This past weekend I, along with a handful of other Atlanta Thrashers bloggers, received an e-mail from Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski requesting a quote…one or two lines… that he could use in an upcoming story he’s doing. He was looking for a couple comments regarding what we’d be looking for from the Thrashers this coming season.
Here is my reply to his inquiry:
“I look for the Thrasher to avoid the type of slow start that plagued them the past two seasons. With so many returning cast members from the team that played so well last spring, I think they’ll avoid the “getting to know you” phase this fall”.
Now, as I said, Greg asked for just one or two lines only from us to help with his piece…but I thought I’d expound on my comment here.
As you’ll recall, the Thrashers finished off last season on a rather high note. They played to a winning record in the second half of the season and made life hard on a couple of teams that were in the thick of playoff battles down the stretch. During that time, residents of Thrasherville were treated to some of the best hockey they’ve seen in many, many moons.
What makes all that even more exciting, in my viewpoint, is that there are so many of that squad that will be returning once the team reassembles for training camp, preseason and, in just 33 more days, the drop of the puck on yet another NHL season. For the Thrashers, it will be their tenth such campaign.
Given the current roster, here is what I have oft opined as my possible opening-day lineup:
Kovy – Peverley – Antropov
Kozlov – White – Little
Kane/Stewart/Crabb – Reasoner – Armstrong
Boulton – Slater – Thorburn
Hainsey – Kubina
Enstrom – Bogosian
Valabik – Oystrick/Salmela
Of those 23 players listed that could make up the possible 20-man lineup on October 3, nineteen of them were with Atlanta last spring…seventeen were with the team on opening night. Peverley arrived in January, Salmela at the trade deadline, Kane drafted in June while Antropov, Kubina and Stewart were acquired since July 1.
Thus, I just don’t think it is too far of a stretch to believe that last spring’s play can…and will…translate to a better start of a season than what we’ve witness in these parts over the past two years. Such familiarity among the players can only be helpful in bringing about a certain measure of success.
This time last year there were still some big question marks hanging over the heads of some of the new-comers to the team. Armstrong and Christensen, brought over from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline in March of the previous season, were beginning their first full season with the squad.
Armstrong worked out just fine…Christensen, not so much.
Centerman Marty Reasoner was a big success…Jason Williams was reluctant to buy into John Anderson’s style of play, was a major disappointment and, come January, was gone.
Rookie Zach Bogosian lived up to his billing as the third overall draft pick in the summer of 2008…Mathieu Schneider, acquired via trade from Anaheim, just didn’t work out.
The more question marks there are going into a season…the greater the likelihood that they’ll be problems. Right now, the biggest questions that I see regarding the players is…1). How successful will the addition of Antropov to Kovy’s line be?…2). Can Kubina help turn the Thrashers Swiss cheese defense into something a little more respectable?…3). Will Evander Kane play his way into the lineup…not just for a couple games but I mean for the duration of the season?
Those issues are a far cry better than the ones that hung over the team a year ago.
Also, Thrashers players will begin play in what will be coach Anderson’s second year behind Atlanta’s bench. These guys understand what their roles in his system and, most importantly, buy into it and seem to very comfortable with the parts they play in it. There won’t be a learning curve during October and November.
To that point, Todd White recently stated in an interview with Chris Vivlamore, “The biggest problem at the beginning of last year is I didn’t think we had 20 guys that wanted to [commit to the system]. On any given night we had guys reverting back to the way the team used to play, as opposed to the end of the year, when we were all committed to doing what we were supposed to do. The best teams play a system and stick to it. All five guys on the ice are committed to it. That’s how you have success in this league.”
So, there will be a fair amount of familiarity in the Thrashers’ lineup and behind the bench. Familiarity that should…knocking wood… help to breed success.