe was unique and certainly not for jersey traditionalists, but they were pretty sweet! The rest of the Thrashers jersey history was dark, drab, experimental and rarely worked outside of hindsight.

Original Navy: Bleh, bland dark and awful primary logo choice
Original White: Not the worst, but not enough colours, mostly navy and maroon
Edge Blue: The hem stripe was very much missed
Edge White: Same issue as the original white, but looked slightly better
Maroon alternate: A glorified Motocross jersey that Chris Chelios had to wear

I do own all 3 edge Thrashers jersey, and one thing I will say, they are funny to look at now! Really, they are pretty awful, but an icon of an era bygone. If you find one cheap....pick it up, enjoy it, wear it proudly. But on an objective level...they're ugly.

I could go on about the Thrashers, but those are my main gripes. The Thrashers did later become by team, the Winnipeg Jets, and some would argue that Atlanta's bad management is still seen today with some players that would be gone on almost any other team. Players like Buffs, Enstrom, a personal favourite of mine, Thorburn, Ladd, Pavelec and Burmistrov were Thrashers, but it took me 2 years to get this post out because I had to get over the idea of getting every little gripe about a team that bothered me every year they existed 

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