McKenzie: Is Thrashers' Bogosian available and if so, why?

Bob McKenzie
2/9/2011 11:27:20 AM
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It was only a matter of time until the Zach Bogosian trade rumors surfaced.

The third-year NHL defenceman of the Atlanta Thrashers, who is just 20 years old, has suddenly had his named linked to rumors out of Edmonton. Also, a number of NHL general managers have been burning up the phone lines in the recent days, if not weeks, to get a handle on whether the third overall pick in the 2008 entry draft -- taken after Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty -- is really available and, if so, why.

The short answer to the question -- is he available? -- is as follows: Yes, in the sense that just about any team today will listen to any offer on any player, but as the old saying goes, someone is going to knock off Thrasher general manager Rick Dudley's socks to make it happen.

So Bogosian is not an untouchable. Dudley would tell you there isn't one on his team, not Evander Kane or Bryan Little or Dustin Byfuglien or Tobias Enstrom. Or Bogosian.

Teams talking to the Thrashers aren't being told, "don't even ask about Bogosian." But it's not as if they're shopping him either. They have not been soliciting offers.

And keep in mind, trading a young player of that stature is not something the general manager gets to do without ownership signing off on it.

So, in other words, it's complicated.

Now, Bogosian isn't Vinny Lecavalier, but Dudley was the man who was once prepared to trade Lecavalier out of Tampa Bay when he was the GM of the Lightning. Some would go so far as to say Dudley ultimately lost his job in Tampa because he wanted to deal Lecavalier and ownership didn't. So it's not as if Dudley isn't prepared to make a big move.

So could Bogosian be traded?

Yes, but it's probably a longshot.

The bigger question should be not would the Thrashers trade him, but why would they even consider it?

Stamkos and Doughty have emerged as NHL superstars. Many scouts felt Bogosian could do the same.

He's a dynamic and powerful physical specimen, a fast-skating, hard-hitting, mobile and physical 6-foot-3, 210-pound defenceman with a heavy shot. Scouts still marvel at his performance at the NHL Central Scouting Combine when he olbiterated the testing and made an absolute spectacle of himself in the strength and conditioning events.

But here we are, now in his third NHL season, and what gives?

In his rookie season, Bogosian was dyanmic, scoring nine goals and 19 points in only 47 games as an 18 year old. He was as advertised -- something special.

But last season, he put up 10 goals and 23 points in 81 games and seemed to get a little lost in the shuffle, which is to be expected given Atlanta's lower profile in the NHL.

Many thought this season would be Bogosian's breakout year. The Thrashers made off-season moves to make them a potential playoff team for the time in a long time. New head coach Craig Ramsay, who has a terrific reputation for developing young defenceman, was another factor in believing Bogosian would flourish.

But precisely the opposite has happened.

Bogosian has only four goals and 11 points and is minus-15 in 45 games played. He's been a healthy scratch for some games and on occasion playing forward in practice. And now his name is front and centre in rumors less than three weeks to the trade deadline.

To repeat the question, what gives?

Well, it depends who you talk you.

The Thrasher party line is that Bogosian came into this season expecting to be the go-to guy on the blueline and while he still plays more than 20 minutes most nights, Tobias Enstrom (currently injured) and Dustin Byfuglien are clearly ahead of him on the depth chart, and perhaps the youngster has not responded well to being dropped down in the lineup. That he maybe hasn't been as receptive to coaching from the new staff as he should be.

The flip side of that argument is that with the emergence of Enstrom and the arrival of Byfuglien as a defenceman, Bogosian has been severely minimized by the new coaching staff, and can't play his way out of the doghouse.

What's absolutely certain, regardless of who's right and who's wrong, is that there has been a fractious and counter-productive relationship between new Thrasher assistant coach John Torchetti and Bogosian and it may have festered too long before being addressed internally by the Thrashers.

By all accounts, things have been somewhat better of late. Since Enstrom went out of the lineup with injury, Bogosian has been counted on more, and played better than he had been playing.

But the whole dynamic between Torchetti and Bogosian has been much talked about in NHL circles. As soon as rival GMs saw Bogosian being a healthy scratch, they began investigating the circumstances and sensed an opportunity to perhaps extricate him from there. Hence, the growing crescendo of trade rumors.

Even in his draft year, many scouts believed that Bogosian's hockey sense and feel for the game was not on the same level as, say, Doughty's, which is to say super elite level, but that didn't diminish their sense that he could still be a dynamic NHL presence on the blueline with unbelievable physical tools. Almost three years later, some would suggest that some shortcomings in his game have manifested themselves, but the prevailing opinion amongst hockey people still seems to be this is a diamond in the rough who could yet be a superstar on the blueline.

"What a lot of people are forgetting," said one observer familiar with the situation, "is that this is a 20-year-old kid. He's only 20. People forget that because he's played three years in the league."

A 20-year-old who still has all the tools to be a terrific NHL defencemen, but of whom two questions are being asked: 1) Will he ever be that in Atlanta under the current coaching staff? 2) Would the Thrashers consider trading him?

And that, more or less, brings us up to date. 

Bob McKenzie


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