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

Fan from Carolina

December 15th, 2010
8:19 am

I think it is still too soon to speculate but with Mike Smith in net tonight I don’t see any reason why the winning will stop. The Thrashers should score at least 4 goals and that should be enough with Lecavalier and Downie still out of action.

Smoothie

December 15th, 2010
8:33 am

R/L – if Kaberle tells Burke he’s not signing long-term, why not try to get him? It doesn’t mean Burke will want Bogosian nor does it mean Duds will give up on him. In fact, we might have to give up Oduya to get him. But if you recall, Bogey played his best when paired with Enstrom and it may make more sense to reunite those two as the 2nd pairing. I’m a little worried about Tobes wearing down playing 25 mins a night at his stature. Protecting Buff defensively may take its toll.

I don’t know and I’m just brainstorming, but I do feel in my gut that our blueline is not as strong as it will need to be for the long haul. Bogey needs to turn a corner soon! His inability to read the play and make the right percentage play is really making Oduya work extra hard. We take for granted just how skilled and talented Oduya is. If we could get Kaberle (yes a rental) and a scoring winger under contract (Kulemin?) For Bogosian, I might just do it. The time is now and I’m not sure how much longer I’m willing to wait on Zach to take the next step forward.

WBF – think I’d pass on Rolston but I haven’t seen him play at all this season so I have no idea what he might have left in the tank. Apparently we were interested in Sturm so we’re interested in adding more speed even if its reclamated speed project.

World Be Free

December 15th, 2010
8:35 am

Red Light-totally agree on Kaberle, this team needs another forward not a defenseman. Kabs is a good D-man, but the price is too high for a short term player.

Give Anderson credit? Yeah I will give him some credit, but he is still a minor league coach that did not have the ability to take us to the next level. Rammer has Dudley to work with too, which I will be an advantage in the long run.

Cautiously optimistic; we have won nothing yet.

hoosier_hoser

December 15th, 2010
9:12 am

Rawhide!

Are you and your fellow travelers sure that the 2005-2006 crew could handle the Buchberger, Garpenlov, Stefan and Svartvadet crew?

My problem with the 2005-2006 is that if you ranked all the goalies that could have played before the season, Garnett would be #6 and Berkhoel would be #7. In the history of the NHL, there is no good team that has played their 6th and 7th goalies in key matches.

Current observation confirms that good goaltending rules. By this criterion I choose the playoff team and Lehtonen.

Perhaps after this season I’ll say Pav’s team.

World Be Free

December 15th, 2010
9:19 am

Smoothie-seems like alotta teams are interested in Rolston, so there may be something there for the short term, price would be workable too. I am sure we had interest in Sturm, Broones wanted him out West.

Ward

December 15th, 2010
9:26 am

This could be the best ever because the blue collar work ethic flows through the whole team, there is clear evidence of coaching to get into attack quickly and effectively,goal tenders are not prone to mistakes displayed by other previous goalies, there seems to be a fierce, competitive edge whether ahead or behind and Waddell is no longer pulling key strings!!!!!!!!

razorneck13

December 15th, 2010
9:31 am

Yes, this is the best Thrashers roster IMO. More consistent heart from these guys in a quarter season than all other Thrashers previous rosters combined. Breakout year for a our team collectively and even for a bunch of the individuals…very interesting to watch them. We’ve got a mostly working class team working hard and it’s as entertaining as anything. Oh yeah, Ramsay’s a savant or something, ditto that for Dudley.

razorneck13

December 15th, 2010
9:34 am

Well savant sounds a bit bad…they’re really smart guys.

BobinBuford

December 15th, 2010
9:54 am

The main thing to me is that we are discussing the ONE or TWO players that would make this team complete, as opposed to shipping everyone out and starting over again.

Saw the Bolts play the Caps the day after Thanksgiving. Considering this was when the Caps were still playing decent hockey, the Bolts looked terrible. Most satisfying thing that game? When one of the Caps players said on the pregame interview on the big board how they were having problems playing some Eastern Conference teams, like the Thrashers!!

The one problem I see in the scheduling is that TB has played 7 less games at home this year than on the road. That means they will have a lot of home ice advantage games coming up.

I will be at the Bulb the day after Xmas for the Bolts-Thrash game. We need to start filling Philips so that those little jerks from Quebec City will find another team to go after.

puckhead

December 15th, 2010
9:55 am

Alan R.

December 15th, 2010
10:09 am

I want a steady, slick, responsible, puck-moving veteran D man (a Kaberle model would be great) under the Thrasher Tree.

I want to know why. :P We really don’t need any more PMD. At this point, I’d rather see Eager or Bergfors (or both) back in the lineup.

