E-Mail Subscriptions to the Blog

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Monday, November 26, 2007

Wolves on top of AHL; Lehtonen to Chicago for 3 games

While the strange Canadian virus that led me to take ten days off was in full bloom, the Chicago Wolves continued their victory march. A quick reload:

· November 16th, Wolves 7 at Iowa 5 in the final game of the circus road trip. Stephan Tobias is unable to hold an early 2-0 lead as the second period sees the Wolves start firing five consecutive goals. Fred Brathwaite gets the win.
· November 17th, Wolves 4, Houston Aeros 0. The last two seasons have seen the once mighty Aeros shot down time after time. They actually lost the last season to the San Antonio Rampage. This season is no better for the Aeros. The Wolves put more than 20 percent of the shots past Barry Brust. Everything seems to work for the Wolves as Robert Gherson picks up his second win of the year.
· November 18th, Wolves 0, San Antonio Rampage 4. New Rampage coach Greg Ireland continues to make the Rampage a tough team. They are in second place in the Western Division, immediately behind the Wolves and have been tough all season. As the month comes to a close, the Rampage face a schedule where they spend more than a month at home or in the state of Texas, the so-called rodeo home stand. Granted Ireland is a great coach, but who would have believed he could turn this situation around so- completely. The loss here goes to Gherson. It is just the first regulation loss and second loss of any type for Chicago.
· November 21st, Wolves 2 at Peoria Rivermen 1. Chris Beckford-Tseu may have been considered for the St. Louis Blues at one point, but he seems to have lost something since his Kelly Cup victory two seasons ago. Gherson wins this game. Brathwaite isn’t even dressed for this one as the Atlanta organization sends Craig Kowalski up from Gwinnett.
· November 23rd, Wolves 3, Peoria Rivermen 7. The Rivermen ain’t gonna be the Wolves bitch no more. This game marks the first Peoria regulation victory over the Wolves since, umm…. Well it was at least the 2006 season. A victory for Beckford-Tseu and a loss for Gherson. It also marks only the second regulation loss of the year for the Wolves.
· November 24th, Rockford 3, Chicago 8. A drubbing as the Rockford IceHogs only play about 15 minutes of the game and the Wolves deck ‘em. The game is won by Brathwaite.

In the hockey news, Kari Lehtonen is expected to start for the Wolves in their game on Tuesday, November 27th, against the Quad Cities Flames. Lehtonen, the backbone of the Atlanta Thrashers net minders, was injured prior to Atlanta Coach Bob Hartley being let go. He is expected to be in Chicago for a three game conditioning schedule. The other games in the line-up are versus Peoria at home on November 29 and December 1st at home versus Iowa.

There were two pieces about Hartley’s rocky relationships with his goalies that I’ve read recently. It is hard to discuss Kari Lehtonen’s relationship with Hartley, being so remote from Atlanta hockey.

However, here is a link to the PowerPlayPost Show that contains an interview with Billy Gardner, the Wolves television color analyst. LINK TO PPPSHOW MP3 Gardner explains in the interview that Hartley had told Brathwaite that if Hartley had had his way, Brathwaite would never start in goal.

It is widely assumed that all goalies are head cases, although in the few interactions I’ve had with Brathwaite, he seemed to be among the most collected and mature hockey players I’ve met.

Yet, here is the coach of Atlanta basically blowing off Brathwaite, according to Gardner. Am I reading too much into this? A year in which Brathwaite has had spectacular success in the American Hockey League? Is this the source of the funk noticed in Brathwaite last January?

Don Waddell, it is being said in the Atlanta blogs, is allowing the Thrashers to play to their brilliance. And, I believe that one of the beautiful things about hockey is the inspired play of the geniuses of the game. They seem to see the play develop, to react to it and anticipate it. A great player may need to see things in X’s and O’s, a genius imagines it as it develops.

Hartley’s style, his X’s and O’s, it is said, bore down on Lehtonen. And, it seems as though it also constrained the greatness of Ilya Kovalchuk and the Thrasher’s organization. Up and down the organization, it seems that freeing the organization of Hartley has freed the minds and playing skill of the players. Brathwaite playing well could be a giant “fuck you” to Hartley. Or, it could be Brathwaite finally playing to his potential. Or both.

Hartley’s termination has become a model for the NHL, if it worked in Atlanta, why not in Washington? Why hasn’t it worked better in Chicago? Let’s take Washington first. If pressed at the end of the 2007 season, I would have said three coaches had generally been among the best in the AHL every season: Bruce Boudreau, Claude Noel and John Anderson.

Now, in part, that shows a Western Division bias, because I see John Anderson a lot and also because I saw Claude Noel a lot.

In any case, of those three, only Anderson is still working in the AHL. That could be blindness on my part. But Anderson has a real chance of moving up; perhaps as the duties of being a GM take more time from Waddell and he uses his assistant, who will, in turn, perhaps, need his own assistant.

Looking over the AHL now, Anderson is still among the top-tier coaches. Randy Cunneyworth of the Rochester Americans and Don Lever of the Hamilton Bulldogs, all Western Conference, would fill out my list of top AHL coaches today.

And the B’hawks? Well, they are playing a better game than last season. But, I’m not a fan of Coach Denis Savard. I wish him well, but don’t see the ‘Hawks doing that much better than if they had gone outside the organization last season in a search for a new coach. But that wasn’t the way of the organ-I-zation last season. Under Rocky Wirtz, things may be different now.

When I think about a great coach, I consider what I do and have done for years. Currently done for fun, I have written professionally. I think an editor for a writer can be like a coach for a professional athlete. Some editor’s work is destructive, some is constructive. What is the difference? A good editor makes everything easier to write and easier to read. Their efforts don’t create problems, they resolve them.

Whatever Waddell has done in Atlanta, the players have reacted with wins. Right now, tonight as I write this, I can anticipate the Thrashers in the Stanley Cup finals. Hartley—destructive. Waddell- constructive. Pat Conacher- destructive. Greg Ireland- constructive. John Anderson, Claude Noel and Bruce Boudreau- constructive. Don Lever and Randy Cunneyworth- constructive.

Savard too has a winning team on the ice. But, I don’t think Savard has the skill to get the Blackhawk players to play to the level they need to play at to win the Stanley Cup. Maybe they will be in the playoffs, but tonight as I write these words, I don’t see a Blackhawk playing beyond the second round. Savard has a place in hockey management. But, I don’t see it being behind a bench. Constructive, but not nearly as much as some of his fellow coaches.

Anyway, that’s the ruminations after taking off for a week. We are very behind on photos from the Western New York/ Hamilton road trip and the last few days of hockey. Bear with us. We will post pictures of Lehtonen and current games first.

From Jane and I, best wishes to our readers for the holidays.

No comments: