Over the course of the next day or so I’ll be performing my annual spring chore of converting this on-line Thrashers forum into one where the NHL playoffs are the primary focus of discussion. But before I do, and before the recently wrapped-up season fades into a distant memory, let’s take time to review the good, the un-good and the ugly of the Thrashers season.
I’ve paired the ‘good’ and the un-good’ down to just a few, but I’m sure many of you will have others to add to each column. As for the most aesthetically unappealing aspect of this past Thrashers season…well, I think there is only one clear item worthy of that honor.
We’ll begin with…
Fantastic First Half: Speaking of distant memories…there was the good start that we witnessed here in Thrasherville last fall. Given the way things eventually tuned out it’s somewhat hard to believe that at one time this team was at one time 19-11-5 and sitting a top the Southeast Division. In fact, after 43 games played they had amasses 50 points and still held a playoff spot in the east.
Upon returning to the lineup in late October, Ondrej Pavelec was stealing games for us had had a record of 13-8-4 with a .935 SV% and 2.11 GAA on January 1. On the other end of the ice, Dustin Byfuglien led the team’s offensive production with 15 goals and 25 assists and was a +6 after 41 games played. Five of his goals were game-winners.
What happened after that? Well, we’ll get to that later.
Seen Enough to Want to Stay: Two key players on the Thrashers roster did not need to wait until their contracts expired before choosing to re-up for another tour of duty here. First was Byfuglien, who signed an extension back in January. It only took him half a season to come to the decision. However it only took a week and a half for the newly acquired Mark Stuart to ink a three-year deal after coming over via a trade with Boston.
These two signings could go a long way in stopping the Thrashers revolving door from spinning off its axis. Too many times in the past we’ve seen quality talent dart for the exit upon the first chance to do so.
Now…what happened just a day after Buff re-signed here? Well, we’ll get to that as well.
Other Good Honorable Mentions: I’ll also throw in here the play of captain Andrew Ladd, who led the team in overall scoring with 29 goals and 59 points… defenseman Toby Enstrom and his team-leading 41 assists…Ondrej Pavelec who finished the year with a .2.73 GAA, .914 SV% and 4 shutouts despite his 21-23-9 overall record…and Bryan Little who was a most-deserving recipient of this year’s Dan Snyder Award for the unsung hero.
Second Half Slide: As well as things went in the first half of the season, that’s just how un-good things got after New Years. Since that high-water mark on Dec. 20, they then went 15-23-6 including a disastrous 2-8-2 month of February.
Multiple times the Thrashers found themselves in tight games in the middle of the second period only to let one play or goal deteriorate into a 9-3 or 6-1 route. Players quit in the middle of games and coach Ramsay failed too often to provide the right in-game adjustments…or deal with the opposing coach’s adjustments.
Too often they failed to follow up a big win with another solid effort. After a 1-0 victory over Washington prior to the All Star break, they retuned to drop a stink bomb on the ice during a 4-1 loss to an Islander team hovering around the bottom of the conference standings. It lead to a 0-3-1 slide before they registered a dramatic 3-2 win over the Rangers. However, four straight loses and a 1-6-1 skid followed that.
Finally, after defeating the Flyers in overtime late in the season, they found themselves needing a win in Buffalo to pull within 2 points of a playoff spot…but they were soundly defeated 8-2.
In the end, after winning the first two games of the second half of the season, they slumped to a 12-21-6 mark, finishing with the 6th worst record in the NHL.
Zach Bogosian: There really is no way to sugar coat this…Zach was simply a train wreck in this his third NHL season. The 3rd overall pick in the 2008 draft finished the year at with an abysmal –27 rating, one that was unfortunately well deserved. After scoring 9 and 10 goals in his first two seasons, he produced but 5 in this most recent campaign.
His 17 points in 71 games played was 2 fewer than he produced in his rookie season, one that was limited to just 47 games due to injury.
To put it as kindly as I can, Bogosian looked lost for must of the year. Not only has he failed to improve on his play, he took a giant step backwards in his development.
Now, I do try to temper this with the fact that the kid has still yet to see his 21st birthday and since the departure of Mathieu Schneider hasn’t really had much of a mentor to help him out.
Hopefully the coaching staff can address Bogosian’s issues before next fall.
Power Outage: Atlanta scored a grand total of 223 goals this season, down from the 234 produced last year and 257 the year prior. It was only 7 goals better than the debacle of 2007-08.
The post-Kovalchuk era of the Thrashers history was predicated on a more balanced effort on the offensive side of the ice. However, for such a concept to work, you still need at least one or two players to score 30 or more goals.
Byfuglien and Ladd were the only ones to net 20 or more.
The Overall Record: If you would have ask me last fall what I would have thought about this team finishing with a 32-34-12 record, fourth in the SE and 12th overall in the east, I would have said it would classify as a failure. This is especially true given where they found themselves at the midpoint of the season.
A year ago John Anderson and his entire coaching staff were given pink slips after an 83-point showing primarily because GM Rick Dudley felt the team was good enough to compete for a playoff spot. The job didn’t get done and changes were made.
We now know that it will take a minimum of 5 years to make a return appearance to the postseason after the 4-game sweep in 2007. Following the epic FAIL of the following season, Mark Bradley ask then-GM Don Waddell if there was any hope that the Thrashers could rebound quickly. Waddell responded by pointing to the Flyers, who had turned a 56-point showing in 06-07 into a playoff effort the next year.
Given his Thrashers had finish with 76 points that year, Waddell pointed out, “So, we’re 20 points ahead of [the Flyers}”.
So how far are we ahead of them now, Don?
The Atlanta Spirit, LLC: Yes folks, the single most aesthetically challenged part of this 2010-11 Thrashers season is the cluster known as the AS, LLC, (Lies, Lawsuits and Contempt). They earn this honor because of the bomb they dropped on Thrasherville just one day after we learned Big Buff had signed a contract extension.
After years of sending Waddell out to deliver the lies about not wanting to sell the team, Michael Gearon finally came clean and admitted they had sought to do just that. Actually, that bit of 411 was revealed in the most-recent lawsuit involving the cluster-flop ownership group.
The Spirit Clowns took over this franchise 7 years ago when the team was experiencing their best days. They went into the lockout after a team-high 78-point season and came out after with a 90 and 97 point showing…and a playoff berth.
The next year on opening night, co-owner Rutherford Seydel took to the microphone and told a packed house in Philips Arena that he and his partners would do everything possible to bring a championship team to Atlanta.
Well, if you call running the team on a shoe-string budget, consistently icing a roster right at the league minimum in payroll, lying to the organization’s paying customers and alienating the fan base as “doing everything”…well then he’s followed through on that pledge quite nicely.
It’s been said you get out of something what you put in. Given what the Spiriteers have put into the team, it’s really now wonder why the Thrashers have continue to end up near the bottom of the standing over the last four years. And the second Thrasherville and the NHL is finally rid of the Great Octocluster, the better the franchise, its fan base and the league will be.
But until that day finally arrives, the AS, LLC will continue to be an ugly stain on this Thrashers organization.