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Where Can the Thrashers Improve the Most?

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Thrashers news is sparse in the off season and I'm not yet ready to begin my season-in-review player profiles quite yet. But I did come across some Thrashers related data while persuing Edmonton/Stats blogger Mudcrutch79's "NHL Review" table. Tyler breaks down all 30 NHL teams and shows whether they were above or below average in terms ES/PP/SH situations.

Now maybe you're thinking "why does any of this matter?" Well, keep in mind that essentially every playoff team is by definition above average (remember 16 out of 39 make the post-season) and to be Cup contender you not only must be "above average" but also build areas of "excellance" where you can dominate other teams.

If we look at Even Strength (ES), the average NHL team scored and allowed 222 Even Strength Goals. Offense was one area where the Thrashers were above average last season finishing +8 goals above the typical team. However on the defensive side of things they were -19 ES Goals Against worse which left the team a combined -11 goals below the typical NHL club. A -11 ES number is not good, but the STL Blues managed to overcome their own -11 ES with an above average PP and PK units.

On the Power Play unit, we see that the team was again above average in PPGF +4 but hurt by SHGA -2, but overall the PP unit was a net +2 which means that it was slight above average--the one area where the team was "not bad" last year.

Brace yourselfs for we are about to look at the PK numbers. Once again we see that the Thrashers were above average in terms of SH Goals For +5 (thank you Colin Stuart!). However, on the PK the Thrashers allowed a mind-numbing -23 goals worse than the typical NHL team. The Thrashers combined a poor PK unit with a lack of discipline (6th most frequently short handed team last year). When you combine the SHGF and PPGA the PK unit finished up -18.

So let's review:

  1. The Thrashers know how to score. They finished in positive territory in all three game states ESGF +8, PPGF +4, SHGF +5. Coach Anderson plays an uptempo system and they are better than average in that respect.
  2. The Thrashers are worse at defending than they are good at scoring. They piled up some negative numbers in all three defensive games states: ESGA -19, SHGA -2, PPGA -23.
  3. If the Thrashers have a league average PK unit and average discipline they would have been in contention for the playoffs last year. Overall the Thrashers finished -27 in total GF/GA and the PK unit alone was responsible for -23 of that.

If you're the Thrashers organization and you want to know if there is one particular area that you can fix this summer that might nudge your team towards the playoffs, it is the PK. Last year the Thrashers added Marty Reasoner (who I hope they re-sign) but they also lost Hossa and Dupuis. Hossa was hands down the Thrashers best PK guy in his final season in Atlanta and adding Reasoner could was not enough to offset the horrible performances by Slater and Exelby while short handed.

Don Waddell mentioned looking for another top 4 defensemen who would presumable be part of the PK rotation, but I'm thinking that the Thrashers could really benefit from finding a checking line player with an outstanding history on the PK (they could also benefit from a full season of Colin Stuart on the PK). Jim Slater makes nearly $1 million and is not an effective PK guy--if the Thrashers let Slater walk and spent a little more money (say $1.5 million) they could probably improve the 4th line and their PK for the small price of half a million dollars.