Third Time's The Charm(?) - Atlanta Firebirds

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Old 11-27-2018, 09:19 AM   #1
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Third Time's The Charm(?) - Atlanta Firebirds

The NHL Returns To Georgia. Will The Third Time Be The Charm?

Surprising fans around the league, the NHL made a two-fold announcement. First, that the Las Vegas expansion had gone so well that the timetable for a 32nd team would be accelerated and it would be added for the 2018-2019 season. Second, perhaps more surprising... that the city of Atlanta, not Seattle, as many expected, would get to take its third shot at an NHL team.

To accommodate the new franchise the Detroit Red Wings would be moving to the Central Division. "This realignment was about making the league make geographic sense while preserving interesting divisional rivalries. We believe Detroit fans will enjoy facing Chicago, St. Louis, and Minnesota on a regular basis, and the new Atlanta team should have some natural rivalry potential with the two Florida teams out of the gate, and the rest will build over time.

The team announced it would be operating under the name of the Atlanta Firebirds. "We felt like this was a mix of the old and the new. It pays respects to the legacy of both the Flames and Thrashers, but combines those legacies into something completely new." The team also announced that it had reached an agreement with the Calgary Flames to use the old Atlanta Flames' logo as a secondary logo, but not as a primary.

The team also announced it would be locating its minor-league team in Birmingham, Alabama, where it would play as the Birmingham Bandits.

Editor's Note:
I was originally playing around with a Seattle expansion, I had a logo I liked, but I ran into a wall where I couldn't get a team concept that felt right without being a Seahawks' re-skin.

But then I had something of an epiphany: Flames + Thrashers = FIREBIRDS! Swap out the green and blue for a more fiery palette, and we're in business.

Screenshots of logos/screenshots to be uploaded later: I left the USB stick at home. Oof.
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Old 11-27-2018, 09:23 AM   #2
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Re: Third Time's The Charm(?) - Atlanta Firebirds


Key Additions (non-expansion draft): C Ryan Kesler, LW David Perron, LW Rick Nash, LW Nikolai Sbruev (#1 draft pick)
Key Departures: NONE (inaugural season)
Regular Season: 47-27-8, 102 points. 2nd place in Atlantic Division (Toronto 104).
Playoffs: Lost to Tampa Bay, 4-3, in first round

Key Additions: C David Backes, RW Mikkel Boedker, LW Johnny Gaudreau, D Erik Karlsson, RW Gustav Nyquist, G Ondrej Pavelec, RW Blake Wheeler
Key Departures: RW Jesper Fast, LW Rick Nash, C Riley Nash, D Alex Petrovic, RW Craig Smith
Regular Season: 53-23-6, 112 points. 1st place in Atlantic, Eastern Conference, and Presidents' Trophy.
Playoffs: Beat MTL 4-3 in first round. Lost 4-1 to Buffalo in 2nd round.

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Old 11-27-2018, 10:16 AM   #3
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Re: Third Time's The Charm(?) - Atlanta Firebirds

THE FIRE BRIGADE: Inside The Firebirds' War Room

FB: Welcome to The Fire Brigade, your fan-community news source for all things related to the Atlanta Firebirds. On the eve of the NHL Expansion Draft, we had a chance to sit down with Ian Baxter (Ed: Ian is my son, Baxter is my dog -- it's kinda become my default GM name), the Firebirds' new GM, and talk shop. Ian, our understanding is that you have protected lists submitted from the other teams. How are things looking as far as putting a roster together?

IB: Well, it's looking interesting. There's a LOT of talent available at the defensive end of the rink. I've got NO worries that we're going to have a healthy supply of blue-liners. And we've identified some goalies that should fit our plans nicely. Our concern right now is forwards -- I don't want to disrespect any of the guys in the pool, particularly since some of those guys are going to be part of this locker room this time tomorrow, but it seems like the existing teams prioritized protecting their forwards, so the pickings at those positions... well, they just aren't as deep.

