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5 Ways to Improve the Thrashers without Making a Trade

1) Put Kovalchuk, Hossa and Kozlov on one line.

This team needs to recover its ability to score goals. In hockey the team that has the most goals at the end of the game wins, whether the score is 2-1 or 8-7. Let's face facts, we have a solid goaltender and a roster lacking in All-Star defensemen. There is no recipe for pixie dust that his suddenly go to transform our set of defensemen into Scott Stevens or even Ken Daneyko. We have to live with the players that we have. Therefore, if we want to win games we must score.

Right now the lines we have are not scoring and it is time to try something more radical than moving one winger from line A to line B. I think we should experiment with moving Kozlov back to center and playing Hossa-Kozlov-Kovalchuk as a line together at even strength. The Thrashers played Kozlov as a center for a stretch between Heater and Kovy before and that worked out rather well.

2) We need unleash Glen Metropolit and the team needs to recognize that Niko Kapanen should not be centering either scoring line.

Metropolit has been our best offensive centerman all season. In fact, it is not even close if you take a look at the numbers.

The team should cease to wasting their world class talent at wing by playing Niko Kapanen at center between Kozlov and Hossa. Niko is not good defensively (check his plus/minus compared to teammates here and in Dallas), he has a weak shot, his passes are off target much of the time and he is nothing special in the faceoff circle. Niko Kapanen is holding back our top line at even strength.

In the table below we see the four centerman ranked according to their number of even-strength minutes. If we want to see which centerman is most efficient in using his ice time we divide ES ice time by ES points and we get ES scoring efficiency (note: the lower the number the better-it indicates that you need fewer minutes to score an ES point).

When you look at the efficiency numbers we see that there is not much difference between Holik and Rucchin and that Kapanen is the worst center in terms of producing ES offense (why is he on our 1st line?). But what should leap out at you is that Glen Metropolit is TWICE AS EFFECTIVE as any other center on our roster. This is not a minor difference, this is huge! Yet we see that over the course of the season Glen Metropolit has received the fewest total ES minutes of any center. This is a gross misallocation of team resources and it needs to be corrected.

Player ES Points Total ES Minutes ES Scoring Efficiency
Holik 16 658 41
Rucchin 15 606 40
Kapanen 12 559 46
Metropolit 21 446 21

3) This team needs a North American style crash line that will work for "garbage" goals

Back when the Red Wings were really good they had two top units. They had a North American style line featuring Yzerman and Shanahan who would throw pucks on net, crash the crease and generate chaos to produce rebound goals. Then they had the Russian Five who used great puck possession and skill to create goals. (I'm sure DW remembers since he got his name on Lord Stanley's Cup as part of that 1997 team.) Our European players are highly skilled and reluctant to just throw the puck on net. That's fine for some games, but when you are facing a hot goal tender (Huet, Nittymaki are recent examples) the more you try to find the perfect pass the easier it is to read the play.

In the playoffs you must be able to score both pretty and ugly goals to advance. Right now the Thrashers are too heavily focused on highlight reel goals. We must create an effective crash line. If we stack the first line with the All-Stars then we can create a 2nd line centered by Metropolit that has Sim-Metro-Haydar which would give the team a 2nd line that could crash and bang in the North American style.

4) We need to move Kovalchuk off of the point and we should put Holik there instead.

The power play has become extremely stale and predictable. Everybody in the building knows the puck is coming back to the point. Ilya's powerful shot is completely wasted if it never reaches the net--and lately that is the case. It is time to move Kovalchuk back to the wing.

Who would play the point then? How about Holik? He has a powerful show and teams would have to respect his ability to score. An added benefit of having Holik on the PP unit is that he could take the face-off and then slide back to the point. Holik would be more responsible at the point than Kovalchuk. Our 1st power play unit would then look like this: Hossa, Kozlov, Kovalchuk, Holik, McCarthy/Havelid. I really think this could be a very effective PP unit.

5) We need more physical play form our checkers.

We need some more nastiness to stir things up. Philips Arena has been an easy place to play lately. I would use a 3rd line of Slater-Holik-Mellanby to check the other teams top line.


There comes a time when it is necessary to recognize that what has worked in the past isn't working anymore and for the Thrashers the time is now before they head out on the road trip.