So you have an NHL team now. As a long time Thrashers fan I am going to tell you the truth about what you are getting for your money. Unfortunately for you between the Coyotes and the Thrashers you got the much worse team of the two. I know being hockey fans that the Kool Aid is flowing and in your excitement many are convinced that your new team is going to make the playoffs in the upcoming season. But you might want to pay attention as I offer an honest look at what you bought.
For the record I'd like to state that I've been VERY skeptical about the Thrashers for almost their entire stay in Atlanta. I'd like you to know that for years I tried to be a voice of sanity both on the SB Nation Thrashers blog and the official NHL approved message boards. I correctly guessed the points that the Thrashers would get prior to the 2010-11 season so I just might know what I'm talking about. Time will tell.
Organization - You do need to understand that the previous owners, the Atlanta Spirt Group, hated the team they owned and admitted in court documents in late 2010 that they have tried to sell it almost since the day they bought it. The previous owner, Time Warner, demanded that the Thrashers, Hakws (NBA) and the arena rights be sold together so the ASG bought everything. The lack of interest in the Thrashers led to them having no accountability in the organization and retaining Don Waddell, "the man who killed hockey in Atlanta", as GM for all but the final season.
Don Waddell - think of him as another Glen Sather and you've got an idea of what he was like. He made some good trades, but his free agent signings were mostly expensive failures and if there is a team that has gotten less out of the NHL draft than the Thrashers since 1999, I'd love to know who it is. The Thrashers scouting was mostly terrible, so you've done well to can all those guys. It's going to take years to undo his damage and as Dudley found out last season, you can't fix everything in 1 season.
Rick Dudley - Horribly overrated and his supporters give him credit for the winning that happened with his teams AFTER he left them. He was a good drafter and he made some good trades, but he was the only GM at the 11-12 trading deadline who got pennies on the dollar for his selloffs. And he missed VERY badly on Patrece Cormier (more later). Dudley is a bit of an a--hole and he did not deserve to keep his job, although you guys might have considered simply keeping him around through the draft.
Coaching - mostly bad. Bob Hartley is the only good coach the team ever had and his implosion during the playoffs in 06-07 put the team on a downward spiral it never got out of. Craig Ramsay was a terrible head coach. Here's an experiment. Look at the roster and assume you've got 1 minute to go and you're pulling the goalie to get a goal. You'll probably want Enstrom and Byfgulien at defenseman. Pick 3 forwards. Now pick a 6th skater. If the 6th skater you come up with is Chris Thorburn you just might be Craig Ramsay in disguise.
Now let's look at the team.
Andrew Ladd - The best forward on the team. Solid two-way player and leader who might one day score 30 goals. Will he sign a long term contract? Don't know, but he's going to probably want $5 million a season to do so. We heard that he has no interest in playing in Winnipeg. He'll be a UFA next summer so if he only signs a 1 year deal in the next months, I wouldn't put his name on my Jets' jersey if it was me.
Blake Wheeler - Another solid two way guy who works hard. You'll like him. I don't know if he's ever going to be more than a 20-25 goal guy but you've got a chance that he might reach 30 goals. Don't expect more than that. He's not ever going to be a big scoring Keith Tkachuk type player.
Nik Antropov - Badly hampered by injuries in 2010-11, but I think in 11-12 he'll be a lot closer to his 09-01 form than his 10-11 form. Not a big scorer, but a solid enough guy.
Bryan Little - Scott Gomez-lite. He works hard and the fans love him, but he's not ever going to score even 20 goals again. What you saw in 10-11 is what you're going to get from him - at best.
Evander Kane - LOTS of potential. But will he ever reach it? When he was drafted I thought that the worst case for him would be a consistent 30+ goal a season guy. Now I'm thinking that he's more or less another Blake Wheeler. A good, solid player, but not a star. To be blunt, the move MIGHT be just what he needs as the word was that he was way too interested in partying and hanging out with rap stars in Atlanta. But if he only scores around 19-22 goals in 11-12, you need to face the reality that he may never be much more than that.
Anthony Stewart - At the start of the season was maybe 1 or 2 games away from a demotion to the AHL when he got the luckiest hat trick ever. Got off to a good start but faded very badly in the 2nd half. Re-signing him isn't the worst idea, but you could also just let him leave for nothing and not really miss him. He hits a lot but his offensive skills are subpar for the top 6 job he was handed.
Chris Thorburn - Hard working guy but terribly overrated by the local fans. His better offensive numbers in 10-11 were simply a result of playing more minutes as he scored about as many points per minute as he did on the 4th
line in 09-10. Honestly he's probably a better option as a 2nd line RW than Stewart, but it's really not hard to find better players in the NHL than Thorburn. He's cheap and he'll be a good value for the money though.
Alexander Burmistrov - Has a lot of potential, but don't expect a lot from him in 11-12. 12-13 might be his breakout year. Absolutely HAS to bulk up to be effective in the NHL. He'll likely be your best center in 2-3 more seasons.
Rob Schremp - Did nothing to make the case that he should be in the NHL. Re-signing him would be a mistake.
Jim Slater - Beloved 4th line center who may not ever play again due to a concussion. He's an incredibly hard working guy, but he is one of the most inconsistent offensive players I've ever seen in the NHL.
Eric Boulton - One of the best fighters in the league, but ordered to rarely fight in Atlanta. His non-fight skills may be fading. Works hard, but when he declines he's going to go fast. I might re-sign him but only to a 1 year deal.
Tim Stapleton - Good two way player with some offensive pop but VERY inconsistent. Played something like 25 games before scoring his first goal.
Ben Maxwell - Good kid with a great attitude who understands that if he stays in the NHL he will be a bottom 6 or even 4th line forward, but he's got almost nothing to offer offensively.