FB: So would you see free agency being a tool there?

IB: Based on what we're seeing from the protected lists, yes, I'd expect us to have to add a few names in free agency to bolster the offense. Or maybe make some trades in that direction. The other thing is we're going to be quite a bit under the cap, so I could see us taking on some contracts via trade if the free agents aren't there. But I would expect we're going to do something to create conditions for competition up front.

FB: Speaking of contracts, last year, Vegas put some big veteran names and big contracts on their team; it really seemed like they were in "compete now" mode. What sort of strategy do you see playing out for the Firebirds? Win now? In for the long haul?

IB: I mean, it would be wonderful if we could even approach the success Vegas had, but you also have to recognize that's not the norm for expansion franchises. They caught lightning in a bottle. We're going to build for the long-term -- that means we want to be young, and I'd personally prefer to be fast. But like I said, that doesn't preclude adding some veteran presence, whether it's to bring leadership to the locker room and set the tone for the younger guys, or even just to make sure we're in compliance with the salary floor. I don't think the fans or the players' union would be happy if we rolled into Opening Day with a roster that was entirely unproven prospects.

FB: I know Vegas pre-arranged some deals prior to their expansion draft where they arranged to take a different player. Working on anything like that?

IB: It's an option we're pursuing. Vegas showed that if you get creative, the list of available players aren't the only assets up for grabs. I don't want to give away too much, but with all these defensemen we're likely to have, maybe that's another way we can get some forward help, or even just build some assets for the future.

(Ed: House rule -- during the draft, I'll allow "give-back" trades where I can trade a guy back to his original team, but that's it.)

FB: Any thoughts on the Amateur Draft?

IB: Oh, good heavens... one thing at a time, eh? I mean, we've started to look at the pool, but I fully admit that's an area where we're playing catch-up. Our front office is still unpacking boxes, and we've been hiring scouts on the fly, but we haven't been able to scout as deeply as the other teams. So at least this year, we may have to rely a little more on central scouting reports than I'd like, but we'll still be able to identify some solid players. The way I look at it, the only one who really ever gets to know in advance what they're doing is the team with the #1 overall, and that's Buffalo, not us.

(Ed: I was glad Buffalo got the #1 overall so they could -- presumably -- still take Rasmus Dahlin. Beyond that, I'm OK with entropy taking command.)

FB: Anything else our fans should know about you?

IB: Well, I grew up on the Mario-era Penguins, so if our roster starts to look like Pittsburgh South, I apologize in advance. Then again, those guys have made some pretty deep Cup runs the last few years, so maybe that's a good thing to emulate, right?

FB: Sure. You gonna emulate us a Malkin and Crosby in the next two drafts?

IB: Damn. Walked right into that. No pressure, right?

FB: And on that note, that's about all we have time for today. Good luck in the Expansion Draft tomorrow.

IB: Thanks! It's going to be a long journey, but hopefully it'll be the beginning of something special.

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Old 11-27-2018, 12:00 PM   #4
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Re: Third Time's The Charm(?) - Atlanta Firebirds

2018 Expansion Draft

Results with a little bit of "thought process" where appropriate, though some of the choices were fairly obvious. I mostly went in order, though I did have to go back and re-tweak a few picks since I actually reached a point where I had too many defensemen (hereafter: TMD) and had to swap a few out for forwards.

