Lehtonen update

Injured goalie Kari Lehtonen will skate Tuesday with goalie coach Steve Weeks, Thrashers coach John Anderson said Monday. Lehtonen will be evaluated again after that. He has been out since leaving Thursday night’s game against the Rangers after the first period. Lehtonen hit his head after the Rangers Sean Avery crashed the net with five minutes left in the period.

Earlier, I wrote:

At this stage of the season, when you’ve got two practices to prepare for an opponent the best thing might be another day of rest. That seems to be the theory for today, with practice being optional. Only eight of the forwards are on the ice: Bryan Little and Todd White; Colby Armstrong and Rich Peverley; Colin Stuart; Eric Boulton, Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn.

The defensemen: Zach Bogosian, Toby Enstrom, Garnet Exelby, Nathan Oystrick, Anssi Salmela and Boris Valabik. Colin Stuart threw me a curve by being grouped with and dressed in the uniform sweater of the defensemen; it’s just balancing the numbers, seven vs. seven. (Actually, when I spoke with Colin after practice, he laughed and told me he arrived at practice early and didn’t realize they were going with one color for the forwards and the other for the defense.)

They’re playing three on three with the goals lined up side by side on the same end of the ice.

93 comments Add your comment

GaVaHokie

March 30th, 2009
11:14 am

First…

Is Turple still “up” or is he back with Gwinnett? Why wouldn’t he be practicing?

sisu

March 30th, 2009
11:28 am

Any word on Kari? Was it a concussion?

Tony C.

March 30th, 2009
11:47 am

I think it may have been his eyeshadow sisu! or maybe just sandy panties. There’s a rumor out there that he just blew everybody off during 1st intermission and then took off. No idea if it’s true or not, but it’s troubling to see such a young guy out for so many different injuries.

However, if it is/was a concussion-no reason to rush the guy. Although next season if somebody runs our goalie, I’d like to see said offender get lit up instead of tapped on his shinguards on his way back to the bench!

Brendan

March 30th, 2009
12:02 pm

Glovesave29 once told me, “All goalies are crazy.” If Kari had a meltdown … I guess these things happen. Especially if he felt he was run, without the requisite retribution being immediately executed against the perpetrator. But truth is … shrugging … “I have no idea.” I didn’t even see the play. I tuned in at the tail end of the 2nd period, when Kovalchuk made it 4-2. And thaaaat, was a awe-inspiring goal, with that wrap-around.

If anyone cares about the NCAA Men’s Division I tournament, Bemidji State (They’re from Minnesota!) is having a DREAM Tournament. Coming in at a less than inspirational 18-15-1, they knocked off the tournament’s #2 seed, Notre Dame, 5-1, then gave the bum’s rush to Darren Eliot’s alma mater, Cornell, 4-1. Up next? It’s the Frozen Four! April 9th, at the Verizon Center, in Washington, DC. Bemidji State’s opposition is a very defeatable opponent named Miami University. (Not in Coral Gables, FL. They’re located in Oxford, OH.) The Miami/Bemidji State winner will get to be throttled by the Vermont/Boston University winner. Vermont defeated Yale and Air Force to be a “surprise” entrant in the Frozen Four. It is to absolutely no one’s surprise that Top Seeded Boston University is there. And with #2 Notre Dame, #3 Denver U., and #4 Michigan, all at home, licking their wounds, BU is probably thinking they’ve got the national title in the bag.

Michigan was upset by Air Force. Denver U. Pioneers were eliminated by Miami of Ohio. New Hampshire eliminated North Dakota, but couldn’t get past Boston U. Wouldn’t it be something if Bemidji State won this tournament?? The Bemidji State Beavers?? National Champions?? I was surprised they got the invitation to be in the tournament.

Last year, Boston College won the National Title, their 3rd in school history. This year, BC didn’t make it in. I’m sure BU would just love to rub their noses in it. BU won the “Beanpot” this year.

Nikita

March 30th, 2009
12:16 pm

So, since we’ve only got 6 games remaining, that means we’re almost to trading and resigning and releasing season.

Here are the changes I’d like to see happen.

1. I’m assuming Eric Perrin is leaving.

2. Resign Reasoner now! Well, 10 seconds after the final game.

3. Release/trade/rid Atlanta of Slater and Exelby.

Glovesave29

March 30th, 2009
12:46 pm

Yeah, it’s true Brendan. Anyone who willing lets someone fire a rock hard piece of vulcanized, frozen rubber at them is missing a few marbles (present company included).

