Last week, True North Sports and Entertainment came to an agreement to purchase the Atlanta Thrashers and relocate the franchise to Winnipeg, Manitoba. This is the second time hockey has failed in Atlanta, as the previous Atlanta Flames franchise was moved to Calgary.
With the second Winnipeg era set to start next season, I thought I would take a look back at some of the best players to play for the Thrashers and create the all-time team. Since Atlanta had little NHL success, this was definitely a challenge, but I think I came up with some solid players to form this squad.
Here are the players who I think are the best of the best of the Thrashers. Some are currently on the team and will be in Winnipeg next year, but their play to try and turn Atlanta around this year deserves recognition.
As always, feel free to let me know of anyone I might have missed.
Snyder may not have ever gotten a chance to make a significant contribution to the Thrashers, but it's hard to think of the organization without mentioning his name.
Snyder won the 2002 Calder Cup with the Chicago Wolves, the Thrashers' AHL affiliate. He had 35 points in 56 regular season games in the AHL and 17 points in 22 playoff games. When he received an 11-game call-up, he posted two points.
In the 2002-03 season, he had 14 points in 36 games and 23 points in 35 games with the Wolves.
He died in September 2003 before the 2003-04 regular season got underway. The Thrashers honored him by wearing a "37" patch on their jerseys and creating the Dan Snyder Memorial Award, given to the Atlanta player "who best embodies perseverance, dedication and hard work without reward or recognition."
The Wolves also honored Snyder by changing the name of their community service award to the Dan Snyder Man of the Year Award.
Hopefully, the Winnipeg team can do something to keep his memory intact, as their new team will have a unique part in Thrashers history.
Afinogenov played only one season in Atlanta, but he put up big numbers in that time. He had 61 points and was second in scoring on the team. His 24 goals were tied with Nik Antropov for the team lead.
He was also ninth with 17:23 of ice time per game and seventh with 3:07 of ice time on the power play.
Afinogenov was not re-signed by the Thrashers this past year and went overseas to play for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.
Antropov had 67 points and a plus-13 in his first season in Atlanta, good for the team scoring lead. His 24 goals were tied with Maxim Afinogenov for the goal scoring lead. Those totals were personal bests for him, and he was third with an average of 3:34 of ice time on the power play.
This season, he finished with 41 points, which was seventh on the Thrashers. He was also fifth with 2:33 of ice time on the power play each game.
Antropov has two years left on his contract, so unless he is traded, he will be on the Winnipeg roster to start the 2011-12 season.
Brunette was with the Thrashers during their first two seasons in the league and had 50-point seasons each year, posting 50 points in 1999-00 and 59 points during the 2000-01 season.
In 1999-00, he was fifth with 3:31 of ice time on the power play per game, while in 2000-01, he was third in faceoff wins with a 54.6 percent success rate. He was also fourth on the team with 4:46 of ice time on the power play.
Buchberger was traded to Atlanta from the Los Angeles Kings, and he became the first team captain in Thrashers' history.
He had 17 points in 68 games and finished with 20 points when adding his three points from his 13 games with the Kings.
Buchberger left Atlanta after their first season, and the two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Edmonton Oilers went back to the Kings for the 2000-01 season. He also suited up for the Phoenix Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins before calling it quits after the 2003-04 campaign.
Ferraro started off his time in a Thrashers uniform with 44 points in 81 games in Atlanta's first season. He was seventh with 3:19 of ice time on the power play, and his 51.2 percent faceoff win percentage was third.
In 2000-01, he had one of the best years of his career with 76 points, and his ice time on the power play increased with 4:47 per game. He was eighth in faceoff wins with a 48 percent success rate.
He had 27 points in 61 games and 3:09 of ice time on the man advantage (sixth), while his 46.7 percent faceoff win rate was ranked eighth. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues that season, where he had 10 points in 15 games before retiring.
Heatley made his NHL debut with the Thrashers in the 2001-02 season, posting 67 points and taking home the Calder Trophy as the league's outstanding rookie.
He improved even further in 2002-03, posting 89 points and finishing ninth in the NHL in scoring. He was selected for the NHL All-Star Game that season, which was held in Sunrise, Florida.
Unfortunately, Heatley's time in Atlanta ended on a down note, as he was the driver of the car involved in the accident that killed teammate Dan Snyder. He only played 31 games due to his injuries from the accident; however, he still finished with 25 points.
Despite support from the Thrashers and their fans, as well as the Snyder family, Heatley asked to be traded for the 2005-06 season, as he felt he could not put his past behind him. The Thrashers agreed, and he began the post-lockout season with the Ottawa Senators.
After his time in Ottawa, Healtey ended up on the San Jose Sharks to start the 2009-10 season, and he is under contract until the end of the 2013-14 season.
