Atlanta Thrashers are the masters of frustration

thrashers.jpgEvery now and then, Pro Hockey Talk will ask for insight from some of the best team bloggers out there. For this feature, we asked a simple question: “Who is your team’s most frustrating player?” Just for fun, Brandon and I also provided our “guesses” as to who that player might be.

First, here are our guesses for Atlanta.

Brandon: Vyacheslav Kozlov – To me this was a no-brainer. I’m not exactly certain what Thrashers fans feel, but someone who is the 2nd-highest paid forward on the team should never have the lowest plus/minus, while putting up wholly pedestrian numbers.

James: Vyacheslav Kozlov – The player who was once among the league’s most underrated is now one of its most frustrating. I doubt you’ll see him in an NHL uniform next season.

Laura Astorian is one of our best blogging buddies and happens to be a go-to source for both St. Louis Blues and Atlanta Thrashers blogging goodness. She’s also helping out with Cycle like the Sedins among many other endeavors. You might as well follow her on Twitter just to be safe.

Asking for only one great source of frustration for a Thrashers fan is like asking someone at Godiva what their favorite truffle is. The common areas of irritation are Kozlov, White, Armstrong, and Pavelec. It’s extremely easy to target any of those players as someone who makes you want to pull your hair out. Kozlov and White, after career years for each of them last season, dropped off the radar. Somehow, though, despite similar production and a similarly horrible +/-, only Kozlov found himself benched. White has been placed out there time and time again, and despite being fairly serviceable on the penalty kill, at even strength all that he does is highlight the need to get Kane back.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say he’s being played over Kozlov because he still has a year left on a contract we overpaid for, and Kozzie’s a UFA … but what do I know?

Army, well, I have seen a gangster in cement shoes skate faster than he does. He’s another victim of heightened expectations for this season.

The biggest frustration, but the easiest to cope with, is that of Ondrej Pavelec. He’s only 22, so you can argue that he has more than enough time to find his stride. He has had flashes of absolute brilliance, and then lays a massive egg the next game. His confidence got rattled after some rough OT/shootouts. There was a stretch of where it seemed like he allowed an average of 3-4 goals every time he started. He’s working stuff out, but as close as the Thrashers are to a playoff spot, it’s rough to think of the games that we could have won if Johan Hedberg had been in goal.

On the flip side, we would have signed Legace and his knee would have imploded after 3 starts, and then we’d be right back where we are now. I’m convinced that they have a framed plaque of Murphy’s Law up on the wall in the locker room somewhere.

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    Devils’ Zajac out 4-6 months after pectoral surgery

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    As much as the New Jersey Devils have made gains in trading for Taylor Hall and Marcus Johansson, they’ll still need some familiar faces to fight their way out of the cellar.

    It looks almost certain* that they’ll begin the 2017-18 season without one common fixture, as the Devils announced that Travis Zajac will miss about four-to-six months after undergoing surgery on his left pectoral muscle.

    The injury occurred during Zajac’s off-season training; the Devils didn’t share exactly how that occurred, though.

    Zajac, 32, has generally been quite sturdy for the Devils. He played in 80 games in 2016-17, collecting 45 points. He also appeared in 80 games in 2013-14 while playing 74 in both 2014-15 and 2015-16. He also played all 82 games for four straight seasons early in his career, so this must be frustrating for the veteran center.

    * – Yes, four-to-six months would mean missing a significant chunk of the regular season … but sometimes hockey players make downright shocking recoveries. Just saying.

    Lightning join effort to move Confederate monument

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    The Tampa Bay Lightning joined the Rays and Buccaneers in releasing a joint statement regarding their efforts to help move Confederate monument Memoria in Aeterna from downtown Tampa following last weekend’s awful events in Charlottesville, Va.

    This effort gained steam as Hillsborough County government officials announced that $150K in private funds would be needed to make the change, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

    The Go Fund Me drive is currently over $50K as of this writing. If funding goes through, the monument would reportedly move from downtown Tampa Bay to a family cemetery.

    Here’s that joint statement:

    As Shutdown Corner’s Jay Busbee reports, it’s likely that former NFL head coach Tony Dungy brought wider attention to the matter, challenging sports teams to contribute while donating $5K himself.

    The Tampa Bay Times’ Joe Smith reports that Lightning forward J.T. Brown has personally donated $1,500. The donation was inspired in part by the birth of his daughter Lily.

