Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Real NHL Standings 1-31

Points Above .500 (adjusts for different number of games played)

Eastern Conference
1. +17 OTT (Division Leader)
2. +12 PHI (Division Leader)
3. +12 MON
4. +9 PIT
5. +9 NJD
6. +7 BOS
7. +3 NYI
8. +2 NYR
9. +2 BUF
10 +1 CAR (Division Leader)
11 +0 WAS
12 -1 ATL
13 -3 FLA
14 -4 TOR
15 -6 TBL

Western Conference
1. +28 DET
2. +12 SJS
3. +10 MIN
4. +9 DAL
5. +9 CGY
6. +7 COL
7. +6 ANA
8. +6 VAN
9. +5 PHX
10 +4 CBJ
11 +4 NAS
12 +4 STL
13 -2 EDM
14 -1 CHI
15 -9 LAK

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Atlanta Thrashers Scouting Analysis

I've been fairly critical of Thrasher players who have played poorly (see my posts on Zhitnik and Sutton). I've said that I thought the Thrashers had outgrown Bob Hartley before he was let go. Today I'm going to do some analysis of the scouting department. (This post was spurred by a recent debate on the Thrashers boards about the Thrashers drafting record.)

The NHL is a bottom line business. Players are judged by their performance, coaches by wins and losses, scouts should be judged on their performance record as well. I took at look at all Thrashers draft picks from 1999-2005 by league to see which area scouts had done well and which had done poorly.

I divided all the players into hits (usuable NHL players) busts (not useable NHL players) and maybes (unclear at this point). It simply two early to have to make judgments about the 2006 and 2007 draft picks other than Bryan Little who I think is clearly going to be a NHL player in my view--so I included Little into my study of picks from 1999-2005 but not the other '06 or '07 picks.

My list of prospects drafted between 1999-2005 who I think still have a solid chance of making the NHL without suing your imagination too much: Pavelec, Sterling, C. Stuart, Lewis, Zubarev, Kozek, Oystrick, Valabik, LaVallee and Nikulin (who I think has the talent to play in the NHL just not the interest). If you're playing in the ECHL right now you didn't make the cut (Denny, Turple for example).

NHLers and Maybes by Type of League
  1. 44% Europe: 4 NHLers (Kovalchuk, Lehtonen, Nurminen, Enstrom), 3 maybes (Nikulin, Zubarev, Pavelec) out of 16 picks. High Picks: Nikulin-maybe, Kovalchuk-hit, Lehtonen-hit, Pavelec-likely
  2. 42% US College: 2 NHLers (Heatley, Slater), 3 maybes (Lewis, Stuart, Sterling) out of 12 picks. High Picks: Heatley-hit, Slater-hit, Lewis-maybe
  3. 23% WHL: 3 NHLers (Exelby, Hordichuk, Coburn), 0 maybes, out of 13 picks. High Picks: Blatny-bust, Garnett-bust, Coburn-hit, Holzapfel-maybe, Machacek-maybe
  4. 22% TIER II: 0 NHLers, 2 maybes (Oystrick, Kozek), out of 9 picks. High Picks: Kozek-maybe, Forney-maybe.
  5. 18% OHL: 1 NHLers (Little), 1 maybe (Valabik), out of 11 picks. High Picks: Sellars-bust, Ustrnul-bust, Valabik-maybe, Lehman-bust, Little-likely
  6. 14% QMJHL: 0 NHLers, 1 maybe (LaVallee), out of 7 picks. High Picks: Bourret-bust (for the Thrashers at least), Denny-unlikely

Small Sample Size to make any conclusions.
100% IHL: 1 NHLer (Stefan) out of 1 pick. High Picks: Stefan-hit.
00% HS/PREP: 0 NHLers, 0 maybes, out of 2 picks

The College scouts get credit for Heatley and Slater but both were 1st rounders and so far no post-1st rounder have made the NHL. Colin Stuart is making a strong bid for a NHL job this year and Sterling and Lewis are both legitimate prospects with a shot to make the big show. Throw in the signing of undrafted collegian Brian Pothier who is having a nice NHL career and the NCAA scouts are looking pretty good.

The European scouts have seen their high picks pan out (Kovalchuk and Lehtonen) but also found some late round gems (Nurminen and Enstrom) as well as a likely NHLer (Pavelec) and a maybe NHLer (Zubarev).

Whoever is picking the Quebec League players might want to pay more attention to character as Bourret was dumped unceremoniously for well "lack of character" to put it nicely. Jimmy Sharrow did nothing to endear himself during his stint in the ECHL. Mallette was so obviously not NHL material the team didn't even bother to try and sign him. Denny a high pick (2nd round) couldn't crack the AHL roster. I like Desbiens but his skating and perhaps conditioning are not NHL caliber. Gamache worked very hard and I like his drive--he was a good last round flier. Out of the nine picks spent on players from the Q only LaVallee seems likely to crack the Thrashers roster someday--that's a pretty poor track record.

The OHL has been a veritable scouting wasteland until 1st rounder Little broke a string of failures. There have been no late round gems so far (although they deserve a nod for signing undrafted OHL Karl Stewart who almost became a NHL regular). Fellow OHL 1st rounder seems more like the second coming of Eric Cairns and was a tremendous waste of a pick in my opinion when you look at the talent available that high in that draft year (fans go on and on about taking Coburn over Phaneuf but at last Coburn turned into a NHL guy, while Valabik's upside is 3rd pairing defenseman). 3rd rounder Scott Lehman is just a mess even in the ECHL where he had far and away the worst plus minus on a decent team last season. Very high picks were used to take Sellars (30th overall) and Ustrnul (42nd overall) who were not that close to cracking the NHL. Considering that the OHL is in the hockey heartland of Ontario I'm not sure why the Thrashers keep bombing in this league. It is very easy to go see OHL players unlike guys who play in Waterloo Iowa or Slovenia. Whomever is watching the OHL is not making a very good list it seems to me.

Finally I think the Thrashers should think long and hard about using draft picks on Tier II junior guys who are going to play in the NCAA the following season. GM Don Waddell likes to take these sorts of guys because colleges develop them and the Thrashers have more time to decide if they want to sign them or not. But the data indicates that this strategy is just not working so far. Oystrick and Kozek are still viable prospects, but if I were a betting man I'd put money down that neither of them ever play more than 82 NHL games. They either need to find better players in Tier II or allocate those picks to scouts who have a track record of success.

