In my previous entry, Sam asked me what my thoughts were regarding the moves made by the Thrashers so far this summer and where the team might wind up in the standings this season. Although I responded with a quick “I think we’ll be better” type of comment, I thought I’d expand on that here.
First off, I do indeed feel it’s way too early to make any concrete projections on any of the teams as of yet. While most of the big signings and trades are more than likely done with, there are still 10 weeks or so before the season begins. So a lot could still happen with this squad and others between now and then. Thus, any pridictions I might make between now and opening night are subject to modification.
With that being said, I do believe that if the team…as it currently stands…was the one that took the ice on October 3 when the Bolts pay us a visit, I do think it’s better than the one from last season.
However, the question here is which team is it better than?
Is it better than the team that limped it’s way to 31 overall points after the first 41 games…the “overall” team that played to 76 points for the entire year…or the one that played to a record of 22-18-1 for 45 points in the last 41 games of the season?
Let’s start with the first one…the 31 points mess of last fall. That team was beset by injuries to Zach Bogosian and Kari Lehtonen for much of that period. It was also carrying around some dead weight…cough Jason Williams cough…who didn’t really cotton much to John Anderson’s way of playing. There were also those…cough Erik Christensen cough…who appearently could not produce as desired because of the ownership issue here.
31 points halfway through a season projects to 62 points overall. So, yeah…I think they are better than that.
How about the 76 points they finished with? Yup, I think this team…right now…should finish better than 76 points.
So…that leads us to the team we enjoyed watching so much between January through April. 45 points over 41 games projects to 90 points overall…and that is the team I wish to compare against for this little exercise.
Now, some will argue that it’s hard to use that as a benchmark from which to discuss an entire season. They were playing without the pressure of a playoff push…maybe other teams were taking them lightly…blah, blah, blah. But the facts are that the “second half” team last year was going up against a lot of squads that were fighting for playoff spots and the Thrashers didn’t do too poorly. I could understand that argument if we were talking about 10 games here or 15 games there…but we are talking half a season here folks. That just can’t be taken lightly.
Plus…if no other modifications are made to this roster… the team that suited up for those 41 games is pretty much the same that’ll do so this fall with two major exceptions. Kubina will play in Garnet Exelby’s roster spot and Nik Antropov will do so in Eric Perrin’s.
If you ask me, those are upgrades. (Sorry Gretchelby…just callin’ it like I see it).
Now, there are some wild cards in the mix here, of course. Like …how will Bryan Little do in his second full season as a Thrasher? Will Evander Kane make the roster…if so, on which line…and how will he perform in his rookie season? Can Kari Lehtonen stay healthy enough to start 68 games this year like he did in the playoff season of 2006-07?
One “intangible” item that will come into play this fall is that of familiarity. John Anderson will not a be a rookie NHL coach this season and, as stated above, with the exception of Antropov and Kubina, the rest of the starting lineup should closely resemble that of the one that finished off last spring. So, there isn’t going to be the “getting used to a new system” excuse or “players are learning how to play with each other” line.
Therefore…given all that…at this time I would say that the 2009-10 Thrashers should finish closer to 90 points than 76 points. The big question in 2 months will be… will that be “closer” below 90 points or “closer” above 90 points.