First off I would like to thank Chris Vivlamore of AJC for taking the time to do this interview.
Q: What is the Thrashers biggest remaining need heading into the regular season?
A: At this point, I would say they would like to have another goal-scorer, maybe in the 15-goal a season range. In Ilya Kovalchuk, Colby Armstrong; and if Maxim Afinogenov doesn’t return, they’ve lost more than 60 goals from last season. They have obviously added some pieces in Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Brett Eager. Getting a healthy Todd White back and a return to form of Bryan Little will help. Goal scoring was an issue at times last season, so I think if they could add another piece the Thrashers would look to the offense. I was recently told by GM Rick Dudley that there are “irons in the fire.”
Q: What is the latest on Ondrej Pavelec and what are the Thrashers plans for him this season?
A: Ondrej Pavelec will be back next season. The team made him a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent. He does not have arbitration rights. Rick Dudley said at the time of the Chris Mason signing, that both goaltenders will receive significant playing time. He even said in an ideal world both goalies would play 41 games. We’ll see about that. I think Pavelec still figures heavily in the team’s future plans, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say this season will be a big one for him.
Q: What is the latest with the Bryan Little contract talks?
A: At this point, there is nothing to report. Little is also not arbitration eligible and received a qualifying offer from the team as a restricted free agent. Again, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say this season will be a big one for him. Is he the player who scored 31 goals two seasons ago or the one who scored 13 last season?
Q: What can we expect to see from the Thrashers this season?
A: The Thrashers have certainly gotten bigger, even with the loss of Pavel Kubina. I think that will help this season. New coach Craig Ramsay intends to play an up-tempo style with defense joining the rush when appropriate. They certainly have the D-men to do that with Ron Hainsey, Johnny Oduya, Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian, who should be recovered from a wrist injury that was a significant issue most of last season. Ramsay told me he expects everyone who steps on the ice to be able to score. “What’s the use in playing if the best you are going to be on a night is even,” Ramsay said.
Q: Last but not least can the Thrashers make the playoffs this season?
A: I think they certainly can. On paper, they are improved over last season when they finished just five points out of a playoff spot. I think if they get what offense they expect out of certain players – like Byfuglien, Little and Rich Peverley for example, that will help. Evander Kane will get an expanded role. Patrice Cormier could make the team and be a significant contributor. The sixth defenseman will be another key, should Boris Valabik be ready or a young player like Arturs Kulda is able to step right in. Goaltending consistency may be the biggest factor. Lastly, I would say the need a leader to step forward, give the team an identity and be the voice that’s able to step in and stop a losing streak, which was an issue last season.
This concludes my interview with Chris Vivlamore, enjoy.
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