Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Predicting the 2008-09 Season, Part 1

Two years ago the Montreal Canadians had the most efficient Power Play unit in the entire NHL. The following season Montreal saw PP specialist Sheldon Souray depart for Edmonton and yet they repeated as the best in the NHL in PP efficiency.

Players, fans and GMs often fall talk about the upcoming season by saying "well our club was pretty good at ____ and we should be better in our weak areas, therefore I expect us to move up the standing." That way of thinking about the upcoming season is usually very flawed. Why? Because some things tend to carry over from one season to another while other team attributes don't.

I was mulling this over the other day and it struck me that I had never actually looked at which team strengths and weaknesses are MOST likely and LEAST likely to carry over from one season to the next one. So that's what I will do in this post and the next post.

I pulled all the team level data between 2001 and 2008 from ESPN's NHL stats page and ran some basic correlations in order to figure what tends to carry over and what does not carry over. Below I discuss the the four areas that are MOST likely to be consistent from one season to the next.

1. Shots on Goal Against
The team's that were either strong or weak at preventing shots tend to repeat that the following season. It doesn't mean that there is zero change from season to season, but change is this area is difficult and few teams move significantly up or down the rankings in one season. I have to admit that I slightly surprised that SOGA finished so high.

Why is it that SOGA is rather consistent across seasons? I suppose it is because SOGA are primarily determined by the performance of team's defensemen and on most clubs turnover among the defensemen is usually a gradual process. Contrast that with say team SV% which is determined by the goaltender position--here we see much more variation from one season to the next because it is highly dependent on the starter. If your starting goalie gets hot or cold and/or gets injured it can have a huge effect on SV%, whereas losing one defensemen has less of an impact on SOGA.

2008 SOGA Leaders: DET, SJS, NYR
2008 SOGA Trailers: ATL, NYI, TBL
Thrashers Rank: 30th

2. Team Discipline (aka Times Short Handed)
Right up there with SOGA as the most consistent team statistic across season is Times Short Handed (also called Penalty Kill Opportunities). This suggest to me that team discipline--the ability to play within the rules--doesn't change all that much from one year to the next. Undisciplined teams tend to stay undisciplined and clean playing teams continue to stay out of the Penalty Box.

2008 xSH Leaders: COL, SJS, LAK
2008 xSH Trailers: ANA, CGY, PHI
Thrashers Rank: 18th

3. Shots-On-Goal-Differential.
You could argue this is a repeat of #1, but teams that get out shot tend to stay that way and vice versa. Notice that SOGA and SOG Differential both made the top four most consistent team attributes, but shots on goal for (SOGF) is less consistent from season to season and did not finish as high. So offensive pressure (measured in SOGF) is less consistent that defense (measured as SOGA).

The fact that SOG Differential tends to stay the same is not good news for Thrashers fans. On the other hand the club did bring in two players who may play top four minutes on the blueline in Ron Hainsey and Zach Bogosian. On the other hand Hainsey isn't famous for his defensive proess and Bogosian while talented is just 18 years old. I expect only modest improvement.

2008 SOG Differential Leaders: DET, SJS, NYR
2008 SOG DifferentialTrailers: ATL, EDM, LAK
Thrashers Rank: 30th

4. Goal Differential (Goals For minus Goals Against)
This is the stat I expected to rank very high and it did. Goal Differential is the single best predictor of the NHL standings season after season. If you look at all of NHL history Goal Differential is an EXTREMELY strong predictor of the standings. The correlation between Goal Differential and the NHL Standings is north of .90 and is the hockey equivalent of the law of gravity.

Again this is not good news for the Thrashers after losing the offensive production of Marian Hossa and Mark Recchi. The young kids are unlikely to replace that production next season so the key will need to come from the defense and Kari Lehtonen in a contract year. This team must make huge strides against the odds to stay out of the Tavares sweepstakes.

2008 Goal Differential Leaders: DET, MON, DAL
2008 Goal Differential Trailers: ATL, NYI, TBL
Thrashers Rank: 30th

In the next post I will examine the four LEAST consistent team attributes from season to season.

Monday, August 18, 2008

How Young Are The Thrashers?

In the past I've criticized the Thrashers for filling their roster with too many old guys who are more likely to have a career collapse than a breakout. The 2008-09 team will be younger with Christensen (25) and Armstrong (26) replacing Hossa (29) and Dupuis (29) in the big deadline trade. Free agent departures Holik (37) and Recchi (40) will be replaced by Williams (28), Reasoner (31), while Hainsey (27) fills a spot left open by the waived Zhitnik (36).

