20 April 2008

Roto's post-mortem on the Thrash

I don't know how many of my 4 faithful readers have fantasy teams. I can tell you I do not, for the second year running. Mostly because I have a knack for picking the guys who plan on tanking the year. But were I to do fantasy again, I'd totally check out RotoWire because they are the place to monitor your players. That said, here's their (well, theirs, RotoTimes', whomever's) end of season assessment. V interesting.

Atlanta Thrashers (34-40-8), 14th place


Like the Lightning, Atlanta is team with a couple of snipers surrounded by filler. The best of the bunch, Ilya Kovalchuk, bounced back from a relatively lackluster year last season to record 52 goals (second in the league behind Alexander Ovechkin) and 87 points. His 52 goals matched a career high he set in '05-06, while his point total was at least 20 better than the next best forward on the team.

Despite Kovalchuk's excellent numbers, his linemates seemed to take a big step backwards this year. Marian Hossa had his worst season in six years, managing just 26 goals and 56 points in 60 games as a Thrasher (a far cry from the 43 goals and 100 points he gathered last year) before being dealt to the Penguins. Similarly, Slava Kozlov seemingly stepped into an elevator shaft this season: after recording 71 points in '05-06 and 80 points in '06-07, he managed just 17 goals and 41 points in '07-08. While it's possible this drastic reduction in production is an aberration, it may represent a natural decline in play due to his advanced age (36 years old).

Speaking of older guys, Mark Recchi was waived by the Pittsburgh Penguins early in the year and was claimed by Atlanta with the hopes he could provide some secondary scoring. He ended up finishing third on the team in terms of points (48) and tied for fourth in goals (14) in 72 games played. While the return on investment wasn't a bad one, it's probable Recchi will be in line for retirement in the offseason with this being the final year of his contract.

The only other forward of fantasy value this season was Eric Perrin. The former Lightning player scored 12 goals and 45 points altogether while providing an offensive threat on the PK, scoring two goals and team-leading 10 short-handed points.


Probably the best part of the year from a Thrashers perspective was the emergence of rookie blueliner Tobias Enstrom. The young Swede stepped right into the NHL, leading the Thrashers in terms of ice-time per game (including an impressive 5:44 of PP time per game) as well as scoring from the back-end (5g-33a-38pts). The diminutive former 8th-round pick is a significant find for an organization that has had problems successfully developing prospects the last few years. Expect him to be the clear cut number one defensemen on the team going forward.

In contrast, the descent of Alexei Zhitnik into fantasy oblivion was very bad news for Atlanta. Zhitnik was acquired for first-round pick Braydon Coburn last year at the deadline and was expected to be significant presence on the back-end for the club. Instead, Coburn went on to be a top-two defenseman for Philadelphia this season while Zhitnik turned into a very expensive anchor for Atlanta. He garnered just three goals and eight points in 65 games and was frequently a healthy scratch by March. The 36-year-old veteran has one more year left on his contract at 3.5 million and is a good candidate to be bought out or sent to the minors thanks to his rather steep decline and hefty price-tag


Kari Lehtonen was billed as the goalie of the future when he was taken second overall in the 2002 entry draft. Unfortunately, he has yet to deliver on that promise, primarily due to a string of injuries. He played just 48 games this year thanks to a wonky groin, and won just 17 of them. His underlying stats were actually pretty decent, however, particularly his .916 save percentage (15th best in the league) which suggests Atlanta faithful have something to look forward to if the team can ever shore up it's defensive depth (and/or if Lehtonen can ever stay healthy).

FANTASY MVP: Ilya Kolvachuk
FANTASY FLOP: Slava Kozlov

One day I'll post my thoughts on the first round. But probably not til the 1st round is over.

Let's Go Bruins!

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