Radek Dvorak - Showed nothing as a Thrasher. We weren't going to re-sign him. Looks like you aren't going to either. He can still play as a low scoring PK guy if that's what you want.
Patrice Cormier - Infamous for the hit on Mikael Tam in juniors. In one more year he'll be the only thing the organization has left to show for trading Kovalchuk. Both Dudley and Waddell hyped him up beyond belief to the
local fan base as a guaranteed point producing top 6 forward and the fans bought it. But they were royally pissed off when they found out that Cormier is actually EXACTLY what his junior stats suggest he would be - a low scoring bottom 6 energy type forward. He will almost certainly never score more than 10-15 goals a season in the NHL, but he does work hard and can play defense. He could maybe carve out a career as a Kelly Buchberger type guy who could even one day be a captain, but he's not a top 6 forward.
Carl Klingberg - He's probably going to need more time in the AHL. He could maybe be a 20 goal guy in the NHL but he's not going to be a big point producer. I think you will like him overall.
Spencer Machacek - More or less NHL ready, but has consistently failed when called up to the NHL. He's not going to be more than a low scoring energy guy in the NHL - if he ever sticks. And I'm no longer sure he ever will.
Toby Enstrom - Correctly called "Lidstrom-lite" by some. The team's best defenseman. Strong defensive game which doesn't get a lot of attention. He's a true star.
Dustin Byfuglien - A throwback to the 1980s and the era of offense only defensemen like Paul Coffey. He was TERRIBLE in the 2nd half of 10-11. If he doesn't play more like he did in the first half of 10-11, that contract is
going to be a millstone on the team. He HAS to score to be useful because he is very bad defensively.
Johnny Oduya and Ron Hainsey - More or less the same player with Hainsey having a little more offense and Oduya having a little more defense. Both have seen their games go to hell when paired with problem child Zach Bogosian and both played OK when not playing with him. Both are badly overpaid for what they bring to the table now. You're probably stuck with both until their contracts run out - 1 more season for Oduya, 2 more for Hainsey.
Zach Bogosian - Got to hand it to former GM Waddell on this one. In one of the best 1st rounds of recent years Waddell managed to find the one guy who has been a complete bust. Bogo is a basket case. Enstrom is the only partner he's ever had whose game did not compeltely fall apart when paired with him. Has had stretches at the end of his rookie season (08-09) and the beginning of 09-10 when he looked great, but he's been garbage since then. We think he's a lost cause and you'd do well to trade him while he still has value. Clearly Atlanta had no clue as to what to do to help him improve.
Mark Stuart - Hard working bottom pair guy who is good value for the money, but I'd be VERY cautious about trying to make him a top 4 guy as he may fall apart. The Thrashers have tried that tactic before and it never worked.
Freddy Meyer - Great attitude as he knows that he is just a step away from never playing in the NHL again, but I really have to question your GM's competence if he re-signs him. He was terrible. You're in trouble if you don't have a better answer than Meyer in 11-12.
Arturs Kulda - Rookie stay at home d-man who is NHL ready right now. He's not going to score much but he should be a decent enough defensive d-man.
Paul Postma - Think Kurtis Foster and you're in the ballpark. Has NHL offensive skills, but considered a weak defensive player. Probably NHL ready.
Andrey Zubarev - Young prospect who probably won't score a lot in the NHL but seems to have more offensive skills than Kulda. Was all over the map in a very brief late season call up with moments where he looked terrible, but he also had moments where he looked really good. Might benefit from one more year in the AHL but he will be an NHL d-man one day. His highs were higher in his brief NHL trial than Postma and Kulda, but his lows were lower too.
Chris Mason - Completely melted down due to the barrage of shots he faced. Your guess is as good as mine as to what he'll do in 11-12.
Ondreij Pavelec - Has huge potential. If he lives up to what he could be, he could be one of the 5 best goalies in the league. While injury free, his conditioning isn't the best and he's been very inconsistent. If you can get him to reach his potential, it could be the difference between being a bottom 5 team and making the playoffs.
Minors - They are completely dry except for the guys I already talked about. Waddell wasted picks for over a decade on "high risk, high reward" guys who never panned out. Just about every year in the draft Waddell made jaws drop by taking guys maybe 2 rounds higher than the 29 other teams had projected. You're basically going to have to rebuild the minor league system from the ground up. The Thrashers had a bizarre relationship with their AHL affiliate in Chicago where they paid MILLIONS of dollars EVERY season of NHL salary cap money for guys to play with Chicago and whenever the Thrashers sent a young guy down, he was lucky to get bottom 6 forward or bottom pair d-man minutes. Honestly, we hated our affiliate as they did NOTHING to help develop young players so having a different affiliate cannot be anything but a positive for you.
The stench of failure permeates the Thrashers and True North has done well to just clean house with the organization. NOBODY deserved to keep their job. Now having said that, you need to consider this. True North has had what - over a year? - to decide on a team name and was completely unable to do so until some days ago. I've got to tell you that an owner who can't even figure out what to call their new team doesn't impress me as likely to make this motley group of players into a playoff team.
You've got a bunch of low scoring guys on the roster. That is your reality. And your new GM acts a lot like Don Waddell did for us. Your draft is a Don Waddell type draft if I've ever seen one with guys seemingly picked by throwing darts at a dart board. I've got news for your organization - running an NHL team just might be harder than running an AHL team. Good luck - you are definitely going to need it. But let's be clear about something - the Thrashers were NOT going to be a playoff team with this bunch of players even if they stayed in Atlanta. You're going to pay big money for some very bad NHL hockey. I hope it's worth it to you.