When your coach is the first one fired, the season probably did not start very well. When your team ends up with the No. 3 pick in the draft, it obviously didn’t end very well either. This is the story of your Atlanta Thrashers.
2007-08: 34-40-8, 76 points (fourth in Southeast)
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Ilya Kovalchuk was the best goal-scorer in the league whose last name did not sound similar to complexion. Tobias Enstrom was a revelation as the top rookie defenseman in the league. Mark Recchi had a nice revival after being cut by Pittsburgh. GM Don Waddell was praised for the return he extracted for Marian Hossa at the trade deadline.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Kari Lehtonen did not make The Leap, so the goaltending remains in flux. The defense beyond Enstrom and Niclas Havelid was terrible. Hossa did not sign a contract extension so he was traded, and no one left on the roster besides Kovalchuk scored more than 17 goals. The other kids besides Enstrom who began the season with the team (Bryan Little, Brett Sterling and Mark Popovic) did not cement themselves as NHL regulars, though there are certainly still high hopes for Little.
ARRIVALS: F Jason Williams, D Ron Hainsey, RW Junior Lessard, coach John Anderson
DEPARTURES: C Bobby Holik, RW Mark Recchi, D Alexei Zhitnik, D Steve McCarthy, D Mark Popovic
IMPACT PROSPECTS: D Zach Bogosian, G Ondrej Pavelec, C Angelo Esposito
Is this Lehtonen’s year?
Kari Lehtonen hasn’t met high expectations yet, but he could be the only way this team stays in playoff contention. Staying healthy has been a huge problem.
Which kids are ready?
Little has a place on this team, but guys like Esposito, Sterling, Riley Holzapfel and Spencer Machacek could force their way into the opening night lineup with a strong camp. The Thrashers are desperate for impact offensive players.
Does Bogosian stick in Atlanta?
There are only five defensemen on the team web site roster right now, so presumably either No. 3 overall pick Zach Bogosian or kid giant Boris Valabik is going to be the sixth guy.
PROGNOSIS: Bruce Boudreau’s buddy John Anderson is stepping into a significantly less advantageous situation. A great year from Lehtonen and a couple of breakout campaigns from the kids could make the Thrashers pesky, but they are more likely to be in the John Tavares/Viktor Hedman sweepstakes.
|Eric Boulton/Brad Larsen
||Chris Thorburn/Junior Lessard
|Johan Hedberg/Ondrej Pavelec
*NOTE: This is not necessarily an attempt to guess line combinations