Atlanta Sports Franchises: Atlanta Thrashers
February 16, 2011 Leave a comment
Stanley Cups: None
The first instance of hockey in Atlanta began with the Atlanta Flames, who departed in 1980 for Calgary, Canada, becoming the Calgary Flames. Atlanta was awarded a NHL franchise on June 25, 1997, naming them the Thrashers, based on the state bird of Georgia, awarded by a fan poll.
The newly-formed Thrashers did not jump out of the gate very quickly, as their two selections in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Patrik Stefan and Luke Sellars, have been called two of the biggest disappointments in draft history. This came as a big surprise to the whole franchise, particularly GM Don Waddell, considered by many as an individual with excellent scouting abilities. The team went on to finish their first season in last place, with a record of 14-61-7. With the next year’s second overall pick, they chose Dany Heatley, who went on to become one of the best players to play in an Atlanta uniform before he was traded to the Senators in 2005.
After a 2003-04 season that saw tragedy by way of a car accident that severely injured Heatley and eventually killed center Dan Snyder, the Thrashers came out strong in 2004. Ilya Kovalchuk scored eight goals in the first seven games, and eleven games into the season, the Thrashers found themselves in first place atop the Southeast Division. However, the run did not last much longer, as they went on a dismal 101703 from the end of the December until mid-February. Given the slow mid-season stint, the Thrashers’ playoffs hopes were done for the year.
The 2006–07 season began with the highest expectations in franchise history, even with the offseason loss of their second leading scorer, Marc Savard to the Boston Bruins. Center Steve Rucchin, Niko Kapanen and Jon Sim were acquired in hopes help fill the Savard loss. With superstars Marian Hossa and Kovalchuk, the Thrashers clinched the first playoff berth and won the Southeast Division, claiming the number three seed and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. However, they were eliminated from the playoffs on April 18, being swept by the New York Rangers in four straight games in the Quarterfinals.
Struggles returned in 2007, as Atlanta started the season 0-6 after reaching the playoffs for the first time in team history. The season didn’t make much progress, as the Thrashers ended the season with only 76 points, finishing 14th in the Eastern Conference. The 2007-08 season was not much better, with Atlanta finished 13th in the conference with 76 points.
Atlanta said goodbye to a superstar when they traded Kovalchuk to the Devils in February of 2010, after the two parties could not come to an agreement on an extension. The 2009-10 season saw the Thrashers in 10th in the Eastern Conference, with 83 points.
In the 2010 off-season, big changes were made, as Craig Ramsay was named the new head coach, GM Waddell was promoted to President of Hockey Operations, and former assistant GM Rick Dudley was promoted to General Manager. Dudley’s first move was to make a trade with the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, involving nine players and draft picks, as Chicago found it necessary to trade players for prospects and picks as they were in difficulty with the salary cap.
So far this season, the Thrashers have taken place in the Southeast Division for the first time since February 2008. Stay tuned for more on current Thrashers news tomorrow!