Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Vishnevsky-Belanger Trade Analysis

As you probably already know, the Thrashers dealt defensemen Vishnevsky to Nashville for Belanger (who had played most of the season with Carolina until being dealt to exchange for Vasicek). My reaction? Well the team had too many defensemen and Vishnevsky wasn't going to help us in the press box so we turned an idle player into someone who may help us on the ice right now.

Is Eric Belanger the solution? In truth I don't know. I've only seen him play a few times and he didn't exactly jump out at me. (I may go watch an old Carolina game on the DVR to take a look at him.) Personally, I wish that Atlanta had ended up with Vasicek (the guy Nashville traded to get Belanger) or Mike Comrie who was traded weeks ago, but who knows maybe Don Waddell wanted a more defensive minded guy to help out the PK. We may still see a trade for an offensive center.

Belanger as a Scorer

Belanger's career numbers suggest he is NOT going to confused with Sidney Crosby. During his career he has averaged fewer than half a point per game. On the other hand, he will likely receive more minutes in Atlanta than he did in Carolina and if he takes Rucchin's spot he may be paired up with Kovalchuk and Sim. Who knows maybe he could have a scoring uptick. Is he better than Niko Kapanen? Probably. Is he much better than Slater? We will have to wait and see.

Someone else pointed out to me that it is surprising to see a trade between a top team in the West and a top ranked team in the East. We tend to assume that only the bottom teams are selling. This transaction points out why it is important for a GM to call ALL the teams to see who is available.

Belanger as a Penalty Killer

I quick look at the statistics for Belanger show that he averaged only 1:30 of Short-handed ice time for the Hurricanes. Among their forwards he was just 7th in SH ice time. The coaching staff in Carolina did not use him in that role much.

On the other hand, during the 2005-06 season he as the leading PK guy for the LA Kings. He was 1st among the forwards in short-handed ice time, averaging 3:58 per game. In the season prior to the lockout we again see that Belanger was the LA Kings top PK forwards averaging 2:51 short-handed ice time. So Belanger has extensive experience as a PK forward and perhaps the Thrashers management and scouts remember his time in LA.

On the down side the LA Kings PK% was dead last in the NHL during the 2005-06 season and 3rd to last in the 2003-04 season when Belanger was their top forward. I do remember LA suffered from some poor goaltending and massive injury problems during those years so I'm not sure how much of the credit/blame goes to Belanger.

Conclusion
I have a very open mind on this trade. I'm curious to see how he looks in a Thrasher uniform. Only time will tell if this deal has the desired effect on the club.

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