Who is your Thrashers first half of season MVP?

Happy New Year Thrasherville and welcome to the middle of the season. Hopefully everyone out there had a great time ringing in 2011 and I truly wish everyone the absolute best in the coming year. Today brings with it the hopes and possibilities of what can be…as well as college bowl games a-plenty and the NHL Winter Classic in Pittsburgh.

By the way, speaking of today’s much-anticipated matchup against the Pens and Caps…in case you haven’t heard, it has been moved back to 8:00 tonight because of weather issues.

What today also marks is the exact middle of the 2010-11 Thrashers campaign. Yesterday’s lackluster 3-1 loss to the worst team in the NHL was game number 41 of the season and tomorrow afternoon’s tilt in Montreal begins the first game of the final 41. So naturally, today is the perfect time to mark just where this Thrashers team is currently, what they have done so far and look ahead to the possibilities of the next three-plus months.

Much like he did on this play to New Jersey’s Rod Pelley, Thrashers defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has made quite an indelible impression on Atlanta hockey fans (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Much like he did on this play to New Jersey’s Rod Pelley, Thrashers defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has made quite an indelible impression on Atlanta hockey fans (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

We wake up this morning… possibly grabbing for a package of Alka-Seltzer and/or ice pack… to find the Thrashers with a record of 20-15-6. If they were simply to duplicate this effort in the second half of the season, they would wind up with 92 points and a playoff spot. All things considered, they are at or above where most of us though they would be and we can all be happy for that…despite their 1-4-1 record in the final six games of 2010.

However, as defenseman Ron Hainsey puts it, “It’s been a hard month, as hard as any I’ve seen since I became a pro. We battled through it and came out pretty well”.

“We’re pretty proud of what we’ve done so far”.

The Thrashers are in third place in the Southeast Division, three points behind both Tampa Bay and Washington. However, they have played three more games than the Lightning and two more than the Capitals. Atlanta is eighth points above fourth place Carolina, however the Canes have played but 36 games.

The Thrashers are in seventh place overall in the Eastern Conference, tied in points with the New York Rangers but having played three more games. The Montreal Canadians are a pair of points behind them and have two games in hand. So tomorrow’s game shapes up to be a pretty important one for both Le Thrash and Habs.

Atlanta has netted 127 goals so far this year. That is only one fewer that the Flyers’ and four fewer than Colorado and Detroit, who lead the NHL in goals scored. They still give up a concerning amount of goals, however…122 goals against so far is fewer than only the amount surrendered by the Avs and Edmonton.

The Thrashers are taking an average of 30.8 shots on goal per game and allowing 34.4, which are 14th and 28th in the league respectively. Atlanta has a 20.9% effective power play so far, (9th) and they are killing off 80.8% of the opposition’s man advantage situations, (18th).

Not a lot has gotten past Ondrej Pavelec this season. He is 13-8-4 with a .935 SV%, 2.11 GAA and 2 shoutouts (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Not a lot has gotten past Ondrej Pavelec this season. He is 13-8-4 with a .935 SV%, 2.11 GAA and 2 shoutouts (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Leading the way almost all season long has been defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. He leads the team in goals scored, 15, assists, 25 and overall points, 40. To top it off he’s also +6 and has played in all 41 games for the Thrashers. 5 of his goals have been game-winners, 5 have been of the power play variety, 12 assists have also come while on the man advantage and his 162 SOG also lead the Thrashers.

The Buffinator has quickly become the heart and soul of this new-look Thrashers squad and has endeared himself to the fans with his play. To me, he’s been the MVP of the first half of the season.

Right behind Big Buff in scoring is captain Andrew Ladd and fellow defenseman Toby Enstrom, both with 31 overall points. Ladd has done that with 12 goals and 19 assists while Toby has 7 goals and 24 helpers.

As for Ladd, the Thrashers are 13-6-3 since he was named team captain back on November 18. Is it just a coincidence that the team seamed to take off right after that announcement? I don’t think so.

Fresh off his first ever NHL career shootout victory, Ondrej Pavelec is now 13-8-4 for the year with a very tidy .935 SV% and 2.11 GAA. Given the amount of goals and shots allowed by this team, those numbers are even that much more impressive. Opie also has a pair of shutouts to his credit, both coming a week apart back in November against the Caps and Habs.

