First off, allow me to wish each and every one of you a very happy New Year. It’s my sincere hope that the coming year brings much joy and prosperity and that you are all have a great timing ringing in 2011.
I’m a day or so early with those well-wishes because this will be the last blog entry of 2010 for me. Later today I’ll be zipping my way down I-75 to the Sunshine State with the Divine Mrs. R and the tax exemptions. It has become something of a tradition now that we spend New Years down in Florida. We’ll be at mom-in-laws house in Jacksonville as we install a wireless internet system…her Christmas present. So, unlike when we stay at the lake house down there, I will at least be able to make contact with the cyber-civilized world.
With that said, let’s take a quick look back on the year that was…then peer into the future for some predictions and prognostications for 2011.
I’ll begin with a quick recap of the action here on this little online Thrashers hockey forum. This will be blog post number 214 I’ve submitted for your approval during CY2010. What you have done, on the other hand, is respond with 28,693 comments in the first 353 days of they year.
So, reach around and give yourselves a nice pat on the back.
I’m not supposed to report actual web hits per month, but needless to say you guys have hit the AJC Thrashers blogs…both this one and C-Viv’s…with an impressive and ever-increasing frequency. And for that I cannot say thank you enough, Thrasherville.
As for the Thrashers themselves…2010 began with a 4-3 overtime loss in Buffalo, even though they held a 3-0 late in the first period. It was the seventh consecutive defeat for Atlanta during their nine-game holiday slide. They would not win again until January 7 when they knocked of the Rangers 2-1 in a shootout. It would take them another two games before they won a game in regulation. In fact, after the 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers on November 30 the Thrashers would not net a win in regulation time until the 6-1 win over Ottawa on January 12. They had played a total of 20 games, going 5-12-3 in that span, between such wins.
But Atlanta righted themselves enough to play to a 17-17-9 record between the beginning of the calendar year and the end of the season last spring. Combine that with their current 19-14-6 and they have a 36-31-15 record for CY2010 with 2 games remaining. This means depending on how they fair against the Bruins tonight and Devils tomorrow, they’ll wind up with a points-winning percentage anywhere between .518 and .542.
In comparison, they went 40-35-5 in CY2009, (.531 PW%)…27-41-12 in CY2008, (.421 PW%), 39-37-5 in CY2007, (.512 PW%) and 48-27-17 in 2006, (.614 PW%).
Notable stories of this past year include, but are not limited to…former faces of the franchise Ilya Kovalchuk and Kari Lehtonen being traded away last winter…the major shake up in the organization that send Don Waddell upstairs as team president and made Rick Dudley the second ever general manager in team history…the release of John Anderson and the entire coaching staff…the naming of Craig Ramsay as head coach as well as John Torchetti associate coach…Alexander Burmistrov drafted with the 8th overall pick…the major deals with Chicago that brought us the likes of Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel…Ondrej Pavelec’s fainting episode on opening night…and, most recently, the court settlement that finally ended the legal battle of the team’s ownership group.
Now, let’s take a quick look back at some of the predictions we made a year ago. I’ll review mine here, but I also invite you to scroll down the column to see how your prognostications faired as well.
Obviously, I was completely incorrect in my prediction that Ilya Kovalchuk’s wife would convince him to re-sign here in Atlanta. In the clarity of hindsight, I can say I’m very happy to have been wrrrrrr….ahem… wrrrrrrr… wrrrrrrrrr….
I am happy to have been less correct than I normally am.
I was also less than correct in regards to John Anderson’s return for a third season as head coach of the Thrashers. Anderson departed Thrasherville after two seasons and a record of 70-75-19 behind the bench.
I had forecasted a final record for Atlanta of 39-33-10 for 88 points and that they would end up in third place in the division and tenth in the conference. I went on to add that they would flirt with a playoff spot, but ultimately fall just short.
Indeed they did do just that, staying in the hunt for the postseason up until the last week or so of the season, that is. They wound up in tenth in the Eastern Conference as predicted, but second place instead of third…doing so with a lesser record than predicted, 35-34-13 for 83 points.
As we now know, of course, had they actually gotten to the record and points total I projected, they would have actually had the exact same record as the Montreal Canadiens did…and they ended up sitting in the eighth and final playoff spot.
What I did nail square on the head, though, is that Rick Dudley would become the new general manager for the Thrashers organization. Oh, and I did accurately state that Todd White would indeed score at least one goal in CY2010. It only took him twelve days and six games to do so, notching a second period goal during a 6-1 Atlanta win against the Ottawa Senators.
Now, as for 2011…
I’ll get the big one out of the way right off the bat. Despite the recent four-game slide and 2-3-3 record in the last eight games, I do believe the Thrashers will wind up playing beyond 82 games this season. In fact, I’ll even go out on a limb here and say they’ll play more than 86 games by winning at least one postseason game…unlike what they did in 2007.
Will they make it out of the first round? Well, that I don’t know. It depends on whom they match up against. See, even though I predicted 88 points last October, I’m revising that number up now to 91…say 40-31-11. That would land them as the seventh seed in the east, I think. So let’s see who procures the second seed.
Washington, Boston, Montreal…maybe they stand a chance to move on to the second round. Maybe.
Philly or Pittsburgh…eh, maybe not.
Pending the following players remain healthy…knocking on wood…I see Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Toby Enstrom continuing to lead the team in scoring.
The Buffinator leads the way with 70 points…22 goals and 48 assists.
Then Ladd with 64…22 goals and 42 assists.
Toby Enstrom finishes up with 60 points…10 goals and 50 assists.
Evander Kane, Bryan Little and Rich Peverley continue to provide the Thrashers with balanced scoring…each finishing in the neighborhood of 55-60 overall points.
Ondrej Pavelec has spent much of the season with a goals-against average below two. That’s crept up to 2.13 in the past week or so, and won’t head south of 2 again. His save percentage is now at .934 However, I don’t see his overall game slumping dramatically over the second half of the season. If the GAA rises dramatically, I think it will be due more to the play in front of him than anything else.
That said, Opie ends up with a record of 28-20-7 with a GAA near two and a half and a .925 SV%. He will also gain the distinction of being the first Thrashers’ goalie to win a playoff game.
Chris Mason finishes 12-11-4 with a .907 SV% and 3.20 GAA.
Unless someone else does so in the next two games, Anthony Stewart and Eric Boulton stand as the two Thrashers who pulled off hat tricks this year. I want to predict that neither will do so again in 2011…but honestly, who would have guessed they would have done so in the first place?
In leading the Thrashers back to the playoffs for just the second time in their history, Craig Ramsay wins the Jack Adams award for coach of the year. However, I will place the disclaimer here that if Tampa Bay wins the Southeast Division, that prize just may go to Guy Boucher. If so, that would mean Boucher will have won coach of the year honors two years in a row. Last season with the Hamilton Bulldogs, he took home the AHL’s Louis A. R. Piere Memorial Award.
His Tampa Bay Lightning has now won nine straight from our Thrashers. The last time we saw our team beat the Bolts was opening night 2009 by the score of 6-3.
Hmmmmmmm…you know, come to think of it, maybe the Lightning are a team we don’t want to face in the first round of the playoffs this spring.