Updated Feb. 8
Sure, the Atlanta Thrashers should have gotten more for Ilya Kovalchuk in a trade, but that doesn't mean they won't be better off without him in the long run
Maybe even this season.
|Ilya Kovalchuk (left) is gone but Zach Bogosian (right) is among the young players who could step up. (Getty Images)|
See, the Thrashers made it to the playoffs only once during Kovalchuk's time there. They didn't win a game in that series, and despite Kovalchuk's superb individual numbers this season, Atlanta was still below the cutoff line when he left. So the Thrashers aren't necessarily worse off right now because of the blockbuster deal that capped off a remarkable week of trading in the NHL.
Clearly Atlanta gave up the best player in any of the swaps that kicked off with Toronto and Calgary making major changes and the New York Rangers and Anaheim Ducks getting in on the action. But the Thrashers still do have some pretty good young pieces in place, players like defensemen Zach Bogosian and Tobias Enstrom, forwards Bryan Little and rookie Evander Kane.
They are all talents to build around, and they will get a chance to grow up a lot faster now that there is no franchise player to rely on. And equally important, Atlanta will have a better shot at hanging on to them down the road because it didn't commit nearly 20 percent of its salary cap space to one player.
That's not a bad thing, especially if the team finds a way to come together in the wake of this major upheaval. Atlanta showed signs in the first game after the trade, outshooting the Washington Capitals 45-32 before succumbing to the NHL's most unstoppable force right now.
Then, after getting stuck in the mid-Atlantic snowstorm and returning to Atlanta only hours before their game the following night against Florida, the Thrashers quickly fell behind by a couple of goals. But the Thrashers might have made a statement by coming back to win the game 4-2.
"I like our resolve and the fact that we don't quit," Atlanta coach John Anderson said after the comeback. "I think we became a bit of a team tonight."
We'll see. The rankings through Sunday's games: