After two division titles, a presidents trophy, and competing Thrashers find themselves back in a familiar place this year out of the playoffs. Unlike the prior years though they have no great picks to look forward to. There is no doubt it will be an interesting summer in Atlanta trying to fix whatever it is that went wrong this year.
Sadly for the Thrashers they did not show up the first half of the season and bit the bullet for it missing the playoffs by just a few points. At the half way point the Thrashers found themselves second to last in the East with one abysmal record. One thing is sure another season like this will not be accepted in Atlanta and changes will likely be made in the off-season. This off-season will see Callahan and Clutterbuck both hitting RFA status and looking for significant wage increases. Burrows looks to be the loyalty with a similar price tag to what he was making. We caught up with GM Niehenke to get his opinion on the seasons and whats to come.
"I think plenty have heard my feelings over the summer. To be honest with all said and done now I think a fair amount of blame can be put on me and I take it. The other large part I think goes to the players but that will be dealt with internally. We are not gonna scapegoat the coach here or give the players an easy out. There are a lot of guys who didn't even produce half of what they are capable of and that can't all be put on the coach. I had a few deals that went haywire due misunderstanding of legislature which hurt our chances. There the blame goes on me as we had to put J. Johnson in the minors for extensive time which was unfair to him and the rest of the team. I've assured the team that similar problems will not be there next year minimizing the excuses."
When asked about his plans for the summer the following was said,
"You know the season just ended and its still yet to be seen how everyone progresses from the prior season. I know we will be in an interesting situation with Callahan who made huge strides this year. As it stands we were near the CAP and it looks like we'll be adding salary. Something has to give and I've already been trying to crunch numbers with the CAP and see where and what needs to be done. I believe we'll be able to skate almost the same roster as this year with a few changes on the the back-end. Personally I think that was our downfall this year. I went away from what has always won it for me and the instant I went back to it wins starting piling up. I felt at the start that having a stacked defense and so many guys that could do it all would make us impossible to beat. It did exactly the opposite so we'll go back with bringing guys more suited to play exact roles and be pure shut-down guys to go along Doughty, Johnson, and Enstrom. I feel with those 3 we have a foundation which likely has Timonen looking from the outside in. On the offensive side of things we'll be trying to do whatever we can to keep the forwards all together. It was a struggle this year but I feel once Benn came in things really started shaping up. Many of our forwards have greatly progressed too so I'd love to give them another shot early on and see how they react. If push comes to shove with the CAP though we may have to see an original like Brown move or Callahan if asking for too much."
That was all we got from GM Niehenke for the time being but we were assured as the summer went on we'd be hearing more from him and the Thrashers.