Ilya Kovalchuk battles for the puck against Drew Doughty. (Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images)
August is the month where we at THNHQ spend our days ranking jerseys and getting into arguments over things that haven’t happened yet. Case in point, yesterday, when web editor Edward Fraser and myself debated the future of two lowly teams.
I made the bold statement that Atlanta GM Don Waddell was not the worst GM in the NHL – as posited by some in the business – and, in fact, has accomplished more since the lockout than a number of teams. After all, the Thrashers have made the playoffs (albeit briefly) and in a schizophrenic Southeast Division, have a better chance than other teams of getting back there soon.
Toronto, Florida, Phoenix and L.A. are the only squads left in the NHL that have not made the post-season since the work stoppage. So why, pray tell, did Kings GM Dean Lombardi skyrocket up our third annual GM rankings last season? Lombardi came in at No. 9, while Waddell was mired in last.
But let’s look at the two squads right now and tell me what the differences are:
Atlanta is led offensively by all-star Ilya Kovalchuk, whose career-high in points is 98. L.A.’s most dangerous weapon is still-emerging talent Anze Kopitar, whose career-best is 77. Kopitar - whom I’m a big fan of – had a down year in 2008-09, but was still the top scorer on the Kings with 66 points. Kovy had 91 on a similarly poor Thrashers squad, while Slava Kozlov (76 points) and Todd White (73) also outscored Kopitar.
Now, I’ll grant that this year’s Kings have a little more depth after that – Ryan Smyth, Dustin Brown, Alexander Frolov and Justin Williams trump Nik Antropov, Kozlov, White and Bryan Little – but certainly not by much.
On defense, both teams have awesome building blocks: Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson for the Kings, Zach Bogosian and Tobias Enstrom in Atlanta. I will only give L.A. credit for other prospects such as Thomas Hickey, Colten Teubert and Slava Voinov when they establish themselves in the league.
In net, both teams have questions: The Kings have been auditioning No. 1 netminders for years now and still haven’t found one. Meanwhile, the ascension of Jonathan Bernier continues to be unseen. In Atlanta, Kari Lehtonen’s groin and back, the growth of Ondrej Pavelec and the necessary presence of veteran leader Johan Hedberg makes for a crowded crease and some tough decisions.
Waddell certainly made some bum trades in the past, but with 2009 draft picks Evander Kane, Carl Klingberg and Jeremy Morin – all hot prospects in my opinion – and more assets available in a potential Lehtonen or Pavelec trade, the cupboard stocks up quickly.
So is Lombardi really that much better than Waddell at this point?
As THN’s associate editor of crunk and crunk development, clearly the world is waiting for me to weigh in on the Carolina Hurricanes-Tye Banks lawsuit. For those who haven’t heard, the North Carolina-based rapper and his favorite NHL team are suing each other over a Banks-penned theme song entitled Carolina Hurricanes.
But let’s forget about the legal ins and outs for a moment and resolve the real issue: Is the song any good? Well, like most southern hip-hop, the beat is infectious and bouncy. It wasn’t even 9 a.m. when I listened to the track this morning and it still made me do a little dance.
Lyrically, you will not forget what the song is about. The phrase “Carolina Hurricanes” is used so much the words have practically lost all meaning to me. Also, a crunk song without cursing is just strange to the ears. Having said that, Banks gets off a great line when he boasts, “Catch your second wind while we play ‘til the end/We done won a Stanley Cup and we can do it again.”
Verdict? Hung jury. But as a final note, Banks also has a song featuring an artist named Sikora – but I checked, it’s not Petr. Either of them.
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PRODUCER: Ted Cooper
Ryan K ennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly throughout the off-season, his column - The Straight Edge - on Fridays, and his prospect feature - The Hot List - on Tuesdays.
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