Atlanta Thrashers 2008 Offseason Report
The only reason the Atlanta Thrashers did not finish below the Tampa Bay Lightning was because they had Marian Hossa on the ice for over half the season. Ilya Kovalchuk and Hossa were a very good one-two punch until Pittsburgh acquired Hossa at the trade deadline. Now all the Thrashers have is Kovalchuk who finished the season with 87 points; 39 points ahead of Mark Recchi who finished second best on the team.
Atlanta came out of the gate extremely quick this season, even being in first place at one point. They plummeted off the charts once they realized that they cannot keep the pace for 82 straight games. This is a team in trouble.
The Thrashers just hired their fourth coach in franchise history in John Anderson who led the Chicago Wolves of the AHL to a 2008 Calder Cup championship. This will be a very difficult team to coach since there is no team but only a single player. Anderson will have to work miracles to compete in today’s NHL.
On Tuesday, the free agency market opens and Atlanta has to spend on quality players to improve the teams 34-40-8 record of last season. I would expect quite a bit of spending in a few days from GM Don Waddell. For Atlanta’s sake, they better not waste millions on overpaid players like Bobby Holik again.
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Notable top players staying for the Atlanta Thrashers:
Ilya Kovalchuk, Colby Armstrong, Vyacheslav Kozlov, Todd White, Alexei Zhitnik, Garnet Exelby, Ken Klee
Atlanta Thrashers - Notable free agents (restricted and unrestricted):
Mark Recchi, Bobby Holik
What Atlanta has:
- Ilya Kovalchuk. He scored 24% of the teams goals with his 52 of the 216 goals that the Thrashers put in. Also, Colby Armstrong is a workhorse but not a top-liner. Atlanta has many third line caliber players.
- They also have three insanely good young players who need little development. Exelby is a young punisher but he cannot play 20 minutes a game at that pace. Angelo Esposito is a great scoring machine but he needs to learn how to play the NHL game. This past draft, the Thrashers drafted Zach Bogosian who is another monster to build the defensive core around.
- I would say they have above average goaltending with Kari Lehtonen but he cannot carry this team.
What Atlanta needs:
- Definetly another top name. They should make an attempt at Mats Sundin or Markus Naslund on Tuesday to bolster the line-up.
- Experience. At least two players with some Stanley Cup experience to help in the locker room. Recchi had a hell of a time doing it this year and failed doing it himself.
Expectations for the Thrashers next year:
- There is no possible way that Atlanta will make the playoffs in 2009. With Washington and Carolina in the same division, there is no hope for a divisional title. I would be impressed if this team was not in the bottom five of the league next season without acquiring a big name in this off season.
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Staff Writer
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