Time again to consult with Magic-8 Ball for Thrashers season predictions

It’s that time again folks. Another summer has come and gone, taking with it the NHL offseason months. And now, finally, we are on the doorstep of another NHL campaign. As such, it’s time once again to weigh in with the official Rawhide’s Thrashers Fan Blog predictions for the 2010-11 season.

As was the case last year, I had hoped to be able to gaze into a crystal ball to see if I could properly prognosticate what the coming months will hold for the residents of Thrasherville. But just like last time, my procurement request was flatly denied by the AJC.

Tightwads.

But let your hearts not be troubled…they are once again allowing me to use the old Magic-8 Ball that has sat in the back of a storage closet since the late 1970s. I think it use to belong to Furman Bisher who then gave it to Jeff Schultz. Shultzie’s then used it to help him predict the outcome of Falcons, Georgia Tech and Georgia Bulldog football games.

Anyway, I’ll first review the Thrashers as they stand going into the season…then I make known my predictions for what lies ahead for Thrasherville’s ice combatants.

Since I believe the best way to build a hockey team is from the pipes out, I’ll begin in the goal then move forward.

GOALTENDING

One thing we don’t have to worry about anymore is when we might expect “Kari-Down ‘10” to begin this year. The good people in Dallas can deal with that now. In his place is Chris Mason, who started 61 games last year in St. Louis and compiled a record of 30-22-8 with a 2.53 GAA, .913 SV% and 2 shutouts. Those numbers represent an “average” season for him as his career stats are 115-86-1-26 with a 2.54 GAA and .914 SV%.

In games in which he has faced 33 or more shots, Mason has compiled a very impressive record of 38-16-9 with a .250 GAA and .931 SV%. That is a very important stat to consider given the history of defensive ineptitude that we’ve suffered though over the years.

Chris Mason was 30-22-8 with a 2.53 GAA, .913 SV% with 2 shutouts while with St. Louis last season (AP)

Chris Mason was 30-22-8 with a 2.53 GAA, .913 SV% with 2 shutouts while with St. Louis last season (AP)

Ondrej Pavelec will assume backup duties behind Mason. The 23-year old Czech has been, shall we say, inconsistent in the past three years with Atlanta. In 2007-08 and 2008-09 he was called upon after Lehtonen went down and started just 16 games in those two seasons. Last year he was given the starter role when “Kari-Down ‘09” began long before the season started. He performed well for a while, only to fall off shortly after Thanksgiving.

Overall, Opie has been less-than-inspiring while playing to a 20-28-7 record with a 3.33 GAA and .902 SV%. He has a pair of shutouts to his credit.

But this time around will be different as he goes into the fall knowing he’ll backup the dependable Mason and can grow into the role of starter over the course of the next couple of years. That, plus having a goalie coach…er, uh, excuse me…having a goalie “consultant” around might just help out a bit as well.

Speaking of consultants, let’s now consult the Magic-8 Ball.

Will Chris Mason provide steady, reliable goaltending for the Thrashers this season?

…shaking, shaking, shaking…

“You May Rely On It”

Will Ondrej Pavelec’s play be less erratic and more consistent as he backs up Mason?

…shaking, shaking, shaking…

“As I See It, Yes”

DEFENSE

A-T-L-A-N-T-A T-H-R-A-S-H-E-R-S.

Do you see any “D” there? …No? Well, that’s not a coincidence as there hasn’t been much “D” involved with this organization over the first decade of its existence.

Last year the Thrashers allowed an average of 33.1 shots a game to their opponents, only Anaheim and Florida surrendered more. The year before that it was 32.7 SA/G, the year prior to that it was a league-worst 33.9…you get the picture.

As I’ve been one to say, Atlanta goalkeepers take more rubber to the face than a possum on GA-20.

But this summer Rick Dudley has set out to change that. He’s brought in not only a new head coach in Craig Ramsay, but also an entirely new coaching staff. Their first job is to teach the players on the roster to play solid, responsible, respectable hockey in the defensive zone. You know…everything the Thrashers have not been for too long.

Toby Enstrom, Ron Hainsey and Zach Bogosian remain from the start of last season, and Johnny Oduya returns after being traded for last winter. But joining them will be Brent Sopel and Dustin Byfuglien fresh off their successful Stanley Cup run of last spring. Freddy Meyer or Boris Valabik will round out the seven-man defensive unit, but given their playing time in preseason…I would think Meyer gets the nod there.

Toby Enstrom will begin his fourth season as a Thrasher. He's played in all 82 games each year prior (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)

Toby Enstrom will begin his fourth season as a Thrasher. He's played in all 82 games each year prior (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)

Byfuglien’s transition back to defense has been much discussed and debated for the last several weeks. But he seems at home there and I have to say I’m far less concerned about it now after seeing him play during preseason. His presence there should help to make this blueline better.