If were an owner and GM I'd do some statistical analysis to evaluate each scouts individual ranking sheet from each and every draft. The Thrashers organization needs to figure out who has a better overall track record of evaluating talent. I have no idea if this is done internally or not, but an analysis of each scout's list ought to be the scouting worlds version of goals-assists-points or wins and losses. Every scout makes a ranking and those that make the best ranking ought to be retained or promoted, those with less accurate ranking should be replaced. That's the way it works in most businesses, you figure out who is effective and who is not. The Thrashers track record on draft is just average--the franchise could do better.

Monday, January 28, 2008

All Star Weekend a Huge Hit

I'm totally worn out and exhausted today and I'll have some pictures to post later. I can only speak for myself and the people that went with me to events this weekend but I had a terrific experience.

The game itself was played with more passion than I expected. Seeing numerous All-Stars up close on the Red Carpet Arrival was a personal highlight. So a tip of my hat to the NHL and the Atlanta Thrashers organization for putting together a great weekend for the fans.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

All Star Rockin Skate

This will be a quick post. I got there at 8:15 am and picked up my exclusive Hossa figures without a problem, only about 20 people in line when I arrived. No line at all later.

The Jonas Bros before this event but apparently thousands of young ones love them based upon their Beatlemania screams and the very long line to buy the bands t-shirt.

The practice was so-so. A bit disorganized looking--I was really hoping to see them rehearse some of the Skills things but mostly they just milled around and warmed up goalies. My dream of seeing the trick shot rehearsed was not realized either.

We did get a preview of the drum corps which will provide intermission entertainment and I look forward to seeing them again. Best thing that happened all day was getting my very own mug on an Upper Deck card for FREE!!!!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

All Star Game: Places to Eat in Atlanta

Welcome to Atlanta All-Star Attendees!

Atlanta is home to 5 million people and many good places to eat. If you are visiting for the All-Star Game here are some local establishments you may want to check out to get a taste of the local flavor.

I very much enjoy eating out but I don't like to spend a lot of money so all of these places are quite reasonably prices. (In you are NHL bigwig looking to max out your expense account--well McCormick and Schmicks is right there in the CNN center waiting for you.) I have chosen not to list any of the quality chain restaurants that are available in Atlanta. This is just a short list of the many eating options, for more reviews and descriptions check out Creative Loafing.

Lastly, I should note that Atlanta's public transportation system is not that great. I have tried to pick places that are closer to downtown but even the close places are most easily reached by car. If you don't have a car or can't afford a cab you have to settle for eating up in Buckhead or Atlantic Station which feature malls, bars and restaurants in close proximity. But if you can venture out--well here are a few of my favorite places to eat.

Favorite Breakfast
Flying Biscuit: One of my personal favorites. It has a new-south menu. I recommend the "High Flyer" combination which includes eggs, turkey sausage, pancakes with peach compote, one flying biscuit and your choice of home fries or salad (take the salad) for about $8. This place is very popular on the weekends so be prepared to wait before being seated. There are several locations the original one is east (1655 McLendon Ave) and the second north of Philips Arena (1001 Piedmont Ave) in the heart of Atlanta's gay community (visit their website for more details).

Favorite Dim Sum
Every other month my hockey friends and I gather for a bit of dim sum and China Delight (2390 Chamblee Tucker) is our consensus for "best dim sum" in the city. I'm not sure what it is called but make sure you get the shrimp on a sugar cane stick--very tasty. Located in the Asian and Hispanic corridor along Buford highway it caters both to Chinese and non-Chinese diners.

Favorite Seafood
Six Feet Under is located due east of the arena (415 Memorial Drive SE) and sits directly across the street from historic Oakwood Cemetery where many prominent figures in Georgia history are buried. Six Feet Under has a great local reputation and the prices are very reasonable compared to some other seafood restaurants. Last time there I enjoyed the "Snow Crab Boil" which includes 3-4 Snow Crab claws, Andouille sausage, new potatoes and corn on the cob ($19).

Mexico Meets the South
Tacqueria del Sol: has three locations, but at each people will line up out the door for their delicious fish tacos, brisket tacos, or my favorite the fried chicken taco (which tastes much better than the name sounds).

Favorite Szechuan
Read almost any of the reviews of the food at Tasty China (585 Franklin SE, Marietta, GA) and you will find food critics gushing with praise. With a low profile strip mall location the decor doesn't speak nearly as loudly as the flavor. Roughly a half hour drive from downtown Tasty China is worth the trip if you love Szechuan.

Favorite BBQ
Atlanta has many BBQ joints but my new favorite is Fox Bros BBQ (1238 Dekalb Ave) the dry rub ribs are great. Other quality BBQ establishments in town include Fat Matt's and Smokey's.

Favorite Thai
Located just a short drive from Philips Arena is a high quality Thai place called Spoon (768 Marietta Street). Slightly more expensive than most of the places on this list, the food is top notch.

Best Fried Food
The Varsity Ever wondered what it would be like to step into a time machine and visit a fast food place from 1966? Well you can make that dream come true at The Varsity (61 North Ave) which has been serving up many a pre- or post-game meals for Georgia Tech fans. They have been keeping cardiologists in business for decades but some claim that the onion rings are to die for. Another menu favorite is the orange shake.

Favorite Pizza
Cameli's Pizza: I'm a big fan of this local pizza joint. They have a number of house specialties and will make custom pizza as well. The ingredients are always very fresh and the crust tends toward the thin side. This place reminds me of the pizza I ate in northern Italy a few year ago.

Although I have not tried it myself yet, Rosa's Pizza on Broad is close to Philips Arena and comes highly recommended from friends.

Best Value
Eats: If you go to Eats (600 Ponce de Leon Ave) don't expect any fancy decor but a no frills cafeteria style local place that offers pasta and soul food. The clientele caters to college students, musicians and urban hipsters looking for a reasonable meal. My personal favorite is the rotisserie jerk chicken with corn on the cob and couscous (plus a square of cornbread) which costs only $7-8.

For European Sports Fans
Often gather at The Brewhouse (401 Moreland) which shows big soccer matchups at all hours of the day and night and also features English rugby league action on Sunday mornings.

Hockey Friendly Bars
Football is still king in the south but there are some places that are quite welcoming to fans of hockey. I have watched many NHL playoff games at Twain's over the years. Taco Mac a local tex-mex chain which is also a sponsor of the Thrashers. T.J.s up on the northside is run by former Altanta Flame Tim Ecclestone. Mr. Ecclestone himself is frequently around the establishment and has bought us a round from time to time.

