(actual photo of upcoming Thrashers season)
If you've been paying attention, you know I'm not the biggest fan of Rick Dudley and his outer space robot antics. I felt that after 10 horrid years, that would have been a good opportunity to go in a new direction as opposed to letting the man that put you in that position hand pick his replacement. Anyway, I said I would take a wait and see approach, and see what I thought in October.
To recap, Dudley traded for Dustin Byfuglien and was lauded as a great move by most Thrasher fans. I was more reserved, based not on Byfuglien's skills as a power forward, but on what we gave up, in particular with the entire NHL knowing the Blackhawks had to make some kind of move, theoretically putting them in a position of weakness. We received Buff, Eager, Sopel, and Aliu and gave up Reasoner, Morin, a 1st, a 2nd, and essentially a 7th (and a couple of expiring contracts) that we traded to SJ due to the fact that no one in the Thrashers organization realized this trade left us with too many contracts. Morin nearly made the Blackhawks team as a 19 year old, which leads me to believe he probably would have made our team. But hey, we all knew we needed a power forward. Take a look at this:
"I think what we saw in the playoffs is the Dustin Byfuglien we've seen evolving for some time now," Dudley said in a conference call early Thursday morning. "As a forward he's probably one of the premier power forwards in the league."
I was told to wait and see what happened in free agency. Well, what happened was we moved Byfuglien to defense, creating an even bigger hole on the offensive side. And for all you +/- lovers out there, Dustin was a -7 on the Blackhawks last year when used a lot as a defenseman. Worst on the team and only one other regular player was a minus. That is how you truly look at that stat, if one person stands out from the rest of the team. It seems as though when you have a position of some strength, you would let one of the other guys you are sending down to the minors be your 6th defenseman and keep Buff where you are weakest.
Oh yeah, this was supposed to be a preview. The preview is we don't score enough goals. Therefore, we won't win enough games. Funny how that works. This team will not make the playoffs. I don't think we will be horrific, but some of you out there need to lower your expectations a bit. Mason will be solid and the defense will be improved. But there are way too many ifs on the offensive side of things:
Well, maybe Little will go back to scoring 31 goals instead of 13. What about Bergfors, he scored 22 last year so surely this means he will be up over 30 this year. What's that? No, I'm pretty sure sophomore slumps are a myth. Raise your hand if you expect Antropov to put up 24g 43a =67 pts this year... didn't think so. Expecting Kane to jump from 14g to 25-30g isn't fair to him.
My point is: I'm not saying this cannot happen. All of those guys have the potential to accomplish these things. But even the die hards have got to admit that is A LOT that needs to go right, considering these are the best guys we've got.
Conclusion, if 7 or 8 things go perfectly right, this team could make the playoffs. Which, let's be honest, is more than we could have hoped for some of the teams in our past. But I don't know about you, how often do 7 or 8 things go perfectly right in your life without having 1 or 2 go unexpectedly wrong?
Fire away through your Blueland colored glasses Smoothie, you optimistic son of a gun!