Hossa had two strong seasons with the Thrashers in 2005-06 and 2006-07, posting 92 points and 100 points respectively. In 2007, he represented the Thrashers at the NHL All-Star Game held in Dallas. He was the first Thrasher to score 100 points in a season.
In 2008, he again earned a bid to the All-Star Game. This time, he played in the event at Phillips Arena, Atlanta's home arena.
He was traded to Pittsburgh at the 2008 trade deadline, and he finished the 2007-08 season with 66 points.
After playing for the Detroit Red Wings in 2009-10, Hossa ended up on the Chicago Blackhawks for the 2009-10 season. He signed a lengthy 12-year contract for the team, and it paid off in his first season in Chicago, as he finally won a Stanley Cup.
Kane was the Thrashers' fourth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, and he made the team the following season.
In his rookie season, he had 26 points in 66 games, but improved in 2010-11 to 68 points in 73 games and was fifth on the team in scoring. He was seventh with 2:18 of ice time on the power play and first with 154 hits.
Kane is the second player on this list who will be in Winnipeg next season. He is under contract for one more year before becoming a restricted free agent.
Kovalchuk is one of the other names that is most synonymous with the Thrashers organization.
He represented Atlanta at three NHL All-Star Games (2004, 2008 and 2009) and shared the 2004 Rocket Richard Trophy with Jarome Iginla of the Calgary Flames and Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets after all three players posted 41 goals that year.
He also holds the Thrashers' record for most goals in a season, posting 52 goals in both the 2005-06 and 2007-08 seasons.
He had the best season of his career with Atlanta during the 2005-06 campaign, posting 98 points.
Kovalchuk acted as team captain from January 2009 until the time he was traded to the New Jersey Devils in February 2010. He had 27 points in 27 games after being traded.
After much publicized contract negotiations during the 2010 offseason, Kovalchuk signed a 15-year deal with the Devils. In his first full season in New Jersey, he had 60 points in 81 games.
Kozlov had five 50-point seasons during his time in Atlanta, including a career-high 86 points during the 2006-07 season. He played his 1,000th NHL game in a Thrashers uniform, a December 2007 matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Along with a career-high points total in 2006-07, he also set a franchise record for game-winning goals in a single season with eight. He capped off the year by winning the Dan Snyder Memorial Award.
He is second on the franchise's all-time points list with 416 points and second on the all-time goals list with 145 markers during the seven seasons he was in Atlanta.
Kozlov spent this season with two different teams in the KHL, CSKA Moscow and Salavet Yulaev Ufa. He had 27 points in 44 games with the two squads.
Ladd was part of a quartet of Blackhawks players that was traded to Atlanta in the 2010 offseason so the Hawks could shed salary cap space.
He finished with 59 points and the team scoring lead. He also was named Thrashers MVP and served as team captain.
He was sixth in ice time with 20:04 per game. On special teams, he was fourth with 3:02 of ice time on the power play and fifth with 1:53 of ice time while the Thrashers were shorthanded. He was also seventh with 68 hits and eighth with 45 blocked shots.
Ladd is currently a restricted free agent, and as of this writing, he has not been offered another contract. Hopefully, the Winnipeg franchise can find a way to hold on to him, as he is an experienced player with two Stanley Cups and can put up good numbers.
McEachern had 26 points in 46 games in his first season in Atlanta. In addition, he was ninth in both faceoff wins (43.5 percent) and ice time (19:17 per game). He was also sixth with 3:40 of ice time on the power play.
In 2003-04, he improved to 55 points in 82 games and was eighth with 20:13 of ice time. On special teams, he was seventh with 3:34 of ice time on the power play and fifth with 2:57 played while the Thrashers were shorthanded. He was captain throughout his tenure in Atlanta.
He played in Sweden during the NHL lockout and ended his NHL career with the Boston Bruins organization in the 2005-06 season. Once his career ended, he got into coaching, and he is currently the head coach at The Rivers School, an independent school in Weston, Massachusetts.
Peverley was claimed off waivers by Atlanta from the Nashville Predators. He finished the 2008-09 season with 44 points between the Predators and Thrashers. During his time in Atlanta, he was fourth with a 52.4 percent success rate in faceoffs and sixth with 18:49 of ice time. He also had 2:34 of ice time on the power play (ninth on Atlanta).
In 2009-10, Peverley had 55 points and was seventh with 18:39 of ice time per game. He also ranked in the top 10 in ice time on special teams, with 3:07 played on the power play (sixth) and 2:08 on the penalty kill (eighth). He did even better in the faceoff circle, ranking fifth with wins on 52.4 percent of his faceoffs.
