As I've discussed below in the comments section, the Thrashers appear to me to be lacking in physical play. I don't just mean hitting, but also being willing to take a hit, scrum for the puck and for position in front of the net, and generally sacrifice a bruise or two for the greater good. Alas, it is all too obvious that Steve Staios no longer plays for Atlanta.
So here's my question: what would the Thrashers have to give up to add Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, or Nik Antropov to their lineup?
The Birds need grit up front, and they need it on a scoring line. With Kovy and Kozy holding down the top two left wing spots, that means it is going to have to come from a center or right winger. We all love what Todd White is doing with the puck on his tape this year, but he proved in the Pittsburgh game that he's not the most durable guy on the ice. Crusher is willing to fight for position in front of the net, but he's not all that effective once he gets there.
With natural centermen already playing on the wing in the lineup, it makes the most sense to go out and get a natural right winger to put opposite one of our Russian goal scorers (assuming that the Czar does indeed decide to become a goal scorer again). That right winger needs to be able to lower the shoulder and dish out some physical pain along with the emotional pain delivered by Kovy and Kozy lighting the lamp. I'm not saying the Thrashers need a talentless goon on a top line, but a legitimate power forward would add an element that the team has been lacking for some time.
A physical forward adds a threat of a big check in the offensive zone that gives defending players one more thing to juggle in their mind while trying to follow the play. He can plow through a defenseman and leave him out of the play for crucial seconds while a sniper comes in for an odd man situation. He can energize the team with a hit or a fight. And he can stand up for our stars when it's needed without having to change lines to send in Boulton, or risk losing a d-man to the penalty box. It's great that Kovy is a tough guy and will stick up for himself or his teammates, but that's not the role he should have to play. He's the superstar. Let him make plays and light the lamp and bring in somebody else to put a little quiver into the yapping voice of the opposition.
Dustin Brown leads all right wingers in the NHL with 69 hits, and has also potted 8 goals so far this season. Ryan Callahan has been the most exciting player for the blueshirts for the past year, is still a fresh faced newcommer, and had proven 6 times already this season that he can score goals while racking up 61 quality checks. Nik Antropov has significantly fewer hits at 25, but that's still in the upper echelon of right wingers, and he also has 7 goals to his credit this year. Jarome "The Perfect Hockey Player" Iginla has more goals than anyone else in the top 20 hitting right wingers, but something tells me we can't afford what Calgary would want to give him up, even though he obviously isn't really a big part of their gameplan or team identity or anything.
Heck, let's get Keith Tkachuk back in here and find some way to de-age him by 10 years. For that matter, somebody find us a good neurologist and get Adam Deadmarsh on the line.
For the Chronicle, I'm Razor Catch Prey grasping at straws for ideas to improve this team.