A win in Montreal tomorrow would equal his career best of 14 wins in a season set last year playing in 42 games, starting 40. He’s played in just 27 games this season and has started 25.

Opie would be my second choice as MVP, just a fraction of a hair behind Byfuglien. However, if he performs at the same level from here on out, don’t be stunned if he winds up as this team’s Most Valuable Player.

Who is the Thrashers MVP for the first half of the season?

  • Dustin Byfuglien (42%, 108 Votes)
  • Ondrej Pavelec (49%, 126 Votes)
  • Andrew Ladd (1%, 3 Votes)
  • Toby Enstrom (6%, 16 Votes)
  • Bryan Little (2%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 255

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The +/- leaders for this team are Bryan Little, +12, Brent Sopel, +10 and Eric Boulton who is a +7. Ron Hainsey, Chris Thorburn and Byfuglien are each a +6.

Brent Sopel has blocked 60 shots this year, Enstrom 85, Ron Hainsey and Johnny Oduya have both knocked down 82.

Your hits leaders are Evander Kane with 73, Buff with 69 and Jim Slater with 59.

As for the men behind the bench, it’s certainly clear that for the most part these Thrashers have taken what coach Craig Ramsay and associate coach John Torchetti have been teaching and applied to their games. These coaches deserve a great deal of credit for where this team finds itself. There is still much work to be done, mind you…see also the past week and a half or so of play…but when viewed in the context of the initial three months of this season, I don’t of too many that can be upset with what has gone on here.

And finally, I haven’t offered up any “report cards” per se on this Thrashers team this season. I figure this course will be determined solely on a “PASS/FAIL” basis. They either make the playoff or they don’t. Therefore, no letter grades are necessary this time around.

That being said, if I were to give them a mid-term evaluation…I would say they are well on their way to “PASS”.

79 comments Add your comment

Jason

January 1st, 2011
11:21 am

Curly

January 1st, 2011
11:28 am

Rawhide – I don’t think 92 points will be enough to earn a playoff spot. I would like to see the Thrashers with at least 94 points; meaning they will have to better their performance in the second half (which should be doable with a lighter schedule).

Tom

January 1st, 2011
11:33 am

Toby Enstrom. He is the guy that allows Buff to push up. He is the guy who makes the best breakout passes on the team. He is the foundation of the powerplay. He may not get the headlines but if the Thrashers had 1 player that other GM’s covet right now, my guess it will Toby.

Curly

January 1st, 2011
11:34 am

I have liked the play of Buff, Toby, O.P., and Bryan Little. Ladd started out well but seems to have faltered as of late. I hope he makes a good comeback in the second half of the season. I can’t believe Hainsey is a +6. He is normally a – player.

Overall, I’m with you. It’s a toss-up between O.P. and Buff for the mid-season MVP. I’ll have to give it to Buff due to his leadership. He seems to be the heart and soul of this team.

Curly

January 1st, 2011
11:37 am

Tom – Enstrom is a good choice too. Very solid defensively, with great puck handling skills, an awesome skater and a good shot (now that he shoots more!).

Ilya the K

January 1st, 2011
11:44 am

“How do you like me NOW?”

GRITS and Pucks

January 1st, 2011
11:46 am

Pavs as MVP for me, no question.

Buzzeng

January 1st, 2011
11:49 am

Hi Bill – Happy New Year to you and yours as well. Halfway through the season, I say you’ve earned an “A” for running the fan blog. Thanks for all you do. You’ve got my MVOIP award vote (Most Valuable Off Ice Player)!

As far as my MVP vote – I have to go with Ondrej. I think his play has kept us in a lot of games we would otherwise have lost. Factor in his recovery from the opening night all the way to top-5 goalie and I think he gets the nod as the MV player.

As far as the team MVP vote, I give that to Buff. From the first photos of him in a Thrasher jersey (remember your concerns about his Cup day wearing a Thrashers jersey?), he has been a player for the team, the fans and the city. I don’t recall seeing a player that seemed as sincerely proud to be a Thrasher, and he’s given us all a player we can rally around, we can cheer for and we can expect solid performances along with a routine highlight or two.

