The past 10-15 games have shown everyone what John "Seminole Wind" Anderson's system can do when it is implemented correctly. As the graphic displayed during the Colorado game on Sports South indicated, the Atlanta thrashers have had one of the best records in the league over the past month.
More cynical folks would attribute this to our players "auditioning" for a chance to get out of town at the trade deadline. However, the team only seemed to get better after March 4 came and went. Perhaps the players who stayed put feel like they've received a vote of confidence and a renewed determination to help turn things around. Maybe the Czar's ebullience since the birth of his son is contagious. Whatever it is, the boys are playing some dang good hockey.
That being said, if the Thrashers were to start the 09-10 season with this same roster, they couldn't expect to go very far. As DW told season ticket holders last Friday, the team needs a #1 center, which Todd White is not. As beautiful as it has been to watch, the White, Little, Kovy line is not good enough to get a team anywhere in the playoffs if they are the main scoring threat.
Peverly centering Kozlov and Armstrong is a very good second line and can stack up against most of their counterparts in the league. Likewise, the checking line of Slater, Boulton, and Thorburn is as good of a fourth roll-out as you'll find in the league.
The weak point comes in the Thrashers' third line. Some of you probably just called me an idiot and muttered something about Perrin, Reasoner, and Stuart having better numbers and more skill than all the members of the checking line. You're right (about the players, not me being an idiot). The problem is not with their skill, it is with the ability of that line to perform their role and how they stack up with other third lines in the league.
Marty Reasoner, as the Chronicle has pointed out time and time again, has filled his role better than any other Thrasher this season. However, he absolutely has to have better linemates than Stuart and Perrin if Atlanta is going to be able to roll out three decent scoring lines in addition to their above-average checking line.
The way things look right now, the team needs a true number one center and an upgraded third line.
If DW can swing a trade for a true number one center and bring in a quality third line winger, I submit that the Thrashers will be a playoff team in 09-10.
As good as the top line has been recently, imagine the numbers and excitement that will be produced by the Czar and Little with a truly gifted pivot between them.
Kovalchuck--- #1 Center ---Little
White and Kozlov have proved all year that they can make magic together, and Armstrong is finally coming into his own playing on the opposite wing from our elder Russian statesman. Those three, playing up to their potential, are a legitimate scoring threat and a quality second line.
Kozlov--- White ---Armstrong
Marty Reasoner deserves all the credit in the world for his work ethic and willingness to fulfill his role on this team. He has also been the only bright spot on the third line all year. Move him to the wing to make room for the Pevs Dispenser dropping into the #3 center position. That has the dual advantage of giving us 2 players who can take the faceoff in crucial situations and taking some pressure off Reasoner and freeing him up to open his game a little more. Bring in a new quality third line winger to play with them, and you've suddenly made a huge upgrade in the depth of this team.
#3 Winger--- Peverly ---Reasoner
The fourth line is already better than most in the league in terms of being able to bring energy, chew up minutes while the top lines rest, and limit opponents' offensive chances through responsible play and respectable breakout ability.
Boulton--- Slater ---Thorburn
DW also stated that one of his priorities for this offseason will be to replace Nic Havelid. He didn't say it, but it was obvious to most that he'd like to do this by resigning Havvy himself after July 1. Whether Havvy comes back, we sign someone comperable, or draft Hedman and throw him in the lineup, the Thrashers' young defensive corps looks very solid at the moment.
Plenty has been said here and elsewhere about the goaltending situation. Pavelic could be moved along with a draft pick for a #1 center who is already under contract, or to improve our draft position. Pavs isn't ready to take the helm yet, and this team needs a proven minder in net to have any hope of reaching the postseason and winning a series. That means Kari. Moose is the heart of the team and a perfectly good backup who is still under contract. My vote is to give Kari a long term contact, keep Moose as his backup, and use Pavelic as trade bait to fill another need.
So a new #1 Center, a replacement for Havelid, and a solid third line winger. DW has valuable assets in Pavelic and a high draft pick to bring those things in. It'll also go a long way to bringing in free agents if the Czar signs a big extension early in his renegotiation period.