Pondering possible line combos for next season's Atlanta Thrashers

thrasherscoachramsay.jpgFor hardcore hockey fans, drawing up various line combos is a delightful exercise of armchair coaching. The Atlanta Thrashers feature a boatload of new faces – many of whom played support roles with the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks – so that activity might be even more enjoyable for Thrashers writers, bloggers and fans.

Still, aside from adventures in NHL ’10 or NHL 2K10, the only place where the mixing and matching of lines matter is on the ice. Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constituion caught up with new coach Craig Ramsay, who might make it easier for people trying to guess what kind of lines the team will throw on the ice.

Ramsay: “The reality in my mind, if you are a really top-flight team, you have a high-end scoring line. Then you have a high-end checking and scoring line. Then you have another high-end line that can do a little of everything, perhaps score more than check. I look at things a bit differently. My one and three [lines], would be in my mind, offensively gifted lines. The second line is more of a grinding, puck control line, who I also expect to score. My fourth line would also be more of a puck control kind of line, that would be used in checking roles and to change the momentum of a game and would also be expected to score some goals.”

Rather than throw some darts at random Thrashers players on my wall, I thought it might be wiser to ask someone who follows the team closely. I asked Laura Astorian from Thrashing the Blues to share her guesses for what the team’s lines will look like in 2010-11 (you can also look at the Sept. 17 participants in this document). Here is what she said, keeping him mind I asked her out of the blue tonight.

With Little at wing and Pevs at center, it’d look like:

Little – Antropov – Bergfors

Kane – Peverley – Ladd

Dawes – Slater/Burmistrov – Modin

Boulton – Slater/Eager – Thorburn

If Cormier hadn’t been hurt, you could plug him in at 3rd line center for sure, but that broken foot during practice isn’t helping him. Slater also has a wrist injury right now, so he might not be good to go to start – I haven’t heard what the deal is yet. Also, this isn’t taking Fredrik Pettersson into consideration, and he’s looking good.

Defense should be this:

Enstrom-Bogosian (they’re paired together again, which is just awesome)

Hainsey-Byfuglien

Oduya-Sopel

The 7th guy’s up in the air. I’m betting Kulda goes down and is our first call-up in case of injury, and Boris Valabik stays at 7th.

Interesting stuff. I still wonder if the Thrashers’ glut of offensive defensemen may justify playing Byfuglien at forward, but Astorian is justified in putting “Buffy the Hamburger Slayer” on the blueline since the player, coach and GM are in favor of the move.

What kind of lines do you think Atlanta will throw out there on most nights? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments and take a look at their training camp battles, which can be found in the Southeast Division collection.

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    Stanley Cup Final odds: Penguins open as favorites over Predators

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    The 2017 Stanley Cup Final is set with the Pittsburgh Penguins, continuing their quest to repeat as champions, facing the Nashville Predators.

    Both teams come in missing some key players (Kris Letang, Pittsburgh; Ryan Johansen, Nashville) but both still have plenty of star player with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, P.K. Subban, Filip Forsberg and the rest of Nashville’s defense headlining the series.

    According to the folks at Bovada, the Penguins open the series as favorites to win it over the Predators.

    NHL Stanley Cup Finals Series Price
    Nashville Predators +135 (27/20)
    Pittsburgh Penguins -155 (20/31)

    The series begins on Monday night in Pittsburgh.

    Related

    2017 Stanley Cup Final Schedule: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Nashville Predators

    Canucks sign free agent defenseman Philip Holm to one-year deal

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    The Vancouver Canucks announced on Friday that they have signed free agent defenseman Philip Holm to a one-year, entry-level contract.

    Before signing with the Canucks Holm had been rumored to be on the verge of joining the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that obviously did not come together.

    “Philip is a mobile, two-way defenseman who adds depth to our blue line,” said Canucks general manager Jim Benning in a statement released by the team. “He made strides in his development last season with Vaxjo and played a strong series with Sweden at the World Championships We’re pleased to welcome him to the Canucks organization.”

    The 25-year-old Holm has spent the past seven seasons playing professionally in Sweden for Vaxjo HC and Djurgardens IF.

    He is regarded as a smooth skating, puck-moving defenseman and had a pretty strong season for Vaxjo this past year, scoring four goals and adding 17 assists in 52 games. He was the top-scoring defenseman on the team.

    He also had three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games for Sweden at the 2017 IIHF World Ice Hockey Championships. Sweden won the Gold Medal at the tournament by defeating Canada in the championship game.

    The Canucks already have six defensemen under contract for 2017-18 (and they do not seem to be in a hurry to trade any of them) but it was a unit that clearly needs an upgrade, so Holm should be an opportunity to make an impact next season.

    Sabres fire AHL coach Dan Lambert

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    The Buffalo Sabres continued to overhaul their organization under new general manager Jason Botterill on Friday when they announced that Dan Lambert, the coach of the Rochester Americans, their AHL affiliate, has been relieved of his duties.

    “I would like to thank Dan for his hard work and contributions to our organization during the last two seasons and I wish him the best in the future,” said Botterill in a statement released by the team.

    “I felt this was the right move for both the Sabres and Amerks and we will begin the process of searching for a new head coach immediately.”

    The 2016-17 season was Lambert’s only season as the head coach. The team ended up finishing with a 32-41-3 mark.

    When he was hired by the Sabres Botterill talked about wanting to improve the team in Rochester and this appears to be the first step in that process. The entire Sabres organization took a pretty significant step backwards this season with the NHL team finishing with a worse record than it did a year ago. That resulted in general manager Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma all being replaced.

    The Sabres have yet to hire a replacement for Bylsma.

    Now both of the top teams in the organization are in need of a new head coach.

    Report: KHL team in talks with Capitals’ Orlov

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    After losing in the second-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs again and entering an offseason where they have several free agents, it is expected that the Washington Capitals roster is going to be look very, very different next season.

    One of those upcoming free agents already seems to be drawing some interest, and not from an NHL team.

    According to a report from Sport-Express’ Igor Eronko, the KHL’s CSKA Moscow is in talks with defenseman Dmitry Orlov.

    Orlov, who turns 26 in July, is slated to be a restricted free agent this offseason. He has played in every game for the Capitals the past two seasons and has emerged as a solid defenseman on the team’s blue line. He has posted pretty dominant possession numbers the past two seasons and has tallied 29 and 33 points during that stretch. He played nearly 20 minutes per game for the Capitals this season and should be in line for a pretty significant pay raise.

    Along with the Orlov news, the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan mentioned on Twitter that another KHL team may also be in talks with restricted free agent Evgeny Kuznetsov, though she downplayed the possibility of him leaving. Given that Kuznetsov is one of the top offensive players in the league that would certainly be a shocking move, but it still seems like a long-shot to think that he would leave the NHL.