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Monday, August 31, 2009

OGA SPR: The Atlanta Thrashers – The Colonel

Today we bring you The Atlanta Thrashers' Season Preview Report (SPR), the second in our 30-team series...

Last Season versus the PQC: Called at Tee Time – out of the Playoffs – at Game 30 /12 December 2008 and completed the season a 4.1 for the No. 13 slot in the East. This was their third worst attempt since the Lockout and only about a 6% improvement over the last two years. Playing below their post-Lockout average PQC all year, they nevertheless showed some improvement over the last 22 games of the season. OGA stated in last season’s preview report that the tale of Atlanta will be told by Christmas and this was indeed the case. The wheels started coming off the cart after Game 20 where they had a lone OTL to their credit in their next five games and then only averaged 4.83 wins in every 10 games throughout the rest of the season. What they needed was closer to six wins in every 10…

Post-Lockout average PQC and what to expect this season: Atlanta averaged 4.33 against the PQC over the last four seasons with their only trip to the Playoffs in club history ending in a four-game sweep at the hands of the NYR. How do we stack them up against the PQC and know they are on the right path toward the Playoffs this season? During the 2006/7 season – their best one since the Lockout – we knew at game 10 they were going to be in the Playoffs. We think they are an improved team this year, most especially on the blueline, and might just make a run for the No. 8 seed in the East. It will come down to one or two games overall, which your defense must be spot on for or you go home on 12 April. Either way we should know again by Christmas, if not earlier, whether or not the Thrashers are improved enough to make a run Chasing Stanley.

What can you expect from this team going into the 2009/10 season?

Team Play: ISSUE – Surviving An Improved Southeast Division. A glance at the CBS Sports page for the Thrashers shows a projected line pairing of Kovalchuk-Antropov-Armstrong from left to right on No. 1. Wow! In terms of last season, that equals 93 Gs and 97 As which can’t be taken lightly by anybody. Kozlov-White-Crabb are projected as No. 2 which last year was 52-106-158. We’d like to think Bryan Little and Evander Kane are likely to have something to say about the Number 2 – 4 Centermen positions in camp. Plenty of pucks are going to be shot at the opposition’s net this season. Last year’s biggest issue was defense, however, where the team gave up more goals than anybody save Toronto. With good health this season, the defense is going to boast a set of top two pairings that either scored or averaged enough for all of them to project 40 points. Better defense and an improved attack will take pressure off the goalies who are not elite caliber but are certainly very capable of stopping the puck. This team is poised to win more this season, but they have to steal some games from a lot of Eastern teams they did not capture last year. They are likely to see a Caps team like last year’s, Hurricanes that are hungry, an improved Lightning squad, and a status quo, tough Panthers squad so their improvements may only equal more of the same result – we will see as the season unfolds.

Fantasy Value: Atlanta’s top line is a potentially ripe target for fantasy GMs. And if your pool requires you to bring on a rookie, Evander Kane is a good choice if you cannot nab the 2009 NHL Entry Draft’s Number 1 Pick. We also like all four of the projected top defenders. If you are looking at the Thrasher netminders, are in a 10-to-12 team pool, and have the ability to execute trades, wait and see how the goaltender situation falls out for an injury replacement. Goalie Number 1 Kari Lehtonen is a good choice for a depth goalie in later draft rounds but is recovering from back surgery and the team reports they are not in a hurry to rush him back.

Schedule Analysis: ISSUE – Three back-to-back game pairs in the Game 11 – 20 stretch. For a primary analysis of the team’s overall 2009/10 regular season schedule, go to this link.

Next up tomorrow is the Boston Bruins’ 2009/10 SPR…

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