Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Four Reasons for Concern In Blueland

Yesterday, the outsider gave you Four Reasons The Thrashers Will Do Better This Year. Today, the other side of the coin: Four Reasons for Concern in Blueland. If you're a Thrasher fan, none of these are particularly startling revelations. In fact, some of these have become mantras of sorts for the Blueland faithful.

Four Reasons for Concern In Blueland

We've been down this road before, folks. Remember last year? Jason Williams was supposed to be a talented scorer that was going to center Ilya Kovalchuk to a third round playoff run. Mathieu Schneider was supposed to be not just a mentor to Zach Bogosian, but a quarterback to lead our power play out of sub-mediocrity. Erik Christensen was supposed to anchor our secondary scoring with his little dipsy-do abilities. How many of those guys even came close to fulfilling those expectations (other than Schneider's mentoring of Bogo)?

The Ilya Kovalchuk Three Ring Circus and Big Top. Every arena (but Atlanta's) will have a media mob, frothing at the mouth to disrupt the Thrashers dressing room in any way they can with trade speculation, contract questions, and general stupidity. I don't know if you've noticed, but the rest of the NHL has decided that Atlanta doesn't deserve Ilya Kovalchuk, and would love to see him in any other sweater as soon as fricken possible. If our boys can manage to tune out all of the rampant idiocy, they'll be ok; but, man, those dancing elephants in Montreal can be very distracting...

33 Shots Per Game. That's how many shots against the Thrashers averaged in the 08-09 campaign. -4.6 shots per game. That's the shot differential (per game) for last year's Thrashers (League average? Zero, strangely enough). Of course, these numbers aren't such a worry if you have a solid cut-and-dry number one goalie behind you to... oh wait...

Weasels, Ponies, and Moose, Oh My. The Thrashers goalie carousel continued it's roundabouts last year as Kari Lehtonen was felled by injuries, what, three times? Neither Ondrej Pavelec nor Johan Hedberg could provide consistent relief. Remember that dark night in December when the Bruins lit 'em up for 4 goals in about the first period? Something has to change if the Thrashers are to have any hope of a playoff run. If Atlanta fails in net again this year, it won't be for lack of trying. Check out the list of names invited to camp: Hedberg, Lehtonen, Drew Macintyre, Peter Mannino, Pavelec, and now Manny Legace. Let me say it again: Manny Legace. Some how, some way, one of those FIVE gentlemen must have enough goalkeeping ability to keep the Thrashers in any given game. Right?


Enough pessimism for today. If you'd like to check out some other stuff I've contributed lately, check out these links:

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Four Reasons the Thrashers Will Do Better This Year

This being the first preseason for the blueland outsider, I wanted to do some kind of season preview. So, in little bite size chunks, I give you four reasons why I think the Thrashers will be much improved this year. As a bonus, I've included my suggested lines for the upcoming season. So... don't sweat it Coach Johnny, I took care of it for ya, and I won't tell anyone. My man. Tomorrow, we'll have Four Reasons for Concern. I know, limiting it to four is going to be tough, but I'm up to the challenge.

Four Reasons the Thrashers Will Do Better This Year

Addition By Addition. The Thrashers actually went out and picked up not one, but two “name” players this summer. Nik Antropov is a big man not afraid of going into the kitchen to get himself a snack. Whomever he's lined up with (and my preferred lines are at the end of this post) will benefit from this fact. Imagine this, if you will: A Bogo-Kovy-Little-Pevs-Antro power play unit. Or, Kovalchuk on the left, Peverley on the right, and Antropov and his big ole butt planted directly in front of Varlamov or Fleury or anybody, with Antro burying a rebound from his comrade's howitzer of a slap shot. Kubina is a top-four d-man, to be sure, but even the fact that his outlet passes are better than Garnet Exelby's, plants this deal in the upgrade column. Kubina also brings an offensive sensibility that Exelby just didn't have, and solidifies (as well as legitimizes) the Thrashers top four defensemen.

Addition By Subtraction. Jason Williams. Erik Christensen. Eric Perrin. Nic Havelid. All non-believers, all gone. Williams moved on to Columbus, had some on-ice success, but is now with his 4th club in 3 years. Christensen... well, I don't wanna pile on. Eric Perrin was extremely unhappy last year. The only anti-Havelid statement I'll make is this: fantastic player, not the right kind of player for HC Johnny A's system. You could see he wasn't the player he had been – pretty easy to cover up in a conservative system, not so much when you're mongoosing your opponent to death. In a big-picture sense, the article from yesterday seems to confirm what I thought: not everyone was buying the kind of burgers John Anderson was selling. Once again, not to pick on X too much (love ya, baby), Kubina is an upgrade at an historically weak spot for the Thrashers.

Let the Kids Play. A full season of Bogo and Tobes has me very excited. Call me crazy, but I have a hunch that this will become the Thrashers top d-pairing by the end of this year. After a rough start to their partnership last year, they began to coalesce into a pretty tough pair. Having seen a full year of what Brian Little can do, I can easily picture him being a point-per-game player. Tim Stapleton is a big unknown, but just might have the type of game that could earn him some ice time in a complimentary system and a Thrasher lineup that has some space. Anssi Salmella. Nathan Oystrick. Boris Valabik. They're all too young to know they're not supposed to win.

The Last 26 Games. February 15, 2009 thru April 11, 2009. 16-9-1. The leadership of Ilya Kovalchuk. 8 short-handed goals. A 9-4 home record. The comeback shootout victory over the Rangers. Kari's 50 saves against Washington. A whole bunch of very quiet Sabre fans shuffling out of Phillips. No one wants to see the Thrashers succeed more than I do, and even my homerism can't conceal the fact that Atlanta played some incredibly solid hockey last year. If they play this whole year as they played the last third of last year, we WILL see extra hockey in Atlanta this April.

The Offical blueland outsider Line Combos!
(note: I didn't forget Evander Kane. My personal feeling is that he might need just one more year in juniors to bulk up before he can be effective in Atlanta. Sure, he might be able to make the team out of camp, but I just don't see him on the top two lines, and I think it would be a disservice to him to play on the third or fourth lines. I may change my mind between now and opening night, but... I doubt it.)

Kovalchuk – Peverley – Antropov
Swap the Dispenser & Antro as needed.

Kozlov – White – Little
The Kahlua line won't be as strong this year, but will still have some kick.

Stewart/Crabb/Sterling – Reasoner – Armstrong
Imma call this The Business Line. As in, it's Business Time, call the Business Line. And this Business Line brings the Party.

Thorburn – Slater – Boulton
The Return of the Greek Gods.

Hainsey – Kubina
Bogosian – Enstrom

Please allow me to leave you with this nugget of wisdom for you to marinate on:

Being a Thrasher fan – it's kind of like being punk rock in a hick town.