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Thrashers' Waddell 1-on-1: 'I enjoy the pressure'

by Mike G. Morreale
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Atlanta Thrashers General Manager Don Waddell doesn't want to be reactionary to what he sees on film or hears from his fellow managers in the same business.

Instead, he'll review the facts and formulate his own opinion as he expects the 29 other NHL GMs to do over the next three days here at the Boca Raton Club & Resort. Waddell admitted that while no mention was made about the devastating hit on Boston's Marc Savard that concussed the veteran center on Sunday, the issues surrounding that hit will certainly be a major topic of discussion over the next three days.

He also hopes the GMs can come to a collective decision by Wednesday in order to then move the notion to the competition committee of players and team executives before finally reaching the NHL's Board of Governors meeting in June.

Waddell took some time with to discuss those issues and that of his team following Monday's proceedings. What did you get out of Monday's meetings?

Waddell: The doctors gave a great presentation of how injuries happen and where they're happening in the ice rinks. And the NHL presented a video on how far the game come from and where we're at right now. They gave us a rundown of the number of injuries from legal hits versus the illegal hits, just provided us with all the information so that, as we move forward, we can make decisions based on good information and not just reactionary to what we see with the hits. Can you distinguish between a legal and illegal hit?

Waddell: First, body checking is such a big part of the NHL and it'll continue to be. We need it to be a big part of the game but there are a few incidents, every so often, that we don't like. We have to be careful with bringing in rules that prevent players from doing their job of banging bodies. Over the next few days here we'll talk more about it and maybe come up with some kind of resolution.
: Despite the loss of (Ilya) Kovalchuk to the lineup, the Thrashers remain in the thick of the playoff race -- three points out of a playoff spot. You must be pleased by that.

: We lost a couple this weekend but before that we were doing pretty well. What our success has provided is for more players to get ice time and move up in situations that maybe they weren't presented with before. It also presented an opportunity for guys to step up in the locker room. We've had 3-4 guys who have stepped up and taken charge and that's all been a very positive thing for our hockey club. I'm looking forward to making a run (at a playoff spot). We have a lot of home games coming up and if we take care of our business, we'll be in pretty good shape. Will the Thrashers be heavily involved in free agency on July 1?

Waddell: The good thing is we have so many players under the age of 25 and they'll be with us moving forward. We have a few key free agents that we'd like to keep, but there's a time and place when we'll address that. What is your draft-day philosophy?

Waddell: We used to take the (best player available), but I think now we're in a situation where you have (Evander) Kane and (Zach) Bogosian, so we can start looking at particular positions too. Obviously, if there's a clear-cut player that's better than the next, we'll probably take him but now we can start looking at particular needs with the way our young players have come along.
: What do you enjoy most about your job and what's most agonizing?

: Certainly, I enjoy the pressure that comes with the job of putting a hockey team together and watching it every night. Probably the most disappointing thing is when the team doesn't perform to a level that you feel they're capable of reaching.

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