I'll name the names of who is not playing well and who is so far in this young season. Let's see who is on the ice for when the Thrashers score (Goals For) and when they get scored upon (Goals Against). Look at the column labeled "Net" to see if a particular player has been on the ice for more goals for or more goals against.
Only four other players are positive or even, Slava Kozlov, Todd White, Ilya Kovalchuk and Thorburn. Again, being just even in the net category is an accomplishment on a team that has been outscored 17-4 so far this season. I have to say I've been very impressed with the play of Kovalchuk all season. He is getting scoring chances, playing better defense and standing up for team mates. Unfortunately the same things cannot be said of the rest of the squad.
OK so who is getting schooled out there on the ice so far this year? Well Larsen and Slater have getting absolutely torched so far. Both have been on the ice for 4 Even Strength Goals Against and another 4 or 5 Power Play Goals Against. They have not gotten the job down at either even strength of on the penalty kill. Honestly I don't understand why Slater is not scratched and Thorburn given a shot at more playing time. Slater has taken several dumb selfish penalties that put his team in a bind and when he is on the ice he is getting a sun burn from seeing the red light go off all the time.
Other early season goats include Sterling, Holik and Perrin. Sterling is a rookie learning to play the opposite wing and he has struggled--so I'll cut him a bit of slack given his situation. The other two guys Perrin and Holik came to Atlanta with reputations as strong defensive players but so far they have not shown much evidence of that this season. Holik in particular may be one of the most over-rated players in recent NHL history, but more about that when we get to the PK unit.
Now as the sock puppet noted, ice time can be a factor in the raw GF and GA numbers because someone like Kovalchuk plays a lot more minutes that Dupuis. So I converted the raw GF and GA into Goals For Average (team offense per 60 when that player is on the ice) and GAA (team goals allowed per 60 minutes when that player is on the ice). But to be honest we are so early in the season that ice time differences are not as huge as they will be in a month so the GFA and GAA generally just confirm what the raw number indicate.
Now let's turn to the defense. Mark Popovic is the only even player but he is a rookie who has played just 15 minutes all season (still he played 1/4 of the Buffalo game and was not on the ice for any of the 6 goals so good for him).
Among the regular defensemen rookie Tobias Enstrom has the best raw goals against (-3) and the best GAA (2.25) but he also doesn't see much PK time so that helps him. Still I find it interesting that when we look at both defense and forwards we see that it is THE ROOKIES who are performing the best in the early going.
The defense pairing of Zhitnik and Havelid has been on the ice for 6 goals a piece which pretty much matches McCarthy, Klee and Exelby--but the big difference is that the team has scored when they are out there so the goal differential for those two defensemen is not as ugly looking.
The worst defensemen so far this year are Exelby, Klee and McCarthy. Klee was scratched for the Buffalo game and Exelby and McCarthy played together which hurt McCarthy's numbers because Exelby continued to get toasted by opposition forwards. At some point do you move Enstrom up to the top four and move Exelby back down to the third pairing with McCarthy?
The Penalty Kill
Early on the team is just getting ripped when they are a man down. So which players are performing the best and worst when we are short handed? I calculated the team GAA when each player is out there on the PK. The results may surprise you.
The table below displays each player who has at least 1 minute of Short Handed Ice Time (SH TOI) and the team's Goals Against Average (SH GAA) when they were out there on the PK. So far Kovalchuk, Kozlov and Perrin have been perfect on the PK. So far each have only seen a few minutes. Which raises the question why not give Kozlov and Perrin more PK minutes if the other guys are getting destroyed out there?
Speaking of getting destroyed Bobby Holik leads the way. This is the guy we are paying $4.25 to provide us with defense, leadership, penalty killing and faceoff wins. Well at least we are getting one out of four. Bobby Holik is an expensive albatross around the neck of this team. He's about as useful as a gold plated toilet on a bass boat. Looks like there was a reason why the New Jersey Devils never used him much as a Penalty Killer. Last year he finished dead last among all forward PK members and the team cut his SH TOI way back after Belanger and Dupuis arrived. Coincidence? I think not. There is a big chuck of data that shows his defensive reputation simply does hold with the facts when it comes to the man dis-advantage.
|Forward||SH TOI||SH GAA|
Among the defensemen we see that Enstrom is at the top but his minutes have also been quite limited so far. Maybe he should see more minutes? Klee and Exebly have been absolutely torched when out there on the PK. Havelid and Zhitnik have been better but not good enough.OK, I'm done looking at ugly numbers. Basically the best players on the Atlanta Thrashers so far this season have been rookies and the worst players have been the veterans. Which raises some questions. Was the team unprepared for the start of the season? Shouldn't veterans know how to get themselves ready to play? If the veterans did prepare are they fed up with Hartley and trying to get him fired? All I can say is stay tuned. Things may not get better immediately but they will get more interesting I think. They are either going to start winning or we are going to see locker room dirty laundry be aired in public, one or the other is bound to happen.