Well Thrasherville, calendar year 2009 is all but a memory now and CY2010 is upon us. When the Thrashers take to the ice in Boston’s TD Garden tonight…the second time during this seven-game road trip…it will be the 80th and last game played by the team in CY2009.
As you may recall, it all began with a thrilling 4-3 shootout win against the Vancouver Canucks on January 2 in front of a raucous and rowdy Friday night crowd in Philips Arena. Unfortunately, that was then followed up two days later by an abysmal 4-1 loss to Tampa Bay.
Since that time, Ilya Kovalchuk was named team captain… we parted ways with the likes of Jason Williams, Nic Havelid, Erik Christensen, Mathieu Schnider…we stole Rich Peverley off the waiver wire from Nashville…played to a winning record in the second half of last season…watched the Penguins hoist the Cup…brought in Rick Dudley to be associate GM…had a very good draft in June, highlighted by the 4th overall selection of Evander Kane…traded Garnet Exelby to Toronto for Pavel Kubina…signed free agents Nik Antropov and Maxim Afinogenov…seen “Kari Down ‘09″ begin early after his back surgery in July, and only recently has he even taken to the ice…survived the flooding rains of late summer…watched the team get off to a tremendous start this past fall…and most recently seen them slump to 0-4-1 in the past five games and 4-9-1 in the month of December going into tonight’s game in Beantown.
It’s been quite a year, eh?
Regardless of the outcome against the Bruins, Atlanta will end the year with a winning record, as they are currently 40-34-5 in the 79 games played so far in CY2009. That would equate to 85 points earned out of a possible 158…a .538 points winning percentage. Even if they lose their fourth straight in regulation tonight, a 40-35-5 record still amounts to a .531 PW%.
Yes, I know, some will say any overtime loss is still a loss and therefore losing tonight amounts to a break-even record of 40 wins and 40 defeats. But in the NHL, points are what matters in the current scheme of things, so if one wins more that 50% of the possible points available…that amounts to a “winning” record. Maybe one of these years the league will move to simplify matters and go with just Ws and Ls.
Anywahooo…the current year’s record, whichever way you slice it, is better than what we were looking at 12 months ago. A 3-1 loss in Carolina last New Years Eve finished off 2008 on a losing note…which wasn’t much different than most games played in that calendar year as they went 27-41-12 in 80 games played during CY2008…a .421 PW%. That year included the crash-and-burn second half of the disastrous 2007-08 campaign as well as the 13-23-5 beginning of last season.
The year prior to that, CY2007… which straddled the back end of the 2006-07 season and first part of the 2007-08 season…saw the Thrashers play to a record of 39-37-5 over 81 games, which is a .512PW%. 2006, the first full calendar year after the lockout, had the Thrashers playing 92 total games. That was a very good year as they went 48-27-17, earning 113 of a possible 184 points, which is a .614 PW%.
As for predictions for 2010…here are a few for ya to chew on over the next couple of days.
First off… and this is really the biggie… I do believe that Ilya Kovalchuk will re-sign with the Thrashers. However, I won’t predict when. Don Waddell did himself no favors last September when he indicated that we wouldn’t be talking about the Kovy contract come Christmas time…so I won’t make the same mistake.
But needless to say, it needs to be soon.
Personally, I think it’ll come down to one night, while sitting with his family over dinner, Nicole Kovalchuk… belly swollen with child and helping the two other little tax exemptions with their meals…is gonna look over the table at her husband and say something like, “Ilya…honey…I love you. And I love our family. And I love our home. And I know the kids love it here, too. Our life is pretty good here and I think we can raise our kids on about 9 or 9 and a half million a year”.
Wiping little Carolina’s mouth she continues, “Now, you do what you think is best, hon. But I just thought you might like to hear that”.
Wives can be pretty persuasive with that calm, reassuring, gentle, loving voice.
Secondly…I will predict that Todd White will indeed score a goal in CY2010. Yes…I’m serious…stop laughing.
Also, just prior to the beginning of the season I predicted that the Thrashers would finish this season with a record of 39-33-10 for 88 points, third in the Southeast Division and tenth in the Eastern Conference. I see no reason to change that forecast.
I think they’ll tease us with some good play…even flirt with a playoff position…but fall short in the end.
I hope I’m wrong… that they’ll earn a half-dozen or so more points to make the post-season dance…but look at the five games to be played in April. Two dates with Washington, two against Pittsburgh and another one versus New Jersey. Not the kind of teams you wanna be facing if you’re on the outside trying to get in going down the stretch.
To earn a spot in this spring’s great hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup, I would suspect that the Thrashers need to be north of 90 points by the end of March. My guess is…they won’t be.
One last prediction…John Anderson will sign a contract extension to remain behind the Thrashers’ bench beyond the 2010-11 season. This is something that general manager Rick Dudley will announce sometime in the fall.