But the Thrashers' 0-6-0 start goes far beyond coaching, which is what makes the future of this franchise so troubling and begs the question: When does ownership finish the job?
The short answer: not yet, despite the fact that the failure of the coach is as much a failure of personnel as it is of coaching acumen. Waddell, if he doesn't know that, is about to find out when he takes over the team he built Thursday night against the New York Rangers.
Safe to say, Hartley deserved the collar. He was part of the problem...but hardly the only part.
It was Waddell, after all, who asked Hartley to win with a roster that included neither a legitimate No. 1 or No. 2 center. It was Waddell who failed to replace Marc Savard, who departed for Boston in the summer of '06, and who this summer committed four years and nearly $10 million to Todd White, a free agent who scorched opposing goaltenders for 44 points last season. It was Waddell who maintained a scouting department that has delivered sub-par results in any situation other than a chip shot like calling Ilya Kovalchuk's name first overall in 2001. It was Waddell who painfully cashed several layers of the team's future, for the departed Keith Tkachuk and a couple of diminishing assets in Alexei Zhitnik and the dime-a-dozen Pascal Dupuis. And it is Waddell who's yet to come to terms with Marian Hossa, the team's most important asset, and one who seems more likely by the moment to head elsewhere when he reaches free agency this summer.
Waddell took heat for mortgaging the future with pre-deadline deals last year. He shouldn’t. Those deals got the Thrashers into the playoffs. But blame Waddell for the holes that existed before the trades, and the holes that remained unfilled after the season.
Player development has been dreadful. There is little to show for nine drafts and 82 players. Of the 28 defensemen drafted, the only two here are Garnet Exelby (eighth round, 1999; blind squirrel, meet acorn) and Tobias Enstrom (eighth round, 2003; just got here).