Let’s hope the schedule relief in 2011 (compared to December) gives us fresher legs and solid victories again. Further, let’s hope all the other teams wilt when their schedules pile up on them.

Thanks to the other bloggers for keeping this NC Thrasher Fan “in the loop”! Happy new year to all and GO THRASHERS!

nfieldr

January 1st, 2011
11:58 am

Voted for Buff, but couldn’t argue against Pavs either

Rawhide

January 1st, 2011
11:59 am

Rawhide – I don’t think 92 points will be enough to earn a playoff spot. I would like to see the Thrashers with at least 94 points; meaning they will have to better their performance in the second half (which should be doable with a lighter schedule).

Curly – You may be right…we’ll see. Last year three teams in the east got in with <90 points. 92 might be right at the cut off point this season.

Tom – Great observation about Enstrom.

Buzzeng – Thank you sir ver, very much. I appreciate that. Happiest of New Years to you and yours as well, my friend.

GRITS and Pucks – WHERE ARE MY GRITS THIS MORNING??!!! :lol:

the artist formerly known as razorneck13

January 1st, 2011
12:03 pm

Toby Enstrom, period end of story. Does what is required of his position and much more, my favorite defenseman on Earth at this point. I’m not an all-star guy per se, but if he doesn’t get there this time it’ll be criminal.

Red Light

January 1st, 2011
12:09 pm

Interesting question, but really there is only one choice. Were it not for Enstrom, Byfuglien wouldn’t be able to free-lance as much offensively, thus his impact wouldn’t be nearly as great as it has been so far.

Were it not for Ladd’s leadership, this team may never have gone on the run it did when it went 12-2-2 in November and December.

Little has played well but often disappears from sight (just less than half of the games so far he has been pointless) and has only one game winning goal.

For me, there is only one choice, and that’s Pavelec. Particularly in the light of the fact everyone doubted his abilities, except for perhaps Ramsay and Dudley, this guy has kept the Thrashers afloat. From Nov. 13 to Dec. 30, there were only two games in which he started that Atlanta didn’t have an opportunity to win (Dec. 23 at Boston and Dec. 28 at Pittsburgh). That’s 18 of 20 starts in which he played well. That’s pretty darn impressive. He’s 4-0 during that time when facing 40 shots or more. He has help the team earn 30 points in 25 starts, while Mason has earned 16 points in 16 starts.

Pav will equal his career season high with his next win. His save percentage and GAA is vastly improved over last year and he is a much more confident goalie. Other players like him and he gives the team all of the credit for his victories. The shoot-out win also should help his confidence in those situations.

If I had told you in late September that he would allow just 54 goals in his first 25 starts of the season, you would have all told me I was crazy.

No other choice…great job by Ondrej!

Hoof Arted

January 1st, 2011
12:29 pm

I have to go with Opie at this point, BlogMaster. But HR Buffinstuff would be a close #2. What I like most about this team is that a legitimate argument can be made for a handful of different players. Pavs, Buff, Toby, Ladd, even Lits.

A genuine team effort going on out there.

If the “P” in MVP stood for “person”, I think coach Ramsay could be considered as the MVP.

Get The Puck Out

January 1st, 2011
12:31 pm

OP. He gets pucks slapped at him from all over, and he keeps the team in the game almost always. More shots at him than shots at opposing team is reason i say OP.

ben

January 1st, 2011
12:59 pm

Coach Ramsay is amazing. If the Thrashers make the playoffs he is a leadpipe synch for coach of the year.

ben

January 1st, 2011
1:00 pm

op is amazingly the team mvp

T

January 1st, 2011
1:12 pm

I love Buff, but i gotta go with pavs

R. Stroz

January 1st, 2011
1:13 pm

R. Stroz

January 1st, 2011
1:19 pm

Merry New Year….Hah…Hah…….Hah…Hah

Beef Jerky?

Thrashers27

January 1st, 2011
1:26 pm

EA

January 1st, 2011
1:30 pm

PAVS! Then Toby and Buff.