Late Night Food
Bambau Lau (2263 Cheshire Bridge Road) has the distinction of being open until at least 3 am every night. So if you're up late and are craving Chinese this is your destination.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Alexei Zhitnik: Stick a Fork in Him?

A few years ago the New Jersey Devils signed Richard Matvichuk (age 32) Vladimir Malakhov (age 37) and Alexander Mogilny (36). All three of these players proved ineffective in the speedier NHL and the Devils had to make some tough choices. One of the players "retired" and another was sent to the minors.

The Thrashers organization now needs to make that call on Alexei Zhitnik (age 36). He is simply no longer an effective player in the NHL. Earlier in the season Don Waddell described him as being "out of shape" but we are now in late January and he has been playing for nearly four months. Zhitnik needs to either retire or be sent to the minors. He is hurting the Thrashers every single night he dresses and there are few reasons to think he is going to suddenly improve. If he is still "out of shape" then let him get his form back in the AHL playing 20 minutes a night and riding the bus.

The truth is that Zhitnik is either no longer mobile enough to keep up with NHL forwards or he lacks the mental ability to adjust to the fact that he has lost a step (unlike say Ken Klee who is not fast but reasonable effective). Last night in New York Zhitnik prematurely dropped to one knee to block a potential pass only to watch Dubinsky skate around him and score an easy goal on an abandoned Kari Lehtonen. Later in the game during four on four action Tobias Enstrom pinched carried the puck deep in the Rangers zone. Zhitnik failed to act as the safety valve and allowed himself to be trapped up ice for an easy break away goal by the Rangers.

Zhitnik's blown coverage versus the Rangers is nothing new. Time after time I have replayed goals against the Thrashers on my DVR at home in which Zhitnik cruises into the TV picture after the damage has been done. I can't believe that I'm the only person that is getting sick of seeing this on my TV screen each game.

Don Waddell is patient man, patient to a fault sometimes. If he sticks with Zhitnik the rest of the season it might very well cost the Thrashers a playoff berth (just as his choice not to trade for a goaltender in the 2005-06 season ultimately cost the team the playoffs that year). The Thrashers have 31 games remaining and they simply must get the maximum out of every position in the lineup.

As a 15 year veteran Alexi Zhitnik earned the right to be given a chance to turn around his season. Zhitnik has been given that and more and now. Now it is time for the Thrashers to act in the best interests of the team and either bench him or send him down to the AHL and play Popovic in his place.

Staggering Into the the All-Star Break

After turning a couple of better-than-expected performances the Thrashers came up a bit short versus the Canadians, didn't show up at all against the Sabres and then played hard but executed poorly on Sunday with Edmonton in town.

Kwiatkowski was called up played adequately on Sunday and gave the team much more than Zhitnik has all season. If it were up to me I wouldn't dress Zhitnik for the next game either. So far this season Zhitnik has played below "replacement level" which means his performance has been worse than what you could expect from a top minor league veteran. I'm glad to see him finally held accountable.

The Thrashers need to figure out if Zhitnik is struggling because a) he's out of shape; b) he doesn't care; c) he is no longer NHL caliber. If it is the latter two they might as well send him to the minors and/or buy him out this summer to free up a roster spot for someone who is more serviceable to the club. The $3.5 million owed him next year and the prospect surrender (Braydon Coburn) to obtain him are all sunk costs. The Thrashers decision making regarding Zhitnik should not focus on how much it cost to obtain him but simply on the this question: Is he one of their top 6 defensmen now and next season. If the answer is "no" then it you dress the six best guys available.

Bernie Mullin left Atlanta Spirit today. His contract was up this summer and given the current owners level of interest his position was probably unnecessary. I've heard DW repeatedly mention informing the owners about trades and contract talks so having an extra guy in there seems unnecessary. My only question is why now? If Mullin could see he wasn't needed and received an offer then his departure now makes sense. If he left without an offer then that raises the question of why a guy would walk away from his contract with nothing waiting for him. I'll try to keep an eye on when he starts his next job.

The recent surge by the Capitals has made the division title and place off race more complicated for the Thrashers. They have slipped down to a tie with Buffalo for 11th in the real standings. WAS and CAR are tied at +1 for the SE title and last playoff berth. The Thrashers need to get two points out of the mid week pair up in New York. If they were to lose both they would slip down to a tie for 13th in the conference.

Points Above .500
1. OTT +15
2. PIT +10
3. PHI +11
4. NJD +10
5. MON +9
6. BOS +6
7. NYI +4
8. CAR +1
9. WAS +1
10 NYR +1
11 BUF -1
12 ATL -1
13 FLA -3
14 TOR -3
15 TBL -5

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Everyone Wants to Play GM

I see that many Thrasher fans are writing threads such as "what could we get if Hossa is traded?" or "who should the Thrashers target this summer?" and so forth. I'm all for playing armchair GM but I think those conversations would benefit from taking a peek at the Thrashers projected lineup and salary commitments for the 2008-09 season, so I'll post them for your speculative pleasure.

I'm going to list the current Thrashers line up and show who is UFA (unrestricted free agent), RFA (restricted free agent) and who is signed for the 08-09 season so you can see where the roster holes will be and how much money is available.

Kovalchuk ($6.4) White ($2.4) Recchi ($ 0.6)
Kozlov ($ 3.7) Perrin ($ 0.8) Hossa ($ 6.0)
Dupuis ($ 0.9) Holik ($ 4.25) Larsen($0.5)
Boulton ($ 0.5) Thorburn ($ 0.5) Slater($ 0.8)
Enstrom ($0.9) Havelid ($ 2.7)
Klee ($ 1.25) Zhitnik ($ 3.5)
Exelby ($ 1.4) McCarthy($0.7)
Lehtonen ($ 1.85) Hedberg ($ .9)
F: Rucchin ($ 2.1)
D: Popovic ($0.5)

Total Salary $42 million

Looking ahead to the Thrashers 2008-09 Roster I think that it is safe to assume that Little, Pavelec and perhaps Sterling will make the team out of training camp which will fill some vacancies. I have Lehtonen re-signing for Cam Ward money and Sterling back at $900,000. If those are accurate and those younger (and cheaper) rookies make the team has salaries commitments which only total $31 million.