I didn’t see the replay, but I got hurt once being shoved into the crossbar and the bottom lip of my mask caught my clavical where the throat protector has a seam where it meets the breast plate. The back plate of the mask is also realtively flat and does not disperse the impact like the front. A concussion is not unlikely if he hit the crossbar. He could have fallen funny and strained a rib muscle…its all purely speculative.

Russian

March 30th, 2009
12:48 pm

**To Nikita**
What do You think about Kari? Contract or way to go? Also Armi is RFA.

GaVaHokie

March 30th, 2009
1:07 pm

Brendan… I watched two of the games on Saturday… that heartbreaker between New Hampshire and North Dakota. Then I watched a good bit of the Ohio State and Boston U. game.

Vinny Saponari looked really good for a freshman… he’s getting a lot of playing time with Boston U. On the other side, I hardly noticed John Albert for Ohio State.

Nikita

March 30th, 2009
1:13 pm

re: Kari, I think if we can’t get a better goalie off the market, then he needs to stay as the #1. He’s a tough player to manage, because unlike Moose he suffers if he doesn’t play and he often doesn’t play because he’s injured. But Moose isn’t #1 goalie material and Pavelec needs at least one more year of development. I say unless a clear #1 can be signed relatively quickly, then we should resign Kari for a year and waive or trade him if the situation changes.

Army I am kind of unimpressed with. Good guy in the locker room, nice personality, etc. — but his play for most of the season has been fairly lackluster and he’s one of our less well-rounded players (his defensive capability is pretty poor). I think, again, it’s about the market. He’s probably worth resigning as a stopgap, but I’d prefer to see a better player on the 1 or 2 lines, and Army on the 3rd.

Oh, also, forgot to mention. I’d also like to see a few acquisitions. Specifically, a top-6 forward and a mid-level defenseman.

ranallo10 (in AT)

March 30th, 2009
1:19 pm

“Release/trade/rid Atlanta of Slater and Exelby”

I don’t utterly disagree with Exelby, but I find no reason to rid this team of a functional fourth line center. Honestly, how much better do you expect out of someone playing ~10 minutes per game? Are there better candidates in the AHL that should only be playing 10 minutes of defensive/grinding hockey? Should the team go out and sign a free agent to play those minutes? Or even, is Slater’s presence really making the team worse?

If this team were one or two games away from a playoff berth I could understand the complaint, but they’re at least 1 top forward, 1 top defender, and some much better special teams away from being a playoff contender.

That’s just my opinion though, I’m never really sure why people rag on a 26 year old minimum salary grinder who isn’t obviously blocking better AHL talent. Like I’ve said before, I equate it to complaining about the hubcaps on a Pinto…it doesn’t matter how bumpin’ the spinners are, it’s still a fricking Pinto.

Alan

March 30th, 2009
1:23 pm

For those who didn’t see the play, watch it here. It appears that Avery pushed White into Lehtonen. At the 0:08 mark is where you can see the collision at the point of impact.

Brendan

March 30th, 2009
1:30 pm

I’m encouraged by Saponari. And it’ll look good on his resume to have that National Championship this year. New Hampshire lost on that late goal. Their program looks pretty solid. Vermont needed double overtime to dispatch Air Force. What a year Air Force had! 27-10-2 coming into the tournament.

I’m rooting for Miami of Ohio. But I don’t think they have a very strong shot at it. I think, but don’t quote me, that this is as far as Miami University has ever come in ANY NCAA tournament, including Basketball. Accoring to reports, Miami’s opponent, Bemidji State, has also NEVER made it to a Frozen Four. So, this is one of those IDEALLY COMPELLING situations where SOMEONE has to win and advance to their 1st ever National Title game. Per the NCAA site, Bemidji State is the #16 seed. But, how is that possible if they didn’t face the #1 seed, Boston Univ? They faced #2 Notre Dame, which ought to make them a #15 seed. No?

In any case, good luck to the Bemidjians! Maybe Bemidji Mania will start ‘runnin’ wild! As for the Vermont Catamounts, it’s their 2nd-ever trip to the Frozen Four. They have my sympathy, facing Boston Univesity in their next match.

I love it when schools who have NEVER WON BEFORE get their shot. I don’t know. I guess I love an underdog!

In the NHL playoffs, I keep rooting for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks to meet in the 1st round, for it surely means one of those long starved markets will be in the Conference Semi-Finals this year. But Vancouver keeps mucking it all up. I want the Canucks and Flames to meet as the #3 vs. #6 seeds. That series is always good. And it’ll ensure a Canadian team survives to the 2nd round this year.