Sherry Taylor

January 1st, 2011
2:00 pm

First of all, isn’t it nice to have a choice of players who are serious contenders for MVP? A conundrum we’ve not had before–a choice of effective, aggressive, spot on players. I agree with most, actually, I voted for Pavelek, because he has saved the night many a time, although Buff can’t be ruled out with his quiet confidence and feel for the game as it proceeds, and I agree with Toby, if he weren’t playing his best game ever then Buff couldn’t go forward as he does. Like I said, what a quandary who is best! I’ll take this problem any day!

Smoothie

January 1st, 2011
2:01 pm

1) Pavelectric, in a landslide. His stellar play has made his D-men better and more confident.

2) Rammer – this man has made this group of players believe they can win and he has helped instill in all of them that they can contribute offensively. Without these players buying in early and going after it in the first month, they never would have overcome Mason’s shaky goaltending while Pavs was “recuperating”.

3) Big Buff – he validated management’s belief in him that he could be not only a capable D-man, but do it as part of a top pairing in a fashion where he is a legitimate scoring weapon everytime he touches the puck. Obviously he isn’t as effective without Toby by his side but he is really the only player we have who can change a game with his booming shot and ability to freelance.

4) Dudley – for having the balls to let Big Buff play his “natural” position AFTER he was a gameIchanging force at forward on a Stanley Cup winning team. Also, just about every personnel move he’s made has paid dividends. However, in retrospect, I’d gladly give back Eager for Reasoner and wouldve overpaid Mad Max to play two more years on our top line. We could use his ability to create space and put a defense on their heels without being nearly as bad a defensive liability as Ilya Kovalchuk.

SomaAtl95

January 1st, 2011
2:55 pm

Honestly I can not pick one and I will tell you why – It took a lot to get here. #17 Shows his true colors after telling us he wanted to stay doing pretty much what was the best thing he ever did as a member of this team – he left it. I liked Anderson but new blood and fresh ideas were needed, it was time that a “Coaches Coach” was back at the helm as there was no one specific player to base a team around anymore. Anyone who listened during the playoffs last year heard me say I liked Chicago to go all the way – so bringing in a sizable amount of their championship team (as well as a coach too) brought a little of the “Western Conference Grit” that most teams in the East sorely need and don’t have. Colby and C-Mac must have thought they would miss going to the Waffle House so they ended up in Toronto where fresh waffles will literally fly their way.
We all had nervous excitement as this season has started. We saw a lot of new faces – and we wondered how long the holdovers from Thrashers Past (Kane, Bogey, Opie, Toby, etc) would take to adjust to yet another coaching style. Completely underwhelming pre-season is had.
Opening night Opie passes out and it looks to take the breath of the team away just seconds into their new season then something amazing happens – for the first time in a long time we see a team take our breath away! These past 41 games have shown that anyone can be the hero (Stewart and Boulton with hat tricks? Opie playing as if that knock to the head has him believing that he is now Neo and playing in “The Matrix” (as a side note did anyone ever think Mason would become the Backup Goalie??), Felix and Oscar, er Buff and Toby making other teams see something new from the Thrashers, a offense minded defense.
Its just too hard to pick.
If anyone is still reading then know that I am proud of all fans who are turning new faces on to the Thrashers – the Game against Boston was the only packed house I have been in since the first season where there were many many more Thrashers fans than the opposition. Just goes to show you – a TEAM effort has done for the Thrashers what it did for the Falcons. The Falcons may rise up but the Thrashers leave teams Black, Blue and taken advantage of. With a little bit of rest coming we should see them head back to what we know they can do and I hope to debate with you all who to pick for “Regular Season MVP” because I honestly think we will also be debating a “Playoff MVP” for the first time.
Hope you all have a wonderful New Year and a restful weekend. We’ve got outdoor hockey tonight!

arthur

January 1st, 2011
3:07 pm

RON HAINSEY! no one else comes close

Jason

January 1st, 2011
3:50 pm

Since my computer went bonkers before I could properly celebrate the first FIRST of 2011 and before I could give my MVP pick (grumblegrumblegrumble)….

I think Pavelec has to be the MBP of this team so far. As many games as he’s won/stolen for us this season, it’s also becoming painfully obvious that this team would be in much different shape if we were relying on Mason on a regular basis.

Buff would have to be a close second. A true offensive defenseman, I think Buff is what Bogosian wishes he could be.