What is missing from this projection? Well UFA Marian Hossa, Bobby Holik, Mark Recchi and Mark Popovic. If you think Hossa will re-sign then allocate $7-8 million towards that and now the Thrashers have a payroll of $39 with two active rosters spots to fill. At this point it seems more likely to me that Hossa will be dealt for a combination of players and picks. If those players are NHL ready they will fill some slots and eat up some salary. But is very unlikely that any of them will be making superstar money like Hossa currently does.

Just to throw out some names out there, let's say that Hossa is dealt to Detroit for Jiri Hudler F and D Brett Lebda. Those two young guys would bring with them salaries of $1 million and $.65 respectively. That would fill two active roster spots very cheaply and still leave the Thrashers with a mountain of cash to use this summer if they wish.

The NHL Salary Cap will rise from around $50 million this season to about $55 million next season. The Thrashers are currently spending $42 million right now and I would guess that they will spend around the mid point ($44-45 million) next season. If I'm correct in my assumptions then next year's Thrashers squad will be MUCH younger and MUCH cheaper due to the promotion of rookies and the acquisition of young players in exchange for Hossa. If that is the case then the team will have roughly $10 million to spend on two remaining roster spots. The Thrashers can afford to go after nearly ANY player on the UFA market this summer. This includes forwards like Dumont or defensmen like Campbell, Redden or others. Because the big salaries of Holik, Hossa and Rucchin are coming off the books the GM will have a very wide variety of options available to him.

Projected 2008-09 Atlanta Thrashers lineup and salaries
Kovalchuk ($6.4) White ($2.4) XXX ($ 0.)
Kozlov ($ 3.7) Little ($ 0.9) Sterling ($ 0.9)
XXX ($ 0.) Perrin ($ 0.8) Larsen ($0.5)
Boulton ($ 0.5) Thorburn ($ 0.5) Slater ($ 0.8)
Enstrom ($0.9) Havelid ($ 2.7)
Klee ($) 1.25 Zhitnik ($ 3.5)
Exelby ($ 1.4) XXX ($0.)
Lehtonen ($ 2.7) Pavelec ($1.4)

Total Salary: $31 million
Projected Salary: $44-45 million
Available to Spend: $12-14 million
Rosters Spots 3 Active lineup + bench spots

I wouldn't mind seeing both Recchi and Popovic return for a final season. Both would likely be rather affordable.

The Thrashers could also buy out Zhitnik's final year and open up a defensive roster spot. I can't imagine Don Waddell buying out any player let alone one he traded a prospect to acquire so I consider this an extremely remote possibility, but it is one option the team could pursue. Popovic could fill out the 3rd pairing and you could go after Campbell or Redden for the top 4 rotation on defense.

Anatomy of a melt down

Let's pull out the handy checklist.
  • Reason to rest on laurels? Check. Two upset wins against Detroit and Pittsburgh.
  • Feeling fat and happy? Check. 6 points in their last 4 and a tie for division lead.
  • Evil scheduling? Check. Third game in four nights. Second of back to back on the road after a night of little sleep.
  • Motivated opponent? Check. Buffalo had only earned 5 out of a possible 10 points lately.
  • Reason to underestimated opposition? Check. They had been struggling.
Game Outcome: not all that surprising--a flat start, terrible all around performance, record setting blowout loss and an amazing +1 by Enstrom and Havelid. Tip of the hat to Colin Stuart for a SH unassisted goal in a game most Thrasher fans will try hard to forget. It was ugly and I only watched part of it before going to dinner and heading out to play my own hockey game.

What's the big picture? In the last 6 games they have earned 6 points: 2 upset victories over Detroit and Pittsburgh, 2 OTL to Florida and Montreal, 2 blowout losses to Philly and Buffalo. They could have done better and they could also have done worse. They have neither gain much nor lost much. If they can make it through January the schedule gets a bit easier the rest of the way. But failing to beat Florida and Montreal will really hurt if this team misses the playoffs by a couple of points at the end of the season.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"But These Go To Eleven"

Jamie Mirtle has started posting a Top 10 Forwards, Defensemen and Goaltenders based upon their performance in the last 30 Days. Kovalchuk is #3 among forwards and Lehtonen is #7 among the goalies. He says that he will update it on a regular basis. Might be a bit more objective than the shady "power rankings" that get bandied about on so many websites.

Miracle in Motown?

I have to be perfectly honest with you. I never expected that the third period of the Wings-Thrashers game would be boring because the THRASHERS had a big lead. I woke up this morning thinking I needed to check the scoreboard again to make certain it wasn't a dream--but there it is in black and white.

About a week ago I wrote that the playoffs (and thus the season) were on the line. The Thrashers needed to get 4 points out of their next 4 games just to hang around the last playoff spot long enough to take advantage of a weak schedule in Feb, March and April. The Thrashers started off slowly managing to get 1 point against Florida despite a fairly tepid effort level in that game. Then they team pulled out a major upset in taking the red hot Penguins to a shootout and getting the bonus point. Only to surpass that with a stunner in Motown last evening. So that gives them 5 points with still one more to go in this crucial stretch. The month still has plenty of potential pitfalls with games against Montreal, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and the Rangers twice. This team has not be consistent this year so they could easily give back all their recent gains with a four game losing streak.

What does it all mean? Well in the short run things just became a whole lot more complicated for GM Don Waddell because after the ugly loss to the Flyers it sure looked like this team was about to fall out of the playoff hunt. Now the team is the division leader by a just a hair and the playoffs (and home ice advantage) are there for the taking.

Which brings us around to the inevitable Hossa quandary. Last night Darren Elliot speculated that Hossa re-discovered his power forward moves as a result of talking to the owners. He even asked him about it in the intermission interview which the mild mannered Hossa seemed not to appreciate saying something like "I'm just trying to focus on the hockey game right now."

The question must be asked: Where has this Hossa been? I assumed that his groin never fully healed but he looked healthy last night. Has he been holding back consciously or has the contract weighed him down subconsciously? Has the collapse of Kozlov's game been the cause of his dip this year?

The other question that must be asked is: Why did he look so great last night? Was it because of his talk with the owners? Or that he was just excited about playing in Detroit for one of the few times in his career? Or that he wanted to put on a show for a team that may bid for his services at the deadline or this summer? Lots of question concerning Hossa and few answers.

