Sports Outside the Beltway

Atlanta Thrashers remove Coach Bob Hartley

The defending Southeast Division champs were off to a rocky start before today’s firing.

ATLANTA – The Atlanta Thrashers are the only NHL team without a victory, and coach Bob Hartley is on his way out. Thrashers defenseman Garnet Exelby confirmed Hartley was removed following an 0-6 start, the first NHL coaching change this season.

“It was a shock,” he told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “I don’t think anybody saw this coming. It’s only six games.”

“Sometimes changes need to be made,” he added. “At the same time, it tells all of us it’s a big wake-up call and we need to fix this.”

The team scheduled an afternoon news conference amid reports general manager Don Waddell will become interim coach.

The Thrashers have been outscored 27-9, and their winless start comes after they won the Southeast Division last season and made the playoffs for the first time. Atlanta then lost four straight games to the New York Rangers in the first round of the playoffs.

Hartley, who won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001, is in his fifth season with Atlanta. It was clear after Tuesday night’s 4-0 loss to Philadelphia that he was aware of building pressure.

Generally I think 6 games out of a 82 game hockey season is too early to pass judgment on the coach. All NHL teams go through dry spells. My Panthers had a rough one last year. There may be other factors at work here that we don’t know of if its not impatience of Thrasher management.

Bottom line- Hartley will be back coaching in the NHL because of his impressive resume. Another team will Another team hoping Hartley can catch the same lightning he did while coaching the Avalanche.

My take on the Southeast Division is if Atlanta(who normally gives Florida fits) continues to struggle, the division becomes more wide open. As I see it, the race would come down to Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Florida. That makes the Panthers not a dark horse anymore, but a legit contender.

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