Dwayne

January 1st, 2011
7:06 pm

It all starts in goal….Pavs=MVP

Cornbread

January 1st, 2011
7:49 pm

Though the MVP candidates are all great choices, I’m going to vote “Other” and go with a blue collar type. The non-skilled player who epitomizes the way Coach Ramsay would like for all his players to play – listening Bergfors? – is Chris Thorburn. I really liked what I saw last season and this year he has continued to grow and step up his game. Chris Thorburn is becoming one Hell of a Hockey Player.

Savannah Blueland Fan

January 1st, 2011
7:58 pm

OooooooooooooooPppppppppppppp!!!!!!!!!!!!

sisu

January 1st, 2011
10:42 pm

considering he has finally earned the right to wear #31 it has to be Pavs….

Brendan

January 2nd, 2011
12:52 am

From Game 42 on, the MVP of our team must be our “depth.” If Atlanta cannot maintain the “balancing act,” it won’t be successful. We cannot ask Pavelec to steal games, night after night. We cannot ask Toby Enstrom to log 24-26 minutes a game, without it taking its toll. We cannot expect Byfuglien to save the day, everytime we get to overtime.

Our team wins … when all four lines contribute and our blueline chips in. That’s our recipe for success, coupled with responsible defensive play in the neutral zone and our defensive zone.

But, you’ve asked to name someone, specifically, for the mid-season MVP. I’ll agree with the blogmaster … that Dustin Byfuglien has made the biggest impact. He might be the soul of our team. Or, at least the “glue” of it. Honorable mention to Captain Andrew Ladd, as my 2nd choice. I like Pavelec 3rd. And Enstrom 4th. But really, is there a ‘wrong’ answer, at this point? We’ve got good contenders for the honors.

Tony C.

January 2nd, 2011
4:38 am

Why is there even any discussion? It’s Pavelec all day every day-for all the evidence you need, look at the record while he was out and the record once he returned. Any lingering doubt? Watch the tape of our last win. Kid straight stole those two points.

Tony C.

January 2nd, 2011
4:42 am

I also like what Cornbread has to say about Thorburn-dude has been nothing short of inspirational-he gives every thing he’s got every shift he’s out there-if/when he gets better at elevating his shot dude’s gonna be a real asset. I like to think of him and Slater as our (potential) Maltby guys…

Midfield

January 2nd, 2011
9:49 am

I’ll go with Malarchuk. He is the unseen, unheard and unsung hero.

Fan from Carolina

January 2nd, 2011
10:08 am

I voted for Byfuglien and have forgiven him for that awful penalty against the Lightning. Pavelic a very close second. tough call as the Thrashers would be in horrible shape with either one out of the lineup.
On another note, when Rawhide asked if we were getting worried in a previous column, with the loss to NJ and the Canes much stronger play lately, yes, I’m getting worried. Even more so since Roloson just went to the Lightning. He has stolen some games for the Islanders this year, most recently against the Red Wings and the Lightning before that. Goalie problem solved in TB and they gave up nothing. Yzerman GM of the year so far.

Joe Friday

January 2nd, 2011
10:30 am

Pavs has played great, but your MVP can’t be a guy that has only played in 25 of your 41 games.

No brainer, it’s Buf. The club goes as he goes . . . Ladd is a close 2nd, the day he was named captain was the day this group turned into a team.

Red Light

January 2nd, 2011
10:37 am

Nope, if you vote for Buff, you’ve overlooked the guy who has made it all possible – Enstrom.

Smoothie

January 2nd, 2011
11:02 am

Tony C – I love Thorby’s work ethic too and he’s become one helluva defensive forward but if his shot was gonna improve it woulda happened by now. He’s what, 28 y/o?!

Its tough not to pick Big Buff but look at all of the 1-goal games we’ve been in. Yes, Buffy has 5 GW goals but he’s usually responsible for 1 or 2 others in a game due to his sloppy defensive play. Enstrom has saved his butt in transition countless times this year. I guess that leaves Andrew Ladd but he’s run out of gas over the last three weeks. Its time to split up he and Pevs. Go back to Ladd-Little-Bergie/Thorbs/Antro.

