You see the schmuck with the suit and tie standing behind the Atlanta Thrashers' bench? Yes, the same guy looking up at the jumbo tron with the same blank less expression as your grandfather who suffers from Alzheimer's. His name is Don Waddell. He is the general manager of the Thrashers. In fact he has been their GM ever since they fluttered to existence 11 years ago. The man with the "5 year plan" has as many playoff wins as you the reader. 0.0 in fact. He has let All-Star players go (Dany Heatley, Marc Savard, Marian Hossa) in the past because he either didn't want to pay them fair market value or because he is a fucking idiot who doesn't know how to run a professional hockey organization. I would say both.
And now he is going to trade away the face of the franchise. The one player who actually wants to win and stay in Atlanta but who also deserves to be paid fair market value for the superstar he is. I'm talking about Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovy as he is affectionately known to Thrashers' fans is about to leave the one franchise who couldn't put a cast around him to support his talents. Kovy is the greatest player to lace up the skates for the Thrashers and will probably be the last in Atlanta. The Atlanta Spirit Group (sounds like a Gay Pride Parade, not that there is anything wrong with that) is their collective group of donkey ass owners who would rather be cheap and sell a shitty product rather than invest and make a better product for fans to come watch. It makes sense to be constantly cheap when you are investing in a better future. The Thrashers are not. Waddell released this candid and rather frank statement about why he will now be trading Kovalchuk:
"Our goal from the start of this negotiating process was to sign Ilya Kovalchuk to a long-term contract," Waddell said in a statement. "During the process, Kovy affirmed his desire to be a Thrasher for life. We've spent several months exploring scenarios with Kovy and his agent to reach a mutually beneficial agreement and offered many lucrative packages in an attempt to meet his financial objectives. Unfortunately, we've reached an impasse and at this point he has declined all of our proposals and we can't reasonably go any higher.
"Ultimately, we offered Kovy more than $101 million over 12 years, which would have been the highest contract signed by an impending unrestricted free agent in the history of the league," Waddell said in the statement. "If accepted, this contract would have been the second-highest offer ever to any NHL player. We also met his desire to be the highest-paid player based on average annual salary with a separate offer of seven years at $10 million per year ($70 M). This offer is $0.5 million higher per year than any other player.
"If we went beyond these offers, we would not be able to retain the young players on our roster when it came time to sign them or invest in other top-tier players needed to assemble a truly competitive team. Therefore, we are aggressively exploring all of our options as we move forward," Waddell's statement said.
Notice the "if we went beyond these offers we would not be able to retain the young players on our roster" is one of the most laughable statements I have ever read. Waddell and the ASG have never ponied up the money to retain any of their young players and are doing the same with Kovy so why would that change now or in the future? If Waddell is so interested in investing in top-tier players like he says he is then he should have signed Kovy a long time ago. Last season would have been nice instead of waiting till the last moment to negotiate an extension.
If you read this blog you know that I usually side on the ownership's side rather than the players because if you have ever run a business you know how important your bottom line is. But the Thrashers are so poorly run and have been for 11 plus seasons that they are now getting rid of their best product and will conceivably settle for worse players in return for a guy who is the only reason you sell tickets in the first place. The die hard hockey fans will still show up but the casual fans who are looking to be entertained want to come into the building and watch Kovy. He is worth the price of admission. Without him the Thrashers are not worth anything now or in the future because players are not going to want to come to an organization that trades or lets their best players walk away when it comes to getting paid what they deserve. It's like the Thrashers are being run by the actual company GM and are expecting some miracle government grant to come in and save their sorry asses when they have nobody to blame but themselves.
The Thrashers should have given Kovy what he wanted. He is only 26 years old and is only getting better with age. He deserves the money because he sells tickets and is an exceptional talent that can not be replaced unless you are getting back an Ovechkin or a Crosby in exchange. That of course won't happen. The Oilers didn't get better when Gretzky left. The Bulls didn't get better when Jordan left. For this is one of many reasons why Waddell is making a huge mistake. And for this I want to strangle his fat fucking turkey head.
Good bye Kovy. You will be missed and you deserve better. Thanks for the memories from this die hard Thrashers fan.