I am also rooting for a Nashville-Detroit series, whether as a 8 vs. 1 or a 7 vs. 2. Nashville owns four (4) lifetime playoff victories over the Red Wings. Whereas, the Predators record against San Jose is a 2-8 mark, as far as playoffs are concerned.

Nikita

March 30th, 2009
1:44 pm

what do you think, Russian?

Brendan

March 30th, 2009
1:49 pm

I agree with Ranallo here, on Jim Slater. Unless a better player expresses an interest in coming to Atlanta to play these 4th line minutes, why not keep Slater? Now, I’ll admit something here. Philosophically, I preach drafting our own players and re-signing them. And keeping Slater follows in that mold.

What I hope this won’t “devolve” into … is a “But retaining Slater just bolsters the PR0-Waddell crowd.” Well, God love ‘em. Those Waddell-backers need all the ammunition they can get. But is pointing to Jim Slater, a 30th overall pick, being a career 4th line center, really winning that argument? I’d say, no.

I don’t see Jim Slater as any kind of “root cause” of the Thrashers problems. He makes $750,000. That’s almost the league minimum. Whether DWad makes him a qualifying offer or just re-signs him as a free agent, I think Slater will remain a Thrasher next year.

Again, if Slater wants to be part of the Thrashers, I’d say we keep ‘im. We need all the players we can find who WANT to be part of the team. This roster simply cannot compare to that of Detroit’s, where a 4th line Center might actually need to matter. This “evolution” is only in Year Two of the re-build. 2009-10 will be Year Three of the building project, that the GM and ownership still seem reluctant to readily admit, in newsprint, is going on.

Exelby will also probably return. He is under contract. Whether he stays past the trade deadline will be the issue next season. Exelby is another orginal Thrashers draft pick, so I’m sure Don feels a responsibility there, towards Exelby.

As far as offseason projects go, I’m not really looking at Free Agency. And I hope the organization isn’t, either. I think it’d be far, far, FAR more important to lock up Kovalchuk, Little, Lehtonen, Valabik, Oystrick, Armstrong, and maybe even Pavelec … than it is to OVERPAY an outsider to come in.

Why can’t we, just once, clean our own house? Proactively, (2010 class) much can be done with RFA’s. Little, Pavelec, Sterling and Chad Denny fall into this category. Proactively, the UFA’s for 2010 are Kovalchuk, Kozlov, Peverley, C. Stuart, etc. Shouldn’t “some thought” be put into continuity of roster? I think it should.

Imagine if these guys were all signed, sealed, and delivered by training camp, for the next 3-5 years: Kovy, Little, Lehtonen, Pavelec, Armstrong, Kozlov, C. Stuart, Jordan LaVallee, Joey Crabb, Chad Denny, Grant Lewis, Boris Valabik, and Nathan Oystrick?

That’d be one hechuvan offseason.

mknobler

March 30th, 2009
2:03 pm

GaVaHokie Dan Turple and Johan Hedberg both practiced.

Smoothie

March 30th, 2009
2:05 pm

Slater is a heart and soul kind of player and if not for his shoulder dislocation this year, I feel pretty confident that he would have eclipsed his career best 10 goals. The 4th line is markedly better when he is flying around out there. Plus, the artist formerly known as “Slippin’ Slater” has improved his skating dramatically this year.

Brendan, I don’t think there is anyway Chad Denny sees any time on the big club’s roster in the next several years if we keep Oystrick and Salmela. XLB has one more year and is a long-shot to be traded. And that probably only happens if the ASG is serious about signing a bona fide UFA defensive stalwart to play with Bogo on the top pairing. Otherwise, I don’t think Denny or Lewis will crack the top 7 for quite some time. And if I’m Boris, I’m a bit nervous about how well the D has played since Anssi was paired with Ronsey and XLB was united with Rocky Mtn Oysters.

Midfield

March 30th, 2009
2:07 pm

I second Brendan here again. Also, about Army. In my opinion, he is by far the most effective Thrasher on forecheck – he practically generates offence by skating toward the crease, with quite a bit more skill than the designated checkers. This team can’t have too much of this kind of game.

GaVaHokie

March 30th, 2009
2:15 pm

Thanks Knobs…

Brendan… I think for the first time in team history, we shouldn’t see the boat “rocked” too much this summer. When the team is young and winning, you don’t disturb that. I believe we’ll lock up the core of our team we’re seeing right now… the key was getting youthful leadership in Kovalchuk. We shouldn’t have to deal with the Old Vet leadership infusion this summer… like Holik, Rucchin, Schneider, Recchi, Mellanby of years past.

