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Winnipeg inherited a franchise that never got going

Aug 6, 2012, 6:47 PM EDT

Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the Atlanta Thrashers celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators with Rich Peverley #47, Zach Bogosian #4 and Chris Thorburn #27 at Philips Arena on January 12, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.
(January 11, 2010 - Source: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America) Getty Images

In order for a franchise to be financially successful, it typically needs to enjoy at least some degree of on-ice success. That’s something the Atlanta Thrashers never had going for it.

From the day they were created to the day the franchise moved to Winnipeg, they never won a single postseason game. They only ever finished a season with more than 90 points once despite selecting Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk in the 2000 and 2001 NHL Entry Drafts respectively.

Perhaps most telling is that during the 2009-10 campaign, when Kovalchuk’s contract was nearing it’s expiration, the Thrashers offered him a deal worth $101 million over 12 years and a separate $70 million, seven-year deal.

Kovalchuk was in his eighth season as the member of the Atlanta Thrashers and he wanted out. It wasn’t that the Thrashers couldn’t afford to keep him, it’s that the superstar wanted to go elsewhere. So, after trying to help the Thrashers get out of their endless rebuilding process since just a couple of seasons after their inception, the Atlanta Thrashers traded him to the New Jersey Devils. They ended up playing just one season without Kovalchuk before the entire team moved north.

That’s the sad story of the Atlanta Thrashers, summed up in a handful of paragraphs. A team that never got going. It now falls to the new ownership in Winnipeg to reverse the franchise’s fortunes.

  1. rushledger - Aug 6, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    Atlanta either drafter highly poorly (Valabik) rushed their new drafts that were unready into the NHL (Burmistrov) or couldn’t keep their good high picks happy (Kovalchuk, Savard, Hossa) by accomplishing anything so drafting would always fail for one of those three reasons.

  2. richter35lundqvist30 - Aug 6, 2012 at 8:14 PM

    Savard was a Rangers draft pick in 95, well before the Thrashers even existed…

  3. rangersatl - Aug 6, 2012 at 8:58 PM

    And atlanta hockey fans lose there team because of poor mangement and incompetent ownership, certainly wasn’t the fans.

  4. buffalomafia - Aug 6, 2012 at 10:09 PM

    You got it… Bad management! Bring back Atlanta hockey!

  5. velocirapist - Aug 6, 2012 at 10:25 PM

    The NHL failed twice in the city for a reason. When you move teams from a major media market in the US into a small market Canadian city twice (Calgary and Winnipeg), it’s a good hint the idea was pretty stupid.

  6. rangersatl - Aug 6, 2012 at 11:08 PM

    I suggest you research why the first team left, ownership was about to go under due to poor real estate deals and sold for at the time for an NHL record.

    • velocirapist - Aug 7, 2012 at 1:40 AM

      Yes because as we’ve seen a hockey team in Atlanta is a perfectly viable business!

      It’s idiotic logic like this that has a bunch of teams in absolutely absurd markets doing poorly.

      • rangersatl - Aug 7, 2012 at 9:18 AM

        Here is some logic you may understand.

        competent ownership+strong management+winning=ticket sales.

        The only market this does not work is Toronto, everybody goes to see them.

        You only make the playoffs once in 10 years there is a problem.

    • velocirapist - Aug 7, 2012 at 10:34 AM

      If that argument held water we wouldn’t be talking about the Coyotes hemorrhaging money even if they made deep playoff runs and sold all their tickets for the next 20 years.

      You can’t just take a winning team and put them anywhere and assume they’ll make money, especially in a market like Atlanta. While I’m sure there are hockey fans there, the NHL has to compete with three more prominent and established leagues down there. The people you don’t win over in that situation are casual sports fans.

      It is also ludicrous to think that a team will win every year. Look at the trouble Colorado is having selling tickets now.

      • rangersatl - Aug 7, 2012 at 11:31 AM

        Atlanta ownership neede to come in and do what they did in Dallas, that is the model that should of been followed.
        Get the kids involved and build some rinks,

        The Coyotes just started making the playoffs. Atlanta made it once, look at evey team that has missed the playoffs for 4 years or more and there attendance is terrible.

        Making the playoffs every year and missing once in a while is ok, 4 years or more out is as you would say “ludicrous”.

  7. rushledger - Aug 7, 2012 at 6:44 AM

    Yeah my mistake on Savard but he also had no reason to stay on like Hossa or Kovalchuk. At least they’re now taking their time with there draft picks and have a fresh GM to go with the relocation.

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