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Thrashers Roster: Is it complete?

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The Thrashers cut down their roster to the NHL mandated 23 players today. Mike Hoffman will go on injured list so they will 22 active players. (Under the CBA a team cannot send a player who is injured at the NHL level down until that players is healthy so it is unclear where Hoffman will play until he comes off the injured list.)

At defense Oystrick got the last spot over Valabik. Personally, I'm not wild about this. I think Oystrick tends to stand by the net and let his defensive partner do most of the work in his own end. I also think Valabik brings more to the table. But by all accounts Oystrick corrected a conditioning problem that has held him back in past camps--if that is why he made the team then he deserves a tip of the hat for doing what was necessary this summer.

I will point out some other factors that occur to me. I've criticized the Thrashers management in the past for not giving young defensemen like Brett Clark and Kurtis Foster more of a serious look at the NHL level. Both of those guys went on to become solid NHL contributors on other teams. Oystrick is now old enough (nearly 26) that he has lost his prospect status. If they send him through waivers another team could claim him. The Thrashers might just be doing some due diligence here and finding out once and for all if Oystrick can be a useful NHL defenseman, before potentially losing him on waivers. If that's the motivation, I endorse it.

The other thought is that John Anderson has watched Nathan Oystrick play 162 AHL games and 39 AHL playoff contests. One would think after that many games Anderson has a pretty good idea of the positives and negative of Oystrick as a player. Perhaps this a guy Anderson really believes in?

Another possibility is the Thrashers have a trade brewing that will send a NHL roster defensemen and therefore they don't want to risk losing Oystrick as a depth player. As far as I know the Pavelec situation is still unresolved. If the Thrashers are offering around a package of Pavelec and another roster defensemen, then Oystrick might have been retained as an insurance policy. If another defensemen is traded then Valabik can come back up and Oystrick might be the true 7th D. If there is no trade brewing, there is always the potential that Atlanta could snag another player who is being sent through waivers in the next 24-48 hours as all NHL teams cut down as well.

At forward Sterling made the team over Colin Stuart and Joey Crabb. Here I'm not the least bit surprised. I think it is imperative for the Thrashers to learn whether Sterling can be a consistent top six scorer in the NHL. To find out, they need to put him in the lineup for 30 games and put him on one of the power play units and see what happens. He will probably have a couple of rough nights--most rookies do--but they need to stick by him and see what he has to offer at this level. The guy has nothing left to prove at the AHL level so they either need to utilize him or trade him for something that can help this team advance. Leaving him in the minors helps neither Sterling nor the Atlanta Thrashers.

The other argument for Sterling making the team is that scoring will probably be an issue this season. Even with Coach Anderson's uptempo systems they could struggle to replace the goals produced by Hossa, Holik, Dupuis and Recchi (that's 63 Thrashers goals scored) those four players were responsible for one quarter of the team's offense. Sterling, along with Christensen, Armstrong, Reasoner and Williams will be tasked with filling and surpassing that void.

I suspect that we will see Colin Stuart or Joey Crabb back in the NHL when injuries stike this season.