The only thing that could disturb the current line-up as is would be that first draft pick this summer… that’s a good problem.

Jen

March 30th, 2009
2:16 pm

Ranallo & Brendan….Jim Slater doesn’t make the league minimum. As a first round pick he is considerably over-payed for his contribution to the team. If we could resign Slater for the minimum (and remove him from our PK unit where he is a constant disaster) then most folks would be ok with it. If we are going to pay double the minimum then we should get a better player for that money.

GaVaHokie

March 30th, 2009
2:20 pm

Yeah, there’s no way in hell Slater and Exelby are going anywhere… why would Waddell trade or release two of his earliest draft picks that panned out for him? Especially when they are cheap, want to play here, and are solid role players?

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Exelby with an “A” on his jersey next year.

Nikita

March 30th, 2009
2:53 pm

Let me explain my rationale regarding Slater and Exelby…

Actually, no, I won’t explain Exelby. He is a freakin’ disaster in virtually every combination and is by rights a 7th defenseman even in comparison with inconsistent, green, brand-new AHL call-ups. Because he simply lacks the talent to be effective in the NHL. He has gotten faster and trimmer, but he’s still fundamentally lacking the ability to read the ice and we don’t have any more seasons to waste on trying to teach him. And his work on the PK is, well, seriously. The number of times he fails to kill a penalty is truly outstanding and unacceptable and the team needs to either lose him or get a decent penalty-killing D to supplant him on special teams. I’m sure he will get an A, the media loves his hats, and apparently he’s a hit with the leadies — but he can’t anticipate the play and shouldn’t be in the league. Let him prove me wrong by putting his skills on the market, but I’d prefer that by far to being proven right with the play on our team.

As for Slater, my reasoning is different. I am happy to see him develop somewhat under a coach who actually knows how to develop younger talent. I like his grit and team spirit and eco-friendliness. However, I don’t think his progress is sufficient here, I don’t see him adjusting fully to Anderson’s system, and I don’t see him ever getting a shot at a better line again, especially as the team as a whole gets better. I think his chances at progressing are better on another team. As to the “is he blocking someone?” question, only on the PK. He’s also underperforming there, though of course not to anywhere near the underperforming of Ex, and if he can be released in favor of a grinder who can also more effectively kill penalties, then I think it’s a good trade.

But all of this depends somewhat on the market. I’d love to see Waddell and co. go out this summer, sign at least one D and F, both capable of playing on either special team, and a grinder who can kill penalties. They should also pick up AHL-level D,because we’re light there and we should be able to trade Grant Lewis for a D-man more suited to the system. I advocate shedding Eric Boulton if the staff is there, too.

MB

March 30th, 2009
2:56 pm

I’ve wanted to get rid of Slater for several years, though I have to admit I’m much happier with his play this season. Exelby? While I don’t think I yell out “da*% it, Exelby!” as much as I used to, I’d still rather see Oystrick and Valabik continue their on-ice development while X sits or moves on to other home ice.

Last March, Scott Cullen on tsn.ca used the sites player rankings to determine which players were giving the biggest bang for the buck. Slates was fifth from the bottom in the $700,000s (edging out teammate Steve McCarthy), while Garnet was 11 from the bottom in the $1 million range, right behind the Moose.

It was an interesting set of information, one that I hope he replicates this season.

BlueSpark

March 30th, 2009
3:08 pm

I agree with Brendan et al re: Slater, and GaVaHokie re: turnover. Well, I hope Hokie is right: lockup Kovy long term ASAP, re-sign Reasoner. Let the Salmela, Valabik, and Oystrick fight for the last 2 spots on D. I hope Oystrick stays as he provides some toughness. Boris could use some more development, but shouldn’t be given up on. Salmela fits JA’s system well. It’s a good problem to have.

As for goalie, somebody needs to take the #1 job. I doubt Pavs wants another year in Chicago, but Moose has one more year as backup. Don’t know what to do there.

Kozlov will retire after next year, so a top-six LW will be needed for 2010-11.

UpperDeck4Life

March 30th, 2009
3:12 pm

Ranallo and Brendan, like Jen said, Slater makes over 900K a year, twice the minimum I believe. He is blocking the way of an AHL that can take over his position and help out the PK. Rylan Kaip, is an NHL 4th line center. Here is the thing, he is not a point guy and will never be. He is a checking line center who hits, is very defensively responsible, a great PK specialist, leadership qualities, and high energy kind of guy. He never made it off a checking line in any of his 4 yrs. at North Dakota, but was their captain his senior year. I believe he is a guy who could really help the team as a 4th line center next season. Slater does score more, but I believe that Kaip has more intangibles that will help this team.

