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Atlanta Thrashers

30 Teams in 30 Days: Atlanta Thrashers

The Atlanta Thrashers had a poor season in 2007/08 and heading into 2008/09 things do not exactly look all that more promising.  Over the summer, the Thrashers added Ron Hainsey, Jason Williams, Marty Reasoner, and, and, and, yeah, that is not a good sign.  While the team’s roster is relatively thin, Thrashers GM Don Waddell made a coaching change behind the bench by replacing himself with long time AHL head coach John Anderson.  Anderson was a successful AHL coach for many years and his hiring was well-deserved.  That said, Anderson is certainly in for a difficult challenge this season, as his Thrashers’ roster is probably one of the least talented teams in the entire conference.  Thus, Anderson will have the difficult task of getting the Thrashers to out perform their expectations this season.

Forwards:

Last season, Ilya Kovalchuk rebounded from a poor 2006/07 season and registered 52 goals in 79 games.  He is not the Thrashers’ problem; rather, the problem for Atlanta is what they have on their roster after Ilya Kovalchuk.  In that respect, the Thrashers are sorely lacking in top-line talent.  Sure they have Slava Kozlov, but he is 36 years old and coming off of a 41 point season.  Sure they have youngsters Colby Armstrong and Erik Cristensen but neither of these players acquired in the Marian Hossa trade have had the burden of carrying such an offensive load.  Can they increase their production? Probably, but that does not mean they can produce at top-six forward levels.  Combine these forwards with Todd White, Eric Perrin, Marty Reasoner and a number of other checking forwards and Atlanta is in for a long season.  Do not get me wrong, I like what Marty Reasoner brings to the table, but he is not the player that is going to take the Thrashers to the next level.  Instead, he is a solid fourth line player who can kill penalties, take face-offs and be a strong leader.  The Thrashers don’t lack checking forwards, they lack top-line offensive forwards and unfortunately for Atlanta fans, those don’t grow on trees.  Before moving onto the team’s defense, let’s not overlook the signing of Jason Williams and the expected progression of Bryan Little.  These two players should both be pleasant surprises in Thrasherland and fans should expect these two players to be logging fairly significant minutes, especially on the power play, all season long.

Defense:

The Thrashers improved this off-season with the signing of defenseman Ron Hainsey previously of the Columbus Blue Jackets.  Hainsey is a solid puck-mover and a good power play point man.  However, with Jason Williams, Iyla Kovalchuk and Tobias Enstrom already capable of manning the point on the power play, it is not clear how valuable Hainsey will be in that regard.  Nonetheless, he is certainly an upgrade at the defense position for Atlanta.  The aforementioned Enstrom had a tremendous rookie season even though he trailed off in March and April.  The smooth-skating Swede can move the puck, plays a strong positional game and can log minutes in all situations.  While he lacks a physical presence and clearly wore down physically at the end of last season, Enstrom should be even better in his sophomore campaign.  After Enstrom and Hainsey the Thrashers have the rough and tough Garnett Exelby and the sturdy veteran presence of Niclas Havelid.  Havelid provides the team with a bit of offense, but his value comes with his experience and he will be counted on to be a calming force on the Thrashers blue line.  Veteran Ken Klee should also help Havelid in this regard, even though he has clearly lost a step.  As for Exelby, the big defenseman is just straight mean and contributes to the team with his physical play.  Unfortunately for Thrashers fans his team gives up a lot more goals when he is on the ice than it scores. 

The team is hoping that the massive Boris Valabik’s game can translate to the NHL.  While the massive 6’7 defenseman struggled in his brief stint at the end of last season, the Thrashers have nothing to lose by giving him some ice-time and seeing if, with time, he can handle the opposition.   Finally, this year’s top first round draft pick Zach Bogosian is so good that if he made the team it would not surprise very many people.  Bogosian can do it all and with a long season ahead of them, the Thrashers may just give him his shot now.

Goaltending:

The Thrashers really need Kari Lehtonen to stay healthy for an entire season and play up to his capabilities.  The big Finnish netminder has all the physical tools to become a top 10 NHL goalie, it just a matter of him staying healthy and maintaining the necessary mental focus.  Lehtonen is backed up by Johan Hedberg, who is your quintessential NHL back up and should soon be pushed aside by the impressive Ondrej Pavelec.

Prediction:

Ceiling: 12th in Eastern Conference

Floor: 15th in Eastern Conference

Three words for Thrashers fans: Hedman or Tavares

The Jets won
The Moose lost
The Ice won

It was a busy Illegal Curve Post-Game Show and we've got an Illegal Curve Hockey Show in 9 hours.

Another busy Saturday coming your way on https://illegalcurve.com/

If you couldn't join @ICEzzyG, @ICdrew and @ICdave live on the Illegal Curve Post-Game Show following the Jets win fear not cause you can watch the replay or download the podcast.

https://illegalcurve.com/game-26-jets-3-blackhawks-1-post-game-recap/

Associate coach Scott Arniel spoke after the Jets win in Chicago.

https://illegalcurve.com/game-26-jets-3-blackhawks-1-post-game-recap/

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