Anaheim: LW Andrew Cogliano. 94 SPD one of the fastest guys I've seen. Manson would've been a good choice except for TMD.
Arizona: C Marcus Kruger. Was originally going to be Jason Demers, but this was one of the "official" TMD swaps (i.e. where the CPU actually warned me about not having enough forwards).
Boston: C Riley Nash. Obvious pick, given the pool's general weakness at forward.
Buffalo: G Linus Ullmark. Will probably be the starter in the minors so he gets reps.
Calgary: RW Curtis Lazar. I thought about Giordano -- he's Elite, I have room under the cap -- but the age combined with the 4 years left on his deal scared me off. Being stuck with a 3rd-pair 37-year-old at almost $7M in 2021 scares me. Michael Stone was also a brief consideration, but he's in that tweener land where he's not a Top 4 talent, but he's also too old to improve.
Carolina: LW Jordan Martinook. Coin flip between Martinook and Brock McGinn. McGinn is younger but Martinook has a speed edge.
Colorado: G Philipp Grubauer. All the cool kids are doing it. I assume he'll be my starter.
Columbus: G Joonas Korpisalo. Not sure if he's the backup or whether I can work out a 1A/1B thing. I have a personal soft spot for Jack Johnson; Letestu is low ceiling but would have been positionally useful since I have weak centers.
Dallas: RW Tyler Pitlick. Best of a mediocre batch.
Detroit: LW Matt Puempel. It was him or Darren Helm. Helm got a look because he felt more versatile -- with a 80-some faceoff rating, you could turn him into a halfway-decent center if you had to.
Edmonton: D Adam Larsson. Young. Top 4 talent. One of the easiest picks of the draft.
Florida: D Alex Petrovic. Another fairly easy choice.
Los Angeles: D Alec Martinez. It was either Martinez or Tobias Rieder. I think this is the first time I made a pick with a give-back trade explicitly in mind.
Minnesota: D Gustav Olofsson. Young. Room to improve. You'll notice a theme.
Montreal: C Byron Froese. Montreal's choices were crap. Originally the pick was going to be Jordie Benn, but this was another "official" TMD Switch.
Nashville: D Mattias Ekholm. This was probably one of the toughest calls. Ekholm is a great player, Bonino would have been my best center, I've always kinda liked Jarnkrok, and there's other good stuff on the roster too. I went Ekholm for now, but we may come back to this in a give-back deal.
New Jersey: D Mirco Mueller. Jersey was another team without a lot to choose from, so... young cheap defenseman. There you go.
New York Islanders: D Adam Pelech. We can almost do a crowd chant now... YOUNG... CHEAP... DEFENSEMAN.
New York Rangers: RW Jesper Fast. He's... well... fast.
Ottawa: C Tom Pyatt. Ottawa's choices were painful, so... live body at center. Moving along.
Philadelphia: LW Taylor Leier. Since Gritty wasn't available, YOUNG... CHEAP... WING... waitwut?
Pittsburgh: LW Carl Hagelin. Now we've got dreamy hockey hair covered as well.
San Jose: D Dylan DeMelo. You down with YCD? Yeah, you know me.
St. Louis: RW Beau Bennett. I always liked this guy as a Pen; he could just never stay healthy. We'll take a flyer on him.
Tampa Bay: D Anton Stralman. Another give-back candidate -- TB feels like they might have other stuff worth trading for.
Toronto: RW Josh Leivo. Not a lot of memorable choices here.
Vancouver: D Michael Del Zotto. Possible trade-back candidate, since Vancouver has some decent centers (Sam Gagner, Brandon Sutter).
Washington: D Christian Djoos. YCD, and the son of Per Djoos, one of the best hockey names of all time.
Winnipeg: C Adam Lowry. Solid center. In a different scenario, I might have taken Tyler Myers, but Too Many Defensemen.

Centers (5): Froese, Kruger, Lowry, Nash, Pyatt
Left Wing (5): Cogliano, Hagelin, Leier, Martinook, Puempel
Right Wing (5): Bennett, Fast, Lazar, Leivo, Pitlick
Defense (12): Del Zotto, DeMelo, Djoos, Ekholm, Larsson, Martinez, Mueller, Murphy, Olofsson, Pelech, Petrovic, Stralman
Goalies (3): Grubauer, Korpisalo, Ullmark

In case it needs to be said, that's alphabetical, not organized by lines or anything.