Smoothie

March 30th, 2009
3:22 pm

XLB has looked much better of late and I think he’s much more comfortable playing with Oystrick. I think Rawhide said he was a +3 for the month of March. Not bad for a 3rd pairing guy and much better compared to Valabik. Not sure why he is the target of so many derisive comments today, but I think he has proven he is in the process of reinventing himself and expanding his skill-set. He certainly makes better outlet passes than Valabik and his cap hit still seems like better value than Big Boris at $850 K or so. Big Bo was a FIRST ROUND pick! While I don’t think XLB has a future as a Thrasher beyond his current contract, let’s keep in mind he was a 7th or 8th rounder. We need his toughness and anyone who doesn’t think so is delusional.

Smoothie

March 30th, 2009
3:29 pm

Slater makes $800 K per nhlnumbers.com and his cap hit is $775,000. As a RFA, I see no reason why the Thrashers won’t re-sign him as long as another team doesn’t try to poach him for more than $1 M + per year.

GaVaHokie

March 30th, 2009
3:41 pm

Upper Deck… I like Kaip as well, and if he can come in here and take a spot away from Slater in training camp, my hats off to him. Only good could come out of such a circumstance, IMO. Slater does have better hands and speed, and when he’s causing turnovers, he’s dangerous… his big problem with me is the “finishing skills”.

Don’t get me wrong… If anyone can come into training camp for that matter and steal a position away from ANYONE, I’ll be happier for it. I like what’s best for the team more than any individual player.

For the meantime, I’ll have to respectfully disagree on the Slater and Exelby detractors… Exelby is far more fluid of a skater and hitter than Valabik and Oystrick are at this point in time.

Sam

March 30th, 2009
4:01 pm

Exelby and Slater are both important contibutors on this team. If there’s a weak link on defense, people, its the $4.5 mil/yr, -16 Ron Hainsey. Exelby is a reasonable -4. The Thrash are seriously in need of muscle around our crease and along the boards in our end. Exelby provides that and stands guys up on the blue line. OK, sometimes he misses, but if the team’s playing team-defense, somebody will have his back.

Jim Slater has consistently given 110% every season with this team and IMO, is playing some of his best hockey. In 54 games this season his 7G, 10A is only 2 points shy of his season best of 19 points in 74 games as a rookie. The guy brings focus and effectiveness to the energy of Boulton and Thorburn. The 4th line does its best work when its the three of them working together.

And both of these guys are character guys. That can’t be minimized in value. Garnet was honest and openly critical of the team’s lack of effort earlier in the season. And he’s one player that backed up his words with effort. Jim Slater’s work ethic has never been questioned. And as one of the league’s smaller teams, the impressive physical game these 2 players bring is a needed contribution. Both of these guys do good work off the ice, too.

Nikita

March 30th, 2009
4:04 pm

Yes, but Exelby’s also not a rookie. He has been in the NHL for SIX seasons, and his play has not measurably improved — he remains negatively comparable to kids we pull up from Chicago. And as I mentioned, he is hideous on the PK — his performance is dead last among people we still have on the roster. He needs to go.

Nikita

March 30th, 2009
4:10 pm

P.S., from the Falconer’s blog:

At the bottom we find Havelid (gone) and Exelby who was unbelievably bad out there. So far this year Exelby has been out on the ice for 25 PPGA in just 52 games. Think about that for a second–that means Exelby has been on the ice for an opposition PP Goal EVERY OTHER GAME. That’s simply astonishing when you consider that Exelby averages a little over 2 minutes of PK ice time per game. When the X man is on the ice his super power is to make the opposition PP click!

Smoothie

March 30th, 2009
4:21 pm

I don’t think anyone here who supports XLB thinks that he is a top 4 defenseman who should be playing on the PK. Right now, he just has more of JA’s trust than Oystrick & Salmela for the role. Without Boris, who probably IS better suited (although I don’t know if Falconer’s numbers support this) to special teams defense, we don’t really have any other choice right now. IMO, XLB will be # 6 or # 7 on the depth chart next year. If we sign a stud top 2 D-man, then our pairings will likely look like this:

STUD / Bogey
Salmela / Toby
Hainsey / XLB / Oystie

I’m not sold on Valabik yet, but only time will tell. I like what I see from Nathan, but wonder if he is solid enough defensively to stick long-term. He may be the casualty in a numbers game.

