The team announced Wednesday that they have promoted general manager Don Waddell to President, and assistant general manager Rick Dudley has been named the new GM.
In addition, the entire coaching staff -- led by head coach John Anderson -- was shown the door. The dismissal comes after veteran forward Slava Kozlov -- soon to be an unrestricted free agent -- ripped the staff and blamed them for the team missing the playoffs.
Kozlov spoke Sunday to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
"To me, this was the best team in 11 years of the organization," Kozlov said on Sunday. "This franchise had the best players. Right now, they can not blame [Ilya] Kovalchuk or [Slava] Kozlov. They have to take responsibility, because I think ownership did everything right, signed good players, they have a good goalie, good defense -- but something is missing. I think we are missing from the coaching staff. Looks like they have fun, but unfortunately in the NHL you have to work. You have to prepare for every game.Anderson fired back Tuesday.
"There are lots of good teams in the NHL and you think you are a good team if you see the roster. That doesn't work in this league. You have to do homework and work hard. I think I can put a big question mark that they weren't preparing."
"He played on every power play right up until January. It wasn't just him. I sat out [Todd] White. I sat out [Bryan] Little. Everybody wants to be coach, but no one wants to make the crappy decisions. I said when I [first scratched Kozlov], this was the hardest thing I've ever had to do as a coach, is to sit a player of his stature. But I had to think of what was best for the team at that time. Maybe I'm wrong. I just want you to know I did it with a heavy heart."Kozlov's criticism came with some detail. The winger, who was a healthy scratch in 26 of Atlanta's last 31 games, had just 26 points after posting 76 in 2008-2009. He said Anderson was not quick enough to use his top line when the Thrashers needed a goal. The implication was that Anderson just rolled his lines regardless of the situation, something Anderson bristled at.
"For him to say I'm just turning lines over, that's not true," Anderson said. "If we needed a goal our top lines played, absolutely they played. If the other team needed to be shut down, our checking lines played. To say I'm playing our fourth line too much or too little doesn't make sense."Anderson also criticized Kozlov for naming names (Chris Thorburn, Eric Boulton, and Marty Reasoner) in criticizing the coaches.
Say what you want about Anderson, but look at the whole of this move.
The Thrashers have been in the NHL since 1999. In that time, they have posted exactly three winning seasons, made the playoffs once, and never won a playoff game.
Here's hoping it's simply a reward for Waddell's loyalty, and the move of Dudley -- a veteran hockey executive -- into the GM's office will lead to significant improvement in the Thrashers' ability to develop players, win games, and draw fans.
As for Anderson and assistants Randy Cunneyworth, Todd Nelson, and Steve Weeks, they're all likely to find work in the sport if they want it. Many NHL teams would like to have a coach like Anderson, who left the team better than it was when he arrived.