Overall team defense is what new head coach Craig Ramsay will be looking to instill in these Thrashers, however, and that means getting the forwards to play their parts on our end of the ice. This too is something Thrashervillians are unfamiliar seeing in these parts of late.

Last year the Thrashers’ penalty kill unit played well for the bulk of the season, though it struggled somewhat down the stretch…finishing with an 82.2% PK efficiency, (16th in the NHL). Gone is Marty Reasoner who Atlanta relied heavily upon here, but Chris Thorburn, Rich Peverley and Evander Kane should play key roles along with the defensive penalty killers.

And given that goal scoring may be more of a premium than in years past for this team, killing off penalties at a better clip will need to happen.

Returning to the whole SA/G bug-a-boo that has plagued Thrasherville… one positive that can be taken from the 0-5-1 preseason is that the Thrashers held the opposition to fewer than 30 SA/G in five of the six games. The lone exception being the 2-1 OT loss in Carolina in which the Canes took 29 shots in regulation and 1 in 1:06 worth of overtime.

If this can continue into the regular season the Thrashers could find themselves playing beyond 82 games.

Let’s again go to the Magic-8 Ball, shall we.

Will this year’s Thrashers defense be better than the past several years?

…shaking, shaking, shaking…

“Signs Point To Yes”

Can they improve on the 82.2% penalty kill efficiency from last year?

…shaking, shaking, shaking…

“Outlook Good”

Can this defense hold opponents to under 30 SA/G for the season?

…shaking, shaking, shaking…

“Cannot Predict Now”

I think the Magic-8 Ball would like to give a better answer to that last question, but given the team’s history I’m sure it wants to see it before it believes it.

OFFENSE

For the first time since 2001, the Thrashers go into a new season without the ability to pencil-in the 45-50 goals that come with having an Ilya Kovalchuk on in their lineup. Gone also is the concept of designing the entire game plan around that one player. In its place is a team that will rely on several 20-something and 30-something goal scorers.

Included in that number are returning players such as Nik Antropov, (24 g, 43 a last season)…Rich Peverley, (22 g, 33 a last season)…Bryan Little, (13 g, 21 a last season & 31 g, 20 assists two years ago)…Jim Slater, (11 g, 7 assists in 61 games last year)…Evander Kane, (14 g, 12 a in his rookie season)…and Nik Bergfors, (21 g, 23 assists in his rookie year between NJ and ATL).

Joining them will be former Blackhawk Andrew Ladd, who netted 21 goals and 38 assists last season as well as 3 goals and 3 assists in the playoffs. Then there’s Nigel Dawes, who accounted for 14 goals and 18 assists last year for the Calgary Flames.

Andrew Ladd is fresh off a Stanley Cup championship in Chicago, the second of his career (AP Photo/Frederick Breedon)

Andrew Ladd is fresh off a Stanley Cup championship in Chicago, the second of his career (AP Photo/Frederick Breedon)

Also in the mix is Freddy Modin, who will provide veteran leadership… Ben Eager, who’ll provide some pop on the lower lines… and first round draft pick Alex Burmistrov, who was just signed to a 3-year entry level deal.

Last season the Thrashers offense scored goals at a 2.80 per game clip. The season before that it was an impressive 3.05 G/G. This year, to be quite honest, we may be looking at an offensive production that nets something closer to 2.65 – 2.70 G/G in my estimation.

What could improve that outlook? Well, the power play could have a better showing than last year’s 16.1% efficiency, (25th in the NHL). That’s not an impossible scenario, though, given that opposing defenses will no longer be afforded the luxury of just waiting for the Thrashers to predictably circle the puck over for him to one-time it at the goal.

Another place the offensive could look for help is the blueline. Last year Thrashers defensemen chipped in with 32 goals. Zach Bogosian led the way with 10, but it isn’t a stretch to think he’s capable of 15-20. Having Byfuglien joining the rush from the back could also reap benefits. If he could muster 10 or 12 from the blueline, that would be nothing but a bonus for this team. Last year he netted 17 while playing up front for the Blackhawks.

Again, to the Magic-8 Ball…

Will this team be able to at least match last season’s 2.80 G/G production?

…shaking, shaking, shaking…

“Don’t Count On It”

What about the power play, will it be better than 16.1% form last year?

…shaking, shaking, shaking…

“Most Likely”

SEASON OUTLOOK & PREDICTIONS

The contrast between this year’s edition of the Atlanta Thrashers and previous ones could not be more distinct. Whereas we are used to going into a season confident the goal production would be there but worried about a porous defense…many now look at this defense as much improved but now wonder where will the goals come from.

What does your Magic-8 Ball say about the Thrashers playoff chances this year?