He got off to a good start in 2010-11, posting 34 points in 59 games. He was fifth with a 55.5 percent success rate on faceoffs and seventh with 19:13 of ice time. He became a top member of the power play unit, with 3:08 of ice time (third on the team).
After being traded to Boston, Peverley had seven points in 23 games to finish the year with 41 points. He is currently competing in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Bruins and has eight points through 20 playoff games.
He is under contract with the Bruins for the 2011-12 season.
Savard had at least 40 points every season he was with Atlanta, including posting a career-best 97 points in the 2005-06 season. That season, he set a Thrashers record with assists in a single season (he posted 69 helpers that year).
In 2002-03, he had 47 points and was seventh with 18 blocked shots. He was second in faceoff wins with a 50.9 percent success rate.
He had 52 points in 2003-04, improving on his totals from the previous season. He was fourth with 22:19 of ice time per game and 5:15 played on the power play. He was again in the top five in the faceoff circle, winning 49.9 percent of his faceoffs.
During the 2005-06 season, he was second with 6:22 played on the man advantage and was seventh in faceoff wins (51.6). He was also seventh with 20:30 of ice time per game.
Savard moved on to Boston in the 2006-07 season, but he has not played since January due to a major concussion.
Thorburn has never put up a ton of points during his time in Atlanta, but he has contributed in other valuable ways.
He has always been a physical player and has finished in the top-five in hits every year. He had 89 hits in 2007-08 and topped out with 129 hits this past season. He also had 127 during the 2008-09 campaign.
Also, he is valuable in the faceoff circle. He was second with a 60 percent faceoff win percentage in 2007-08, fourth with 55.2 percent in 2009-10 and fifth this past season with a 49.8 win percentage.
Thorburn turned things around this season after being on the decline the last two years. He had 19 points and was seventh with 71 blocked shots. He was also seventh with 1:52 of ice time on the penalty kill this season
He is under contract until the end of the 2013-14 season and will move to Winnipeg to begin next season.
Bogosian was drafted by the Thrashers third overall in 2008, but spent the 2008-09 season with both the Thrashers and the Wolves. In 47 games with Atlanta, he had 19 points and a plus-11 rating.
In his first full NHL season in 2009-10, he had 23 points in 81 games. He set team records with most hits in a season (196) and goals by a defenseman in a season (10). He was also second with 124 blocked shots and fifth with 21:24 of ice time per game. He played 2:09 a game while the Thrashers were shorthanded (seventh).
This season, he had 17 points in 71 games and was third with 22:24 of ice time and 2:01 of ice time on the penalty kill. He was ninth with 1:58 played on the man advantage. In addition, he had 111 hits (fourth) and 91 blocked shots (fifth).
He is currently a restricted free agent, but like teammate Andrew Ladd, does not have a new contract as we speak.
Byfuglien was another one of the four members of the Blackhawks' 2010 Cup team traded to the Thrashers this past offseason. Like Ladd, he has also found success in Atlanta.
He was second on the team with 53 points this year and was also first among Thrashers defensemen in scoring. He was second with 23:18 of ice time per game, with 4:02 played on the power play and 140 hits. He was also sixth with 72 blocked shots.
Byfuglien also acted as an alternate captain this season and signed a five-year contract extension. He represented Atlanta at the 2011 NHL All-Star Game held in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Enstrom has posted two 30-point seasons in his time in Atlanta (2008-09). He also had 50-point seasons in 2009-10 (50 points) and this past year (51 points). He finished this season second among Atlanta defensemen in scoring.
This year he was named to the NHL All-Star Game. It marked the first time the Thrashers sent a defenseman to the All-Star Game since Petr Buzek participated in the 2000 event.
Enstrom led the Thrashers in ice time (23:41 per game) and power play minutes (4:32 per game). He was also third with 137 blocked shots.
He is under contract through the 2012-13 season.
Exelby is one of the more physical defensemen that has played for the Thrashers. While his ice time has fluctuated, his shot blocking skill and physical presence has never gone away.
He led the team in hits during the 2005-06 season with 125 while also placing fifth with 75 blocked shots. In addition, he was sixth with 3:07 of ice time on the penalty kill. He threw himself around even more in 2006-07 with 146 hits and 95 blocked shots.
In 2007-08, he was again first on the team with 176 hits and second with 137 blocked shots. He was seventh on the Thrashers with 18:53 of ice time per game and sixth with 2:43 played on the penalty kill.
Although Exelby didn't deliver as many hits in 2008-09, he was still first on the team in that category (151). He was fourth with 99 blocked shots and eighth with 2:13 of ice time while Atlanta was shorthanded.
After playing with the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2009-10 season, Exelby spent 2010-11 with the Rockford Ice Hogs, the Blackhawks' AHL affiliate.
