this AM I ventured to Duluth, the site of the Thrashers training facility to witness some fine fine fine hockey. it's this time of year that really gets me going, like every other hockey fan. right now, the sky is the limit - your team can do no wrong and they can probably win the Stanley Cup. but, you know, haters wanna hate and lovers wanna love. lots of critics (or uninformed, for that matter) are dogging the Thrashers b/c of their off-season moves, lack of hockey interest in the South, Ilya Kovalchuk leaving the ATL by season's end - just retarded rumormongering. and maybe some of those people are right, maybe some of those aspects are correct. but you know what? I DON'T CARE. this is my team and this is my sport. whether the Thrashers are a playoff team or not, it doesn't matter to me b/c I will love this team to the end (or when they relocate to some remote part of Saskatchewan, so quoth the critics north of the border). that's why I travel over an hour to see my team practice - it's invigorating, full of hope and promise, and it's the best sport in the world.
do I really think the Thrashers have what it takes to play in the early summer months of 2010? absolutely! do I feel that Ilya Kovalchuk will remain w/ the Thrashers following this season? why the hell not?! like I said - every Sept holds so much hope for the future, regardless of what may lie ahead. the Thrashers could be bottom-dwellers (they won't), but I'll continue to come back to the team that I love.
enough meandering abt my subjectivity here, let's get to the heart of the matter - today.
the Thrashers are an enigmatic bunch right now, let's face it. they made strides in the off-season to significantly add more talent to the roster. enter Nik Antropov and Pavel Kubina. let's keep in mind previous off-season additions - Ken Klee, Niko Kapanen, Glen Metropolit, Jason Williams, Mike Dunham (I shudder to even think of the name)... I could go on. personally, I'll take the two players we brought in for this season over any of the others any day of the week. but b/c of past conditioning, us Thrashers fans are skeptical of the adds b/c none of the other, uh, "experiments" worked out to our advantage. only time will tell how Antropov and Kubina will work out, but you have to think that they will contribute much more than the others I mentioned.
and then there's the Kovalchuk issue, which will plague the team until he resigns... or doesn't. based on my viewing this AM, he was all smiles on the ice, having fun and spending time w/ Russians (Kozlov, Antropov, Afinogenov). Kovy does not appear to be a man w/ one foot out the door, and all local commentary on the issue doesn't even hint in that direction. the same could not be said about the Marian Hossa issue from a few seasons back, where it seemed as if negotiations are nowhere (they were) and Hossa was mailing in his gameday performances (he was) until he was relocated elsewhere. however, there is no extension on Kovalchuk's contract as of this moment. as a result, the questions and doubts remain and they will until something happens.
after watching practice (and a scrimmage) today, I was thrilled @ the prospect of what this season could become. there's hope on the horizon. this off-season for the Thrashers was the most pro-active I've seen and it still continues to head in that direction, w/ the tryout invites extended to Maxim Afinogenov, Manny Legace, and Dan Fritsche. Max adds speed and experience to the lineup and Legace brings much-needed stability to the goalie position, something the Thrashers lacked b/c of Kari Lehtonen's previous bouts w/ injuries (actually, that's not so previous as Kari is currently working out a back injury) and Johan Hedberg's spontaneity that's been a win-lose situation ever since he's been w/ the team.
seeing players like Kovalchuk smile endlessly, like Slava Kozlov constantly giving Legacy a hard time (that often resulted in much laughter in both players), like 18 year-old Evander Kane try and try and try to push his limits higher and higher in hopes of cracking the squad next month, like Toby Enstrom and Zach Bogosian stepping up into roles that maybe they aren't accustomed to just yet (but they are more than willing to play the part) - it just makes me endlessly happy to know that this Sept is as hopeful as it is for the Atlanta Thrashers and I cannot wait to see what's next for the team as they will battle it out all season long for what really matters - playoff hockey in Atlanta.
dang it, my glass of Kool Aid is all out! :D