Friday, September 28, 2007

Next up, we go straight down to the A-T-L.

The Falconer from [ Do Thrashers Have Large Talons ] brings us the scoop from hotlanta.

Division: Southeast
2006-07:(43-28-11) 97 Points
Playoffs: 3rd seed, jobbed by Rangers in first round

Player to Watch:

Ilya Kovalchuk

Last Season
The Atlanta Thrashers finished atop their division but it was a roller
coaster ride. The team took advantage of a weak schedule in the first
half and built a nice lead in the division, only to see that lead slip
away as they faced better opponents in January and February. The team
acquired four key veterans (Eric Belanger, Alexi Zhitnik, Keith
Tkachuk, Pascal Dupuis) and got back on a roll in March and April to
finish with their first division title in team history and their first
ever playoff appearance. The joy ride came to a quick end though as
they were swept (although several of the games were 1 goal losses).
Last season's team was extremely average--the Thrashers finished tied
for 15th out of 30 teams in offense (GFA) and 15th out of 30 on defense

This Season
The city will host the NHL All Star game hopefully more playoff games
in the spring. Here some key changes for the team:
1) Major Shift at Defense: The Thrashers will see more roster turnover
of any Eastern playoff team other than the Islanders. Last year the
team started with Sutton, de Vries, Vishnevski and Hnidy on the
blueline. Those players have all departed their replacements are
Zhitnik, Klee, Enstrom, Popovic. Last year the team ranked just 25th in
shots against and they gave up far too many high quality shots on goal.
Improvement in that area would provide a major boost to the 2007-07

2) Youth Movement: Four rookies have made the squad after the final
roster cuts. Brett Sterling was AHL rookie of the year and had nothing
left to prove there. He was a top scorer (Hobey Baker finalist) in
college and the AHL can he do it the NHL playing along side Ilya
Kovalchuk? Tobias Enstrom was one of the top defensemen in the Swedish
Elite League last year and has displayed terrific puckhandling skills
in the pre-season (poolies and fantasy players take note if he is put
on the 1st PP unit). Bryan Little was a 1st round pick who finished
near the top of the OHL scoring race and will try to make the jump
straight to the NHL, his game is still maturing so he may not make a
huge impact immediately. Mark Popovic is a steady stay at home
defensemen who has been close to making the NHL for a couple of
seasons, likely a 7th defensemen on the depth chart. The biggest
concern is that the three offensive rookies are all on the small side
which may hurt in the hitting department.

3) Special Teams
The PK unit was a disaster at times last season, but the addition of
Perrin and Dupuis could improve that area drastically. Hossa and Kozlov
receive regular SH ice time so expect them to get a few SH points. Last
year the PP unit got stale and very predictible, Enstrom might provide
the puck distribution that was missing last year after Marc Savard left
via free agency but it is unclear if he will be a regular on the PP
unit at this moment. Kovalchuk, Hossa, Kozlov and Zhitnik are locks to
play on the 1st PP unit.

4) Goaltending: Last year the Thrashers defense was among the worst in
the league at preventing shots. Starter Kari Lehtonen responded by
raising his SV% from .906 to .912 which ranked him 14th among league
starters. If the defense allow fewer high quality shots or Lehtonen is
able to take another step forward and crack the top 10 in SV% the team
will be in good shape. The backup netminder Hedberg was solid and Coach
Hartley indicated he will try to use a more regular goalie rotation
this coming season.

Likely Lines: The biggest question is where Little and Holik will play.



Projection: Personally I think that once you get past the top four or
five teams, the Eastern Conference is insanely competitive. I think the
Thrashers current roster could finish as high as 6th and as low as
10th. The team is also way under the cap so there is room to acquire
more talent if ownership wants to do in that direction again at the
trading deadline. Where the Thrashers end up will all come down to
injuries, luck and surprises (both good and bad). If their key guys are
healthy I think that they make the playoffs.


Pensblog Take

We hate to brag but last year we told you Atlanta was going to win the Southeast.

That may not happen this year, but they should still be solid.
Alot of people have completely forgotten about Kovalchuk, and he had a down year.
The Thrashers defense is shaky, and in a now half-way decent divsion.
They might have missed their chance to make a run last year.


Teej said...

Would've been cool if Lil Jon was the one writing up the preview (he's a huge Thrashers fan).


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