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State of the Thrashers: Winless Preseason

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The Thrashers have completed their pre-season schedule without a win. What should we make of this?

What does this tell us?

Probably not very much. In baseball the pre-season record of a team has almost zero predictive value in forecasting the regular season performance of a team. To my knowledge nobody has ever compared NHL pre-season and regular season records, but my expectation is that--as in baseball--there is little relationship. During the pre-season most teams are experimenting and using players who will not make their NHL roster.

Should we be concerned about Friday?

I'm concerned about the team's confidence level and chemistry. The Thrashers take on a very good Washington Capitals club in their home opener Friday. I'm sure Coach Ramsay would prefer to go into that game with his guys feeling good about themselves and a 0-5-1 record isn't going to inspire them.

Is the team on the brink of disaster?

I don't think so. Why? Because 5 of the 6 pre-season losses were by a single goal. (The first exhibition 5-2 loss was filled with prospects and probably the LEAST meaningful game.) The team has been in each game and they have come up just a bit short. Small changes--a good bounce here or there--or improved chemistry could have reversed the outcome in some instances.

Is there any reason for optimism?

Yes. For years the Thrashers have defended poorly and been outshot badly. There is a pile of evidence that good teams tend to out-shot and out-chance their opponents (not very shocking when you think about it). The Thrashers have never really done this. But in the pre-season the shot differential has been very close and the Corsi Number (official shots on goal plus missed shots and blocked shots) has also remained close. What those numbers tell me is that the team was competitive in terms of putting pressure on the opposition net. If the Thrashers can continue in this move in this direction and begin to post a positive Corsi Number game after game they will win a decent share of hockey games.

Is there reason for concern?

Yes. The break out looked bad in the three pre-season games I watched. Now Ramsay is a smart guy and I'm sure he will eventually get the players all on the same page--the question is when? Coach Anderson remarked about his first year in the NHL that he was surprised how long it took to get his system in place. The Thrashers really didn't play well until Christmas under Coach Anderson. The Thrashers can't wait three months to gel or master the breakout. It will have to happen sooner if they want to remain viable in the standings.

Is there enough offense?

Probably not. The Thrashers scored 10 goals in 6 pre-season games. That works out to less than 2 goals per game. That simply is not going to work in the NHL regular season. I suspect that the Thrashers will be competitive and hang around many nights, but the dearth of offense will cost them numerous games this season. As other NHL clubs cut down their rosters and perhaps look to dump some salary, we could see offensive players become available.