New Atlanta Thrasher defenseman Dustin Byfuglien has received an A for effort early in his first season on the Atlanta Thrashers.
General Manager Rick Dudley and Coach Craig Ramsey awarded Byfuglien the alternate captaincy based on his leadership this season. The appointment wiull be temporary until Nik Antropov returns to the lineup.
Byfuglien has not only delivered big hits to go along with his big shot, but he also has delivered key words to his teammates in the locker room.
When the team was shaken earlier in the season by the collapse of goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, Byfuglien spoke up in the locker room and rallied the team despite the obvious adversity producing a big win for the team.
It is obvious this season that the former Chicago Blackhawk players who arrived in the trade during the preseason has had a definite impact so far this season.
Defenseman Brent Sopel has early on shown a proclivity to step in front of shots and sacrifice his body for the team. In addition, the team has displayed more toughness than most ever remember from an Atlanta squad.
This is not to say the Thrashers have solved all of their problems by any means.
The team has been inconsistent and is obviously still in search of an identity, injuries have plagued them and penalties have cost them some early games.
Still, the Thrashers have displayed some of the components that excite true hockey fans.
The team has completely redesigned itself and has sometimes struggled trying to put together effective line combinations.
The scoring has primarily come from 19-year-old Evander Kane and Anthony Stewart. Coach Ramsey has been forced to sit Nik Antropov and send late preseason signee Nigel Dawes to the AHL Chicago Wolves—the Thrashers minor league affiliate.
The defense also has struggled despite its potential. Players like Brent Sopel, Johnny Oduya, Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian and Byfuglien, along with Ron Hainsey, have shown flashes but have not been able to produce the stingy defense needed to keep the team in games.
The offense has even more issues.
Injuries to highly regarded prospect Patrice Cormier and uninspired play from Nigel Dawes, in addition to the assimilation of first-round draft choice Alex Burmistrov have contributed to a mediocre start.
The upside is that it is still evident, despite the early season shortcomings, that the Atlanta Thrashers have the potential to make it to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It is too early to judge all the offseason moves and their overall affect on the team.
Former Thrasher Clarke Macarthur has had a strong showing in his first eight games of the season for Toronto. New Jersey Devils forward, Ilya Kovalchuk, has displayed some of the same characteristics that made him an enigma as captain of the Thrashers and makes the trade with New Jersey seem better and better.
It is not easy to rework a NHL squad, but the Thrashers with Byfuglien and others still has the potential to jell into an effective team.
Only time will tell.
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