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No Pressure in Atlanta

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The Thrashers GM, Coach and all the players ought to be thankful today that they play in Atlanta and not Toronto, Montreal or Detroit. After a brutal stretch, the team has tumbled down to 30th place in a 30 team league. The best thing about playing in Atlanta is that you can screw things up badly and few will notice. You can just be real quiet and maybe nobody will comment on a decade of sub-mediocrity.

If this was a big time hockey town the press would dialing up the owners number to get a comment on the GM's job security. There would be the obligatory "vote of confidence" statement from an owner. Yet here, nothing happens because the Thrashers are simply not a very high priority for the local sports media.

If this was a big time hockey city people would be questioning Coach Anderson's strategies, line combinations and defense pairings daily in the paper. But that mostly happens on message boards and blogs.

If this a big time hockey city players would have to face TV cameras, microphones and reporters with note pads asking questions like "why is this team struggling?" or "why haven't you scored in a month?" or "why was the effort so poor?" But instead players can slip in and out of practice without too many people making them feel guilty. Sure they'd like to win like teams in other cities, but those half million plus pay checks can cushion the blow of playing NHL hockey in Georgia. They don't even have to fear turning on the local sports radio (a medium that thrives on bashing people when they're down) because nobody is ripping them there either, the team is only mentioned on the half hour score updates.

But there's no pressure on this team in this team, there's no accountability from what I can see. The media ignores them and when the team plays brutal everybody clams up. We don't hear much from anyone. What is the master plan from the GM now? Where is the coaching staff going to do about the PK? When are certain players going to get into the season? Usually when people reach the very top of their chosen profession the job comes with a tradeoff; they receive both high pay and a high level of scrutiny, but here we just have the high pay and very little scrutiny.

In big time hockey cities there is constant pressure to play well. That is not the case here. If this franchise is ever going to succeed the pressure has to come from inside the organization. It must either come from an owner who will cease accepting poor performances or it must come from the players themselves or perhaps a star player getting in the face of slacking teammates. Has anyone every broken a $400 TV in the locker room after a stupid loss? If I were an owner I'd happily replace a few broken TVs if it meant getting a better return on my $45,000,000 investment in player payroll. If Ilya Kovalchuk wants the captain job he can earn it by loudly demanding more of himself and his teammates right now.

Some people play hard because they love to win. Some people play hard because someone else puts pressure on them. The media will never be the enforcer in this town, who will demand more of this team?