Monday night’s butt kicking aside…the Thrashers are in the midst of a pretty good season. Their 15-9-3 record gives them 33 points, which is good enough for the sixth position in the Eastern conference heading into Tuesday’s NHL action.
That, boys and girls, is known as a “playoff spot”.
The offense overall is playing as well as we’d hoped…although they’ve hit a soft patch in the last couple of weeks…the goalkeeping has been better than hoped and the penalty kill has been outstanding. However, there are some areas of concern.
From my point of view, those areas of concern carry the names of Todd White, Bryan Little, Colby Armstrong, Christoph Schubert and Mark Popovic…some would even suggest Ron Hainsey as well. And I think it’s time one or two of them was shown the way to the buffet counter in the press box for a while.
After 27 games played, White has accrued a grand total of 3 goals and 9 assists. He also carries with him the distinction of having the team’s lowest plus\minus rating…a very un-good –9. The closest to him is the –4 that belong to Pops, Slava Kozlov and Jim Slater.
At this time last season, Whitey had 7 goals and 14 assists.
Todd last scored a goal way back on October 29 during the 4-3 loss to the Washington Capitals. To be fair, however, all 9 of his assists have come during and since that game. But White’s current rate of scoring has him on pace for 9 goals and 27 assists…a stat that, if realized, would be one point less than his forgettable first year with the Thrashers two seasons ago.
Coming off his career year last season of 22 goals and 51 assists, many of us thought he would certainly see somewhat of a production reduction. After all, there is a reason they call it a “career” year…but to be this much off? Yikes!
Honestly, I don’t think many thought we would see the return of the 2007-08 Todd White.
Offensive stats aside, White has not played well in the defensive side of the ice either…again playing the soft style of game that has earned him the nickname Charmin by some in these parts.
But White certainly isn’t alone in having a down year so far as the man playing off to his right on most nights isn’t exactly lighting it up either. Bryan Little had a remarkable breakout season in 2008-09, netting 31 goals and 51 overall points…but so far this season he has the exact same 3 goals and 9 assists White has…although Bryan is a +1 for the year.
Who most deserves a seat in the press box?
Total Voters: 114
Little’s first two goals came way of a deflection off his skate…thank you Rich Peverley…and a nicking of his stick by the puck on it’s way into the goal via a blast from Toby Enstrom. Since that time, however, he went twelve games without a goal…finally hitting twine during Monday’s 5-2 loss in Toronto. In the last month of play, Little has that one goal, 3 assists and is a –4. Two of those helpers came during the 6-4 comeback win in Carolina.
Tell me the truth now… if someone would have told you two months ago that the Thrashers would have a winning record at this time, holding a playoff spot even…while at the same time Little and White had a combined 6 goals and 18 assists between them… wouldn’t you have looked at them like they were from Mars?
I would have.
Then there is Colby Armstrong…he of 3 goals and 7 overall points in 26 games played. Not even playing alongside of Rich Peverley, (10 goals, 16 assists & +4) and rookie sensation Evander Kane, (8 goals, 5 assists and +6) has seemed to rub off on him yet. In his last eleven games played, Army has all of one entire point and is a –6.
Colby’s 28 penalty minutes are the most of any Thrasher not named Eric Boulton and Christoph Schubert…although 20 of those came during the Philly game a couple weeks back.
His overall stats give me reason to include him as a candidate to sit…but the toughness he brings to the game would give me pause to put him in the box over someone like a Todd White.
On defense…well, who you gonna single out on a blueline corps that surrenders an average of 34.5 shots on goal per game. And the fact of the matter is that that stat reflects an overall “team” defense…including forwards and the ability/inability to back check and move the puck out of the zone.
Regardless…with Boris Valabik back in the mix, it isn’t too much of a stretch to think that somebody who has seen some minutes will be hanging out in the press box some time soon.
Could that person be Christoph Schubert…who has played in 25 games and is a –3 with a goals and three points. Maybe, but I don’t think he’s played poorly and I really like that 6’-3” 230 pound mass out there for us.
Mark Popovic, while not playing terribly overall, has done little to impress me of late. He’s a –4 in 17 games played and has helped out on the attacking side with a pair of goals and an assist. He was a –3 in Toronto…has been a –5 in his last six games played and a –7 in his last 13 games dating back to October 22nd’s 5-4 loss to the Caps.
As indicated above, some would insist that Hainsey should lose some ice time. He’s played in 25 games thus far and is a -2, contributing 2 goals and 4 assists. Most recently he is EVEN in the last seven games played with no points…-5 with a goal and 4 assists in the 12 games before that.
Ron Hainsey isn’t going to blind anyone with flashes of brilliance, mind you…but I don’t think he’s the one to be sitting right now. If given a choice between the three defensemen…I’d sit Pops and give Boris a chance to see if he’s mastered the backward skating skills needed to play at this level.
However…considering all the options I’ve provided to sit either Todd White, Bryan Little, Colby Armstrong, Mark Popovic, Ron Hainsey or Christoph Schubert…I would opt for a “White out” scenario in Philips.
With that…I’d place Slater into the fourth line center position and move Reasoner to the second line between Kozlov and Little. I could see an argument made to place him between Kane and Armstrong, moving Peverley up to the second line…but I just like the chemistry that’s developing between Evander and the Pevs Dispenser.
Maybe Kane and Peverley could move up with Little…leaving Kozzy and Reasoner to line up with Army? That third line might not score much, but it might not get scored on too often either and maybe Little would benefit from the wheels attached to Kane and Peverley.