Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Thrashers Team Rankings in Historical Perspective

The Thrashers have now played about 10% of their season schedule. I was looking at where this year's club ranks in various categories compared to past Thrasher teams. There are a 72 more games to be played and some of these numbers for this season could move quite dramatically. So far the team has had one blowout win (7-4 over WAS) and one blowout loss (0-7 PHI) and a bunch of close contests (but mostly losses).

To make these rankings more intuitive, any team ranking that is in the bottom 1/3 I made the text appear blue and any ranking in the middle 1/3 black and any ranking in the top 1/3 red.

NHL Standings Rank

2000-2001 28
2001-2002 30
2002-2003 23
2003-2004 21
2005-2006 20
2006-2007 12
2007-2008 27
2008-2009 29
Summary: Only one season has the team not finished in the bottom third.


Player Salary Rank
2000-2001 28
2001-2002 28
2002-2003 28
2003-2004 26
2005-2006 02
2006-2007 17
2007-2008 23
2008-2009 29
After the lockout the owners spent big time, then fell to middle of the back and then to the basement again in the 3rd season after the lockout.

Average Attendance Rank
2000-2001 23
2001-2002 28
2002-2003 28
2003-2004 22
2005-2006 23
2006-2007 21
2007-2008 22
2008-2009 28
Attendance has never been great other than the initial 1999-2000 season. On the other hand the Thrashers attendance ranking has been higher than their standings ranking multiple times in team history--people have bought tickets even for a terrible hockey product.

Offense (Goals For Average)
2000-2001 27
2001-2002 26
2002-2003 10
2003-2004 13
2005-2006 06
2006-2007 15
2007-2008 22
2008-2009 24
Offense is one rare area where the Thrashers have managed to be above average in their franchise history. The one year the team spent big they were very good offensively, because almost all the money went into forwards--of course they also couldn't defend very well.

Defense (Goals Against Average)
2000-2001 29
2001-2002 30
2002-2003 30
2003-2004 25
2005-2006 24
2006-2007 15
2007-2008 30
2008-2009 29
This is by far the most damning indictment of Don Waddell's tenure. That a former defensemen can't seem to assemble a mediocre defensive corps is really amazing. The best defensive season in franchise history the team only managed to rise as high as middle of the pack, every other season the club has finished in the bottom third.

Goal Differential (Goals Scored - Goals Allowed)
2000-2001 28
2001-2002 30
2002-2003 27
2003-2004 22
2005-2006 16
2006-2007 16
2007-2008 30
2008-2009 30
To be an contending club you can't continually stink it up on offense or defense, you have to be able to both reasonably well. The Thrashers had two outstanding offensive teams and neither made the playoffs. The one team that did was decent on offense (15th) and decent on defense (15th).

Shots On Goal Differential (Shots For - Shots Against)

2000-2001 26
2001-2002 20
2002-2003 26
2003-2004 24
2005-2006 13
2006-2007 19
2007-2008 30
2008-2009 27
The current Thrashers team is ranked 11th in shots for but just 29th in shots against.

Team Goaltending (Save Percentage)

2000-2001 24
2001-2002 27
2002-2003 30
2003-2004 27
2005-2006 24
2006-2007 13
2007-2008 19
2008-2009 20
Pre-lockout the Thrashers finished in the basement each season, post-lockout this is one of the few areas where the team has ranked in the middle third. Lehtonen's SV% ranking has increased each year relative to other starting goalies.

Finishing (Shot Percentage)

2000-2001 23
2001-2002 17
2002-2003 07
2003-2004 05
2005-2006 06
2006-2007 12
2007-2008 11
2008-2009 27
In their history the Thrashers have had three offensive superstars: Kovalchuk , Heatley and Hossa. You can see this in the team shot percentage. Great players finish off their chances at a much higher rate than your average NHL player. This season the Thrashers ranked 11th in shots taken but rank just 27th in terms of scoring on their shots--that's what losing a Marian Hossa means (and having Kovalchuk off to a slow start). Still there is reason to believe the offense will improve if Kovalchuk heats up and the rest of the forwards get a little more luck around the net.

Power Play Percentage
2000-2001 25
2001-2002 29
2002-2003 13
2003-2004 23
2005-2006 04
2006-2007 23
2007-2008 23
2008-2009 19
Despite having some super stars who could finish, the Thrashers have had just one outstanding PP season in team history. The current PP unit has actually improved over last year's so far.

Penalty Kill Percentage
2000-2001 30
2001-2002 25
2002-2003 24
2003-2004 08
2005-2006 27
2006-2007 26
2007-2008 27
2008-2009 26
Consistently poor. I have no explanation for that 2003-04 anomaly.

Earning Power Play Opportunities
2000-2001 07
2001-2002 24
2002-2003 13
2003-2004 02
2005-2006 01
2006-2007 10
2007-2008 28
2008-2009 09
The outstanding area in team history is earning penalties. The Thrashers have been on the PP more often than most teams and they accomplished this in spite of the fact that Kovalchuk doesn't get the benefit of thedoubt as a consequence of his early diving issues.

Team Discipline (Avoiding Short Handed Situations)
2000-2001 26
2001-2002 21
2002-2003 17
2003-2004 28
2005-2006 28
2006-2007 10
2007-2008 15
2008-2009 19
Bad teams usually take a lot of penalties. The players are not as good and they cheat and get called for it. Given their talent level the Thrashers have been a relatively disciplined team over the years. The one year the team qualified for the playoffs they did very well at staying out of the box. An observation: since Marc Savard and Modry have departed the Thrashers have not finished in the basement in penalties taken.

Conclusion
The Thrashers have been bad at a lot of things in their history. I realize that is hardly a news flash to long term fans. What about this year? The most encouraging thing I can say is that they are generating pressure offensively, They rank 11th in shots and their up tempo system is earning the club a lot of PP opportunities (9th). So far they just haven't capitalized (27th in shooting %) and the offense ranks just 24th--I expect the offense to rise as the season progresses.

On the defensive side things are still concerning. The shots allowed are still too high. Part of that is the new offensive system in which the defensemen are supposed to take more chances holding the puck in at the offensive blueline. The Thrashers forwards must become better at covering for those pinching defensemen in those situations where they fail to hold it in the offensive zone.

1 Comments:

  • Not to nitpick too much but the Thrashers actually finished out of the bottom third twice: 05-06 and 06-07. The bottom third would be the worst ten teams, which would be teams 21-30.

    By Blogger DMG, at 7:55 PM  

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