As Kevin Allen noted in his column today DW is in a real bind now because the franchise needs more excitement and the playoffs are reachable, but from the outside it certainly look like their star player is going to walk. If they don't trade Hossa the Thrashers may (or may not) enter the playoffs as the #3 seed and win some games. Or the Thrashers could miss the playoffs entirely and Hossa could depart this summer leaving the Thrashers with nothing more but a lot of cash in their budget and a weak free agent class to bid on. The classic GM problem--short team gains versus long term interests of the franchise.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Puck Possession Will Be on Display in Detroit

The Thrashers have taken some modest stepts toward playing a more puck possession style of game following the firing of Coach Bob Hartley. Tonight they will see that style in full force as the Wings having been playing that way for the last decade. They draft and acquire players who have good hands and good speed and don't worry so much about hitting. It has worked well for them.

If the Thrashers get dump happy it will be a long game for them because the Wings will have the puck all the time. Certain Thrashers tend to just dump it into the corner or to center ice (yes, I'm looking at you Exelby) which just means that Nick Lidstrom is going to pick up that loose puck and put it right on the tape of Zetterberg or Datsyuk breaking up the ice.

To have any shot at winning this game I think it is crucial the Thrashers keep control of the puck when they can and Kovalchuk and Lehtonen have huge games. I will live in fear each time the Zhitnik pairing is out of the ice since Alexei still thinks he can keep up with the forwards blowing past him. If Kari comes out and handle the puck that is going to turn out badly against this team.

Updated Real Standings

Heading into the lion's den of Joe Louis the Thrashers are 1 points out of the last playoff spot. But Hurricanes play the flailing Maple Leafs and the Thrashers take on the NHL's overall points leader in Motown. Just getting one point tonight would a huge plus for this team.

1. OTT +18
2. NJD +11
3. PIT +10
4. MON +8
5. PHI +8
6. NYI +5
7. BOS +4
8. CAR +1
9. NYR +1
10 BUF +1
11 ATL 0
12 FLA -2
13 WAS -3
14 TOR -5
15 TBL -6

Monday, January 14, 2008

Thrasher Roundup

No dominant theme today, just a number of smallish thoughts bouncing around in my head.

1) All Star Game: Savard named to the All Star Eastern Team. I'm really hoping to see a reunited Kovalchuk-Savard-Hossa line during the game. I imagine that more fans will cheer for Savard than for the injured Dany Heatley.

2) Pittsburgh Game: I thought the Thrashers played with much more intensity and focus than they had against Philadelphia and Florida. The goal by Crosby where he did his spin move and then went to the slot was remarkably similar to watching Gretzky in his prime. If the Thrashers had given that sort of effort on Thursday they would have beaten Florida in regulation. Three points in the first games gives them a cushion as they face off against the best team in the NHL on Tuesday night. Still need to get 1 more point in the next two games.

3) Detroit Game: Craig Custance mentions in his blog how GM Don Waddell will have a large number of family in attendance. I few years ago I had the chance to meet one of his brothers who lives up in Cadillac Michigan. Living up north this Waddell brother creates a huge back yard hockey rink every winter complete with lights for play after dark. His wife complained about people getting dressed in their house so he even made up some out door locker/changing rooms for the neighbors who come over to play. Now that is a hockey player's dream right there. (I learned to skate on our pond in Michigan and I do miss playing outdoors sometimes.)

4) Over at the Blueland Blog Ben Wright points to a couple of critical articles appearing on Kukula's news aggregator. The thing that I noticed on Kukula this week were articles from three different NHL cities complaining about how the local club is inconsistent. It seems that other than the Red Wings and Senators just about every team has been on a bit of a roller coaster this year. The OTL points and salary cap seem to be creating more parity than ever before.

Thank You Chris Thorburn!

At Saturday's home game versus the Penguins I looked through the used stick box and found a couple of right handed Synergy sticks. Friends of the blogger C.S. and K.M. suggested buying it as the price was about 1/3 off retail and so I did.

Less than 24 hours later the Thorburn Stick of Destiny produced a goal in my rec league doubling my season total (through 4 games). So it looks like Thorburn didn't use up all the goals in that one. Thanks!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk both All Stars

Thrashers two main guys will be there. I'm guessing Enstrom will be invited to the Young Stars Game as well.

Perrin Injured at Practice?

Friend-of-the-blogger Mark Holland reports live (via phone texting) on Smirkin Chicken that Perrin has just had a nasty collision with the net and the net didn't yield any ground. The trainers had to carry him off the ice. (Click on the link above to read Holland's surprisingly full account of what happened.)

Hopefully it just looked worse and Perrin will be OK, but if he is out for a while it seems likely that Little might be back from Chicago to take the center spot.

UPDATE: Perrin left on crutches but it looks like it is just a painful contusion (or "bruise" in old school terms).

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hossa Trade Talk

Kukla's Korner just reported that Kevin Allen was on the radio in Detroit and mentioned that "negotiations with Hossa and the Thrashers are not going well." Potential trade partners mentioned by Allen include Anaheim, San Jose, Detroit, Boston and Pittsburgh. Allen speculated that the Red Wings would not be willing to part with young forwards such as Hudler of Filppula.

As a general point I very rarely post links to rumors. I'm extremely skeptical of the usual rumor mongers such as Bruch Garroich and Eklund based upon their spotty-at-best track. However, when Kevin Allen says something I sit up and listen.

Why? For one thing Allen is a top hockey journalist and current head of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. But perhaps more importantly he appears to have Don Waddell on his speed dial. My guess is that Don Waddell has been quoted more frequently in Kevin Allen's columns than all the Canadian media outlets combined. When it comes to the Thrashers Allen has a track record of accuracy.

EDIT: Allen now has a column up in which he says Don Waddell wants to keep Hossa and thinks the playoffs are still possible but "If no deal is in place, general manager Don Waddell almost certainly will trade Hossa because he won't let him leave without getting something in return." and "he'll want at least one player back who can help [the Thrashers] stay in the race."

The next two weeks are a huge crossroads for this team. If they play well in the tough month of January they have a very good shot at returning to the playoffs. It is possible that the Thrashers might keep Hossa and take the risk that he will leave this summer in order to create some playoff buzz in this market. On the other hand, if the team tumbles in the next few weeks and Hossa decides not to sign the contract he has been offered I could see him being moved if a trade brings an important piece for the next Thrashers playoff team.

What might Hossa bring if he were moved to one of those teams mentioned by Allen?

