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Dave Strader's Blog: Sizing Up the Southeast Division

Wednesday, 08.2.2006 / 12:00 AM ET / News
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Dave Strader\'s Blog: Sizing Up the Southeast Division

Hello Panther fans!!

I hope you're all as excited about the upcoming Panthers' season as I am. My partner Denis Potvin will be writing a blog about all the off season moves made by the Panthers while I break down the moves made by the rest of the Southeast Division teams.

Before my first Southeast Division installment on the Atlanta Thrashers, let me just say that the 06-07 Panthers team that will hit the ice on October 6th vs. Boston has the most depth of talent at each position that we've seen in South Florida since those memorable playoff teams of the mid-nineties!

But, as excited as we might be about the prospects of this coming season, we have to realize that the Southeast Division (nicknamed the SouthLeast Division not long ago) has become extremely competitive. Success on the ice has led to stability as well: all five head coaches in the SE will be back (5 of the other 10 Eastern Conference teams will have new head coaches when the season opens in October!) The last two Stanley Cup champions (Tampa Bay & Carolina) are division rivals of the Panthers. Some of the best young talent in the game will face the Panthers in their 32 division games this season (Ovechkin, Staal, Kovalchuk just to name a few) as well as veteran superstars like Lecavalier, St. Louis, Richards, Brind'Amour, Hossa and Kolzig .

Here's a look at the Atlanta Thrashers

2005-06 Record: 41-33-8, 90 pts (T-9th in East) 2 points out of the final playoff spot

First 10 games: used 5 different goalies due to injuries that began with Kari Lehtonen's abdominal injury on opening night vs. the Panthers

Last 10 games: went 6-2-2, but fell just short of the first playoff berth in franchise history

Strength: In a word....scoring. Only Ottawa and Carolina scored more goals among Eastern Conference teams than the Thrashers. The offensive talent that the Thrashers can throw out on the ice for a power play (or anytime they need a goal) is scary.

Weakness: Overall defensive/positional play. Only Washington, Pittsburgh and the Islanders gave up more goals in the East. In fairness to the Thrashers, it's hard to completely judge their goals against when they had so many injuries in goal. But, they did have too many guys that were looking to go on the offense before business was taken care of in their own end.

Off season moves

The Thrashers lost the dangerous Marc Savard who signed as a FA with Boston. They replaced him with solid two-way center Steve Rucchin. He may be a perfect complement to play with wingers like Slava Kozlov and Marian Hossa.

Veteran forward Peter Bondra was not re-signed and is yet to sign with another team (maybe back to the Caps?).

Center Patrik Stefan and defenseman Jaroslav Modry were dealt to Dallas for forward Nikko Kapanen. This was probably a salary move, but Stefan has never lived up to his "first overall pick" status due to injuries.

Like the Panthers, the Thrashers have tried to add depth to their roster, particularly in goal. Veteran goalies Fred Brathwaite and Johan Hedberg will battle for the backup spot to #1 goalie Kari Lehtonen. Former Panther Jon Sim was signed and he has a shot at a spot on one of the top two lines. Atlanta also added veterans Jason Krog and Glen Metopolit to compete for spots on the 3rd or 4th lines.

Overview

The Thrashers have many of the elements to be successful in the new NHL (can we still call it that after a full season?). Ilya Kovalchk, Slava Kozlov, Marian Hossa and Bobby Holik along with Rucchin, Kapanen and young Jim Slater up front give the Thrashers a potent attack. Atlanta's defensive corps is not overly impressive, but if Lehtonen stays healthy, Coach Bob Hartley will again have a squad that can light it up on any night against any opponent. Thrashers' TV analyst Darren Eliot points out that with Rucchin, Kapanen and Holik down the middle, Atlanta should be harder to play against on a nightly basis. Former Panther Scott Mellanby, who appeared headed to retirement, signed for one more year. Perhaps he feels the Thrashers can make their first playoff appearance and he wants to be the captain to lead them there.

NEXT WEEK: WASHINGTON

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - MTL 76 47 21 8 200 169 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 TBL 76 46 23 7 244 198 99
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 76 31 33 12 168 194 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 75 20 47 8 144 254 48

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 73 13 36 9 49
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
J. Jagr 71 15 26 -2 41
J. Jokinen 75 8 33 -2 41
B. Boyes 73 12 23 10 35
A. Ekblad 75 11 24 11 35
J. Hayes 66 18 13 -5 31
A. Barkov 65 14 17 -1 31
B. Campbell 76 3 22 2 25
B. Pirri 43 20 2 5 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 26 17 12 .921 2.33
A. Montoya 5 7 2 .888 3.08
 
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