And oh BTW, if we do sign a FA D-man, he better have a RIGHT HANDED shot! We have only one out of 7 right now and I think it hurts our forechecking to have so many lefties.

Sam

March 30th, 2009
4:37 pm

Everybody’s got an opinion. *shrug*

Obviously, if X only plays 2 min of PK per game, he’s being used when another D-man has been called for a penalty. Its not his strong suit or his role. Two minutes of PK time really makes for a pretty bogus stat, IMO.

And PK work is not the BIG PICTURE of Exelby’s contribution. The fact that he’s been consistent for 6 NHL seasons is a credit to him, not a detraction. He’s a stay-at-home defenseman who also can surprise with an effective pinch now and then. He’s a clear-the-crease guy…something we don’t have enough of, IMO. He’s a defender of linemates (something else we’ve been in need of), with a shove or a facewash or a fight, when needed. he’s the guy who calls out his teammates when the effort’s not there. Then, he goes out and makes a big hit and puts his “money where his mouth is”.

And as far as comparing D-men…I’m more concerned with Hainsey’s abysmal -16. Why don’t you focus on that??? Oystrick’s only played 49 games this season…that’s almost half a season in healthy scratches…so the coaching staff obviously doesn’t think Oyster is playing better than X. Boris is a PIM machine at 112 and don’t tell me all of those are fights. Boris has been in the sin bin for bad penalties too often, as he learns how to balance the physicality of the game with prudence and wisdom…something he could learn from X.

You certainly don’t have to agree with me. But I think I present a pretty solid argument.

Alan

March 30th, 2009
4:45 pm

People, face it. We have Hainsey for the foreseeable future. Exelby is a guy who can be readily shipped off.

If you’re managing a team, you don’t send away the guy you just locked up for five years at 4.5m/per. Then again, you also probably don’t make that deal to begin with.

Hasinsey is obviously more of the offensive type. He’s a far more seasoned Salmela who can “kinda” play defense. But Hainsey is also starting to learn that he has to be more of a defender. He doesn’t have an exceptional goalie behind him to block his mistakes. He’s on a young team struggling to find an identity, and that won’t happen if he’s skating aimlessly, taking bad penalties (whoops, puck over the glass again?), and getting scored on.

Exelby, on the other hand, has been here a while. He’s had time to discover his role, and to perform his role. He likes to go for the highlight reel hits, but doesn’t seem willing or able to get back into position to stop a scoring chance he probably just opened up by making the big hit to begin with.

Rawhide believes one of the things we need this off-season is a defensive defender. Not just any defensive defender, either, but a number one guy. Where do we put him? We have Enstrom (three more years), Bogosian (no way is he leaving this club), Hainsey (we have him for four more years), Exelby (One year, then UFA), Oystrick (group IV UFA), Salmela (RFA), and Valabik (RFA).

We’re not pulling a NY Islanders with Valabik. The Islanders made the mistake of sending Chara away to the Sens because they thought he wasn’t developing fast enough. Turns out he came into his own there, and Ottawa screwed the pooch by not re-signing him.

Thusly, you must consider the options. It comes down to two men: Exelby and Oystrick. Really, if we’re going to go after a #1 defensive defender for free agency, pick one. I say we keep Oystrick.

Nikita

March 30th, 2009
4:49 pm

*I don’t know if Falconer’s numbers support this.*

FYI, Falconer’s numbers suggest that both Oystrick and Valabik do relatively well on the PK, certainly well enough for the 2nd unit if the first unit is solid. I suspect Bogo, Oystrick and Val do well in that role primarily because it doesn’t heavily rely on their relatively weak skating ability. Their skating abilities should improve with more NHL time.

It also bears noting that Army does poorly on the PK. Which, well, I’m ok with given that he’s solid enough offensively. But ideally I’d like to see him concentrated on an offensive assignment.

And Falconer wants Moose gone — which I can’t disagree with. I think Pavs and Lehts should be duking it out for the primary position unless we can buy a better and clear #1.

GaVaHokie

March 30th, 2009
4:54 pm

Regarding Falconer… Eh… so what. “We play an exciting brand of hockey.” The best scenario is to stop taking so many penalties, which is what you get with Valabik in the line-up. I’d love to see Boris’s numbers on the PK, but he’s usually the guy in the box.

Maybe that’s why Ex is getting so much PK time… Everyone else is an offensive-defensemen, Boris is in the box, and Ex is the only one who knows how to make a clean hit.