On the other hand, it is important to remember that while the Thrashers have replaced five roster regulars with younger players--every returning player will be one year older. Getting younger is a bit like running down an escalator--if you pause for a moment you can quickly ride back up to the top. Each player's age is their age on January 1st of that season--which is roughly the half way point of NHL season.

The off-season changes led me to ask three questions:
  1. Just how young are the 2008-09 Thrashers?
  2. How do they compare to other NHL teams with respect to age?
  3. How do they compare to the Thrashers of 2007-08?
First let's take a look at last year. (Skip this paragraph is you don't care how I calculated the age number.) Below I have a table that lists every NHL by age for the 2007-08 season. What I have done is weight that age average by number of games played. So if someone played a full 82 game schedule they effect the team average more than someone who only played 8 games with a team.

The table shows that the Atlanta Thrashers were the 4th oldest team in the NHL in 07-08. An amazing 45% of all Thrashers games played were filled by a player on the wrong side of 30--only the Detroit Red Wings had more more games played by 30+ players. The difference between Atlanta and Detroit? Several of the Detroit 30+ club are going to be in the Hall of Fame once their careers end and none of the Thrashers old guys are likely to be so honored.

2007-08 Team Age
Rank/Team/Weighted Age (* indicates team made the playoffs)
01 DET 30.7 *
02 CAR 30.0
03 ANA 29.7 *
04 ATL 29.4
05 CGY 29.2 *
06 DAL 28.3 *
07 OTT 28.3 *
08 NJD 28.2 *
09 NYI 28.2
10 COL 28.2 *
11 NSH 28.0 *
12 TOR 28.0
13 VAN 28.0
14 PHI 27.9 *
15 TBL 27.9
16 STL 27.8
17 MIN 27.7 *
18 LAK 27.5
19 FLA 27.5
20 MON 27.4 *
21 NYR 27.2 *
22 BOS 27.2 *
23 PIT 27.1 *
24 SJS 27.1 *
25 WAS 26.7 *
26 CBJ 26.6
27 BUF 26.3
28 CHI 26.0
29 EDM 26.0
30 PHX 26.0

A couple of things jump out at me when I look at the entire NHL by age. In the West the playoff teams tend to be older. The Western Conference is noted for being more low scoring than the East lately--perhaps one factor in this gap is that top western teams typically employ older veteran type players who presumably make fewer mistakes.

The danger for those older teams is that they risk a performance collapse at some point if they cannot integrate younger players into their core. The Wings have done a good job of mixing youth and age of late, but I might be a bit worried were I a Flames fan. The biggest outlier in the West is San Jose--a team which regularly plays their young talent in crucial situations and eschews signing veterans on the free agent market.

In the Eastern Conference we see that most of the playoff clubs fall more in the middle of the age range. Teams like Pittsburgh, Montreal, Philadelphia and Washington have young stars in key positions.

So what about next season? I went through each team's depth chart at and assembled the most likely starting roster for all 30 NHL teams. Then I put in the estimated number of games played for every player (based on historical patterns) to produce team estimates for the upcoming season (see below). As expected Atlanta has moved down the list, but surprisingly still ranks slightly above average.

2008-09 Team Age
Rank/Team/Weighted Age (* indicates teams I expect to make the playoffs)
01 ANA 30.2 *
02 NJD 29.6 *
03 DET 29.5 *
04 CGY 29.1 *
05 COL 29.1
06 TBL 28.6 *
07 NYI 28.6
08 SJS 28.4 *
09 WAS 28.4 *
10 FLA 28.2
11 DAL 28.1 *
12 NSH 27.9
13 ATL 27.9
14 CAR 27.9
15 TOR 27.9
16 VAN 27.7
17 PHI 27.6 *
18 BOS 27.6
19 PIT 27.5 *
20 OTT 27.4
21 EDM 27.3
22 MON 27.2 *
23 MIN 27.2 *
24 BUF 27.0 *
25 CBJ 26.8
26 STL 26.8
27 NYR 26.7 *
28 PHX 26.1
29 LAK 26.0
30 CHI 25.8 *

So who are the projected big movers in terms of shaking up their average roster age? The five teams with the biggest decrease in age are CAR, LAK, ATL, DET and STL. In the case of Detroit I do not have Chelios on their projected roster yet, his inclusion would bump them back up considerably. The Blues talked about "rebuilding" and playing their young kids, but in reality their top six forwards were rather old last season. It appears that they are really going to play more kids this coming season.

