The week prior to the start of the NHL's regular season is traditionally the cut down week as teams try to get towards their roster limits for the start of the season.
This morning, the Atlanta Thrashers made three cuts, sending Joe Motzko, Jordan Lavallee and Junior Lessard to Chicago of the AHL. According to Thrashers head coach John Anderson, Lavallee and Lessard didn't stand out enough to stick around past today.
"I thought they didn't finish checks enough," he said. "We need to see more power out of them because they're big, strong guys. I just didn't see the physical presence that I wanted to see.
"For Lessard, in fairness to him, he hasn't seen all the things we've done as a team and in a system. He struggled with some of the simpler systems. When you're a guy that's on the bubble, you have to be right on. If you want to knock somebody out of a job, you have to look like you know what you are doing all the time, and do the right thing all the time and finish checks. I just didn't see it from either of them. I wish I would have. But at some point, I have to start making decisions."
Earlier this week, the team sent highly touted Angelo Esposito back to his junior team in Montreal, a move the had been anticipated since the start of training camp. Anderson thinks another season in the Quebec League will do great things for Esposito's development.
"There's two types of thoughts on players like him," Anderson analyzed. "One is to keep him up and play him. The other thought is the Gretzky thought. Very early on he (Gretzky) was the best player in Brantford and he was scoring 300 goals a year. And one of the reasons he scored so many goals when he came up is because he saw every situation. This is what we want for Angelo. We want him to be the top dog, the guy who can maybe score 60 goals in junior and see every angle of how to score goals and be the top dog, so when he comes up here, hopefully, he'll be full of confidence and feel really good about himself."
Anderson's early on-ice impressions of Mathieu Schneider:
"He's got his head on a swivel all the time out there. He moves the puck so well. It looks like he's played pro hockey for a little bit. We did some set breakouts today and I told him once and he said no problem. I think he's seen pretty much every breakout."
As for Schneider's ice time in the pre-season, Anderson indicated he'd let his defenseman decide when he's like to see game action. I'm sure he'll play at some point during the pre-season, but my hunch says not until this weekend.
Other notes from today:
Looks like the Thrashers top line continues to feature Ilya Kovalchuk on left wing with Erik Christensen at Center and Jason Williams on Right Wing.
Defensively, Enstrom and Havelid appear to be a lock with Zach Bogosian seeing time with Ron Hainsey and Schneider paired with Nathan Oystrick. The other pairing was Garnet Exelby with rookie Arturs Kulda.
Speaking of Kulda, he took a shot off his foot today and had to sit out a few drills. He returned and seemed to be fine.
The team finished practice, then headed to the locker room for a video session. Anderson doesn't seem all that happy with the players grasp of the new system, which is typical for many teams early in a season incorporating a new head coach. So look for more of these sessions as the season approaches.