Anaheim: and The Ducks would need to move a salary about as big as Hossa's since they are squeezed up against the cap ceiling. My assumption is that Getzlaf is untouchable. Niedermayer and Pronger are also unlikely to be available. Beauchemin is so cheap I can't see the Ducks dealing him. In my mind the Ducks are probably offering Mathieu Schneider since they have so much salary tied up in their top three defensemen. Schneider is old (38) and has one more year on his deal. His brother lives here in town. On the one hand the Thrashers clearly need defensemen, on the other hand this team has repeatedly been burned by acquiring older players entering their decline phase.

San Jose: I have followed the Sharks as closely as I did last when they were my pick to come out of the West. Patrick Marleau signed a big contract extension and has struggled this season. He is signed for two more years at $6.3 each. Cheechoo has also had a down year and might be available. He has a cap hit of $3.0 per year and is signed for three more years. The Sharks have offer a defensemen as well. Christian Ehrhoff will be a RFA this summer and Matt Carle might tempt Atlanta but he just re-signed for a couple of years and they may not be eager to deal him.

Detroit: I'd be interested to see Brett Lebda in a Thrashers uniform. He has two more years left on his very affordable contract. But the Wings D is getting very old and they would likely resist moving either Kronwall or Lebda. Filppula and Hudler were mentioned earlier. Both are skilled but Hudler is tiny and we already on the small side.

Pittsburgh: I'm sure the Thrashers would like to get their hands on young defenseman Chris Letang and that the Penguins would want to keep him. They will no doubt offer Atlanta the very undisciplined Brooks Orpik and I pray that they say no. Jordan Staal could be a fit at center but this franchise needs a star defensemen much more badly than a center with Bryan Little available in Chicago and Riley Holzapfel on the way from juniors in the near term.

Boston: I know that a lot of Bruin fans have soured on Phil Kessel this season so perhaps he might be available for a trade. To be honest I'm not terribly excited about most of the Boston roster.

The Playoffs are on the Line This Week

The Thrashers lost to the Flyers in a pathetic effort that frustrated the few people who came out to watch the game in person. I posted before the game that this was a big one because of the franchise record of getting kicked around by Philly and the pattern of falling on their faces every time they got close to moving into playoff position. I was very frustrated after the game. I could just rip the team but that would accomplish little other than make me feel slightly better.

Instead I'm going to try and get some perspective. Should I give up on the playoffs after last night? Was this loss a reason to turn out the lights on the season? As frustrating as the Philadelphia game was--I have to say that answer to both questions is still no. The team is still alive and kicking BUT the next week is perhaps the most important week in a very critical month. Let me explain why.

If you look at the updated standing you might think, "well the Thrashers are just 2 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot so that's not so bad, right?" But as Rawhide pointed out in his recent blog post you have to take into account the fact that Thrashers have played more game than most of the non-playoff position teams.

Rawhide suggested a more realistic way to look at the standing is the points above or below .500 mark. I've updated the "Real Standing" below and you can see that the Thrashers would need to pick up 5 points to get back into the top 8 and above Carolina.

Real NHL Standings
+17 Ottawa (Division Leader)
+9 New Jersey (Division Leader)
+8 Pittsburgh
+8 Montreal
+6 Philadelphia
+4 Boston
+4 Rangers
+3 Carolina (Division Leader)
--------------Playoff Cutoff
+3 Islanders
+1 Buffalo
-1 Atlanta
-2 Toronto
-2 Florida
-3 Washington
-6 Tampa

Now you might think "well, a 5 point deficit that's not so bad" but consider this--there is a very good chance that deficit will grow this week and this month. Why? The schedule. Consider the Thrashers opposition in the next week: Florida, Pittsburgh, Detroit and Montreal. Nobody is beating Detroit so that is a likely loss. Pittsburgh and Montreal are both ahead of the Thrashers and should be favored to win. Atlanta should be favored against Florida.

If the Thrashers only win the games they are favored to win this week they will go 1-3 and fall another -2 points down the "Real Standings" into a tie with Washington for 13th/14th in the East. A seven point deficit is enormous in the modern NHL where teams often get an extra point for a OT or SO loss. It is very important that the Thrashers split those four games and get at least 4 points in the next four games. The playoffs are on the line this week in my opinion.

January is the Thrashers toughest month in terms of opposition winning percentage. I expect the Thrashers to finish this month with a losing record. (Last season the opponent's winning percentage was a fairly good predictor of how the Thrashers did.) The good new is that the Thrashers schedule gets easier in February, March and April--but that only matters if the Thrashers stay within range during January. 6 of the remaining 9 January Thrashers games are against teams currently in playoff position.

The team must survive this month to make a run in February, March , April when the schedule shifts back to most intra-divisional games. If the Thrashers can mange to come out of January just 5 or 6 points out in the real standings I think they have a solid shot at climbing back up to the final spot in the final two months.

Atlanta Thrashers Strength of Schedule by Month
(Opponent's Points-Per-Game Average)
1.06 OCT
1.03 NOV
1.10 DEC
1.11 JAN
1.06 FEB
1.02 MAR/APR

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Kovalchuk Not an All-Star Starter

FYI: The NHL released their lineup and the Eastern forwards are: Crosby, Alfredsson and Lecavalier. All having good seasons so I'm not going to trash any of them. I still think Kovalchuk deserved to be a starter but it is a moot point now.

Big Test Tonight

Thrashers versus Flyers tonight. This is a big game in my opinion.

1) The Flyers have just owned us over the history of the franchise. Even last year when the Flyers finished last in the East we still couldn't beat them.

2) A regulation win over Philly removes them from the 8th spot and put Atlanta there.

3) Every time this team gets close to regaining a playoff spot they take their foot off the gas pedal. They probably don't want to hear that, but it is time to put up or shut. If you're a playoff team you need to put forward a quality game against the team you're fighting for that playoff spot.

Monday, January 07, 2008

All Hail Colin Stuart

It is very rare that you can walk out of a sporting event and say "I think I just saw the best game of this guy's career" but I said exactly that after the Thrashers win over Buffalo. Colin Stuart--a guy who has not topped 30 points in two AHL seasons--lined up on Marian Hossa's line and had the game of his life.

He was plus three for the game and had a nice assist and a highlight reel end-to-end goal that was the #1 play of the night on the NHL network. Stuart now has 4 points in 5 games and is hotter than an Atlanta sidewalk in July. Will this last all season? Heck no, but let's ride this train until it stops! He certainly has contributed more than Jim Slater has this season (at about half the price) and Stuart can change directions at top speed without falling over!