Perhaps if Perrin, Slater, Peverley, Reasoner and Stuart weren’t so aggressively trying to create turnovers on the PK, they could be of more help closing angle’s and shutting down passing lanes… Exelby’s job is to keep guys away from the front of the net… he’s also always the guy lying in lanes, sacrificing the body.

Nope… sorry… not letting him take the blame for our PK.

GaVaHokie

March 30th, 2009
5:00 pm

I wonder why we don’t see Armstrong on the PK anymore?… he’s supposed to be the big PK guy from Pittsburgh. That’s why we had to trade Dupuis with Hossa, because the Penguins were losing their best PK guy in Armstrong, so we gave them Dupuis to shore up their PK.

Brendan

March 30th, 2009
5:14 pm

Jen & UD4L, I certainly respect your arguments. If you asked me “From where in the draft should a 4th line Center come?,” my answer would be: “The 3rd or 4th or even 5th round.” Jim Slater is a 1st round pick. As best I can tell, he makes $800,000, with a cap hit less than that. In the “big scheme of things,” that’s not FANTASTICALLY overpaying him. What’s the league minimum these days? $500? What will it be next year? Is it $750,000? Can someone check that?

Can we “confirm” 750,000 as the league minimum for the 2009-10 season? If so, what’s the harm in paying Slater $800,000 to $850,000? I really don’t think Slater is about to take the Thrashers to arbitration, to collect $1.0 million. Slater has to understand his role and performance, and know that he is fortunate to be in the NHL. In the unlikeliest of events, that an RFA offersheet were presented, we may just have to wish Jim Slater the best with his new team, collecting what will probably only be a 3rd round pick.

Another thing to consider is … this team has to spend to the floor of the cap. It shouldn’t have trouble doing that, but Slater and his pittance of a salary won’t be an impediment to that. Now look. I can’t sit here, before you good people, and tell you, “Jimmy Slater is the foundation. He’s essential. He HAS TO BE re-signed.” That’d be a gross misrepresentation of reality. But for what the Thrashers are attempting to do … he’s already in the fold, knows this Coach very well, and … I suspect … is prized by this GM, who DRAFTED him. So, I don’t think he’s leaving.

We can argue, until the cows come home, if Jim Slater really is the BEST 4th line Center that the Thrashers could land in the price range of $500K to $990K. In the end, DWad does what he does. I can’t pretend to understand it. It is what it is.

Nikita

March 30th, 2009
5:18 pm

The potential offseason moves, to me, come down to a simple question: are we the old team in 2009-2010 or are we a new team? Even playing the current roster at our current rate for the entire season wouldn’t allow the team to make the playoffs. Therefore we’ve got to shed some players to make room for the new ones. And the obvious candidates are our underperforming veterans.

Exelby is a poor skater, frequently out of position, not in sync with the Anderson system, and a poor reader of the play. Everyone else is performing better, particularly relative to their size and age. He is therefore a clear candidate for release, to make room for positive change.

ranallo10 (in AT)

March 30th, 2009
5:31 pm

Hokie basically summed up my thoughts on Slater. He’s an effective role player, still young, has enough finish to be effective on a fourth line while providing energy, and he’s not an egotist expecting 1st line minutes (cough Dupuis cough). If someone like Kaip were to come into training camp and prove their readiness to log 10 minutes per game and simply bang bodies and provide energy, that’s better for the club. I’m not “attached” to Slater, nor do I care he was drafted by Waddell, I think he’s a young-enough role player who isn’t a slouch compared to his contemporaries.

Look at NHLNumbers.com, and compare him to other $775k forwards not on their rookie contract…it’s not exactly a compelling list of have-to-have’s, and is populated with 4th line journeymen talent. He’s not breaking the bank, nor is he overpaid compared to his contemporaries.

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Alan

March 31st, 2009
4:15 am

Regarding Falconer… Eh… so what. “We play an exciting brand of hockey.” The best scenario is to stop taking so many penalties, which is what you get with Valabik in the line-up. I’d love to see Boris’s numbers on the PK, but he’s usually the guy in the box.

Wow, I just noticed this comment.

You say “so what” to Falconer’s numbers, then completely disregard his numbers as it pertains to Valabik. And a little ways down, you also disregard them concerning Armstrong.

“So what?” So you should consider reading them instead of disregarding them simply because they don’t tell the version of the story you’d like to hear. :P

ranallo10 (in AT)

March 31st, 2009
4:42 am

We have a new brand of trolling…advertisement trolling.

kracker

March 31st, 2009
7:12 am

That’s not so bad, ranallo…there is a link to an article on Lehtonen stopping 49 vs the Caps. And I saved a nice Carey Price photo for my screensaver picture group.

