The Thrashers have lost their last two games and now the playoffs are effectively out of reach again. The end of the regular season is going to leave a sour taste considering the missed opportunity\ies. It will provide little consolation for most fans, but the one point gained in the Saturday OTL against the Pittsburgh Penguins pushed the Thrashers over the line for their Las Vegas over/under odds for the 2009-2010 NHL season.
The Eastern Conference is having a terrible down year in general, at the moment just 6 out of 15 East teams are exceeding their projected point totals for year season. The Capitals, Senators, Islanders, Sabres, Thrashers and Devils are in that group. The Flyers and Bruins are going to miss their expected totals by huge margins. The Bruins over-achieved the prior season (raising expectations too high) and then were hammered by injuries this year. The Flyers struggled and got their coach fired, rebounded only to struggle again with a rash of goalie injuries.
The Western Conference was much stronger, but what I find most striking is how concentrated their advantage is. Only 7 of 15 teams appear likely to beat their over/under numbers, but Phoenix, Colorado and Nashville combined are already 61 points ahead of their Vegas expectations. Detroit was hit hard with injuries but they are only 10 off of their expectation (much better than the Bruins in the East). The Oilers will finish enormously short, while the Coyotes will finish enormously plus for the season.
Before the season began, James Mirtle asked From the Rink readers to rank both the Eastern and Western Conferences. The Thrashers were given short shrift by most readers and were picked to finish second to last in the East (14th). With just a few games remaining the Thrashers rank 10th with a shot at finishing 9th--well ahead of the expectations of general NHL fans.
Over at Puck Prospectus their VUKOTA rankings had the Thrashers 20th overall (they rank 23rd) and 10th in the East (they rank 10th today). Vegas did the best of picking the Thrashers final ranking, but VUKOTA wasn't so far off either. (For what it's worth VUKOTA projection expected a full season of Kovalchuk in the lineup too.)
Certainly many Thrashers fans had higher expectations than the outsiders did, but is interesting to look back on this pre-season picks.