In the pre-game show Coach/GM Don Waddell said they were putting him on Hossa's line because of his speed and forechecking abilities and the speed was certainly there. The question is really if he has the hands to play with Marian Hossa for longer than a week or two. I'll be curious to see how that line fares against a hard trapping team. The Thrashers have been playing teams that allow them to gain the blueline with speed but that will not last forever--we'll play another trap team sooner or later.

Did any of you watch the NHL Network's On the Fly highlight show? I love their highlight roundups and the Thrashers-Sabres received a lot of attention because there were only 2 NHL games yesterday. But one thing really stuck in my craw. The analyst on the show said "Marian Hossa is playing with two rookies" which is a pretty curious statement since Eric Perrin played a full 82 games last season (perhaps the Thrashers PR department should send him a copy of the NHL Guide and Record Book). On the one hand I can understand how a guy could make a honest mistake--on the other hand it is evidence that the color guy doesn't pay much attention to the Atlanta Thrashers (or Tampa Bay Lightning for that matter). I'll willing to bet money that he wouldn't have made that mistake when talking about any of the six Canadian franchises on the NHL's official channel.

One last point. Many people love to trash the Thrashers player development under Don Waddell. I've looked at the numbers and the Thrashers are simply average compared to other teams. But one thing I can say is the team has consistently benefited from contributions from the farm system this year. Some of our young guys have received limited ice time but almost everyone has helped the club in some way this year.

I would say that Atlanta must be in the top five of the NHL in terms of getting value out of their system so far this year (Chicago, Phoenix, Edmonton being the other teams that come to mind). Consider the list of farm system products this year:
  • Enstrom: best defensemen on the team as a rookie.
  • Little: quality minutes, solid defense before Recchi arrived.
  • Sterling: so-so NHL start but didn't hurt the team (scoring in bunches again in Chicago)
  • Popovic: solid 3rd pairing guy, has been much more effective than McCarthy this season.
  • Pavalec: several quality starts and a couple of shutouts
  • C. Stuart: few games, big impact so far
  • Doell: few games, doing OK on the checking line.

And we haven't even seen LaValle, Valabik or Lewis who might also be able to contribute if needed by the big club.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Does This Team Have the Will to Win?

Don Waddell spoke to season ticket holders before the home game against Carolina for the first time since training camp (he used to do this about once a month when was doing the just the GM job). I'm not going to post everything he said since but I did ask two questions and I'll post his responses to those.

1st Question: I assume that Kovalchuk is a lock to make the All-Star Game roster, but what about Hossa? Do you expect him to be playing here? I know that in past years they have tended to favor home town guys when filling out the roster?

DW response: I would be very disappointed if Hossa were not put on the roster. Folks around the league recognize that he is a very special player even if he stats are not as impressive as last year. With Hossa you have to look at the total package, he does other things that really help his team win. His defense is great and he backchecks harder than most offensive players. He is our best penalty killer.

2nd Question: The penalty kill has gotten better each month of the season, why is that?

DW: We made some changes. Different players and a more aggressive strategy. I believe that if you give talented players on the other team time and space they will score. So we try to pressure them to force the issue. We've had a really terrific stretch there for a while where we gave up only a couple of power play goals against over several weeks, then we didn't so well up in Boston allowing three.

There were a LOT of questions asked about our defense and DW said it would his top priority where he to make a change in the roster via a trade, but he noted that just one defenseman has been traded so far this season and it was former Thrasher Shane Hnidy (i.e. no stud defensemen have been moved so far).

The other question that I found interesting was when someone asked what does "associate coach" mean in reference to the recent announcement that Brad McCrimmon has been given that title. DW said that it was party recognition for what McCrimmon has already been doing. "As coach and GM I really need someone I can rely on and Brad really stepped up to fill that role." Another point he made is that the title Associate makes it clear to the players who is the #2 coach when DW is not available--Brad is the guy to go to.

Other notes: Boris Valabik had been playing well in Chicago but is injured again. DW still expects that Hossa will resign, talks have been steady with no deal breakers on either side. Now that football season is over all the TV stations sent crews up to the practice facility. Someone suggested that they offer another jersey exchange program--only this time you could trade in your Falcons jerseys for Thrasher jerseys--which generated quite a few chuckles.

One last thing that was discussed was the disparity in the shots. The team is out shot on a regular basis. DW said that they look at shots inside a half circle arc in front of the goalies (where the arc passes through the face-off dots on the right and left sides of the net). He concluded his answer by saying that what matters most is not the number of shots but which team makes the fewest mistakes--which is a natural segue into talking about the Carolina game.

The home and home series with Carolina (and the home and home with Boston) were all about mistakes and a lack of mental toughness in this team. The Thrashers took on a flailing Bruins club--beat them up one night and took a 2-0 lead in the second game but lacked the killer instinct to finish them off and climb the standings.

The Carolina home-and-home was the same way. They had a lead up there, but Holik took a dumb penalty (that did nothing to prevent a scoring chance) and Carolina received a point Atlanta should have denied them. Then in the second game it was like a replay of the Boston game. They took a 2-0 lead on a minor league goaltender who had just been called up and then failed to finish it off. Costly penalties were the story again as Lehtonen took one that resulted in a goal, Klee got a double minor which really hurt and Holik virtually gave Carolina a win by clearing the puck over the glass (which put the Thrashers two men down with two of their PK regulars in the box).

January is the toughest month on the Thrashers schedule if you look at the opponent's winning percentage and every possible point should be precious to this team. You can't give away points with a lack of focus and expect to make the playoffs. You can't let struggling teams up off the mat. The Thrashers play some very good teams this month and it is critical they beat the slumping ones when they have the chance.

Let's face some facts everybody want to win. Each night two teams square off it is a battle between 20 players who want to win versus another 20 players who want to win. The real question is which group has the WILL to win.

Having the will to will to win means playing hard and playing with focus even when you have a lead. Having the will to win is about making smart defensive plays at the expense of possible scoring chances. The will to win means you move your feet to keep yourself in good defensive position so you don't have to take a penalty after a guy skates around you.

This year Ilya Kovalchuk has made the transition from a player that want to SCORE to a player that wants to WIN in my opinion. The question is what about the rest of this roster? I'd have to say that lately the evidence suggests that this is a team that works just hard enough to be respectable but not hard enough to become a winning team. They will only go as far as their will extends.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Most Costly Penalties: Part II

In a comment on the previous post J.P. of Japer's Rink asked what percentage of a player's penalties resulted in a power play against. Some guys take a lot more penalties than other so perhaps it is not so surprising that Holik is in the box for 4 PP goals against.

