Sunday, March 23, 2014
Top three now. Based on the Oilers' much trumpeted 'improvement' which saw them beaten at home by Buffalo (3-1) and the Falmes (8-1) I am beginning to think that in a few years the Oilers will be here, they are just a Taylor Hall trade request away and my guess is that day is coming.
But for now they remain in sixth (though with a bullet!!) and so here we are at number three.
In the seventies the NHL was a lot less patient with franchises that weren't working. The Seals were moved to Cleveland and then folded. Kansas City went to Denver and then to Jersey soon afterwards. And the Atlanta Flames ended up in Calgary because hockey and Atlanta did not mix. The Flames didn't win a playoff series in their eight years but they made the playoffs six times, had a winning record five of those years and were basically the most successful 70s expansion club after the Islanders and the Sabres.
It didn't matter because they couldn't draw flies.
Of course the NHL, as its wont to do, did the natural thing and twenty years later, chasing the money as usual, decided to put a new team in Atlanta.
And the end result, in a league far less eager to move franchises after the go go 90s when half the league seemed to be on the move, a league that has gone to the mat to keep a team in Phoenix of all places, was that after eleven years hockey failed in Atlanta again. And this team, unlike the Flames, deserved the city's indifference.
Atlanta Thrashers 2000-2011
Length - 11 seasons (plus, more on that later)
Losing Seasons - 8
Bottom Five In The League - 5
Last Overall - 2
Worst Season - 1999-2000, 14 wins for 39 points
Playoff Appearances - 1
Playoff Wins - 0
Weirdness - Their very existence (based on what I noted above). And the fact that unlike Phoenix the franchise was allowed to perish without even a whimper.
The Good - Atlanta had nine top ten picks including two number ones, two number twos, a number three and a number four. And unlike a lot of these failures they drafted pretty well. Of those lottery picks only Patrik Stefan was a real bust and they picked up two superstars in Kovalchuk and Heatley
The Bad - GM Don Waddell had a tough time building around his young core. Despite being in the worst division in the league they only got into the playoffs once!
The Good - When they moved Heatley they managed to get Marian Hossa in return! A future Hall of Famer! All of these years later Heatley is done and Hossa remains a star.
The Bad - Hossa plays in Chicago. Going nowhere is no way to keep your star players (MacT take note). Hossa was gone in 2008 and two years later Kovalchuk followed. The franchise could not get fair return and was doomed, probably when Hossa went.
The Good - Don Waddell is still employed, by USA hockey. This is good news if you are not an American.
The Bad - Don Waddell is still employed, by USA hockey. This is bad news if you are an American
The End Game - The Thrashers moved to Winnipeg which counts for a lot in this exercise. They and the Blue Jackets are equally as abysmal but these guys were so bad they killed hockey in a city. Even if it was Atlanta that is impressive. Also although they have the 21st century inflated winning record in their first two seasons in Winnipeg (and possibly a third) the Jets look to be about to miss the playoffs for the third straight year. You can take the Thrashers out of Atlanta apparently but they're still not that good.
Why They Aren't Ranked Higher - As I noted these guys and the Jackets are at about the same level, which is totally shit, but the two teams remaining had runs as long or longer than them and were even worse. So Oiler fans, it can get worse! Now excuse me while I drink some gasoline and die a painful death which will probably be less painful than being an Oilers' fan.
What We Learned - Don't put a team in Atlanta. You might destroy a franchise but in hockey you will always find a job anyhow (see Waddell and Steve Tambellini). And that you might draft a bunch of hotshot kids, actual superstars, but if you don't fill in the pieces around them you are still doomed to failure until finally they make their escape wait why is this sounding familiar and why am I so sad all of a sudden.
Posted by Black Dog at 4:36 PM