This has not been the best of seasons for the Atlanta Thrashers. Expectations were high, but after the new year the fans had to temper those as the team went southward into all-too familiar territory. The team will either finish at .500 or two games below depending on the outcome of today's game. After their appearance in the playoffs in 2007, the team has not finished above the .500 mark again.
The beginning of the season promised a reborn Thrashers team, built of scoring and finally some responsible play. The end of the season saw the secondary scoring completely dry up, and players that so much were expected of began to regress not just toward the mean, but back past it.
Zach Bogosian has an awful -26 rating. Dustin Byfuglien, despite having 20 goals, has been in a scoring drought since the All Star Game. Anthony Stewart is all but invisible. Johnny Oduya looks like he's going through the motions. The same is said at every press conference; in shades of John Anderson and his "bad bounces," we're getting "we played a good game, but..." It's like deja vu all over again. Putrid defense with no gameplan, barely-there offense, and goaltending that can be brilliant but more often than not is just average.
And yet, there're things to hope for next season. Andrei Zubarev finished even in Friday's debacle and led the team in ice time. Carl Klingberg will be getting the call for today. Fredrik "The Fly" Pettersson is waiting in Chicago. Ondrej Pavelec's play the first half of the year is hopefully a glimmer of the excellence to come. Evander Kane and Bryan Little've blossomed this year, and Little, along with Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd, have become a legit top line who are both offensively and defensively talented. That's something that this team has never pretended to have. There're a good many positive building blocks for the future.
What of the future? Who knows what'll happen as far as the franchise staying put or moving, but chances are good that this is not the last game that the Thrashers will play in Atlanta. The logistics behind a move, coupled with the NHL bylaws, makes it next to impossible to move a team under cover of night. Factor in the fact that the Atlanta Spirit are hiring sales and ticket reps for next season for both the Hawks and Thrashers, and, well... this isn't the last game in Philips Arena for the Thrashers. We'll be at the Draft Party in June, and then prospect camp followed by rookie and training camp, and then we'll be starting this dance all over again come September's pre-season.
It can't get here soon enough. Let's go Thrashers!