Is this the best Thrashers team ever?

Opening disclaimer: With the Atlanta Thrashers only having played 31 of the scheduled 82 games, there is still a lot of hockey season yet to go. With that in mind, no team…the Thrashers or any of the other 29 NHL teams…have punched their tickets to the playoffs this coming spring. Nothing said or implied in today’s blog by the blog host or commenters below should be taken as anything but a reflection of the first two and a half months of the season and the possibilities of what may or may not be yet to come. Any and all projections are to be considered with the understanding that past performance does not always guarantee future results.

OK, with that said and out of the way…

For several years now I have opined that the best team ever iced by the Atlanta Thrashers organ-I-zation has been the one that played in the 2005-06 season…the first one coming out of the lockout. Many point to the one that performed well enough to make the playoffs the next year, but I still believe the one before that was a better unit as a whole.

Secondary disclaimer: Of course, discussing which of the previous ten Thrashers teams was the “best” is much like discussing what was David Caruso’s “best” ever movie performance. There’s just not a lot to choose from there. But I digress.

The Thrashers celebrate Dustin Byfuglien's second period goal in Ottawa Monday night. The defenseman currently is on track to score 85 overall points if he contues on his current pace (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Pawel Dwulit)

The Thrashers celebrate Dustin Byfuglien's second period goal in Ottawa Monday night. The defenseman currently is on track to score 85 overall points if he contues on his current pace (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Pawel Dwulit)

Coming out of the work stoppage that season, Atlanta had on its rosters players like, Ilya Kovalchuk, Marc Savard, Marian Hossa, Scott Mellanby, Bobby Holik, Slava Kozlov, Greg DeVries, Peter Bondra, Nic Havelid, Shane Hnidy and Jaroslav Modry. That squad, as you’ll recall, suffered through an ugly start of the season due to plethora of goalie issues but still managed to work it’s way back into the playoff picture… only to fall just short in the closing weekend of the season.

I also believe it was Bob Hartley’s finest coaching in his career behind the bench.

Kovalchuk finished that season with 52 goals and 98 overall points, Savard dished out 69 assists to go with 28 goals and Hossa finished that year with 39 goals, 53 assists and team-high +17 rating. Five defensemen, Havelid, Hnidy, DeVries, Garnet Exelby and Andy Sutton finished on the plus side of the +/- rating.

Regardless of which team in the past you might argue is the “best Thrashers team ever”…one thing I think we can all agree upon is that the current version of this team has the potential of becoming the undisputed all-time best.

Now, I’m quite sure there are some of you out there who are already mumbling under your collective breaths about me putting the proverbial cart before the horse or that I’m suffering from a case of premature speculation, but… pointing to the opening disclaimer…I am seriously coming to that notion. Of course, watching them rattle off ten wins in the last twelve games will do that to a person.

Currently, this team has 37 points after 31 games played. If they secure two points tomorrow night in Tampa, they’ll have 39 after 32 games, which would put them on pace for right at 100 points for the season…again referring back to the disclaimer.

While it’s true that this time last year, they had the exact same record they have now…17-11-3…there is a bit of a difference. First, we are ascending in the standings instead of descending, as was the case 12 months ago. And now, we aren’t being held hostage with the drama surrounding trying to re-sign the “face of the franchise” to a $10 million per season deal. Thus, among other reasons, I don’t think we’re going to see the kind of slide in the standing that produced last year.

The team that qualified for postseason four years ago did so by scoring 246 goals that year. This year, the 99 goals netted after 31 games put them on pace…again, pointing to the disclaimer…for 262. If anybody would have told you last September the Thrashers would be popping in goals a rate of 3-plus per game at this juncture, would you have looked at them as if they had just stepped off the spaceship from Venus? I know I would have.

They are doing this with a great deal of balanced scoring from all skaters. Last night it was Bryan Little with a pair of goals and a couple from the fourth line. Saturday it was Johnny Oduya potting two in the win over the Islanders. Prior to that, it was Zach Bogosian winning the game in overtime after Andrew Ladd had tied it up. Recently we saw Anthony Stewart win a game in OT out in Colorado. If it’s not one of those players, then it’s Dustin Byfuglien, Rich Peverley, Evander Kane or [fill in name of Thrashers player here]providing the heroics.