Here is a quick and dirty look at the PK rate for each player. I'm using PP Goals Against divided by minor penalties (which offset every once in a while, but the vast majority of minor create a power play for one team or another).

Thrashers PK % When This Player is in the Penalty Box

00% 0/1 Haydar
60% 4/10 White
75% 1/4 Kozlov
80% 2/10 Slater
82% 4/22 Holik
83% 1/6 Sterling
86% 1/7 Little
86% 1/7 Dupuis
89% 1/9 Perrin
90% 1/10 Hossa
100% 9/9 Kovalchuk
100% 0/9Recchi
100% 0/5 Thorburn
100% 0/3 Boulton
100% 0/2 Popovic
100% 0/1 Larsen
n.a. 0/0 C. Stuart

62% 5/13 Havelid
66% 1/3 McCarthy
75% 4/16 Klee
78% 2/9 Exelby
79% 4/19 Zhitnik
80% 2/10 Enstrom

0% 0/1 Lehtonen
66% 1/3 Hedberg
100% 1/1 Pavelec

Now J.P. also made the observation that the Thrashers seemed more likely to allow a PP goal against when one of the members of the PK unit was in the box. Presumably they had to use someone who was not as good to fill in or they used the same players and perhaps they were not as fresh because of more PK ice time.

So I thought this was an interesting question--does it really hurt when one of the PK guys is serving a penalty so let's take a look at it.

If a PK guy is in the box the PK% is: 78%
If a PK guy is NOT in the box the PK% is: 86%

So that seems to be some fairly strong empirical evidence that it is bad thing for the Thrashes when one of their regular PK guys heads off to the penalty box.

Who Has the Most Costly Penalties for Atlanta?

Last night Captain Bobbly Holik took a dumb penalty late in the third period that put Carolina on the power play. It was a stupid slash that did nothing to prevent Carolina from scoring. There are good penalties (i.e. those that prevent breakaways) and bad ones (actions that will not prevent any goals) and it was certainly the latter.

Carolina went on to tie the game and earn themselves a point because of that dumb penalty. While the Thrashers did get the extra point in OT they allowed the opposition to gain an extra point that might prove crucial at the end of the season if we are chasing the Hurricanes.

So I decided to look through all of the boxscores and see who was in the penalty box so far this season when the Thrashers have given up PP goals against. I wanted to know which player has hurt the team the most with penalties so far this season. (In the case of a 5>3 the "credit" went to the player who took the first penalty since they are the one that exits the box.)

Your leader is Nic Havelid with 5 power play goals against while he was sitting in the box, after him there are four players tied with 4 costly power play goals against: Holik, White, Zhitnik, and Klee.

As a defeseman myself I know that there are times you simply must take a penalty in order to prevent goal scoring chances--it is part of the job. You could also make an argument that it is Holik's job to stir the pot and play tough. So that leaves Todd White as the most surprising guy to make this list. He is a skill guy who is not a pest or agitator.

Now some readers might point out that most of the names on our "costly penalties" list are also guys who get a lot of ice time, so I've put up the full list of all roster players (including goalies) and their Time On Ice (TOI) and they Power Play Goals Against (PPGA) while they were sitting in the box (see below).

Here we see that of that the 5 worst offenders in terms of costly penalties Holik receives the least amount of ice time (on the other hand you could argue that his role requires more PIM). What really jumps out is that Enstrom has only been in the box for 2 so far while leading the team in ice time and being the smallest defender on the blueline. The other thing is that none of Kovalchuk's penalties have resulted in a goal for the opposition so far this season.

1146 1 Hedberg
986 1 Lehtonen
986 2 Enstrom
919 0 Kovalchuk
843 1 Hossa
840 5 Havelid
796 4 Klee
789 4 White
753 4 Zhitnik
751 2 Exelby
713 1 Perrin
697 1 Kozlov
629 4 Holik
572 1 Dupuis
527 0 Recchi
442 1 Little
414 1 McCarthy
347 0 Pavelec
338 2 Slater
321 0 Larsen
278 0 Boulton
258 0 Thorburn
234 0 Popovic
188 1 Haydar
124 1 Sterling
036 0 Stuart

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Killing Time

I'm back home and yesterday I decided to go through a bunch of numbers looking at the Thrashers PK unit. The PK unit has made some big strides as the season has progressed. In October the team was simply awful when short a man allowing a goal on almost 30% of all shorthanded situations. (Wow is that bad.)

In November the PK went from being terrible/horrible to just worst-in-the-NHL. But in December the PK unit made a step forwards killing off the opposition power plays 86% which is outstanding. They might have finished the month at 90% if not for allowing several PP goals against in the meltdown in Boston on the last day of the month.

Atlanta Thrashers PK Rate
71% October
76% November
86% December

Who is playing on the PK Unit?

As I mentioned above the team really struggled to kill off penalties back in October and made some changes in terms of who is used in that role. Brad Larsen and Jim Slater were absolutely torched and were removed from the PK unit. Their ice time was given to Hossa, Perrin, White, Dupuis and Holik. Back on defense Zhitnik and McCarthy also saw their PK ice time diminish and Enstrom was inserted into PK rotation.

Who is playing well on the PK?

First I calculated the GAA of each PK unit member for this 2007-08 season--but I think that GAA numbers are less intuitive so I created a pseudo-PK% for each player that I think is easier to grasp.

If we take a look at the forwards we can see that Marian Hossa is just insanely effective as a PK guy so far this season. That is one way Hossa helps this team that doesn't always show up in the box score.

When your two scoring stars are also two of your most effective PK guys that means they are both capable of helping at any phase of the game. On the other hand, it is also an indictment of your 3rd and 4th line guys if they can't handle PK time. The Thrashers had to turn to their scoring forwards because the 4th line guys were simply incapable of staffing the PK unit.

Thrashers PK Forwards
91% Hossa
84% White
83% Kovalchuk
83% Holik
76% Perrin
72% Dupuis
68% Kozlov
58% Slater
53% Larsen

On the defensive side of things the Thrashers smallest and youngest player has been their most effective guy when down a man this season. When we look at the Thrashers defensemen they are all about the same except that Enstrom is significantly better and Zhitnik has been significantly worse on the PK.

Thrashers PK Defensemen
85% Enstrom
80% McCarthy
79% Klee
79% Havelid
78% Exelby
62% Zhitnik

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