Last season it was defense defense defense. The Atlanta Thrashers iced only one quality pairing in '07-'08, and the team's defensive success was nothing more than a 23 year old rookie surprise. The addition of Ron Hainsey, Mathieu Schneider, Zach Bogosian, Boris Valabik, and Nathan Oystrick, and an improved Garnet Exelby has turned Atlanta in to a team that can <a href="http://www.ajc.com/thrash...lby_broken_leg.html" title="Injuries"> absorb blue line injuries </a>
. Ondrej Pavelec's growing pains aside the Thrashers seem more stable skating in their own zone.
So, if the team’s blue line issues were addressed in the off season why are they competing for another lottery pick? The problem is now a lack of raw talent and skill. The Thrashers are awash with quality support, but they have no one, outside an aging Slava Kozlov, who can handle a less than perfect puck. During the 12/18 game against the Penguins, Marc Fluery looked lost on several occasions only to avoid disaster when the Atlanta line just missed controlling the puck or just missed hitting the net. Goaltenders get lots of breaks against Atlanta.
Ilya Kovalchuk isn’t the only player being held back by the lack of top line talent in Blueland. Brian Little, Jim Slater, Chris Thorburn, and others are good players who deserve better. Just ask Pascal Dupui what being surrounded by some extra skill can do for a fella.