Since the preseason began last week I have stated many times here that I was not concerned at all that the Thrashers have failed to produce wins. These games don’t count in the standings, give players a chance to work out the offseason kinks and exist to provide the coaching staff a chance to look at players during pseudo-game like conditions. They then take that information to help them evaluate who should be on the final roster and which players should be paired up with each other.
Whether a team goes 0-4 or 4-0 matters little after this weekend when each team sets their meters back to 0-0-0 to start the regular season.
However, all that being said, I will admit that these last two games of the exhibition season will carry just a little more weight with me than the previous ones. True, they count just as much as the other four…zero…but I’ve always thought the last couple preseason games mean a little more than the first few.
My reasons are simple. Last week we saw many players on the ice that we know would not be around Thrasherville past last weekend. They were getting their time in during training camp but once Craig Ramsay and his coaching staff were satisfied with what they saw, off they went to the AHL Chicago Wolves or elsewhere.
But now, the team that’ll be iced this afternoon in Carolina and tomorrow evening in Columbus will resemble more of a regular season lineup than before. The roster has been paired down to the point where only a few players are competing for a couple of open spots. That, plus those remaining have played with each other before and certain amount of “gelling” should have taken place. As such, they need to find a way to work out a W or two as they set their sights on the opening of the 2010-11 NHL campaign.
Don’t get me wrong, no one is going to have to pull me back off a ledge if they don’t win at least one of the two games, but it sure would be nice to see this group show they can grind out a victory…preseason or not.
So what have we learned so far after two weeks of training camp and four make believe games? Well for one, it sure looks like Freddy “The Fly” Pettersson will be in Atlanta this time next week when the Thrashers open up against the Washington Capitals. And given what Ramsay had to say about last June’s first round draft pick, it seems like Alex Burmistrov could be as well. Even if it’s just for a few games until Jim Slater’s mystery wrist ailment heals.
Anthony Steward and Nigel Dawes have each performed well so far. They’ll be making their last push to make the final cut.
Of all the Chicago boys that came this way last summer, the one who has impressed me most in Ben Eager. He’s netted a pair of goals and is just plain nasty in front of the opponent’s net. Love having this guy on the team.
Personally, I’m not as concerned about Dustin Byfuglien playing defense as I was a few weeks back. He’s looked good on the blueline thus far and brings a brand of toughness that has been lacking in our defensive corps for some time now. Correct me if I’m wrong, but has a goal been scored on the Thrashers when he’s been on the ice? I don’t think so.
Ron Hainsey has looked in mid-season form…unfortunately its mid-PREseason form.
Boris Valabik hasn’t played in a game since the exhibition season opener, and that’s just fine with me. Honestly, there is too much talent on the blueline now…especially given the way Freddy Meyer has performed…for him to be on the ice opening night.
Speaking of the defense, I think it’s safe to assume it should be better than what we’ve witnessed here in many, many moons. The 30 shots on goal that were allowed last Wednesday were the most of the preseason. In the recent past, we’ve greeted 30 SA/G almost as a blessing.
That, plus there is a certain level of comfort that comes with having Chris Mason between the pipes. If he just has a “normal” Mason-type season and the defense allows 30 shots per game or less, I don’t think the playoffs are out of the question.
As for Ondrej Pavelec…well, he’s still Ondrej Pavelec. You could get a great game from him or you might get a very in-good one. Ya just don’t know. But I’m hoping that another year in the NHL without the pressure of being forced into the number-one role will do him a world of good. That plus having a goalie coach…er, uh, goalie consultant, I mean.
But then there’s the goal production worries about this team. This is what has most Thrashers fans feeling a little queasy at times. They’ll no longer have a 50+ goal scorer to rely upon to get them through. Instead this team will look to a number of players to consistently put the put in the net.
Dependable goaltending, respectable defensive play and a “cross your fingers” offense…all are certainly a different concept that what we’re used to here.
Regardless, these next couple of days is all that’s left to work out whatever needs to be worked out to prepare for next Friday. And while they will count just as much, or little, when preseason is over…it’s be nice to see if they can iron out the “how to win a game” kink before they do start counting.