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Anderson Hire Looking Good

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The Thrashers lost to the Flyers last night. If they had beaten Philly that would have nudged me more towards thinking they might find a way to sneak into the post-season. But they didn't so my expectations remain at "close by no cigar" for this years.

In some ways the Flyers game was something of a miniature of the season. The team played one bad period but otherwise they were fairly competitive. Ultimately they came up one goal short in the end. That pretty much describes the year so far--good effort, fairly competitive, but just not quite enough to put them over the top.

Coach Anderson is certainly getting more out of this lineup that any other coach in Thrasher history. His players pressure the puck and are allowed to be creative. Their style is evolving into an exciting brand of hockey. Sure, they still make mistakes and they've had a couple of rough periods here and there, but they play much more like a team than past Thrashers clubs. They play with much more energy and fluidity than past Thrashers teams. The old Thrashers seemed to labor just to get the puck up the ice and and the offensive zone, while the current club keeps getting better at making quick outlet passes and explosive breakouts that put pressure on the opposition defense.

One thing that seems notable about Coach Anderson's team so far is just how stable the lines have been. Hartley constantly shuffled his centers around. As a new head coach I would not have been surprised to see Anderson try a bunch of combinations early in the season to see who worked best with whom. However, Anderson has favored consistency over experimentation which allows linemates to work on their chemistry. My guess is this goes back to his days as a player--he probably believes consistent lines are more productive than shuffling players around.

Personally, I'd wish he had given Brett Sterling more of a shot and Eric Perrin more ice time. I also probably wouldn't have been as patient with Erik Christensen or Jason Williams. To his credit he got Williams rolling, although Christensen has remained fairly cold--only getting his first goal after 20% of the season had passed. But I will say this about Christensen--if the Thrashers are going to come up short of the playoffs--they need to discover whether Erik is a top six NHL player. They have to play him enough to find out if he is just a slow starter or if he one of those talented teases that never quite deliver on their promise.

The Thrashers still have holes (another top six forward would really help) and they still have problem areas (penalty kill) but Anderson is getting quality play out of this team and I'm enjoying watching them play. It is really unfortunate that the past season turned off so many fans because these is the kind of fun hockey that hockey newbies could get turned on if they were watching it.