Joe Friday

December 15th, 2010
10:37 am

I think it’s clear that Bergfors and Eager were to be part of the Sturm trade that Dudley was trying to line up, but we lost out on. At this point, I’m fine with the lineup we have (had) and would prefer to just see Bergfors and Eager back in, why mess with what ain’t broken?

If they keep up this play all year, and I fully expect them to over the long haul, will the Waddell apologists finally once and for all admit they were dead wrong about where the blame laid for our years of futility? Dudley is working with less money that Waddell had to work with, and the results speak for themselves. I think Dudley is proving that the Spirit Squad, while inept, were not the root cause of our stinkatude over the years . . . that lays directly at the feet of one Don Waddell.

What I’m hoping for over the next 2 to 3 years is that the scenario that played out in Chicago and Tampa plays out here . . . that Dudley lays a good foundation and then a new owner comes in and lays some more cash out to take the solid foundation Dudley lays up to the next level.

kracker

December 15th, 2010
10:41 am

Smoothie, I think someone (you?) spiked your egg nog w/ 190 moonshine. Bogie is projected as our franchise d-man, he is 20 yrs old and due to injury, has not yet played the equivalent of two full seasons (153 games). He has played about 30 games under our defensive specialist coach, Rammer. Your trade-him-now proposal is definitely an IDWT decision for me. I just think about how long it took Pronger to really develop into a shut-down 30 minute guy. But, hey, very few players are untouchable.

litz

December 15th, 2010
10:47 am

“Is this the year NJ has no first round pick becuase of the Kovy deal?”

Well, they’ll probably pick one up in the draft …

litz

December 15th, 2010
10:47 am

(try2)

“Is this the year NJ has no first round pick becuase of the Kovy deal?”

Well, they”ll probably pick one up in the lottery …

(that’s better)

Red Light

December 15th, 2010
10:56 am

OK. I am going to list my top 5 UFAs that I think could be a great fit for the last 4 months of the season, regardless of position, need, cost, availability or re-signability.

1) Brad Richards
2) Ilya Bryzgalov
3) Trevor Daley
4) Brooks Laich
5) Ville Leino

Red Light

December 15th, 2010
10:57 am

In other words, the UFA crop for July 2011, which includes Semin, isn’t very deep or skilled.

Smoothie

December 15th, 2010
11:04 am

Leino would be a nice pick-up from Philly as they won’t have enough money to sign him I don’t think after this season. Of course, the cap may go up, but then Carter’s new deal goes into effect right?

Laich is also Ramsay’s kind of player, but I see WSH pushing hard to pay him handsomely for the next 4 to 5 years. Then again, what will they end up paying Semin, or will they let him walk?

Bryzgalov & Pavs?? Droooooooool.

World Be Free

December 15th, 2010
11:06 am

J-F works perfectly if we get the core players under contract long term. I still say that is the key to fans coming back that were in the stands before-commitment long term.

kracker

December 15th, 2010
11:19 am

I like Leino. I had hoped mgm’t could have signed him here instead of him getting signed by the Wings.

Joe Friday

December 15th, 2010
11:33 am

“works perfectly if we get the core players under contract long term. I still say that is the key to fans coming back that were in the stands before-commitment long term.”

totally agree. I hope to see Ladd signed soon after Jan. 1, and he just may want to settle for a long term payday. He has his two rings, why not try to build here for a 3rd one. Buf is also a must, but is going to cost a ton ($6m per long term?).

Hockey Biltong

December 15th, 2010
11:35 am

WBF – yeah baby, come say hi…

Red Light

December 15th, 2010
11:37 am

Semin’s at $6 million right now, and that could creep up slightly for a five-year deal. Laich is the kind of player a lot of coaches like, even though last year’s offensive numbers were probably an anomaly. Leino has played well since coming in from Detroit but don’t think he’ll get more than $2.5 million from anyone. He was to re-sign in Philly, but reports say the new deal may have to wait until after the season, and yes, Carter’s deal and Giroux’s new deal will kick in.

“It’s a good fit,” Leino told the Philly Daily News recently. “I’m enjoying hockey and it’s been good for me. I like it here. In Detroit, I didn’t like living in the suburbs. I like the city life here. I’ve enjoyed my time outside hockey and hockeywise. That makes it a good fit.”

kracker

December 15th, 2010
11:40 am

Eager and Bergy scratched again.

ThrasherTim

December 15th, 2010
11:48 am

No way we trade Bogosian for the reasons stated above…plus, realistically, we all know this isn’t a Cup contending team…so you want Zach in there during the Playoffs learning and grooming him for the future years run (we hope).