BTW, when Antro gets off IR, we’ll need him to be our 2nd half MVG. Most Valuable Giant.

Patrick

January 2nd, 2011
11:42 am

YOU DA MAN BIG BUFF

Joe Friday

January 2nd, 2011
12:55 pm

“Nope, if you vote for Buff, you’ve overlooked the guy who has made it all possible – Enstrom.”

Oh, of course you’re right, I forgot how good our d has been all the years that Enstrom has been making his d pairing mate a better player, silly me!

Joe Friday

January 2nd, 2011
12:56 pm

and of course that was Enstrom last year in the Stanley Cup finals making Buf the force he is, what was I thinking!

Jordan

January 2nd, 2011
12:58 pm

I would have said Buf as he won us many games, but that was the first quarter of the season it would have been Buf or Ladd. If you just did a mvp for the 2nd quarter I would say not Buf or Ladd forsure, Buf has lost us games and has not been good at all despite scoring some goals still, Ladd has been invisible. Pavs was great but has been a little shaky lately. I think Little does not get enough credit, he is are best defensive forward by FAR. One of the hardest workers, and made Kane and Stewart better when they played with him.

I would say in order the best choices…… Pavs, Buf, Little, Enstrom, Ladd.

R. Stroz

January 2nd, 2011
1:51 pm

I’m in favor of league expansion. The first players I’d like to see on the “Shriveling Diques” are Sweedee Slowdeenee and Charmin, that should test whether they truly support hockey.

Thrashers27

January 2nd, 2011
3:08 pm

Yep, Cormier can stay!

HookyBob

January 2nd, 2011
3:39 pm

Happy new year Roseau, MN,..Buf came through,……again.

Curly

January 2nd, 2011
4:53 pm

Let’s Compare a previous MVP with this season’s first half MVP.
Buff: Leads the NHL with 6 GWG (tied for first with Stamkos). Leads all defenseman in points and goals.
Kovy: League worst -28.
Remember that we traded New Jersey’s first rounder from the Kovalchuk trade to Chicago for Byfuglien.

Smoothie

January 2nd, 2011
5:01 pm

I see Enstrom attempted to validate Red Light’s comments on this blog. And validate he did. But Big Buff will get all the credit cuz he can wind up and hammer a puck 100 mph. Anyway, good to see Peverley respond to the line shake up. He set up Stewart about half a dozen times, but Stewy just doesn’t have any hands…sigh. Anyway, Pevs was very good today and he undressed Gill and Price on his goal. Guess who made the “give and go” go….yeah, that tiny Swede again. But he’s not any good. And hardly deserving of 26+ mins / game. Enstrom is really elevating his game this year. I give him a bit of a pass last year after getting his face rearranged by Martins Karsums blindside hit. Toby is playing without fear again and he should be credited with Ladd’s goal at the end of the 2nd. Yet Buffy gets the # 1 star for one shot. Figured the Montreal media would see that Pavelec was #1, then Enstrom (or vice versa) and then some Hab (Plekanec?). Anyway, big win that they can savor and build on while resting on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale. The boys do need some R&R and perhaps the extra day to rest will help vs FLA on Wed.

Dwayne

January 2nd, 2011
5:23 pm

Buff does not get those game winners if Pavs doesn’t do what he does….Atlantas Valuble Player====.AVP which ===== PAV.

Tony C.

January 2nd, 2011
5:42 pm

Great point Midfield-he[Marlachuk]’s clearly helped O-P reach another level, but still, it’s the kid executing-let’s not forget this is the 1st season we’ve even had someone on staff who’s sole responsibility is netminder development/coaching. Makes you wonder what could’ve been ….

Tony C.

January 2nd, 2011
6:10 pm

SmoothE-not necessarily talking about his shot, moreso his accuracy and shot placement. Specifically, the ability to lift the puck over the goalie from a close-range area.

He is who he is-a role player who can kill penalties and provide some energy while chipping in offensively from time to time.

I don’t believe he’s going to suddenly develop a laser-like slapper, but certainly he has shown (gradual) improvement in his decision making and overall play…the way Ramsay rewards effort with TOI, I don’t think it’s beyond belief that Thorburn will be able to gain the confidence to improve his in-close shot.