Is this year's Thrashers team the best yet?

  • Yes! Definitely (51%, 122 Votes)
  • No! Not even close (2%, 4 Votes)
  • Let's not speculate prematurely (47%, 114 Votes)

Total Voters: 240

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Needless to say, a team simply cannot close one player down and take their chances with the rest of the squad as they’ve been able to in times past.

Byfuglien is currently on pace for 85 points, Ladd is on pace for 61, Toby Enstrom for 59, Peverley for 53…so on and so on. Again… pointing above to the disclaimer… past performance does not always guarantee future results.

Then we come to the play coming from between the pipes…the position that doomed the 2005-06 campaign right out of the gate. What more can be said of Ondrej Pavelec?

But it’s not just his individual performance, which has been nothing short of spectacular. It’s been the incorporation of a team-wide effort on defense that…while not perfect by any stretch of the imagination…has shown improvement as the season has progressed.

Last night, Thrashers color commentator Darrin Eliot… himself a former NHL netminder… pointed out how Opie was being used as an integral part of the overall defensive scheme. When the puck was to his left, Pavelec knew he could square up to the puck, knowing he had two skaters out in front to protect the weak side.

Using the goalie as part of a defensive strategy? What a concept…

All this adds up to a team that finds ways to win games that Thrashers teams of past would not have, should avoid prolonged periods of poor play and come this spring should find itself jockeying for playoff positioning…not just a playoff spot.

Once there, they’ll have a chance to do what no Thrashers team has ever done before, actually win a playoff game. Maybe they’ll even do what no NHL franchise in Atlanta has ever done…advance to the second round. If so, then certain this year’s team would have to be considered the undisputed “best ever”.

Remember…pointing above…the disclaimer atop the post.

Final disclaimer: No cats were left out in the cold, abused or in any other way, shape matter or form harmed in the making of this blog.

166 comments Add your comment

Joe Friday

December 14th, 2010
12:35 pm

Yes, this is the prettiest pig.

It is the best coached team, so it’s the best team, but not the best collection of talent.

I’ll take best coached team over best collection of talent every day, and twice on Sunday.

DWTOO

December 14th, 2010
12:40 pm

No matter what happens thru the remainder of the season this is the best TEAM the franchise has put on the ice. Yes, we’ve had better overall talent on previous teams, but, this group has really performed as a group. And they all seem to support each other. An old friend of ours has posted on C Viv’s blog that Coach Ramsay is the team MVP. Think he may be right.

Like last night – it seemed like we were backing off in protecting the three goal lead and lost focus – and then the light came and the Thrashers started to take the play to the Sens.

DWTOO

December 14th, 2010
12:43 pm

Brendan posted this on C Viv’s blog also. Did you notice the Sens fan and the WTF or something to that effect while the Thrashers celebrated in front of him. I was waiting for him to sit in the aisle and start crying on his journey to Mamby Pamby Land. Jackwagon! Lee E is the best.

Netminder

December 14th, 2010
12:44 pm

I agree about the team from the 2005-06 Season. We would have made it deep in the playoffs if we would have had Pasi Nurminen in net for any length of time that season instead of starting with Kari.

gsukevin

December 14th, 2010
12:50 pm

Coaching makes this the best Thrashers team in history. That’s the difference.

Hoof Arted

December 14th, 2010
12:51 pm

Yea boy. Got to be careful with that premature speculation. It could get messy and always embarrassing. I always find thinking about baseball helps.

World Be Free

December 14th, 2010
12:52 pm

This is the best team ever-IF they get Ladd, Buff and a few other guys signatures on long term deals so we can nail the revolving door shut. My hope is that we can stop watching our former players hoist the Stanley Cup in other team’s uniforms. Nice job by Craig Ramsay too, one of THE most respect people in the entire league.

This team has to be more physical; I will keep beating this subject as long as guys are allowed to free-wheel through the neutral zone. I will also be interested to see how people vote. I voted “let’s not speculate” since there alotta season left.

Darren

December 14th, 2010
12:52 pm

Definitely a stronger, deeper group of defensemen, if nothing else. Scoring-wise, that team had more top-end talent, but this team has a definitive top-to-bottom two-way focus that team definitely didn’t have.

The other team probably had more “talent”, but this team is better built for long-term success.