  • Don't Count On It: Under 76 points (4%, 8 Votes)
  • My Sources Say No: 76-81 points (13%, 23 Votes)
  • Very Doubtful: 82-88 points (38%, 69 Votes)
  • Most Likely: 89-94 points (39%, 71 Votes)
  • Yes, Definitely: Over 94 points (6%, 10 Votes)

Total Voters: 181

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As such, this Thrashers team is going to have to find a way to win 2-1, 3-2 type of games if it’s to make it to the playoff promise land. Last season they led the league with 28 one-goal losses…a stat that will have to be reversed.

Mason will be solid in goal I trust, and Pavelec will improve his play with the pressure removed to be the go-to guy between the pipes.

And finally, I think the new coaching staff will provide a measure of leadership and guidance that will prepare the players better than what was the case over the last few years. This will make a difference, I believe, in those tight, low-scoring games.

All that being said, I peg this team for 88 points…say 38-32-12. They’ll be in a dogfight with Tampa Bay and Carolina for second place in the Southeast Division, I believe. But I’ll put on my blue-tinted glasses and pick the home team to win the title of “Best Team in the Southeast Division Not Named Washington Capitals”.

I think they struggle somewhat at the beginning, but under the tutelage of Ramsay, Torchetti and Stothers, they get their act together quicker than some may think and make a hard run at postseason.

88 points was enough to qualify for the Great Hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup last spring, but normally that total leaves you on the outside looking in. The big question is then…will it be enough this season to earn the Thrashers only their second-ever playoff birth?

Again, I turn to the Magic-8 Ball.

Will the Thrashers make the playoffs this season?

…shaking, shaking, shaking…

“Concentrate And Ask Again”

…shaking, shaking, shaking…

“Reply Hazy, Try Again”

…shaking, shaking, shaking…

“Ask Again Later”

…shaking, shaking, shaking…

“Cannot Predict Now”

…sigh…

How the heck did Schultz get anything from this gadget?

229 comments Add your comment

Smitty

October 7th, 2010
2:29 pm

I will go with 94 points, 2nd in division and 7th in conference. The first hat trick will be had by Andropov against the Blue Jackets on 11/4

Rodney Dangerfield

October 7th, 2010
2:30 pm

I’ll say it. Truman was too big a pu$$y to let McArthur drop the bomb on the North Koreans.

Puckhead

October 7th, 2010
3:10 pm

I take Pavs and the under only 2 get by him.

Spud Webb

October 7th, 2010
3:11 pm

Going to bed now…tomorrow will get here sooner.

SaM Kinison

October 7th, 2010
3:26 pm

Well, Thank You Mr. Helper.

SaM Kinison

October 7th, 2010
3:29 pm

You remember that thing we had about 30 years ago called the Korean conflict? And how we failed to achieve victory? How come we didn’t cross the 38th parallel and push those rice-eaters back to the Great Wall of China?

Thrashers27

October 7th, 2010
3:31 pm

“THERE’S A SALE AT PENNY’S!!!”

BG33Brown

October 7th, 2010
3:55 pm

As of now, I’m very pesimistic about this season. But if I look at the team, I think we have the parts to be successful-they r just in the wrong places.

I’m hopeful that Rammer will figure this out sooner than later.

Prediction; 94 pts, 2nd divsion, and 7th in the conference.

Red Light

October 7th, 2010
4:51 pm

Smitty: I added your choice to the Hat Trick contest.

Alan R.

October 7th, 2010
5:02 pm

Hat trick contest? I’ll bite.

E. Kane. 23 December 2010 in Boston.

Red Light

October 7th, 2010
6:03 pm

You’re in too Alan R.

Red Light

October 7th, 2010
6:09 pm

So as not to screw up General Rawhide’s speech tomorrow morning, here is the list of (25) Thrashers hat trick predictions for the 2010-11 season and beyond. If I missed you, please let me know.

Hat trick by Thrashers predictions

Cornbread
Kane Washington 10/8/10

Kracker
Bergfors Tampa Bay 10/09/10

Putting On The Foil
Bergfors Buffalo 10/20/10

hip czech
Little Tampa Bay 10/22/10

Derrick
Kane Tampa Bay 10/22/10

Brendan
Thorburn NY Rangers 10/27/10

Rawhide
Kane Columbus 11/4/10

Smitty
Antropov Columbus 11/4/10

FormerIslesFan
Kane Chicago 11/6/10

Tony C
Peverley Ottawa 11/9/10

Rob
Bogosian Ottawa 11/09/10

five hole
Bergfors, Minnesota 11/11/10

Joe Friday
Ladd Florida 11/17/10

Spud Webb
Little Florida 11/17/10

Diego from Lilburn
Kane Florida 11/17/10

Rhythmpenguin
Antropov Florida 11/17/10

JB
Dawes NY Islanders 11/21/10

Hooky Bob
Bergfors NY Islanders 11/21/10

Badger Bob
Antropov Toronto 12/20/10

Alan R.
Kane Boston 12/23/10

Zoomo
Antropov Dallas 1/5/11

Red Light
Little Edmonton 2/19/11 *In his hometown!

