Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings, and the Atlanta Thrashers are up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season, the issues they face this season, and Scott Cullen's fantasy analysis. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Thrashers!
2009-10: 35-34-13 (10th in East, missed the playoffs)
General Manager: Rick Dudley (1st Season)
Head Coach: Craig Ramsay (1st Season)
What they did in the off-season:
The Thrashers spent the majority of the off-season becoming “Blackhawks South” as they picked the cap strapped bones of the Stanley Cup Champions for no fewer than four players whose names were recently engraved on Hockey's Holy Grail. For the Thrashers, the idea appears to be “if you can't beat them, then you might as well attempt to emulate them.”
The re-building in Atlanta began with the hiring of Craig Ramsey as the team's new head coach. General manager Rick Dudley then got busy dealing with the Hawks, acquiring Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel in a three-team, nine player deal. Since it worked out the first time, Dudley went back to the well and brought in Andrew Ladd from the Windy City for prospect Ivan Vishnevskiy. Atlanta then shored up their goaltending situation by signing Chris Mason and extending Ondrej Pavelec. They also walked away from an arbitrator's decision to award Clarke MacArthur a $2.4 salary, making MacArthur a free agent then shipped Todd White to the Rangers in exchange for Donald Brashear (who was subsequently waived) and Patrick Rissmiller.
While the Thrashers have an abundance of cap room remaining, it does not appear as though they will be spending it on an impact signing that could improve the club's fortunes in the standings.
Biggest issue facing the team:
The departures of Max Afinogenov, MacArthur, Colby Armstrong, Slava Kozlov and White means there will be plenty of forward spots up for grabs in training camp. While there are some promising prospects on the horizon it will be difficult to fill the skates of the departing veterans, no matter how many bit pieces from the reigning Stanley Cup champs are brought in. This team is going to have a great deal of difficulty scoring. While both Evander Kane and Niclas Bergfors are expected to improve on solid rookie seasons, it would be a stretch to suggest that they would be able to carry the Thrashers into the playoffs. This was not a terribly good team to begin with and they have yet to really compensate for all of the off-season losses. With the Lightning drastically improving, the Hurricanes on the comeback trail and the Capitals as strong as ever, the Thrashers are likely to battle the Panthers all year for the basement of not just the Southeast, but likely the NHL.
Player to watch:
It will be very interesting to see how Byfuglien adjust to life in the “Dirty South.” Big Buff flourished in the playoffs skating alongside Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa, doing the majority of the line's dirty work and chipping in 11 goals during the Cup drive after finding the back of the net only 17 times in the regular season. Byfuglien will have nowhere near the same level of talent on his line next season and will likely be hard pressed to emulate his post-season success. Working in his favour is the fact that he is still young and is a hulking physical package that will be given all the ice time he needs to develop his offensive touch. If he is able to continue playing at the level that he did in the playoffs, then the Thrashers may well have one of the better young power forwards in the league.
For additional Thrashers analysis, be sure to read Scott Cullen's fantasy take.