The Chicago Blackhawks are projected to be the youngest team in the NHL and I also expect them to qualify for the playoffs which would be quite an accomplishment--it is far too early to start any "dynasty" talk, but the Blackhawks appear to have constructed the a foundation that will allow them to contend far into the future if they can keep it together.

Getting Younger
Team/Rank Shift/Change in Weighted Team Age
Carolina 2nd -> 14th (-2.08)
LA Kings 18th -> 29th (-1.53)
Atlanta 4th -> 13th (-1.47)
Detroit 1st -> 3rd (-1.25)
St. Louis 16th -> 26th (-1.04)

Which teams are climbing up the age rankings? Washington leads the way with a full season of Fedorov (39) and Nylander (36) pushing them up the rankings. San Jose's roster is mostly intact but a year older plus the addition of blue liners Dan Boyle (32) and Rob Blake (38). Edmonton also added some veterans such as Visnovsky and Cole. The Devils new faces include Rolston (35), Holik (37), Salvador (32) and they are certainly in a "win-now" mode. They are also just a Brodeur injury away from a very ugly season. The Avalanche have some young talent like Wolski and Stastny but Hejduk is now past 30 and they added veterans Foote, Salei and Tucker and if Sakic comes back they will get older still.

Getting Older
Team/Rank Shift/Change in Weighted Team Age
Washington 25th -> 9th (+1.72)
San Jose 24th -> 8th (+1.33)
Edmonton 29th -> 21st (+1.32)
NJ Devils 8th -> 2nd(+1.31)
Colorado 10th -> 5th(+0.93)

What does it all mean? I like to think of age as a leading indicator. Many of the top teams in the NHL are older and the clock is ticking for them. For example, Anaheim is great today but they will need to incorporate more youth in the near future to remain strong. The younger clubs can expect some pleasant surprises as their young guys have breakout seasons and their late-20s players experience career peak seasons.

The Thrashers are moving in the right direction as a rebuilding club, but they are not as young as many of the other rebuilding clubs. There still have quite a few veterans on this squad: Kozlov (36), Klee (37), Hedberg (36), Havelid (34), White (33) and Perrin (33). Realistically this club is 2-3 years from making any playoff noise and few of those veterans will still be around at that point.

The Thrashers have made some progress, but this club is not as young as you might think. The foundation for the next contending team is still incomplete--contrast this roster with the Blackhawks and Kings who have a foundation of great talent in place and only need to make a modest tweaks as they move forward.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Thrashers Off Season, Part 2

I concluded Part 1 of this Off-Season Review by saying the Thrashers off-season moves were a small net positive in my view.

What's the Plan?
The larger question is what's next? Where does this lead us? While I consider all three signings to be positive they are insufficient to make the Thrashers a playoff team. I'm not going it say it is absolutely impossible for this team to get into the post-season, but the Thrashers basically need a ton of good luck to make it. They need all their key players to be healthy, they need a couple of kids (Little, Christensen) to have breakout years, Bogosian to be impressive right away and they need another big step forward by Kari Lehtonen. Could all that happen? Yes. Is all that likely to happen all at once? No.

The Price of Failure
In theory making even small improvements in the club is fine since the team is moving in the correct direction, however making baby stepping towards contention is NOT going to grab the attention of casual sports fans in Atlanta. Last season the Thrashers received around $10 million in revenue sharing money from the NHL and to keep that money coming in they must attain specific revenue and attendance targets. In my opinion, the team will almost certainly miss the revenue target for 2008-09 and could also miss the attendance target as well. Several other teams failed to hit their targets last season and those clubs will see their revenue sharing money cut next seaon. Taking baby steps toward contention will most likely cost the franchise a couple of million dollars in 2009-2010 after they fail to hit the thresholds for a full share of revenue sharing.

"If You Build They Will Come"
For this franchise to succeed in the long term the Thrashers need to grow both their revenues and their fan base. How to draw the fans? Playoff excitement. I did a little study recently where I added up all the playoff wins since the NHL's expansion in 1968 and I think that there is a strong correlation between playoff wins and the passion of the local fan base. Sunbelt teams like Dallas, Tampa and Carolina have all won a Cup and they draw pretty well. The Thrashers probably need to make a run to the Eastern Conference Finals to grab the attention of the casual sports fans in this market. That is extremely unlikely to happen in the spring of 2009 or 2010 based upon what I have seen. So in the short run, the modest progress achieved in the summer of 2008 is unlikely to fundamentally reverse the franchise's big problem of poor attendance or weak revenue.

