2010-2011 Team Preview - Atlanta Thrashers

Up next in our series of season previews, the Atlanta Thrashers. As Kings fans, we’re not going to be seeing all that much of the Thrashers this year, unless of course we both end up in the Cup Finals (what are the odds against that?) But what we do see of the Thrashers, we see early. They’re scheduled to visit Los Angeles for our Home Opener on October 12th, 2010. So what do we have to look forward to? Other than a hopeful victory, there are a few interesting plot lines to watch with the Kovalchuk-less Thrashers.

Overview:

The Thrashers have struggled as a franchise since entering the NHL during the 1999-2000 season. They’ve made the playoffs only once since then, and it was an uninspiring immediate elimination. Perhaps the only real winners in this whole Kovalchuk debacle are the Thrashers, who managed to avoid all the crazy drama and get on with building a half-decent team. That said, I’m not expecting much from Atlanta this season, and they’ll likely struggle to make the playoffs this season.

Key Players:

Ron Hainsey, Nik Antropov, Dustin Byfuglien, Chris Mason, Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian

Offense:

On offense, as with most parts of the team, the Thrashers are looking young. Lead by Nik Antropov and newly acquired Dustin Byfuglien (despite rumors that he may switch to defense, I think he ends up still a forward), the Thrashers don’t have a whole lot of top-flight skill at the moment, and they’ll be looking for their youngsters like Evander Kane and Bryan Little to take a step forward and increase their production. Little had 31 goals two years ago, before declining to a mere 13 goals last year. The Thrashers will need him to return to his previous 30+ goal level if they’re going to have any chance.

Defense:

The defense is fully stocked, if not filled with an elite level. Much like the offense, the Thrashers are decent on the blue line, but frankly unspectacular. On the top end, the Thrashers are (second verse, same as the first) waiting for their youngsters to develop. Zach Bogosian is a talented player, and if he takes another step forward this season, he will be one of the better defenseman around. Bogosian is supported by some talent in Tobias Enstrom, Ron Hainsey, Johnny Oduya, Brent Sopel and a few others. It’s not a star-studded lineup, but it’s not bad either. Chris Mason in goal has some ability, but isn’t likely to steal many games for Atlanta, so they’ll need a strong team effort if they want to accomplish anything.

Prediction:

Let’s be frank, the Thrashers are in some trouble. They’re going to fall behind the Capitals in their division, that’s a forgone conclusion. They’re also likely to  be behind the Hurricanes (especially if they continue their “1 up, 1 down” pattern), and the Lightening have made some impressive moves to get better. I’m thinking they’ll end up ahead of the Panthers, and if their youngsters take a big step forward and Mason performs out of his mind, they might sneak into the bottom of the Eastern Conference, since that’s all a crap shoot. If they were in the Western Conference it could get ugly…

Tags: Atlanta Thrashers Chris Mason Dustin Byfuglien Evander Kane Nik Antropov Ron Hainsey Zach Bogosian

  • Dominick

    Seems like forever since Sopel was a King. I always liked him.

  • Eric

    I know he’s not signed yet but you failed to mention Bergfors even once. He’s a very talented young player and look or him to possibly have a breakout season.

    Atlanta is stocked with young talent, maybe not to the extent of the Blackhawks, but they are going to have a nice crop of youngsters. Esposito, if he’s healed from knee surgery, could add a lot and their eighth overall draft pick, Burmistrov could make the team out of camp. Throw in the nut-job, Cormier, and they have a lot of young talent with the big bodies of Byfuglien and Eager to back them up. This season could prove to be more interesting than people expect.

    • http://www.theIEsolution.com Gavin Humes

      Fair enough, Bergfors has skill to be sure. That said, he’s unsigned, and may or may not contribute to begin the season. They’ve got some offensive potential, but I’m just not a believer that this year will be the year they turn it all around…

  • Dominick

    Their penalty killing was middle of the pack at 82.2, but their powerplay was only clicking at 16.1 for the season,which is an area that needs improvement, and will probably take a big hit without Kovalshmuck.

    Also they haven’t one single defenseman who’s 30 or above.

    • Dominick

      That’s including their defensive pipeline in the minors also.

  • http://www.thrasherbacker.com Rachel

    I think this year will prove to be the most interesting year for the Thrashers. This is a completely gutted, re-structured team with a completely new mentality calling the shots this time. There is a lot of talent that has been completely shadowed in the past by the Russian Wonder and we no longer have that dominating shadow lurking over everyone else. We would have had a stronger chance of making it further along last year if we had ditched the drama queen earlier on. All he ended up doing was dashing our chances and dragging us down, unable to score even once in his one meeting against us as a Devil. This year I predict there will be a lot of surprises on the ice. I do truly believe we have the promise to be a force to be reckoned with. I was feeling confident before Bergfors, and now he is here for 2010-2011 as well. There is always that chance that we will spend the majority of the season ‘rebuilding’ but don’t hold your breath! ;)

  • http://www.theIEsolution.com Gavin Humes

    Interesting points Rachel. I still think the Thrashers are likely to end up outside the playoffs looking in, but anything is possible (the East is a mess). Here’s hoping for some interesting hockey for you at the very least!