Atlanta Thrashers

Tue, 03 Mar 2009 21:42

History of Atlanta Thrashers

Information about the NHL team Atlanta Thrashers.

The Atlanta Thrashers belonging to the Eastern Conference were founded in 1999 during the wave of expansion that increased the number of squads in the NHL from 26 to 30. The franchise was awarded to Atlanta two years before, on June 25, 1997, more than a decade after the old team, the Atlanta Flames moved to Calgary to become the Calgary Flames. Founded by Ted Turner, the Atlanta Thrashers, along with the Braves and the Hawks belonged to the AOL-Time Warner Corporation.  

The name for the team was selected from a fan poll, after the name of Georgia’s state bird.

Early Years

The team had Don Waddell, former assistant GM of the Detroit Red Wings, as its General Manager. One of his first moves as GM was hiring former NHL winger Curt Fraser as team leader. Fraser was also the coach for Waddell’s IHL team back in Orlando. One of the first draftees was Czech player Patrik Stefan, and the team played for the first time on October 2, 1999, a game that they eventually lost to the New Jersey Devils with a score of 4-1.  The first goal of the franchise history was made by Kelly Buchburger.

This defeat did not stop the Thrashers from winning two weeks later, beating the New York Islanders with a score of 2-0. Another win followed, this time over the Calgary Flames when the team returned to Atlanta with a score of 2-1.
The team’s first season ended dismally, with a score 14-57-7-4. Promising players delivered poorly: Stefan only managed to score five goals and twenty-five points and the team was plagued by various problems, from poor goaltending to fast turnover of players. The team ended the season at the bottom of the Southeast Division with an NHL worst record  of 14-61-7-4.

Despite the fact that the team was more or less the same in the following season, the Thrashers made some progression from their previous season, with veteran Ray Ferraro leading the team in points, and relatively good performances from Burnette and  Donald Audette.  However the team still struggled to gain a footing, ending the season with another disappointing record of 23-45-12-2.  Audette was also traded to the Buffalo Sabres just before the trade deadline.

New blood was bound to put the team on the map, and the Thrashers seemed to experience a promising surge of energy with the equally promising batch of rookies composed of Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk made a great first impression at the Young Stars game on the NHL All-Star Weekend. Unfortunately, an injury took him out of for a while and allowed Heatley to make his mark with a total of 26 goals and 41 assists. Heatley eventually won the Calver trophy. Kovalchuk for his part ended with the season with a still-impressive 29 goals and 22 assists.

The lack of a consistent goalie would prove to be a problem for the team during the 2002-2003 season. The Thrashers lost all of their first ten games of the season, and this was compounded by the termination of Coach Fraser, leaving the Thrashers once again at the bottom of the heap with a record of 8-20-1-3. Waddell temporarily took over as Coach before Bob Hartley, former coach of the Colorado Avalanche, took over on January 14.  The team improved their game considerably under Hartley posting a 19-14-5-1 record in the last three months of the season and placing third with a record of 31-39-7-5. Heatley also continued with his winning streak, claiming the All-Star MVP with four goals and capping his second season with the team with a total of 41 goals and 48 assists.

The team looked forward to a promising 2003-2004 year, but this optimism was cut short when star player Dany Heatley and Dan Synder were involved in a car accident that sent both to the hospital. Synder died from infections stemming from his injuries a few days later while Heatley, who was driving the car suffered from a knee injury and faced felony charges for reckless driving. The team started the season sans Heatley, and although they managed to play during the first few months, posting a 19-13-3-1 on December 26, although they started losing wind by the time the new year rolled in, wining only 2 out of their 21 games. The charge to lead the team’s offense seemed to fall squarely on the shoulders of Kovalchuk and he looked like a promising choice for league MVP. The team’s performance continued to deteriorate, however, even with Heatley’s comeback and despite a new plan for defense.  Heatley finally requested a transfer to another team for personal reasons in 2005. He was traded to the Ottawa Senators for Marian Hossa and Greg de Vries.

After the 2004-2005 lock-out the team was back in the game, with new additions to the roster like Mike Dunham, Scott Mellanby and Peter Bondra. The team, along with Hossa and de Vries, went on to win a club record of 41 games, despite the many injuries that the players incurred at start and all throughout the duration of the games. The season was not all that bad, however, as Ilya Kovachuk managed to score 52 goals, the first Trasher to do so.

The 2006-2007 season was a better season for the Thrashers. The team led the Southeast division for most of the season, winning seven of their first nine games and with a roster of healthy, uninjured players.  Hossa and Kovachuk were leading the team in scores, and the team won a division title with a franchise-best score of 97 points. It was during this season when the Thrashers faced the New York Rangers in their home turf at the Phillips Arena. This match would prove to be a disappointment, as the Rangers opened the game with a lead and continued to do so until the end. The game ended for the Rangers with a 2-1 score and this would be eventually followed by consecutive defeats by the Rangers in New York.

The 2007-2008 season did not look promising, right after disappointing sweep by the Rangers. Scott Mellanby’s retirement from the team did not help the team’s performance and Coach Hartley was eventually terminated in October after the team began the season losing their first six games of the season.  GM Don Waddell again took over as interim coach. John Anderson was hired as the team’s fourth head coach on June 2008.

A  Maryland court’s decision for the ownership of the team is expected to be given sometime in February. The dispute regarding the ownership of the team has been going on since 2005, with Steve Belkin, one of the owners, claiming that his fellow owners breached their contract, giving him the right to buy the team. However, the rest of the owners claim that they have the right to buy out Belkin’s 30% stake on the Trashers.

Atlanta Thrasher Jersey, Cheerleaders and Mascot

The team’s colors are ice blue, navy blue, red and gold. An alternate jersey was introduced in 2003, which the team adopted as their official home jersey in 2006-2007. The Thrashers is one of the few teams with a dance squad, which is called the Blue Crew. The team mascot is Thrash, a Brown Thrasher.