Where is Nikolai Antropov?
Early in this season I asked myself: “What is going on here? Why isn’t Nik on the ice?” Antropov wasn’t receiving any power play time and he was only receiving third line ice time—way behind rookies, and veteran players who usually score fewer than half the points he does.
I wondered: "why is Craig Ramsay doing this?"
Ramsay was brought in to change Atlanta's style. He was touted as being able to make the offense a unit rather than a single player. I thought: "OK, so he’s testing other players to see where the offense can come from."
But Antropov still didn't play.
Through first seven games into the season Antropov was still being passed over for playing time even on powerplay opportunities.
I then thought: "well, Ramsay and The Thrashers' management are crazy."
They didn’t resign their best all-around defenseman from last season Pavel Kubina, who signed with Tampa Bay. Ramsay also moved Dustin Byfuglien back to defense. Byfuglien who just had one of the best post-seasons we’ve ever seen from a power-forward with 11 goals including five game winners both among the most in the playoffs.
Now Antropov seems to be demoted for no apparent reason.
After a little more thought, the reason became very apparent—Nik Antropov is still feeling lingering effects from his off-season surgery.
Antropov had a hip injury in the middle of the season last year, which kept him out for almost two weeks. He then came back but wasn’t his usual self. He didn't even play the final two games of the season when the Thrashers were out of contention for post season action.
In the off season Nikolai had hip surgery. By early September team officials said he might not be able to make it to training camp.
Training camp came, and Antropov dressed but didn't play much. Then the season came, and still he dressed and still didn't play. He apparently still kept feeling the lingering effects of his injury. It seems like Ramsay quietly gave Antropov less ice-time to slowly heal his hip without anyone really noticing.
Finally, Antropov was left out of a game completely.
Unless Ramsay is actually crazy, the hip seems to be a problem that isn't getting better. Get well soon Antropov, the Thrashers need and will miss your versatile hockey skill set, and your leadership.