Ok, we know that the Thrashers get no respect from the hockey media. We're 951 miles SOUTH of Toronto, so that means we're not worthy. I get it.
I am getting a little tired of all of the predictions from hockey writers and pundits, mostly based out of Ontario, who think the Thrashers will finish 14th in the East.
TB- no goaltending, still lousy defense
NYI- no scoring, lousy defense
Senators- A team full of second line scorers with no goalie
Leafs- Burke has made them bigger, but worse
Habs- Implosion waiting to happen, no goaltending, no size
Panthers- Only change from 08-09 is swapping Leopold for JayBo
That's six teams in the Eastern Conference that I would be willing to bet large amounts of money will finish with worse records than Atlanta.
The Thrashers are more aptly put in the middle of the pack amongst the Rangers, Sabres, Devils, and Canes. Atlanta could end up at the top, bottom, or middle of that pack easily.
Thrashers- Added scoring depth, dramatically improved defense, still shaky in goal
Rangers- Very solid in net, iffy on D, improved O for the 12 games Gabby will play
Sabres- No real change from last year except health of Ryan Miller
Devils- Same roster, minus Clemmensen and Gionta, all one year closer to retirement
Canes- Fairly solid, but not great anywhere but inside the skates of Staal and Ward
The only teams in the East that are safe bets to do BETTER than Atlanta are Boston, Washington (barring a total melt-down by both goalies), Philly, and the Pens.
Boston- Great goaltending, solid scoring, tough D
Washington- Swapped an aging Federov and Vik Kozlov for Mike Knuble
Philly- Despite a big question mark in goal, they're scary
Pittsburgh- No one questions Fleury anymore, and they didn't lose much (with apologies to Scuds)
So here's an Eastern Conference prediction for you:
1) Washington- Firepower + Varlamov
2) Philadelphia- But Emery won't be starting by March
3) Boston- Still trucking along, but not quite as good without Kessel
4) New Jersey- Brodeur can pretty much do this on his own
5) Pittsburgh- Cup hangover will only hurt as much as early slump in 08
6) Carolina- A similar showing to last year, with a similar lineup
7) Atlanta- A marquee year from Pavs or Kari sets this up
8) Buffalo- A full year of Miller and 60+ games from Connoly
9) Rangers- Again, pretty much Lundqvist by himself
10) Montreal- Price can't quite get them there
11) Toronto- A lot of OTL's will move them down the draft order
12) Florida- A frustrating set back after almost making it last year
13) Ottawa- It's hard to replace Heatley if you don't get Hossa in the trade
14) Islanders- Only a little better than Tampa
15) Tampa Bay- Hmm, maybe it wasn't Barry Melrose's fault?
Feeling a little better after that rant, I'm Razor Catch Prey.