Last Saturday the Thrashers invited a number of blog writers to attend the morning skate and the game with the opportunity to talk to Thrasher player Chris Throburn, Coach John Anderson, GM Don Waddell and broadcasters Dan Kamal and Darren Eliot. It was a great opportunity to ask questions and get answers straight from the players and decision makers. After an insanely busy week, I was able to find time to transcribe the questions. Today I have the question and answers from Thorburn and Coach Anderson. I'll post the Waddell material on Sunday.
Chris Thorburn Q and A
BWA: You were traded twice in juniors and twice in the NHL. Can you talk about that experience and your reaction when you were traded to the Thrashers?
Thorburn: It can be pretty tough, but I didn't have any kids. I huge part of it fell on my wife. I had to take off right away and she would be left packing and unpacking. She has been a big help with each transition. I didn't know much about the [Thrashers] coming in. I knew Eric Boulton from our days in the Buffalo organization--but not all that well. I just looked at it as a chance to stick with a NHL club because I hadn't yet. I appreciate that the Thrashers gave me that opportunity.
BWA: Why is the Penalty Kill doing so much better this season? What is the difference from last year?
Thorburn: I think it is more attention to detail. I sat in every PK meeting last year--even though I didn't play much on it. The coaches have put together a lot of film--both on us and the opposing team--we're prepared going into each game. And then you have veterans like Reasoner who has been doing this his whole life. He has lots of tips that he has passed on to the rest of the killers and that plays a big part in our success. Knowing what the other team wants to do, before they do it and then reading off of each other. Playing [on the PK] with Marty right now is so easy because we talk on the bench before we even hit the ice about what we're going to do.
BWA: Thrashers Assistant Coach Randy Cunneyworth was also in the Buffalo system, did you play for him while you were in that organization?
Thorburn: I played for him for 3 years in the Buffalo system. He was actually the one who evolved my style of game into more of a power forward who goes out there to bang and crash as well as chip in some offense. That's when my game really changed and turned me into a good pro."
BWA: Did he ever sit you down and say you have to change your style to make the NHL?
Thorburn: Yeah, he sat me down a few times. [chuckles] There were multiple conversations.
Coach Anderson Q and A
BWA: Last game Kovalchuk had a 4 minute shift and a 3 and 1/2 minute shift--mostly on the power play--is there a point of diminishing returns?
Anderson: You missed the part where he stopped by the bench to get a drink of water and kept going (laughs). At that point in the game it was 5-3 late, so we didn't need just one goal, we needed two and he's our most dynamic player. If we were winning by one or two then he wouldn't need him to play 3 and 1/2 minutes shifts. Certainly, I'd like him to take a breather now and then, but he's in such great shape and can just go like that for a long time.
BWA: You like to use multiple systems, were you surprised last year at how long it took NHL players to learn those systems?
Anderson: Yes. I think I took for granted that when you move up a level that guys would have seen these systems--but a lot of the time guys had not. One of our forechecks is VERY aggressive and for me to get our defense to move up--it took a month to get them to do it. At practice I'm screaming at them and then in the game they're not sure whether to go up or not--and if they don't go up we're in even bigger trouble. They were reluctant, but I'm the coach and I'm saying do it. I understand that they may not be used to playing like that--and if they hesitate even for half a second we're toast. It has to be immediate, like a chess game--if the other team moves Rook to Queen, then our guy goes bang and reacts--that is what has to happen.
Sean Grace then turned up the heat and asked Coach Anderson if Nic Havelid was one of those "reluctant" players last season. That earned Sean what was probably his first ever "no comment" type answer--although Coach Anderson's body language was unambiguous.