What Does it Take To Contend? Excellence.
Based upon their moves this summer, it seems clear that the Thrashers have recognized that they must develop and play their young talent if they want to build a team that can contend. Historically the Thrashers have been average at the NHL Draft. The bad news is that "average" in a 30 teams league is 15th-16th place. Guess how many teams make the playoffs? Only 16. So if the Thrashers rely solely on their ability to draft they project as nothing more than a team that flirts with getting into the post-season, not as a team that has a chance of winning the Cup.

To build a championship level team you must be above average in either a) free agent signings; b) trading for talent; c) drafting. Right now I would grade the Thrashers as below average in free agency, average in trading (Savard trade was fantastic but Coburn trade offsets that) and average in drafting. If you total those three areas that equals a below average management record which is pretty much what the standings indicate as well.

The Road Not Taken
Now I endorse the strategy of building through youth and smart free agent additions. For a sunbelt market with modest revenues that is probably the ONLY strategy unless your owners are willing to absorb huge losses year over year. In that sense I approve of the fact that Thrashers didn't land an old guy like Rolston this summer and took a chance with Jason Williams who could have a terrific season for us. I also approve of the fact that the Thrashers didn't throw a bunch of long term deals at declining players.

Freshen Up that Front Office
What I don't understand is this, if you're going to "rebuild with youth" how you can keep the same salesman? You know when a GM fires a coach he often says, "Well I still think Coach ____ is a good guy and all that, but the players had just stopped listening to him so we had to make a change"? Isn't the same thing true of fans and their GM? I honestly think Waddell is a good guy, bit he should have been moved up to Team President this summer.

Let a new GM come in and sell the youth movement to fans AND potential free agents. If you're the agent for Brian Campbell and Don Waddell calls you says "we want your client to be part of our young core of talent we're building in Atlanta" doesn't that player and his agent have the right to ask "why should we believe it will work a 2nd time?" Would the Thrashers have landed Brian Campbell if Don Waddell had moved up to Team President and a new GM was doing the talking? Nobody will ever know. But what I can tell you is that Don Waddell didn't land his top two free agent targets. There are three groups that need to be sold on the "new, brighter, bolder, younger Atlanta Thrashers" and they are: prospective free agents; fans; Ilya Kovalchuk and his agent. Right now Don Waddell is zero for one with the fans up to bat this season and Ilya Kovalchuk in the on-deck circle. Anyone want to wager how this is going to turn out?

"Fool Me Once..."
I understand that as a revenue poor franchise in a non-traditional market re-building with youth is the optimal path, but I'm tired of hearing the same song and dance about from the same guy when the past results were so pathetic. I was jilted last time around and the hope, the trust and the confidence are gone. I need a new salesmen if I'm going to buy into to another long term plan.

I'll admit that I'm pretty jazzed about John Anderson and the new Assistant Coaches, but I'd be a lot more jazzed about this team if they had hired away the Player Personnel Director of the Devils, Senators, Sharks or Red Wings over the summer. This team has repeatedly made poor evaluations of existing NHL players--why hasn't there been an effort to increase the hockey brain power upstairs? Based on the team's history I think it is fair to ask why we haven't hired away another team's top professional scout.

John Anderson isn't going to be able to work miracles if the front office continues to have a merely average record in trades, draft day and free agency. To build a contender you need a long term focus in which you become outstanding at something. What you see on the ice as a fan is a trickle down effect of decisions made at the ownership level, the GM level, the Director of Player Personnel Level and the Director of Scouting Level and finally the Head Coaching Level. How many of those were upgraded this off season? Exactly one--head coach.

Look around the NHL. The Blackhawks added Scotty Bowman to their front office. In Edmonton Kevin Lowe made himself President and promoted someone to GM, the Leafs found an experienced hockey man to act as caretaker GM while the next Toronto GM finishes his contract out in another city. How can the Thrashers NOT be able to find someone to help out upstairs? What is the old saying "a jack of all trades and a master of none?"

Show Me Some Excellence
Now it is entirely possible that the entire Thrashers organization has learned from past mistakes and they have turned over a new leaf and that starting tomorrow things will be different. Suddenly we will see an organization that builds excellence and the develops areas of superiority which will create not just a playoff team but a long term Cup contender in this city.

