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Let's Make this a Title Town

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I think that the short term goal of the team ought to be winning the division title outright. (Of course I want us to win the Cup, but we are still in the regular season.) In fact, I've thrown down the a challenge over at the Southeast Shootout. The bloggers for Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay have agreed that the whichever team wins the division, the other bloggers have to write a post lavishing praise on the winner. This will be a bitter pill to swallow here at Thrashers Talons--so get to it guys!

As of today each of these teams have exactly the same number of games played (so no games in hand to worry about) Tampa has a two point lead by face a tough western road trip. Carolina is three point behind Atlanta, but they have experience and veteran leadership. To be honest, Carolina worries me more.

Besides sparing me from having say nice things about Carolina or Tampa, winning the division would have several important benefits in my view.

1) The Division winner gets the #3 seed within the conference. In theory the higher the seed the weaker the opponent you play in the first round. As competitive as the East is this you I'm not so sure how "weak" the #6 seed will be. At a minimum, a higher seed means that the Thrashers would get to avoid the #1 seed until the Eastern Conference finals and avoid the #2 seed until the second round.

2) But having a higher seed makes it likely that Atlanta will have more home playoff games. Those home dates will bring in more revenue and hopefully allow the team to spend some money in the off season.

3) The Division winner will have some bragging rights within Atlanta. This is a moment of opportunity for hockey. The Braves run ended this summer, the Falcons fell short and the Hawks don't look like they will make the post-season either. The Thrashers fans could lay claim to actually winning something and perhaps attract some attention and new fans with a bit of divisional hardware. Plus, it would mean that we will have at least one banner to raise on opening night next fall.

So what is the road ahead like?

Let's take a look at the schedule each team faces. I've divided each conference into thirds. There are 5 above average teams, 5 middle teams, and 5 below average teams. This is not perfect but it gives a rough sense of what each team faces in the coming weeks.

Atlanta Schedule
Good: BUF, OTT, TBL, PIT, SJS = 5
Average: MON, CAR (2), TOR =4
Bad: NYR, BOS, FLA (3), WAS (2), PHI = 8

Carolina Schedule
Good: NJD (2) , OTT, TBL (2), PIT SJS = 7
Average: ATL (2), TOR = 3
Bad: NYR, FLA (3), WAS (2), PHI = 7

Tampa Schedule
Good: BUF, NJ, OTT = 3
Average: ATL, NYI, TOR, CAR (2), VAN, CAL, EDM = 8
Bad: FLA (3), WAS (3) = 6

So if we compare Atlanta has the fewest remaining games against teams in the top 1/3 of their conference. Atlanta also has the most home games (although that has been a mixed blessing so far this season). Atlanta has the most games against teams in the bottom third of their conference. Tampa faces the fewest good teams, but the most middle tier teams. I'd say the schedule gives a slight edge to Atlanta.

There are not that many remaining head-to-head games left between ATL-CAR-TBL, but each team gets to play FLA three times and WAS at least twice. If one team sweeps five games against the bottom of the division that might just put them over the top.