    “How would I explain why someone doesn’t like her?” Brown said, via Smith. “Or why is this going on in the world?”

    This is what the monument looks like:

    This isn’t the only case of NHL teams being connected to those tragic events, as the Detroit Red Wings and NHL announced that they may pursue legal action after the Red Wings’ logo was used by white nationalists during the weekend.

    Busbee has more on the Tampa Bay monument situation here.

    Penguins shouldn’t rush to replace Bonino

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    This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

    Nick Bonino was an important player for Pittsburgh the past two years. So when he signed with Nashville on July 1, it was natural for Penguins fans to want an immediate replacement.

    But for GM Jim Rutherford, finding a new third-line center may take some time. The Penguins might even start the season without knowing who it will be.

    What Rutherford wants to avoid is panicking and being forced into a mistake. All the other general managers are well-aware of what he needs. He’s probably been thrown a few anvils already.

    “There’s a couple of guys I could acquire right now,” Rutherford told the Post-Gazette on Wednesday. “I feel like there’s another group of guys that could possibly be available here soon. Kind of just waiting to see if that happens. Something could happen in the very near future or this could drag on for a little while.”

    If nothing is done by the start of the season, the Penguins could give someone like Jake Guentzel a chance to take over Bonino’s role. Or, if they’d prefer to keep Guentzel in the top six, maybe a youngster like Daniel Sprong or Zach Aston-Reese would be game to try, at least on a temporary basis.

    It should be noted that Rutherford has proven a savvy mid-season trader. In 2015-16, he brought in Carl Hagelin and Trevor Daley, a couple of veterans who played big roles on the way to a Stanley Cup title. And then, last season, he acquired Ron Hainsey, who likewise played a key part in a championship.

    Perhaps owing to that experience, Rutherford says he’s more comfortable waiting to unearth a solution than “trading for somebody where I’m not sure whether they can help us or not.”

    In fairness, it’s not easy to just replace a productive third-line center whose salary was a bargain. The Penguins had Bonino for a cap hit of just $1.9 million, and he turned his time in Pittsburgh into a four-year, $16.4 million deal with the Predators.

    One potential target that’s come up in speculation is the Maple Leafs’ Tyler Bozak, who just so happens to be Phil Kessel‘s good friend and former center.

    Bozak, 31, has one year left on his contract before he can become an unrestricted free agent, a status that naturally lends itself to trade speculation.

    But with a $4.1 million cap hit, making room for Bozak could be a challenge for the Penguins. And on top of that, the Leafs are bound to ask a fair bit for a guy who had 55 points (18G, 37A) last season.

    That’s why it’s so hard to win back-to-back Stanley Cups in today’s NHL. The Penguins were lucky to bring back mostly the same roster last season.

    Things will be different in 2017-18.

    Related: Matt Murray discusses the ‘new look’ Penguins

    Tavares says ‘no rush’ to sign extension with Isles

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    John Tavares keeps saying all the right things about his future with the New York Islanders.

    But that doesn’t change the fact he still doesn’t have a contract extension in place.

    Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer, spoke with Newsday yesterday, telling the newspaper he was in “no rush” to sign and that he’s comfortable to just “let the process run its course, keep the lines of communication open, keep it all internal.”

    It’s been reported that the Isles’ uncertain arena situation could be complicating matters. It’s still not clear where the team will call home for the long term.

    On that topic, Tavares chose to avoid making any definitive statements.

    “The possibility with Belmont and that RFP coming out, there’s great potential there,” the 26-year-old said. “We’ll see where it goes. A lot of those things are out of my hands. Some things I don’t try to worry about them too, too much. I’m just a hockey player. I try to be as best prepared as I can be. It’s a big decision obviously because it’s eight years of my career, really entering into my prime years and a great opportunity for myself to achieve what I set out to achieve when I was a kid, making it to the NHL, wanting to win a Stanley Cup and wanting to do that with the Islanders.”

    There’s more in the interview, including his thoughts on the Isles’ offseason moves. Click here to give it a read.

    Tavares also spoke with Newday about the thumb surgery he had in April. All’s well on that front, according to the captain.  

    “I felt I didn’t want this reoccurring and the recovery time was only six weeks,” he said, “so it was the right thing to do once the season ended.”

    Related: Tavares open to signing contract extension this summer