Friday, March 4, 2011

Why Doth They Stink?

Remember December? First place in the South East Division, second place in the Eastern Conference? Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it?

The easiest response to the question of "what happened" is that the Thrashers' standing was artificially inflated by having played far more games than most other teams in the league and have since been hit hard by injuries.

There is truth to both assertions. Look at the Thrashers' roster in early December:

Kane, Antropov, Ladd, Peverley, Stewart, Little, Burmistrov, Modin, Slater, Boulton, Thorburn, Eager, and Bergfors on offense; and an on-fire Pavelec in net.

Defense has stayed steady with the exception of some juggling due to injuries wherein Freddy Meyer played a number of games.

The March 3 lineup against the Senators was missing the injured Burmistrov and Slater as well as the now departed Peverley, Eager, Bergfors, and Modin. Pavelec's play had fallen off before he left with an injury as well. In place of those seven contributors were proven NHL talents Radek Dvorak, and Blake Wheeler as well as still unproven Ben Maxwell, Rob Schremp, and Tim Stapleton.

As much as I loved the guy, there's no doubt that Blake Wheeler is an upgrade over Rich Peverley. Ditto for Mark Stuart replacing Brent Sopel on defense, so those changes aren't to blame. However, replacing Bergfors, Burmistrov, Slater, and Modin with Dvorak, Schremp, Maxwell, and Stapleton is a big step back.

All that being said, I would point out that there is reason to be optimistic about the roster Rick Dudley has built here. Even if the roster were to remain untouched between now and next October, the Thrashers would be able to ice a solid competitive team when everyone is healthy.

Forwards: Kane, Ladd, Wheeler, Antropov, Little, Burmistrov, Dvorak, Cormier, Boulton, Slater, Thorburn, and Stewart. Reserves: Schremp, Maxwell, Machacek, Stapleton, and Klinberg.

I would like to see an upgrade on the right side. Neither Dvorak nor Stewart should be a second line winger in the NHL at this point in their careers. Either would be a respectable third liner.

The checking line, when Slater is healthy, is still one of the best in the business. A third line of Burmistrov, Cormier, and either Stewart or Dvorak is serviceable.

Ladd, Little, Kane, Wheeler, and Antropov are all bonafide top six talent. They need one more to keep up with them and round out a solid forward corps.

I would not touch the defense if I were in Dudley's well-shined shoes. The addition of Stuart really strengthened the blue line. They just have to play up to their potential, which has not happened lately.

In net, Mason has been a disappointment this year, but he is a solid backup to Pavelec if we can keep the younger netminder healthy.

It has been hard to find a silver lining over the past couple of months of Thrashers' hockey. A potential new owner and a solid core group of young players do make the horizon look brighter than the ground on where we currently stand.

6 comments:

TK said...

Well said, RCP.

The last few months have sucked for sure but it is obvious that the core is in place.

If there is new ownership by next season (not sure how likely that is) and they bump payroll by ten million or so then we can add that much needed 1st or 2nd line RW you referenced. With the extra money we could also get another good player, pay bonuses to Kane, etc.

Thanks for cheering me up - at least a little bit - after another tough loss last night.

Wayne stuck in AL said...

Yeah, but we'll still be stuck with Craig Ramsay...

Razor Catch Prey said...

Remember that Craig Ramsay was the coach for October-December as well. I wouldn't give up on him entirely as of yet. The guy has too much respect around the league to write him off after one season.

Maybe you're right, Wayne, and maybe he can't coach his way out of a paper bag. But unless the Q-stache calls and says he wants to follow Buff and Ladd and Torchetti to the ATL, you stick with Ramsay for at least another half season before making any decisions.

Jay said...

We will also have a potential Top 5 pick in this year's if the current slide continues. I'm not too high on Oduya. He makes poor decisions. Whether it is a bad pass or being out of position. It's like he's an older Bogosian. We already have a young team and the need for draft picks might not be as important, do we give an RFA like Parise an offer sheet if the payroll can be increased? The UFA market is pretty slim other than Richards. Oduya's contract is reasonable enough that he might be able to fetch a Top 6 forward, too. Kulda and/or Postma can give us the same production as him(or even Hainsey) IMO. If Dudley thinks Postma and Kulda are ready, I would even go as far as trading Hainsey for a mid-round pick just to clear his salary off the books. That money could be used for Richards, Parise or another FA. I know this scenario is unlikely to happen, but it would be something I would look into doing if I was the GM.

Wayne stuck in AL said...

Maybe there's a reason why other teams weren't fighting over Ramsay; he's a career assistant, the living embodiment of The Peter Principle.

Big Shooter said...

Oh Good God, Razor. Really? Haven't you been playing this EXACT same game for the past 12 years???

The ONLY hope is a new owner. If losing Slater and Burmistrov really hurt your team so much, you kind of suck.