HookyBob

December 15th, 2010
11:55 am

BIG game tonight. Dare I say biggest of the season,..so far?

Joe,… are you thinking we were going to trade Bergors and Eager for Sturm?

Hockey Biltong

December 15th, 2010
12:13 pm

HBob- that is a fair assesment.
Prolly someone else in their scope as well…I like suprises!!!

World Be Free

December 15th, 2010
12:15 pm

J-F
I sure hope you are right on Ladd. We know people want to see the players and team making a commitment before they do the same.
I still don’t believe Boston wanted to trade Sturm to any team in the East. The Broones like Sturm alot, but they had to make a move for $$$ reasons only. I don’t want Bergfors coming back to bite us either. I think it’s a mistake sitting him for more than one game.

H.B.-see you tomorrow

World Be Free

December 15th, 2010
12:18 pm

These Richards to Tronna or the Rangers rumors are idiotic. Neither team has the cap space today. Maybe, just maybe at the deadline though Tronna would only do it to avoid giving Boston another top 5 and top 35 pick draft pick. Think of that-a face-saving trade on a rental player just to cover for your mistakes. Makes me happy we have Duds.

Red Light

December 15th, 2010
12:21 pm

Tough back-to-back mission based upon recent history vs. the next two opponents, Lightning and Hurricanes.

The Lightning have won 7 straight vs. the Thrashers and the home team has won 19 of 28 in the series. The Bolts are 7-2-1 at home this season, 3-0 this year in their 1st home game after returning from a road trip of 3 or more games, and the Thrashers haven’t won 3 straight games on any single road trip since March 10-14, 2009. Plus, Carolina is 21-7-3 in their last 31 games in Atlanta.

Ominous numbers to say the least. Four points would be outstanding, three points would be nice, two would be OK, one not so good and Zero…disastrous against division opponents.

World Be Free

December 15th, 2010
12:39 pm

Smoothie-The Ottawa Sun mentioned that we were interested in Sturm too. Woulda been cool to get Marco here, he is supposed to be a great teammate.

Nice to hear the team is out looking to add players, to improve for the push.

Red Light

December 15th, 2010
12:44 pm

Oh, and when was the last time the Thrashers swept consecutive games against division opponents? Nov. 9 and Nov. 14, 2008, when they beat Carolina twice in a home-and-home series. They have been 11 other instances since, and they haven’t swept.

Mrs. Zoomo

December 15th, 2010
12:48 pm

being an investment compliance officer in my previous life I appreciate all those disclosures!

Cornbread

December 15th, 2010
12:56 pm

Somebody really wants Kovalchuck back as a Thrasher? Really!?

Trading Bogosian away now would be like trading Coburn away. Just wrong.

Tom

December 15th, 2010
1:09 pm

We MAY have the best Thrasher’s team ever, but we DEFINITELY have the the worst marketed Thrasher’s team ever.

What a cluster this arresting Thrash is… How is this going to sell NHL tickets? I could see it being done for the Gladiators as they are minor league, but for an NHL franchise?

Here is how I would sell tickets.

I would hire 20 new representatives.

I would get them on the phone with anyone who has ever bought season tickets before and offer them a sweetheart deal for the end of the season. Tell them straight up “We Screwed Up” and want you back.

I would then give X number of tickets times their years holding season tickets those that have not left to bring friends to the games. Or give a huge discount on the tickets if there are league mandates that have to be hit. Anything to have your true believers turn into advocates.

I would be absolutely honest and say this year is penance for the past 5 years of treating everyone poorly and having bad teams.

This is the only way to re-energize the non rabid fan base and create some excitement in Phillips.

Not having the FRICKKENN CROW ARRESTED as a publicity stunt…

Christy

December 15th, 2010
1:11 pm

I like the Thrash Arrested skit. it’s fun. it’s clever and different and not shoving the ticket purchase down our throat the same old way.

Are there other ways to market? sure – but an internet video is certainly one – especially with the younger demographic.

Dwayne

December 15th, 2010
1:14 pm

Bergie and Eager out again per Viv.

Mrs. Zoomo

December 15th, 2010
1:14 pm

I think the Thrash arrested skit is hysterical (still think Zoomo should have tried to get in it when he stumbled across the filming yesterday) but they should do more than just have it on the website and Facebook – a much wider distribution – TV commercial? – would get better results.

Dwayne

December 15th, 2010
1:15 pm

Simplton and Slowdeen skating with our great 8.