World Be Free

December 14th, 2010
12:53 pm

Big ups to Pavs, so far. I was totally wrong on his abilities.

Chris

December 14th, 2010
12:59 pm

Here’s the “Time’s Arrow” angle.

Coaching is cumulative. The team managed to play .500 hockey during the early weeks when not all of the coach’s wisdom had been imparted. The team isn’t going to forget what they’re learning. The coaching suggests the future will be more like the recent 12 game stretch and less like the October record. AND – the schedule is going to get a bit easier in the future. The team has excelled during a tough stretch of games.

Of course, injuries can change everything, and the risk with a young team is that they will play to an opponents level and dial-back against the easier teams.

But the bottom line is the past few weeks have seen the best hockey in this franchise’ history.

Party Pooper

December 14th, 2010
1:03 pm

When Darren Eliot loses his job with the Thrashers, he’ll be great doing infomercials.

Just sayin’!

Russian

December 14th, 2010
1:03 pm

Good post! Like it.
Yes. We have a best team since 1999. Also we have good and smart COACH. Hartly was good but he used to work with veterans (Sakic, Foot, Roy). That’s a reason we lost Corbun. But it is past.
Ramsey is different coach. He worked with anybody, veteran or rokie or two Stanley Cup champion. I hope team will continue to work hard and bring some good memories for this season. :-)

Cliff Fletcher

December 14th, 2010
1:04 pm

Holding for Sage’s post, it should be priceless.
Unless he has moved to Winnipeg to start his “Five Year Plan”

Stuck in NJ

December 14th, 2010
1:04 pm

I think that this is the “best” team ever because I EXPECT them to win every night, as opposed to 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 when it was “cross your fingers and hope they can crawl across the play-off finish line” every night.
I’m actually aggravated that we didn’t CRUSH ottawa last night. After the 3-0 lead, I expected another 5-0 win. Now, don’t get me wrong, you can’t argue with the 2-points, but the expectations for this year’s team are higher than I can ever remember.

TableHocey

December 14th, 2010
1:05 pm

It’s a different team for sure – I love that I no longer feel a sense of panic when the team falls behind – well not until the last 3-4 minutes of the game as our record with an empty net is close to being on par with our shoot out record. Regardless – I am in full agreement that this is both the best team and best coached team in the franchise history.

I really like the sense I get from Rammer at the post-game scrum. You can tells the wheels are moving in his head about what went well and what needs to be done to address issues. I also like that he often chooses to stay close tot he chest with those thoughts.

Far cry from the “Team is fragile” or “need a lucky bounce” crap we’ve heard at the PG scrums in previous seasons.

But why you hating on David Caruso? LOL.

Stuck in NJ

December 14th, 2010
1:07 pm

Maybe I missed the post on another blog, but did anybody notice that Dallas is having their “Kari Down 2010″ event?

AtlFlamesFan

December 14th, 2010
1:08 pm

I love what is going on here, but if we had last year’s version of Opie, we would not be in the position that we are today.

ben

December 14th, 2010
1:14 pm

best results. If Kari had never showed up. we would have gone deep into the playoffs. looking back pasi was amazing because he did it all with a crappy d-corps. perhaps all that talk of kovy’s exit making the team better was genuine. in the next year or two the fans will show up if this trend holds then those grizzly members of the TO media will try insulting another us area team into moving north.

Dwayne

December 14th, 2010
1:15 pm

Chris, I think you hit the “young” statement on the head. Maybe that is why slowdeen is on this team. Antro too. Ladd is the Captain, but still young. Never mention injuries again. A veteren team gets ottawa down by 3 and steps on said teams neck, Thrash ran off to lala land for a minute and its 3-3. But as stated many times before, in years past, Thrashers lose game like last night. Not any more. Go Thrash!!!!

Stuck in NJ

December 14th, 2010
1:18 pm

Shouldn’t it actually be “Slodine”?

Stuck in NJ

December 14th, 2010
1:22 pm

Ooops, I mean “Slodin”…wow..that was fail

Alan R.

