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Exelby and the Defense at the Quarter Mark

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Last season Exelby really struggled. Because of his poor play, I advocated trading him during training camp. I argued that he was holding the team back with his "soft" turnovers that result from his dumps to center and from blindly rimming the puck around the boards. Both are Exelby trademarks.

When the season began, Exelby was paired with Ron Hainsey. He let Hainsey make almost all the outlet passes and kept his game very simple--even at the expense of making the big hit. The pair was very strong out of the gate while last year's top pairing of Enstrom and Havelid struggled.

In the first ten games the Thrashers were badly out shot when the Swedish duo were on the ice (they also were more likely to face the opposition's top player). The third pairing of Bogosian and Schnedier had the fewest "tough minutes" and the Thrashers generally out shot the opposition at ES when those two were on the ice.

Thrasher Defensemen Corsi for Games #1-10
+17 Bogosian
+8 Oystrick
+8 Exelby
+1 Schneider
-4 Hainesy
-45 Havelid
-52 Enstrom

Thrashers Defense Plus/Minus (excluding empty net goals) Games #1-10
+4 Hainsey
+0 Exelby
-1 Oystrick
-1 Havelid
-2 Bogosian
-3 Enstrom
-9 Schneider

Since the 10th game of the season things have changed dramatically with respect to the Swedish D pairing and the X-Hainsey pairing. Enstrom and Havelid have bounced back in a big way (despite playing a more tough minutes) and they look more like the version we witnessed last season. Meanwhile Exelby has been in a free fall in terms of getting the puck out of his zone and preventing shots against his goaltender. Hainsey has played decent but being paired with Exelby at ES has brought his Corsi (net shots at even strength) rating down as well.

Thrasher Defensemen Corsi for Games #11-21
+12 Schneider
+8 Oystrick
+5 Valabik
+3 Enstrom
+8 Havelid
+23 Hainsey
+45 Exelby

Thrashers Defense Plus/Minus (excluding empty net goals) Games #11-21
+6 Havelid

+3 Enstrom
+2 Schneider
+1 Valabik
+1 Oystrick
-4 Exelby
-6 Hainsey

In the long run I don't think you can give top 4 ES minutes to a player who makes so many "soft" turnovers as Exebly does and expect to win consistently. When your team works hard to gain possession of the puck and then you have a player who just dumps it out to center ice, it prevents any offense from developing and it allows the opposition to regroup and attack. The Thrashers are being out shot in nearly every game and reason for that becasue they are dumping the puck out instead of making breakout passes. At the start of the year, Exelby passed on Hainsey, but lately the opposition players go right at Hainsey who dishes over to a wide open Exelby who then makes a not-so-great play with the puck.

Until Bogosian comes back I'd like to see the Thrashers move Exelby to where he belongs, the 3rd pairing and play Schnedier and Hainsey together and see what happens with those two. Or even put Oystrick with Hainsey and play Schneider and Exelby as the 3rd pairing.