As predicted, the forwards are pretty uninspiring, but I've got tons of defensive talent, so I should be able to play around a little with trades and free agency to try to balance things out a little better.

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Old 11-27-2018, 04:13 PM   #5
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Re: Third Time's The Charm(?) - Atlanta Firebirds

2018 Amateur Draft

I ended up working on five, executing on three.

  • Del Zotto to Vancouver. They just didn't want him back and I didn't feel like forcing the issue.
  • Petrovic to Florida. Interest was there, but I just couldn't find a return -- no player leapt out and the best pick I could get was a 3rd, and that wasn't really floating my boat. Figure I'll hold on and see what opens up later.

  • Stralman returned to Tampa Bay for RW Taylor Raddysh and Tampa's 2nd round pick (2-29-61). Nothing particular about Raddysh; Tampa just had him as "looking to move" and he made the trade work.
  • Martinez returned to LA for their first-round draft pick (1-21-21). Tried to make it work for a player, but nothing really balanced properly, so in the end I just took a pick straight-up.
  • Ekholm returned to Nashville for RW Craig Smith and their 2nd round pick in 2019. Figured I'd take on a little salary to make the deal more palatable and get a true starting forward in the return.

Didn't get the center I wanted, but it's progress.

1-5-5 - LW Nikolai Sbruev. Central Scouting had him #2 overall. We'll see.
1-21-21 (from LA) - C Manuel Greffe - general playmaker-y guy.
2-4-35 - D Ryan Merkley - seemed to have decent offensive skills
2-29-61 (from TB) - C Filip Hallander - "elite" speed caught my eye
3-3-67 - D Xavier Bernard - tie goes to a guy named "Xavier". Prepare for lots of X-Men jokes if it pans out.
The remainder of the draft can be summarized by "scouting is iffy, but it's at least reporting a chance of Elite ceiling"
4-3-99 - RW Ray Finley
5-3-131 - G Austin Quincey - possible over-reach on a goalie, but I wanted to grab at least one
6-3-163 - RW Jared Olsen
7-3-195 - C Krystof Hrabik - exception to previous statement: his ceiling was only Top 6 Forward, but he had a little firmer scouting.

Next up... FREE AGENCY.

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Old 11-27-2018, 09:02 PM   #6
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Re: Third Time's The Charm(?) - Atlanta Firebirds

Interrupt to introduce the unis! (Home, road, alt... respectively...)

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Old 11-27-2018, 09:50 PM   #7
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Firebirds Make Their Mark In Free Agency, Trade Market

The bad news: the free agent market wasn't quite as strong as I hoped it would be -- not a lot of game-changing players on the move.

The good news: the Firebirds were able to get creative and give their roster an overhaul with 11 free agent signings, and 5 trades.

Let's get right to it...


General goals for free agency were as follows:
  • Improve the top lines in general
  • Depth signings on defense -- I have solid defensemen at the NHL level, but the minors are pretty empty. They don't have to be stars; mostly just warm bodies. If they happen to have some upside... cool.
  • At least one veteran "swing" defenseman who won't suffer from not playing a lot.
  • A veteran backup goalie who won't mind sitting the bench.