Dwayne

December 15th, 2010
1:16 pm

Your right Mrs. Z, we the fans will see it, they have to get to the non fans.

timthebrave

December 15th, 2010
1:20 pm

It is the deepest team but I’m not going to say the best yet. We have had better teams but I can’t remember a goalie playing so well and I think that is the difference. That and coaching. Go Thrashers!

timthebrave

December 15th, 2010
1:24 pm

Winning is the best promotion. I remember that the place got buzzing when we made the playoffs. Another promotion they should give away free tickets to any students on honor roll. That will get the young kids to come and bring their parents. I remember them doing that for the Braves back in the day. Go Thrashers!

World Be Free

December 15th, 2010
1:27 pm

Red Light, though they are not a division opponent, I liked sweeping Philly late last season, can’t remember the dates. That’s when Carcillo ran away from Bolts and Boulton clucked his arms like a chicken. At least Carcillo doesn’t wear a visor like chicken Cooke.

kracker

December 15th, 2010
1:48 pm

Sturm? So the Sturm to Kings deal is back off? It was on, then off, then back on again 3 or 4 days ago.

Cornbread

December 15th, 2010
2:02 pm

This is the best TEAM the Thrashers have ever had. You’ve been seeing and hearing it all year well before the season started. It began with all the front office moves, the coach hirings, the big trades for Stanley Cup Champions, signing Mason, and the draft. There was something in the air that positive change was coming to Atlanta. The players were getting excited.

Then, well before training camp officially started, 20+ professionals were skating at the Ice Forum. I play Summer hockey with ECHL, AHL, and NHL players. They noticed something was going on as well and were surprised that so many guys were skating together weeks ahead of schedule. I half jokingly told them they needed to quit skating with old beer leaguers and get to Atlanta. The NHLer was still in town a few days before his camp opened. The Thrashers are well ahead of that team in the standings.

The first preseason games – all losses – I could tell this was a very different team playing a very different game than what had been played in ATL previously. This style of hockey was going to surprise many and force people to pay attention to the Thrashers. Gone was the free-wheeling that could be exciting but just as maddening. In place was a system of checking, attack, and support.

Brian Little’s post game interview Monday was just the latest and further proof of how different things are in the locker room this year with the new players and with certain guys gone. A blogger talked with Boulton early on about the differences in this team and teams of old. He said simply, “no more loosey-goosey hockey.” Both of those guys have been around the organization long enough to know that this is the Best Atlanta Thrashers TEAM Ever.

Smoothie

December 15th, 2010
2:06 pm

Tom – amen brotha! Preach it!

It’s not like I’m talking about trading Bogey for peanuts or even a rental player. If you could get a legit, top 6 forward, under contract for 2 or 3 years, who has proven he can score 30+ goals a year as a plus player, you wouldn’t trade Bogey for him?

Don’t forget how much depth we have in the system at defense. Dudley is a crafty son of a gun and he ain’t scared to make a deal! Preferably, we get Richards in a sign and trade deal for Bogey and Bergie. What a PP we could have with Enstrom/Big Buff & Richards at the point with Big Buff roaming around creating traffic in front. Throw in Pevs & Antro or Ladd and that’s one formidable man-advantage!

Spud Webb

December 15th, 2010
2:14 pm

Anybody on this blog who is nuts enough to say trade Bogo, see Coburn! A lot of folks were for that deal also, wham, didn’t turn out so good & now everyone’s pissed, when the fact is there were a LOT of people blogging that the trade was a good deal. There is no way in H7ll that I’m (me personally) giving up on a 20 kid who is still learning. He’s got all the tools. Does he need improvement, yes, sure, 100 percent correct, but that doesn’t mean give up and trade the kid. NO WAY. We need a straight sniper and a legit number 1 center in my mind.

Smoothie

December 15th, 2010
2:19 pm

Does anyone actually read the entire sentence anymore or is it more fun to just jump to conclusions? I did not say we should trade Bogey simply for a rental like we did for Zhitnik. And Coburn was not nearly as gifted physically, but he plays the game with more savvy. 20 y/o or not, the kid needs to start progressing in his game. Duds is not nearly as shy as some of you are when it comes to a trade.

Tim

December 15th, 2010
2:27 pm

Hoosier, I just like to prove you wrong!
“My problem with the 2005-2006 is that if you ranked all the goalies that could have played before the season, Garnett would be #6 and Berkhoel would be #7. In the history of the NHL, there is no good team that has played their 6th and 7th goalies in key matches.”

Philadelphia did just that last season and carry that into the playoff too :)

canofpeas

December 15th, 2010
2:35 pm

Its the best goalie play we’ve gotten over a 20 game stretch ever and that’s got a lot to do with the success. If our version of Dafoe was still back there Buff wouldn’t be taking these chances. He would have early in the year, but would have been reined in by now out of necessity.