Wednesday, January 14, 2009


The Thrashers traded forward Jason Williams to Columbus today in exchange for defenseman Clay Wilson and a 6th round pick in this year's entry draft.

The skinny on Wilson: Played four seasons of college hockey at Michigan Tech and is listed as 6-0, 195 lbs. He had one assist in five games with Columbus this season while tallying 20 points in 33 games with the Blue Jackets' AHL affiliate in Syracuse. He is 25 years old.

My take: Addition by subtraction.

Williams, who was signed this past summer as a free agent from Chicago, was a complete bust. He struggled on the wing because of his foot speed and wasn't effective at center due to his unwillingness to "get dirty" in front of the net. And with the addition of waiver pick-up Rich Peverly, he was certainly expendable.

Williams made $2.2 million with the Thrashers and is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in July.

Bottom Line: Not a bad deal made by GM Don Waddell. He picks up a depth defenseman in Wilson who will likely be assigned to Chicago, plus a late round draft pick.

That's how I see it. Thoughts?


This weekend, I'll get my first "live" look at the Thrashers 2008 first round draft pick Daulton Levielle of Michigan State. The Spartans play a weekend series against Miami in Oxford, Ohio. I'll be there calling both games for CBS College Sports (Directv, Channel 613, DISH Network, Channel 152). Friday's face-off is 8pm and Saturday's is set for 5:00pm (all times eastern).

On Tuesday, I spoke via conference call with MSU head coach Rick Comley regarding Levielle's progress from the Golden Horseshoe League to big-time Division 1 college hockey. Comley said he's been pleased with the progress of his freshman in East Lansing, who is starting to become a team leader. Since his arrival on campus last fall, Levielle has added 15 pounds to his frame and is playing in the 165 lb-170lb range while getting used to a more physical style of play. Comley added the kid has very good offensive instincts, but said his biggest adjustment to college hockey has been learning to play defensively, especially down low in the zone and along the goal line.

It's been a tough season for the 2007 national champions. Several key members of that team graduated last spring while three other players left early to turn pro. At mid-season, a defenseman was dismissed from the team and another left to go play in the United States Hockey League. For Levielle and the rest of the very young Spartans, gaining experience hasn't been an issue.

Comley talked about players being pushed into roles sooner than anticipated. Levielle has been one of those guys. So far this season, he's tallied 10 points in 22 games and has been the team's #2 center. Against Alaska on January 2nd, he figured in on both Spartans goals in their 2-1 win.

After the weekend series, I'll make sure I follow-up with a recap of his play.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Yes.....I'm back.

And with all the recent trade talk/rumors that are swirling around Tampa Bay superstar Vinny Lecavalier, I thought it was time to chime in.

Here's hoping he stays in Tampa.

You see, I'm looking at this situation differently. In order to be viable, the sunbelt teams needs to keep their superstars, their drawing cards. And while there's no doubt that a player of his caliber would bring to the Bolts a boatload of quality NHL players, I can assure you none of them will engage the fans of Tampa the way Lecavalier has done for many seasons. Yes, there's a very good chance the Lightning would become a better team because of a deal.

That's beside the point.

The Bolts would slide into sports oblivion, if that hasn't already happened.

No drawing card, no interest.

2008 was a brutal year in terms of personal finance for hundreds of thousands of people across the planet. As entertainment dollars continue to dry up, fans need reasons to spend, reasons to buy tickets, purchase jerseys and frequent watering holes before and after games. No offense to the Lightning organization, but players like Eminger, Vrbata and Halpern don't exactly make you want to rush to the ticket window.

It's the same for other teams in non-traditional market teams. How many people would show up in Atlanta to watch a Kovalchuk-less Thrashers team? Would anyone care in Raleigh without the likes of Rod Brind'Amour and Cam Ward?

Yes, this is serious stuff.

The Lightning, Thrashers and Hurricanes struggle every day for media attention. Just hang out in Atlanta for a few days and you'll know what I mean. Rarely will the the front page of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports section offer up a Thrashers game story. Attend a game day skate and the media throng includes one beat writer and the broadcasters from Sportsouth.

Lecavalier is Tampa's Kovalchuk. And in the minds of fans of both teams, as long as they can continue cheering each of them, there's hope.

Memo to Len Barrie and Brian Lawton: No matter how tempting it might be to deal your franchise's cornerstone, stop and think about the ripple effect it might....uh, will have.

I guarantee you won't like what you see.