Why the Atlanta Thrashers Will Make the Playoffs

GM Don Waddell believes that his team is a buyer and can make the playoffs. I wholeheartedly agree with this, and will take it one step further and say the Thrashers are going to make the playoffs.

Before I get ragged on for predicting this, hear me out.

Yes, the Thrashers traded away Ilya Kovalchuk, arguably the best player the franchise has ever known, last month to the New Jersey Devils. Yes, the club also traded away goaltender Kari Lehtonen, a former 2nd overall pick that was supposed to be the future between the pipes for another decade.

There also is no big-time “star player” on this team now, unlike in years past when Kovalchuk, Marian Hossa and Dany Heatley were always identified with this group. Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian have the potential to get there one day, but for now, are still learning the NHL game.

However, there is a more cohesive group in place now. Even without a go-to player up front, Atlanta has a group of forwards that can score by committee.  Nik Antropov, Rich Peverley, Maxim Afinogenov, Bryan Little, Kane, and newly-acquired Niclas Bergfors all have the capability to put the puck in the net. Sure, none of them are threats to hit even 25 goals this season, but Little had 31 last year, and Afinogenov has picked up over 70 points in a season before. Little and Kane have turned their game around and started playing well, right after Kovalchuk was moved. Bergfors has done well himself, picking up 4 points in 5 games before the Olympic break.

Slava Kozlov hasn’t had the same impact as he did a year ago, and is hoping to get a fresh start elsewhere before the deadline. Ditto for Todd White, who has struggled to produce offensively, but will most likely stay a Thrasher.

Marty Reasoner and Colby Armstrong are great role players on the third and fourth lines, while the newly-acquired Evgeny Artukhin will be able to provide a big body up front now as well.

On the blueline, the club has a sturdy but unspectacular group. Tobias Enstrom is one of the top 10 scoring d-men in the league, while Bogosian, Ron Hainsey, Pavel Kubina, and Johnny Oduya provide solid depth. This isn’t even counting the signing of veteran Chris Chelios, who at 48 years of age, can still provide solid leadership and veteran experience for the defensive core.

In net, Lehtonen hadn’t been a factor anyways, as Johan Hedberg and Ondrej Pavelec have done just fine without him. Sure, neither is a surefire #1 goalie at this point, but both do enough to get the job done for now.

Zach Bogosian

Finally, the real reason I believe that the team will be successful is because of the game schedule in March. The Thrashers play a total of 17 games, of which 12 will be at home. Also, only 3 of those games are against teams that are surefire playoff squads (Phoenix, Buffalo, Ottawa).  The rest are either against the worst teams in the Eastern Conference (5 games against Carolina and Toronto), or against clubs that are also fighting for their playoff positioning as well (Philadelphia, Tampa, Boston, NY Rangers).

It was a good start tonight by beating the Panthers, and moving to within one point of a playoff spot. Expect this trend to continue, as the team is now 3-1-2 since trading Kovalchuk.

6 thoughts on “Why the Atlanta Thrashers Will Make the Playoffs”

  1. Nice, but the Hurricanes have a great record lately. So they are not patsies.

    Still, I think the Thrashers have a great chance to make the playoffs, especially if the new hires (macarthur and artukhin play like they did in their debuts)

  2. Yeah….with so many games against the Canes….good luck with that. That’s a team that should scare Thrashers fans chances of making the playoffs.

  3. As a Hawks fan, I was very impressed with the Thrashers play vs. Blackhawks just before the Olympic break. The defense was a little porous, but this team should only continue to improve. Thrashers played well in a hostile United Center environment and never gave up. Ondrej Pavelec was outstanding in goal in what ended up as a SOL, making some nearly impossibe saves. I think this team will score in bunches in the future.
    I hope the fine people of Atlanta will realize this up and coming bunch deserve their support!!

  4. Yes, it looks like the players are doing things together as a team, and that has made a huge difference. Sure, there are no superstars on this squad anymore, but I think nobody expected this team to be competitive the minute Kovalchuk was traded. It would be nice for Waddell to get some accolades after getting hated on for the return from the Devils.

  5. Well said!! Too bad Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution can’t write as objectively about this team since the Kovalchuk departure. The only thing you left out was THE FANS! Nearly 14,000 Thrashermaniacs braved snow and icy roads (truly dangerous here in the South) to witness last night’s first game since the Olympic break. (Almost 19,000 tickets were sold for a Tuesday night game!) The Thrashers WILL make the playoffs and a large part of it will be the fan support this squad is receiving in the post-Kovy era. This team is now FUN to watch and the other team never really knows where the next shot is coming from. Look for SELLOUT crowds at Philips Arena as the playoffs come to Atlanta this year…Yes, I DID say sellout crowds! We LOVE our Thrashers and NHL hockey!!

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