The Thrashers just missed out on the 2010 playoffs. They missed by four points. That’s two wins from facing the Capitals or the Devils in Round 1. This year, with 5 former Blackhawks (Aliu, Byfuglien, Ladd, Sopel, Eager), 4 of them Stanley Cup-hoisters, the Thrashers look to jump into playoff contention. Their One Goal? Win the Cup.
One huge bright spot on the Thrashers is the goalies. Now with veteran Chris Mason being the starting goalie, Ondrej Pavelec now has some time to develop. Also, Peter Mannino, of the Thrashers’ AHL affiliate Chicago Wolves, could be the next great goalie. Good things are in the future for the Thrashers between the pipes.
On top of 20 goal scorers Nik Antropov, Rich Peverley and Niclas Bergfors, enter Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, and Ben Eager. Those three former Blackhawks should easily score 50 goals between the three of them. Furthermore, young guns Evander Kane and Bryan Little have room to improve from 2009-10. If Little can revert to his 30 goal scoring ways, and if Kane can progress to score 20, that makes 160 goals out of 8 players! That’s your first two goals of every game.
Brent Sopel is now the tutor of young defensemen since Pavel Kubina returned to his original team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. He will surely help young Zach Bogosian and Boris Valabik. Meanwhile, Johnny Oduya and Ron Hainsey are both good all-around defensemen, and Tobias Enstrom is a great passer, as his 44 assists show. The core will have to protect Mason and Pavelec if the Thrashers are to be successful.
One thing that the Thrashers have a ton of is size. Byfuglien could play football with that 260 pound, 6’, 4” frame, and Nik Antropov, Chris Thorburn, Ben Eager, and Eric Boulton all have some good size to them, the smallest of them being 225 pounds Also, Boris Valabik is a moose at 6’, 7” and 245 pounds. Size always helps in hockey, and with 10 guys scaled over 200 pounds, the Thrash have lots.
The Thrashers have only 5 players that are 30 and over (Sopel, Boulton, Rissmiller, Antropov, Mason), while they have 9 players 25 and younger. Players like Byfuglien, Eager, Ladd, Little, Enstrom, and Bogosian are in their early twenties and already have been through two or three seasons. Little has already played in 3 seasons at the ripe age of 22! Plus, The Blackhawks newcomers know what it takes to win the Cup. That experience will be invaluable for the Thrashers.
The Thrashers already are over Ilya Kovalchuk. They’re now a bigger playoff threat now that he’s gone. The Thrashers could make some noise if they sneak into the playoffs. They have the capability to make it into the postseason, but can they win their first playoff series ever?