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Waddell's Assesment of the Thrashers

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I recently called on the ownership or management to speak out about the team and to his credit Don Waddell did a Q and A with beat writer Mike Knobler on the state of the team which was published on Christmas Day. I'd like to consider two points from this discussion.

Q. Your main focus last summer was to shore up the defense. Where do you think that stands?

A. Last year we were one of the bottom teams in points from our defensemen. We’re certainly generating a lot more. I think our defense is much better, we move the puck much better. That doesn’t explain why we are still among the bottom in giving up too many goals. I think that’s not just a defensemen chore. The forwards all have a responsibility in the defensive zone, and if you don’t work as a unit out there as five [skaters], that’s when things happen. That’s been the biggest disappointment, that we have given up so many goals.

I watch the team and I see a defense that is more mobile and passes better than perhaps any Thrasher defense in team history. And yet when I look at the stats here is what I see:
  • 26th Ranked Even Strength Defense (ranked 27th last season)
  • 30th Ranked Special Teams Defense (ranked 28th last season)
  • 30th Ranked Total Defense (ranked 30th last season)
So what is going on? They look better but don't rank any higher than last year's club?

The team is playing a more wide open style and the DEFENSEMEN are helping create offense in the absence. The improved defensive corps has boosted the team offense but not the team defense when combined with the new coaching regime.
  • 10th Ranked Even Strength Offense (up greatly from 21st last season)
  • 18th Ranked Special Teams Offense (up slightly from 21st last season)
  • 11th Ranked Total Offense (up greatly from 23rd last season)
A lot of fans are blaming Coach Anderson right now about his "style" but a candid examination of the facts shows that he took over a team ranked in the bottom third of the NHL in offense and his "style" pushed that offense from 23rd to 11th overall while subtracting Marian Hossa at the same time. That's quite a feat--and it is a feat that came at the price of allowing more high quality scoring chances and ultimately goals against.

If the Thrashers had selected a more defensive coach we'd all be complaining about the lack of offense. Without Anderson's style this team would struggle to score more than 2 goals most nights. The reality is that the Atlanta Thrashers don't have a bunch of All Star candidates on their roster and they had to pick their poison--they choose to go with a coach who emphasizes offense and prays for great saves. A different coach might have emphasized defense and prayed for goals.