December 14th, 2010
1:39 pm

but if we had last year’s version of Opie

For that, we’d also need last years “goaltending coach.” Screw that. It’s obvious the entire coaching staff is imparting their wisdom on this team. Clint has worked miracles with Pavs. He still scares me a little, but after seeing how he played the penalty shot last night (despite the fact he got scored on), I’m more comfortable with him in net.

cousin Eddie

December 14th, 2010
1:52 pm

I love how our coach can immediately pinpoint what went wrong. He is detail oriented, unlike 60% of the coaches in the league. Look at the post game press conference for Bruce Boudreu. He had no clue what went wrong or how to fix what happened in New York. Karma is finally changing in the ATL and glad I waited since 2000 to see it.

By the way, I stand my initial guess of point total for the Thrashers–102!!!!!!!!

Gotta have faith!

KLS1

December 14th, 2010
1:52 pm

First of all Rawhide…Caruso’s role in “Jade” never got its due.

Secondly, this team is going to be real or good and possibly great by the time the season is over. We are not getting blown out of any game and have had solid wins against the best teams in the league.

The trajectory is good, especially with the Caps stumbling…its gonna be a street fight between us, Tampa, and Washington the rest of the way.

And think about this, put us in a 7 game series against any of the playoff contenders and I am not at all scared, Pittsburgh would be tough but we would be the odds on favorite to win against the rest.

Hip Czech

December 14th, 2010
1:54 pm

How much has having a goalie coach helped Opie? I gotta think Malarchuk has had some quality input.

Agreed with this ‘team’ being better than ‘05-’06, though that ‘05-’06 team sure was fun to watch.

Speaking of getting ahead of ourselves…at this point in time all 4 ATL teams would make the playoffs in the same year.

Maybe hell is freezing over.

Unreal

December 14th, 2010
2:03 pm

We should feel fortunate that we have Darren Eliot as our analyst. He is fantastic and knows his stuff.

Russ

December 14th, 2010
2:08 pm

I’m going to try to avoid the jinx and not claim they are the best just yet, although they are playing very well. As soon as I see a win in the playoffs, just one little win, then they will be the best.

kracker

December 14th, 2010
2:13 pm

WBF – “…I was totally wrong…”

You would never make it as a politician. That’s why we like you.

jimbo

December 14th, 2010
2:16 pm

While the 05-06 team had some goal scorers and big names, if they were shut down, we lost. And, the defense and goal tending weren’t that good. This team is better overall, has more speed, better D and better goaltending. And, they play as a TEAM. Eliot described basic defensive play not something unique to us. But, the guys back one another up and work as a unit on D. REFRESHING (to put it mildly). I’m also getting the feeling that they are not intimidated by anyone nor do they seem alarmed by being a couple of goals down. Fun to watch games. Speed, hustle, teamwork.

Rawhide

December 14th, 2010
2:17 pm

First of all Rawhide…Caruso’s role in “Jade” never got its due.

KLS1 – So noted and logged. But still…just not a fan.

We should feel fortunate that we have Darren Eliot as our analyst. He is fantastic and knows his stuff.

Unreal – I’m gonna agree with you 100% about that. DE’s one of the smartest hockey guys I know.

By the way, I stand my initial guess of point total for the Thrashers–102!!!!!!!!

cousin Eddie – Here’s to hoping you’re right. Oh, and you need to get your camper out of my driveway soon. The HOA board sent a letter of complaint.

Cornbread

December 14th, 2010
2:23 pm

cousin Eddie

December 14th, 2010
2:30 pm

Sorry chief, money gave out in Gerny!

Joe McGrath

December 14th, 2010
2:31 pm

I won’t use the “I” word, but that’s my fear, so that’s why I voted LNSP, because if Pavs gets wrecked, and we have to count on Mason while we shop for G, we’re done. However, I will continue speculating about a trade. I just don’t see Bergfors staying here. I am a firm believer in Cormier coming up post holidays, doesn’t that mean somebody has to go?

English Teacher

December 14th, 2010
2:40 pm

I think there is plenty of talent on this team. How many regular players have we that were drafted in the first round? I can rattle off nine of them. I would argue that talent gets you drafted and development gets you on the ice in NHL.

