It’s a tribute to both Blake Wheeler and the Bruins organization that after his first practice with the Atlanta Thrashers the third-year forward still had something nice — publicly — about his old organization.
Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was on the scene for Atlanta’s first practice since acquiring Wheeler and Mark Stuart from the Bruins for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik. The pair of ex-Bruins skated in the Thrashers’ loss at Edmonton Saturday without a practice.
Here’s what Wheeler told Vivlamore about his new opportunity and the chance to again play under former Bruins assistant coach Craig Ramsay, who is now Atlanta’s head coach:
“I view this as a great opportunity and a great challenge. It really couldn’t have been a more perfect situation having Rammer here already, having worked with him pretty extensively in the past few years on the penalty kill. That makes everything a lot easier in itself. Philosophy-wise you know where he is coming from.
“I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this. In Boston, sometimes, a little bit of frustration set in with everything. It’s a great team with so many great players.”
Wheeler was clearly disenchanted about how things were going with the Bruins before he was dealt. He often talked about not knowing what his role with the team was day to day, and even classified himself as “a utility guy.”
It’s true that Wheeler was moved around the lineup, but it’s also true that except for his rookie season lined up next to David Krejci and Michael Ryder, and a short stretch where he was solid in a shutdown role with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi, Wheeler failed to meet his potential in black and gold. In acknowledging that the Bruins situation was a tough battle for playing time, rather than blaming his old team for not just handing him a top-six role based on his salary and potential, shows a lot of class.
Wheeler is starting out as a right winger with Atlanta. The change of scenery might be just what he needs to take the next step in his NHL development. But it’s great to see that the business side of things, and a trade out of town, haven’t made him bitter about his time in Boston.