Dwayne
None this year

R Stroztradmus
None this season

J(Z)
Burmistrov New Jersey 2013

Red Light

October 7th, 2010
6:10 pm

Because I like bold!

Brendan

October 7th, 2010
6:43 pm

Alan R., I’ve already posted your guess twice. It’s not “the comprehensive list,” of ALL guesses, just the most recent guesses being recognized as recorded. Once I post your guess, it’s in. Have you made a revised guess, that I missed? If so, post your revised guess, again, so that I may update your original. With that in mind, here are some more “recent” guesses, “newly added” to the contest.

Tablehockey: 88points, 3rd, and 11th

Adam: “Under” on Modin Watch

Thrashdawg: 87-pts, 3rd, and 9th

Denny: 90-points, 2nd, and 7th

FIF: “over” on Modin Watch

Sisu: Over on “Modin Watch.”

Rawhide: 8th in the Conference, to complete your entry.

Smitty: 94-pts, 2nd, and 7th

BG33Brown: 94-pts, 2nd, and 7th

Good luck to the contestants.

Red Light

October 7th, 2010
6:46 pm

Brendan: Drop the Thrashers to 4th in the division for me.

kracker

October 7th, 2010
8:24 pm

Good luck to all participants in all the contests. Except for a couple of guessers at the end of Red Light’s hat trick contest that said “none”.

Brendan

October 7th, 2010
8:50 pm

Red Light, I have revised your guess from 80 pts, 3rd, and 11th, to 80-pts, 4th, and 11th. You also have “under” in the Modin Watch.

Brendan

October 7th, 2010
8:59 pm

There have been 81 guesses, thus far, in the contest. However, these Regulars are still missing, with less than 24 hours to go, for a point totals pick:

Andrew
Buzilla in CT
Christy
Darren
FrostyTheSnowMan
Get The Puck Out
h
JLH
matt
Mehoff
mike
mutton
NASCARDave
Nathan
Ranallo10 in AT
R.Stroz
Sage of Bluesland
Sara
Scotty
Sharon
Stendec
Thrasher Jim
Thrashdawg74
Toby
Tony C.
Yung JB from MTL
12345

Brendan

October 7th, 2010
9:04 pm

Red Light, are you going to do an East and West Conference rank? I put mine up, with a wing-n-prayer. I flipped a coin between Nashville and Minnesota for the 8th and final playoff spot, in the West.

Rawhide

October 7th, 2010
9:09 pm

Clark MacArthur is off to a good start for the season. He just scored a goal for Toronto in the early moments of the 3rd period to put Leafs up 3-1.

rob

October 7th, 2010
10:28 pm

Did it go in off his head? Maybe knock some sense into him….bum.
No one else wants to go out on a limb for the hat trick guess with a Dman? I can see Bogo or maybe even Buff with a PP, even, and empty netter for the hat trick…..

Brendan

October 7th, 2010
10:55 pm

What?, I’m not out far enough out on a limb with my pick of Chris Thorburn, Rob?

So, in the post-Halak era, Montreal has ALREADY LOST to the projected 15th-place club in the East, their arch rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Sure, fine. What’s one measely game? Answer: Nothing. Let’s talk after 20, and see if Montreal is even in Top 10 in the Eastern Conference.

Brendan

October 7th, 2010
11:31 pm

So, everyone enjoying their FREE Center Ice preview, on Comcast? I’ve actually been flipping between Versus, with the Blackhawks vs. the Avalanche, and the Oilers vs. the Flames. 1-0, Edmonton, after two periods. Carolina won, over in Europe, over Minnesota. Pre-game in Toronto TOOK FOREVER vs. Montreal tonight.

Hockey Biltong

October 7th, 2010
11:38 pm

Hat Trick -Dawes – TB Dolts , this saturday.

Dwayne

October 8th, 2010
6:01 am

…If the Great Stroztradamus predicts no hat trick….I’m just saying….

Spud Webb

October 8th, 2010
8:47 am

Wow, I see RedLight isn’t very optomistic, 80 points??? Come on!!!! Tell you what, I’ll bet you a steak dinner they get more than 80 Redlight, what do you say????????

Tony C

October 8th, 2010
2:27 pm

OK-point prediction…

Put me in for 92 pts, 3rd in SE 8th in EC.

R. Stroz

October 10th, 2010
9:24 pm

Rawhide

October 11th, 2010
4:00 pm

R. Stroz – Nope.