When I was in the restaurant business, we had a saying: a fish rots from the head down. Conversely, it swims head first. I think the problems this organization has had over the years has not been talent as much as it has been leadership. I’m not a D-Wad basher but we must look at the evidence; since Dudley has been made the head of this fish, it has been swimming in the right direction. His leadership led to Rammer led to Torchetti and Malarchuk. And then there’s Ladd (Right-on, Ladd!). This kind of leadership has been able to quickly salvage the talent on this team and indeed, make it the best Thrashers team ever.

Chris16

December 14th, 2010
2:42 pm

This team is fun to watch we are finding different ways to win that is what great coaching does. It looks like the kovy crap was a big problem in the locker room. The interview with Little he was asked how the lockerroom feel was like he said it was fun like it was two years ago. So this team is having alot of fun winning with little problems in the locker room.Go Thrashers

Smoothie

December 14th, 2010
2:42 pm

A little premature for such a declaration because the Hoslov-led Thrashers in 2006 were looking even better than this team. They weren’t as deep a team, but they were getting solid contributions from the 3rd line with Holik (15 goals I believe) and Slater had 10 goals as well. When at their best, the 3rd line of Larsen/Vigier-Holik-Dupuis was pretty tough to handle. And when Kovy is on your 2nd line doing his thing, then you know you’re pretty talented in the top 6. The defense probably is better this year, but we still have many lapses to put doubts into your mind about how good they really are. But no question we’re deeper 1 thru 6 on the blueline, and Pavelec is showing just how good he can be. However, don’t forget his collapse at the end of last December with a GAA of 4.5 and a SV% of .865…a little premature to be making comparisons to Roy (see Coach Hartley per Allan Walsh).

Just not ready to say they’re better yet. And before saying they are better coached, let’s not forget Hartley had Kovy playing as an even to + player most of the year till the customary February swoon.

LAC

December 14th, 2010
2:46 pm

I kept looking for quebec fans, Gee Whiz that close and they could NOT make the trip to see Atlanta WIN AGAIN !!!!! How Shameful !!!!! They show us NO respect !!! So We Showed Them !!!

Wish we played better with the lead the past two games… Won thankfully, but two bad goals against nearly killed us.

I noticed, Yet again, the LACK of respect given us by any canada announcers…Both Potvin & Brown were taking little jabs at Atlanta most of the night. But when WE WON, they folded like a house of cards ! Just like they should have.

Great game for Little, maybe he is understanding his roll a lot better on the team, NICE to see
him get the chance and end the game !!!!!

I credit ALL THE SUCESS on Mr.Craig Ramsey, He is The Perfect coach for us. Real simple too…
He knows the game of hockey, see what CAN happen when REAL NHL People are running the
team rather than a two faced nitwit, who is not worth naming. This has been EXCELLENT.

Last two points… While watching “On The Fly” highlights, of Detroit and L.A., There were entire SECTIONS that were EMPTY !!!!! That’s right EMPTY seats in Detroit. Why were the quebec fans there ? They should be a good team to move to quebec or winnipeg and a lot closer too! NO
reason to have a team in Detroit, with ALL those empty seats !!!!!!

Wednesday night… If We WIN in Tampa and Washington LOSES to Ducks at home for loss number 7… When we wake up Thursday monrning and real the local paper and see the standings…
The Atlanta THRASHERS will be LEADING the Southeast Division !!!!!! Not Washington, ATLANTA !!

Guess that would throw a LOT of COLD WATER on this so-called “winter classic”
I say have the game at The Georgia Dome next season, What FUN !!!!!

LAC

December 14th, 2010
2:51 pm

Right cousin eddie, old Bruce had the. “deer in the headlights” look for sure and the man has ZERO clue and THEY are in the “winter classic ” Shameful ! Wonder how they will explain
Pittsburgh going against the number 8 or 9 seed… Hummm

Who’ In First ??? Wonder if they would even mention it !

World Be Free

December 14th, 2010
2:57 pm

kracker-gotta tell it like it is…..

My thoughts on the game and attendence issues-had this on my mind//
Lotta folks have been talking about empty seats these days, no-shows in rinks that are accustom to being full with fans. You can blame the economy in cities like Detroit and even Atlanta to a certain degree. But frankly, I see another issue-boring hockey throughout the league (except the Thrashers, of course).

The NHL brought out new rules after the lockout, to open up the games allowing the skilled players to use their skills. This has worked to an extent, but I am concerned about the lack of legitimate hitting in this league. To a greater extent, I am concerned with the lack of fighting.

