Right now it is very clear that the Thrashers lineup will be much more physical than in the past but the big question is can they score enough? I was worried about this as well so I created projections for every player.
Many people are just looking at the total points or goals scored by Ladd and Byfuglien and asking if they can REALLY replace the offense supplied by Kovalchuk, Kozlov, Afinogenov, Armstrong and Kubina. But you have to do a LOT more work to get a reasonable team projection.
The biggest adjustment is ice time. Last year Kovalchuk, Kozlov and Max played a ton of PP minutes. Those minutes have to be re-allocated to players like Evander Kane, Byfuglien and Ladd. So I did that for each player (see table below)
|Player||ES TOI||SH TOI||PP TOI||Total TOI|
Next step is to plug in realistic scoring rates for those ES, PP and SH minutes. I used last year's numbers for each player with some modifications. Namely, Evander Kane received only 22 minutes on the power play all season and didn't score, so I substituted the Thrashawks average PP scoring rate for his projection (aka mean substitution). I used the team average rate for all SH scoring rates because I think SH goals are mostly about SH TOI and luck. Finally, I had the problem of projecting the last forward spot (Cormier or Pettersson in my opinion) and my solution was just to give them Marty Reasoner's (low) scoring rates as a reasonable guess.
Once you adjust the ES, PP and SH ice time and plug in each player's scoring rate from last season, you get the following point projections. (see table below)
|Player||GP||ES pts||SH pts||PP pts||Total Points|
Like every projection this one will be wrong because the world has a stochastic element (unpredictable). Despite the randomness in the world all of us get up each morning and go to work--we make assumptions that our world will not end (i.e. plans). The key (in life as well as stats) is to make reasonable projections.
Now I think Kane could destroy that 46 point projection and I think Nik Antropov will probably slip some from last season. I think Byfuglien could easily crush his projection (32 points) as well, but the Cormier/Pettersson slot might miss their estimate.
On the one hand, you could argue the power play will be less effective without Kovalchuk (likely) but you could also argue that responsible defensive hockey will lead to more counter-attack rushes (puck possession=more scoring chances), so right now I'm willing to call it a wash.
What do these individual estimates project in terms of a team total? Historically there are 2.7 points awarded for each NHL goal, so right now I have this Thrashers roster scoring 592 points which translates into 219 Goals or a 2.67 Goals For Average (16th overall) which would be a modest decline from last season's 2.80 Goals For (ranked 11th). That is an 11 goal decline from last season, so to make the playoffs and be a middle of the pack NHL team the Thrashers would need to make big progress in reducing their GAA from 3.05 (250 Goals Against) down to 220, a reduction of 30 goals allowed. I think that Ondrej Pavelec could easily take another big step forward and an improved commitment to team defense would help both Pavelec and newcomer Chris Mason.
My personal hunch is that the offense will beat my projection and come in closer to 230 goals for which would mean a reduction in Goals Allowed by 20 puts the Thrashers on playoff bubble boundary line.