Hainsey scored a career-high 39 points in his first season with Atlanta in 2008-09. He was also second with 22:22 of ice time per game and fifth in minutes played on the power play (3:43) and the penalty kill (2:53). In addition, he was second with 127 blocked shots and ninth with 60 hits.
He had 26 points in 2009-10 and was first with 148 blocked shots. He was fourth with 22:08 of ice time and was second with 3:46 played on the penalty kill.
Although his point totals decreased again this year (he had just 19 points), he continued to be an excellent shot blocker (his 173 blocked shots were first on the Thrashers) and was eighth with 1:49 of ice time on the penalty kill.
He has two more years on his current contract and will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2012-13 season.
Havelid was a key defenseman during his four seasons in Atlanta.
During his first year in 2005-06, he had 22 points and a plus-nine rating while leading the Thrashers in ice time per game (24:25) and minutes on the penalty kill (5:17). He was also second with 192 blocked shots.
Havelid remained an important part of the penalty kill during the rest of his time in Atlanta. He was first in minutes played while the Thrashers were shorthanded in 2006-07 (4:33) and in 2007-08 (3:39). He was second in penalty kill ice time with 3:32 per game during the 2008-09 season.
In addition, he finished first in blocked shots from 2007 to 2009 (225 in 2006-07, 184 in 2007-08 and 164 in 2008-09). In 2006-07, his 225 blocked shots were also third in the NHL.
His performance in 2005-06 earned him the Dan Snyder Memorial Award.
He was traded to the Devils in 2008-09 after posting 42 points and a plus-four through 63 games. He had four points in 15 games with Atlanta to finish the season with 46 points and a plus-two rating.
Havelid has spent the last two seasons playing with Lingkoping HC of the Swedish Elite League.
Kaberle first played for the Thrashers in their inaugural season and had seven points in 14 games. He finished the 1999-00 season with 18 points in 59 games and played for four teams (Long Beach Ice Dogs of the IHL, Lowell Lock Monster of the AHL, Los Angeles and Atlanta).
Despite playing few games with the Thrashers, he was first with 24:38 of ice time per game and 4:05 played on the man advantage. He was also sixth with 2:46 of ice time on the penalty kill.
In 2000-01, he finished with 15 points and a plus-11 rating while logging 22:17 per game (first on the Thrashers) and 4:24 on the power play (fifth).
He continued to improve in 2001-02, tallying 25 points and again playing valuable minutes, as he was third with 21:34 played per game. He was fourth with 3:16 logged on the power play and ninth with 2:25 on the penalty kill.
The 2002-03 season saw him post 26 points and finish in the top three in many categories including blocked shots (third with 37), ice time (second with 21:56 per game) and penalty kill minutes (third with 3:10 per game).
Kaberle bested himself again in 2003-04 with 30 points and a plus-two rating. He was third with 23:19 played per game and fifth with 4:18 played on the power play. On the penalty kill, he was seventh with 2:44 of ice time.
After leaving Atlanta, Kaberle won the 2006 Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes and played in Raleigh through the 2008-09 season. He has spent the last two years playing in his native Czech Republic.
Kubina did well during his only season in Atlanta, posting 38 points in 76 games. He was second among Thrashers defensemen in scoring.
He led Atlanta with 22:37 of ice time per game and was fourth in penalty kill ice time with 2:47 per game. He was also third with 111 blocked shots and seventh with 94 hits.
Kubina played for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, where he posted 23 points in 79 regular season games and three points in eight playoff games.
Lehtonen made his Atlanta debut in 2003-04 and played four games, going 4-0 with a 1.26 GAA and .953 save percentage.
But it was in 2006-07 when he began to take off. He had the best season of his career with a record of 34-24-9 to go with a .912 save percentage and a 2.79 GAA. He also had four shutouts in both the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.
Lehtonen holds Thrashers franchise records in many categories, including career wins by a goaltender (94), shutouts by a Thrashers goaltender (14) and games played in a season (68 games played in 2006-07).
He was traded to the Dallas Stars in 2010, who gave him a three-year extension prior to the start of this season. His contract runs through the 2012-13 campaign.
Pavelec had his first NHL experience during the 2007-08 campaign, playing in seven games and posting a record of 3-3 with a .905 save percentage and a 3.11 GAA.
He played his first full NHL season in 2009-10 and went 14-18-7 with a .906 save percentage and a 3.23 GAA. It was his first year with starting goaltender duties, as he played in 42 games.
After a scary collapse on the ice during the Thrashers' 2010-11 home opener against the Washington Capitals, Pavelec came back strong. He had a record of 21-23-9 in 58 games for his first 20-win season. He also set career highs in save percentage (.914) and goals-against-average (2.73).
Pavelec will be 24 years old this year, so he has room to continue to improve. He has one more year on his contract before becoming a restricted free agent.