Fighting is part of the game; we rarely had issues with guys hitting from behind in the old days (like the 80’s). Cheap shots artists were too afraid of getting their heads beat in. Big mouth clowns like Carcillo and Lapierre (who both wear visors) would keep their mouths shut or they were dealt with “the hockey way”. The games are getting boring, lack of hitting and lack of fighting. You want to fill the rinks? Bring back old time hockey, deal with the instigator rule and hire referees that let the players deal with the big mouths and cowards. You want to talk a lot on the ice? Get ready to back it up. The biggest fear a player has when he drops his gloves, is when the ref says to the linesman “let ‘em go, let them settle this right now”.

kracker

December 14th, 2010
2:58 pm

I am really in the wait and see camp but I voted ‘Yes difinitely’ – just hoping somebody will tell Kovalchuk the fans think the team is better off w/o him. I am still worried our payroll will catch up to us but so far, so good. Anyway, since we are loaded w/ young talent our payroll is artificially low. Getting them all signed or extended might be difficult….but I am getting ahead of things.

Let’s go kick some bolt butt tomorrow. I can’t see how the team can’t be up for this game.

Mr. Willson

December 14th, 2010
3:01 pm

Finding a best ever Thrashers team is like finding the best smelling pile. That being said, out of the aforementioned pile is a team who’s rubbing our opponents nose in it, like a bad puppy. Tie us up in the 3rd? No, no! Bad Puppy! Ahead by 2 in the 3rd? No, No! bad Puppy!

I love this year’s team! It doesn’t smell too bad anymore. And I don’t notice the stain of Waddell in the carpet anymore.

Mr. Willson

December 14th, 2010
3:04 pm

Also, Todd White’s faceoff goal from Saturday is one of the coolest goals I’ve ever seen.

Smoothie

December 14th, 2010
3:05 pm

Correction and apologies for confusing my years: Holik scored 15 and Slater 10 goals in the 2005-’06 season and not the playoff year. That being said, the playoff year Thrashers only gave up 241 goals after giving up 270 the year before. Not great, but still the best ever for this franchise. I’d say that has it slightly ahead of this group…FOR NOW! Get thru this month 6 or 7 games over .500 and all best are off!

Rawhide

December 14th, 2010
3:08 pm

Mr. Willson – Do you possibly mean “Bryan Little’s” faceoff goal on Saturday/ Or did I miss a joke in there somewhere?

Mr. Willson

December 14th, 2010
3:12 pm

Sorry, you’re right Bill…WTH? How’d that happen? I need a doctor.

kracker

December 14th, 2010
3:13 pm

I am pretty sure Mr. Willson meant Byron Young’s faceoff goal.

Rawhide

December 14th, 2010
3:14 pm

Mr. Willson – Maybe you had cereal for breakfast this morning, saw the milk carton, the image stuck in your subconscious….it was all subliminal from there :cool:

kracker – yes…good ‘ol Byron Young. :lol:

Joe McGrath

December 14th, 2010
3:18 pm

I couldn’t agree more with you WBF. My 15 year old boy recently decided to live w me after 10 years with his mom, so now he’s become a hockey fan and I’m teaching him the game. I also keep explaining to him that when I was coming along (I’m 45), “it just wasn’t done” regarding the cheap shots, etc. I explained that enforcers are no long a big part of the game and that 15-20 years ago, everybody had a Probert or a Twist or two (he loves looking that stuff up on the Youtube) and 30 years ago everybody filled half their rosters with WIlli Pletts and Tiger Williams and so on. I think it has to do with the league going corporate” under Bettman. And I’m not bashing Bettmen, I like expansion (der). However, it sure has toned down since the Nords v. Habs pre-game playoff brawl(a la Slapshot) in 85. I think the last blood rivalry, when all heck broke loose and you never knew what the next game would bring, was Wings v Lanche and that was 15 years ago. Now the LEAGUE is pushing its big rivalry as Sid v Ovechkin–players, not teams.

iamtheratio

December 14th, 2010
3:21 pm

I want a Byron Young jersey, #100 haha

JB

December 14th, 2010
3:22 pm

Rawhide, don’t get too attached to cousin eddie’s RV. He’s takin it with him when he leaves next month.