Ownership Must Insist on Accountability
After years of promises, failure and shattered hopes--ownership needs to understand that the clocking is ticking for major front office changes for the vast majority of fans. It is only logical that we are skeptical. Ownership should also understand that by not making front office improvements other than at the Head Coach position, it appears to many fans that ownership does not grasp the magnitude of change that is required. In my opinion Hartley should have been let go in the summer of 2007 for benching Lehtonen in the playoffs. In the summer of 2008 Don Waddell should have been moved upstairs. I'm afraid this is another case of the Atlanta Spirit waiting one year too long to make the correct move.

For Atlanta Spirit this has been a four year experience, but I've been here 9 years and 8 season. I've watched probably 97% of all games in Thrashers history. I am not a fair weather or bandwagon type of fan--I'm a die hard and I'm a lifer--but even I'm at the "show me" stage. "Show Me Some Excellence!" is my motto for this season. I have no more benefit of the doubt left to give.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Thrashers Off Season, Part 1

We can now take an overall look at the Thrashers off season roster makeover. I was waiting to write this until the Ilya Nikulin situation was resolved--and he is now playing with his old club in Russia. Barring some dramatic change I believe we can scratch him off the list of potential Thrashers in 2008-09.

Not All Franchises Are Equal in Free Agency
First I want to start with an observation: not all organizations have the same off season opportunities. The Detroit Red Wings have a strong fan base which provides them with sufficient revenue to spend to the cap maximum every year if they choose to do so. Players like Steve Yzerman, Chris Chelios and now Marian Hossa have all taken less money to play for them. This is the residue of past success. The Wings organization was able to leverage their structural advantages into on ice success (something the Rangers could not do) and now in the cap age Detroit effectively has a higher cap because guys like Chelios will take less money to play there. Lesson: good management results not just in wins on the ice but cheaper players in the future.

Going with Plan B
The Thrashers pursued two high profile free agents this summer Brian Campbell and Brian Rolston and reportedly made very competitive offers, but ultimately signed neither. Don Waddell said "players get to choose where they play" in free agency--which is a true statement but also one that lacks context.

You can't pin this all on vagaries of free agents. Just as good management in Detroit has led to that franchise signing players at a discount, poor management in Atlanta has forced the Thrashers to offer more money than their competitors. Outsiders look at this franchise and see the past mistakes and therefore the team has to more money than other teams to attract impact players. As Coach Anderson said "we have to make this a place guys want to come to" which is not true of Atlanta at the present.

Good Bets versus Bad Bets
In the face of their failure to executive Plan A (sign a couple of impact players that address specific team needs) the Thrashers turned to Plan B and signed three bargain players. The good news is that all three are "good bets" to turn in a decent performance.

"Show Me the Money"
None of the new players was signed to an insane contract that will cripple future teams. There were many stupid long-term deals handed out this summer that will bind NHL teams to players in their decline years. The Thrashers avoided making that mistake.

Youth Will be Served
I've raked the Thrashers for making bad bets on aging players and they broke with that patten as well. Age is strongly related to changes in a player's performance level. Young guys (18-25) tend to improve, then they hit their peak years (26-30) and begin to decline after 30. As players age they eventually see a sharp decline in their effectiveness or their health. The precise moment of this end-of-career collapse varies significantly. For example checking line guys often see their career end by 33, scoring line guys 35-37 and Hall of Fame level players often can play past 40.

The Thrashers avoided signing "bad bets" in terms of the age curve. The 2008-09 roster will be younger than in the three post-lock out seasons (but the team even close to being as young as say Chicago). There are many uncertainties in the NHL, but if you're going to take a gamble it is wiser to bet on a younger player than an older one.

Both the Rangers and Thrashers paid Bobbly Holik big money to be something he was not. Holik is a great third line center, but he's not a scoring line center nor is he a leader of men or an extraordinary penalty killer. The Thrashers are not asking the new guys to do something new or amazing, they just want them to keep doing what they have done the last two seasons. Jason Williams is to be a scoring forward and power play guy. Ron Hainsey will be a power play point man and top four defender and Marty Reasoner will be a checking line guy with PK responsibilities. These expectations are reasonable and the Thrashers will likely get what they paid for.

Playing the Kids
Another positive is that the Thrashers didn't block their young talent by bringing in some old battle worn veterans to eat up the ice time. I liked Mark Recchi and what he did for the team last season, but if the Thrashers are not contending for the Cup they ought to be giving ice time to young guys like Christensen, Little, Colin Stuart, Zach Bogosian, Brett Sterling and Boris Valabik. Someone once wrote "if you're not contending your rebuilding" and last season the Thrashers were not contending. Unfortunately, the phenomenally weak Southeast Division provided the mirage of contending for the playoffs and the team failed to sit some veterans and take a good look at more of the kids in the 2nd half of last year.

