It's a little under seven weeks until the 2007-08 NHL season opens in London, England on September 29th (blimey!) and it's time to start previewing the season. I'm starting these season previews really, really early but that's only because there's no way I can write 30 solid previews in only a couple of weeks. If I'm going to preview every single NHL team, and I'm going to try my hardest to do so, it will take all seven weeks and then some... And as you might have guessed, these aren't going to be your standard season previews.
- This is the first post at BMR entirely devoted to the Thrashers. Way to be irrelevant, guys.
- [Insert obligatory joke about how bad the Southeast Division is] The Southeast is so bad, Teemu Selanne can beat any team in the Southeast by himself while chained to a man eating bear.
- Atlanta; home to players way more relevant in 1999 than they are now such as Steve Rucchin, Bobby Holik and (recently retired) Scott Mellanby.
- The Thrashers motto for the upcoming season: (cue White Goodman voice) "Fuckin' Keith Tkachuk."
Odds for the folks at gambler's anonymous
3 to 1: The Thrashers' uniforms continue to look hideous for another year.
11,125 to 1: Georgia declares the Thrasher the state bird and hockey the state sport.
5 to 1: That this actually happens during the Canucks/Thrashers game on February 7th, 2008.
Obligatory serious analysis
Last year was a banner year for the Thrashers, as it resulted in their first ever playoff birth and first ever Southeast Division title. That was all only a year late, after GM Don Waddell guarenteed a playoff spot in the 2005-06 season. He was only one year off, and frankly that's a lot better prognostication than anything I can do.
The Thrashers were given a tough run last season from the then defending Cup Champs, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the same may be true this season. Additionally, the Washington Capitals have made some serious improvements and will be looking to take home the division crown for the first time since the 2000-01 season (Adam Oates, Ulf Dahlen and Peter Bondra... ah, the memories). It's not going to be easy for the Thrashers this season, but I believe that they can bring home the bacon. While they did lose Keith Tkachuk and Greg de Vries to free agency, the team is for the most part unchanged from last season, and the addition of Ken Klee should help fill the hole that de Vries has left.
One of the main concerns for the Thrashers is their young players. Ilya Kovalchuk had a 98 point year in 2005-06, but his production fell to 76 points last season despite playing in all 82 games. The T-Birds are going to need Kovalchuk to turn things around this year, that much is for sure. Of course, another 100 point season from Marian Hossa would be nice, too. Another young gun the Thrashers will be looking towards is Keri Lehtonen, their stud goaltender. Lehtonen stepped into the role of a full time starter and was unbelieveably streaky, and posted all four of his shutouts prior to December 1st. If Lehtonen continues to progress, he's going to look awfully scary to opposing forwards in the coming years. The Thrashers need Lehtonen and Kovlachuk to step it up this year, and if the kids can deliver, the Birds will be bringing home another Southeast title.
Prediction: It's going to be everything but easy for the Thrashers, but I believe they can win a very weak Southeast again this year, giving them the #3 slot in the East.
They're called the Aaron's Dream Machines. That's officially the worst name for NHL cheerleaders yet.