Monday, February 8, 2010
Oh, Kovalchuk You Devil: The First Game Without...
So, the deal was done... and a town was less than pleased...
The HQ could have told you a year ago that Ilya Kovalchuk would not remain as an Atlanta Thrasher after his current deal would expire. He was, according to reports from both sides in the negotiation, offered either 3 years/$30M, 5 years/$50M, 7 years/$70M, and/or 12 years/$101M to stay.
The agent for Ilya Kovalchuk, Jay Grossman, said the Thrashers dilly-dallied in talks and really didn't seem serious. The Thrashers GM, Don Waddell, said he tried, but couldn't mortgage his future in one player to put the team in financial peril after the year was finished.
11 players are under contract for the 2010-2011 season for a total of $28M toward a salary cap. If Kovy would have signed for a $10M price tag that meant, for all intents and purposes, Waddell would have had only $16M for upwards of 15 players to have under contract later on.
It, simply, couldn't have been done unless others were moved in the process in an effort to go "younger and cheaper." But the team carries on as a .500 club without any real offensive punch or name to hang your proverbial hat on to. The first game out was a game against division rival Florida ((pictured at Philips Arena, thanks to me))
The team had to escape Washington DC first to even make the game happen. They drove to Richmond, Virginia, flew out of there and made it back to Atlanta by 5:15 for a 7:00 puck drop. That wasn't gonna happen, so the game was pushed back to 7:45.
The team was chippy, tired, and cranky and so were the fans. Most of the fans blame Kovalchuk in this one instead of the front office ((pictured, sweaters adjusted to fit public opinion of some, thanks to me again)).
The sweater contingent was mostly un-adjusted, but you had some who let their feelings known. They would take masking tape and cross out Kovalchuk's name in favor of other things.
Admittedly, it was an odd feeling seeing Johnny Oduya and Niclas Bergfors take Kovalchuk's place- which is one helluva misnomer.
His place can't be taken...
But the team has a tall order in front of itself for the season and time to follow. There is no star, short of a trade at the deadline to bring one in, to put the team on his back.
Unless, the Thrashers win a lot of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-1 games down the stretch it'll be a long ride. And the team's future in the city hangs in the balance. Regardless of what people think and where they assign blame... there's more pressure now than when Marian Hossa was dealt away.
Fans in Atlanta will support a winner, and in the interim, will apparently root for a team who won't quit, and will give their best effort. It's reminiscent of the first years of the franchise when a team was willed to succeed when they were clearly outgunned night after night.
But it's year ten now, and not year two or three...
If the efforts aren't made upstairs now, the team won't work downstairs.
At that point, the "For Sale" and "Moving Sale" signs will quickly follow. The NHL gave the town a second chance after the Flames left for Calgary. There will be no third chance if the team has to move to Winnipeg, Hamilton, or any other place that can give the team a better home than the one they're in now...