In order of signings, here's who came into the fold (parens are years/salary).
  • LW Rick Nash (1/3.05M). Full disclosure, at least 30% of the reason I went after him is to have Rick Nash and Riley Nash playing on a line together. That's just how I roll. That said, a 1-year commitment works well.
  • G Jaroslav Halak (2/1.525). Veteran keeper. Seemed good to have one.
  • Brief "The One That Got Away" detour -- James Van Riemsdyk. I offered him 4 years at $6M per, but he decided he wanted to play for a better team and took less money to sign a 1-year deal to return to Toronto. Ah well. At which point I shifted my attentions to David Perron.
  • D Erik Gustafsson (1/950k). Depth signing.
  • D Slater Koekkoek (1/1.3M). Depth with a little room to grow. Since he was an RFA, I had to wait and see if Tampa would match, but they didn't, so he eventually joined the fold. At 1.3, he didn't even cost me a draft pick.
  • D Kevin Bieksa (1/1.7M). Veteran swing guy. Originally offered around 1.4 or 1.5 but he turned it down, landed him at 1.7.
  • C Mark Letestu (2/2.4M). Also turned down the first offer at 2.2ish, signed for 2.4. Moderate upgrade to the 3rd or 4th line.
  • LW David Perron (4/5.5). Comes in a little cheaper than I was offering on JVR; I assume he's headed for the top line.
  • C Dominik Simon (1/850k). Surprised to find him available. Seems like he's got some upside.
  • A few more "warm body" depth signings: D Niko Mikkola (2/650k), LW Brandon Pirri (1/850k), G Niklas Rubin (2/700k)

And for the record, I'm still more than $13M under the cap, so I still have more room to take on salary if any good deals come up as the season progresses.

Five deals in total. A mix of executing the plan, responding to CPU offers, and chasing the occasional fetish item. All picks are 2019 picks.

Firebirds trade C Tom Pyatt, RW Josh Leivo, and their 4th round pick to Winnipeg for Winnipeg's 2nd round and 7th round picks. Offered by the CPU. Leivo and Pyatt had been pushed pretty far down my depth chart, so it was two guys of marginal value for a chance to move up.

Firebirds trade RW Taylor Raddysh to Anaheim for C Ryan Kesler. BEHOLD the big fish! Anaheim was looking to clear cap space, offering both Kesler and Henrique, but Henrique was expiring whereas Kesler sticks around a while. OK, Kesler scares me in the same way Giordano did -- I could be paying $7M for a 4th-line C at the tail end of this -- but for today, it gives me a #1 center. Raddysh? Might be good some day, but he was a throw-in when I first got him, so easy come, easy go.

Firebirds trade G Joonas Korpisalo to Colorado for RW Nail Yakupov and a 3rd round pick previously obtained from Ottawa. Full disclosure: Yakupov is a bit of a fetish item, so I might have overpaid for him a little. On the other hand, you can only put one guy in net at a time -- Grubauer and Ullmark already give me two decent guys, so what the heck.

Firebirds trade C Marcus Kruger to Montreal for their 4th round pick. Offered by CPU. With Kesler and Letestu in the fold, Kruger wasn't really doing much for me, so I went ahead and pulled the trigger. I'm having a twinge of second-guessing because his $3M salary wasn't really hurting me and maybe I could've gotten more waiting until the deadline, but it's done now.

Firebirds trade LW Matt Puempel to Detroit for LW Darren Helm. A lesser fetish item; I've always kinda liked Helm, and Puempel didn't pan out as well as he scouted, even if he's still got some room to grow. Detroit is another team that seems to be in salary dump mode, so they had a bunch of old, expensive guys on the block. I kept trying to squeeze an extra draft pick out of the deal, but eventually settled for a one-up just to get the deal in the books. It was a little frustrating that at one point I had Puempel and... Froese, I think?... for Helm and a 2nd, the reds and greens looked right, the bars looked even, and Detroit still said I was way off.

The "One That Got Away" here was Daniel Sprong of the Pens. I probably offered 15 or 20 different permutations of "young defenseman + cheap forward" that looked like it made the bars happy, but never got them to budge. (Olofsson/Puempel was probably the closest to succeeding). If the Pens are contenders, maybe I'll take another run at it as the season progresses.

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Old 11-28-2018, 12:43 AM   #8
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Re: Third Time's The Charm(?) - Atlanta Firebirds

Formed a nice team there. Looking forward to seeing how the Firebirds progress. Good Luck!

Picking up Kesler is a good move in my book, he'll be solid enough for a few years to give the Franchise a good start. I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Daniel Sprong after NHL 15, I think I drafted him by memory....
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