BlueSpark

March 31st, 2009
7:54 am

@Nikita: Bogosian has “relatively weak skating ability?”

Relative to whom?

@Smoothie: “sign a stud top 2 D-man?”

WTF? Do you seriously think they’ll even attempt that? ASG+DW will not be signing ANY top 2 D or top 6 forwards this off-season, not counting re-signing Kovalchuk (which I do think could happen). They may try to re-sign Oystrick, and they’ll most likely try hold on to Valabik and Salmela. If 1 or more of those guys sign elsewhere, the replacement will NOT be a top 2.

stendec's wife

March 31st, 2009
8:47 am

I have nothing to say.

Nikita

March 31st, 2009
8:53 am

*Relative to whom?*

Relative to what he’ll be in a few years. He’s still on minor league time, and will continue to play at less than full capability until he’s completely adjusted to the pace of the NHL game. So, on our team, relatively weak in comparison to Enstrom. Sometimes he looks like magic. But sometimes he looks like an 18 year-old flailing for position. And I don’t expect to see any of that next year.

In general, I’m expecting to see a lot more settling/maturing out of the D corps. My guess would be, using the existing corps, that the top 6 would be: Bogo/Hainsey, Salmela/Enstrom, Valabik/Oystrick. With Hainsey, Enstrom, Salmela, and Bogo playing on the PP, and Val, Oystie, and Hainsey playing the PK. And of course I hope we pick up a new D over the summer.

Switching gears, who out there has NHL’09? I’m struck by small differences between the actual team and the game team. Specifically, no Oystrick, but Chad Denny. And Eric Boulton is a stud, but the announcer calls him “Bolt-on!”

Jimbo

March 31st, 2009
8:54 am

“Bogosian has weak skating ability.” Nikita, what in the world are you sniffing? The guy is both fast and very shifty. Re;Slater. We’ve all been up and down on him for 5 years. But, he is not big and has not produced to any great degree. The 4th line is supposed to add energy and stop the other team’s momentum. Does our 4th line really do that? I don’t think so. And, both Thorburn and Boulton are middle-weight enforcers (at best). We really need a good sized center who can match up with some of the better centers in the league and slow them down. Someone like a Chris Gratton as the third line center would help. I like Reasoner and definitly want to keep him but While/Peverley/Little/Slater are a group of smurfs. Let’s get a big center and a true heavy-weight enforcer.

GaVaHokie

March 31st, 2009
9:05 am

Alan… I can make numbers say stuff too. Don’t get me wrong, I respect the Falconer.

I don’t see where Falconer’s numbers take into account how many PK appearances each player has made, and what the opposition was. I’m willing to bet Havelid and Enstrom faced Malkin and Crosby a whole hell of a lot more than Bogosian and Valabik.

Obviously, Ex isn’t great on the PK. But I’m not ready to move Exelby just to have a guy who’s good on the PK and worthless the rest of the game.

Look at Enstrom’s numbers since Havelid left… Havelid is a great stay at home defenseman. Who do you think was telling Enstrom to “play it safe” most of the year? Certainly wasn’t Anderson.

Nikita

March 31st, 2009
9:29 am

*Obviously, Ex isn’t great on the PK.*

Actually, Ex isn’t “good” on anything. He’s mediocre at best. But even if he were good in general we’d still need to fix our PK if we want to contend. It’s our most glaring, pervasive problem. And someone will have to go to make that possible.

Given all the other variables, I would think that Oystrick or Exelby or both are the most likely candidates for the block. (It may make sense to sell Hainsey or Val after camp.) But, just comparing those two, Oystrick is slightly younger, probably has some development ahead of him, is a better scorer, is better on the PK, fits the Anderson system, and is pulling more ice time.

Put another way, I think Oystrick is slower than he should optimally be. But he’s a rookie who’s adjusting to the NHL, and he’s still doing better by nearly every measure than Ex. And he is likely to develop into someone who does substantially better than Ex. Six seasons in, Ex isn’t likely to improve enough to be worth retaining.

GaVaHokie

March 31st, 2009
9:39 am

Oystrick would have to get PK1 time for me to make that judgement call… let’s see him and Valabik on the PK1 against Ovechkin and Mike Green next Tuesday… I’m all for it.

Here, I’ll make numbers say something… Thrashers record since Havelid was shipped out of town… 9-4.

My numbers show the Thrashers need less stay at home Defensemen. ;-)