Last summer the team re-signed Slava Kozlov for nearly $4 million a season which wasn't a great gamble considering that Kozlov's age. Very few players have the best year of their career at 34 and then sustain that level for three more years. Kozlov was healthy enough to play 82 games but produced just 41 points. My personal opinion is that the Thrashers could have gotten those same numbers with that same ice time from either Darren Haydar or Brett Sterling and for less than $1 million in salary. The Thrashers would have been better served playing either Haydar/Sterling and spending the cash they gave Kozlov ($3.7 million) and Klee ($1.5 million) on a better quality defenseman ($5-6 million available).

Big Picture Time
Basically I give the Thrashers Plan B signing a qualified endorsement. They struck out in their attempt to get impact players, but rebounded nicely by signing some solid bargain guys. There are some other GMs who might have responded by making terrible deals just to create the impression they were doing something. The Thrashers took some small steps forward.

In part, I'll look at what might be the consequences of those small steps.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Marty Reasoner and a Slacking Blogger

We have now entered the dreaded "hockey news dead zone" otherwise known as August. July is NHL free agency month and it began with a bang and went out with a whimper. Lately your faithful blogger has allowed himself to become distracted by non-NHL topics like his faltering fantasy baseball teams, election year politics and touring Canadian bands visiting our fair city like (Wolf Parade had a hot show at Variety Playhouse this week).

I have also been hard at work back testing a prediction model for the upcoming NHL season. It is still a work in progress and I hope to cut down the error rate even more. If everything goes well I'll start a series of team previews beginning in mid-August. I never did get around to posting my breakdown of Marty Reasoner and since there is almost no Thrasher news, let's take a look at this roster addition.

Marty Reasoner was a big time scorer in college hockey posting over a point per game in all three of his seasons with Boston College. His final year in college hockey he led the nation in scoring with an amazing 73 points (if you ignore Damon Moore of Fitchburg State and John Gurskis of St. Michael's that year--those schools have hockey programs?).

The old saying is that "offense will get you to the show, but defense is what keeps you there" and that pretty much encapsulates Reasoner's career. Back when he was 22 Reasoner had an impressive season in terms of his scoring rate but he could not maintain that and he slipped badly thereafter. I think it is fair to say that as a scorer he has been a bit of a disappointment but he has re-invented himself as an excellent checker and penalty killer.

Reasoner's transition from an offensive roster player to one with more of defensive side can is evident when you look at his special teams ice time. He began his career as a power play regular and a guy with very few PK shifts However at age 25 the Oilers started using him as regular member of their PK unit and last season he averaged over 3 minutes per game on the PK. On the other hand his PP minutes have almost vanished the last two seasons with the Oilers as he became more of defensive specialist.

Marty Reasoner's Special Team Time on Ice
21 STL 2:42 0:25
22 STL 2:93 0:10
22 STL 2:00 0:23
24 EDM 1:40 0:12
25 EDM 1:48 2:15
26 EDM 1:52 3:29
27 (no season NHL lockout)
28 EDM 2:44 1:13
29 EDM 0:48 2:43
30 EDM 0:37 3:10

What can we expect from Reasoner? A solid checking center who is very good short handed and decent at even strength. One of my biggest complaints about Thrasher management is that they grossly overpaid a 3rd line center (Holik) when similar players could be had for much less money. Reasoner is exactly the sort of "other player" I had in mind.

Reasoner will be paid $1 million this coming season and for that one million the Thrashers will get someone who is superior on the PK to Holik. Last season Holik had an effective penalty kill rate of 78% when he was out there on the ice while Reasoner had an impressive 88% penalty kill rate. Now Reasoner might have been a bit lucky last season and he may not be able to sustain that this year, but he appears a solid bet to replace some of the PK minutes provided by Hossa, Holik and Dupuis last season. To look at it another way, when Reasoner was on the penalty kill his team's Short Handed Goals Against Average (SHGAA hereafter) was 4.49, while Holik's SHGAA was 7.63. On the other hand Holik does rate superior to Reasoner is even strength play where Holik's ESGAA was 3.01 was lower than Reasoner's was ESGAA 3.33.

Bottom line? Reasoner is an adequate replacement for Holik as our 3rd line center and will be $3.25 million cheaper. Paying a reasonable price for a 3rd line center freed up money for the Thrashers to spend more money on defense where it was a bigger need.

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