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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    Stunner: Team Europe beats Sweden, advances to World Cup Final

    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 25:  Marian Gaborik #12 of Team Europe is congratulated by his teammates after scoring a second period goal against Team Sweden at the semifinal game during the World Cup of Hockey tournament at  Air Canada Centre on September 25, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
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    When the World Cup began earlier this month, Team Europe, a collection of players from eight European countries that did not have their own team in the tournament, was thought to be the weakest team in the field.

    Not necessarily a bad team, but one that seemed like it would have trouble keeping up with the hockey superpowers that made up the remainder of the field. That thinking seemed to be confirmed in the pre-tournament games when the North American young stars team skated them out of the building in what the European team admitted was a wakeup call.

    All of that is why they still have to actually play the games, and in a short tournament like this anything can happen. 

    In this case, anything did happen.

    Thanks to their 3-2 overtime win over Team Sweden on Sunday afternoon in the World Cup semifinals, Team Europe has clinched a spot in the World Cup final series and will take on Canada in a best-of-three round that begins on Tuesday night.

    It’s been an incredible and almost unbelievable run so far Europe. They frustrated the United States in their opener and shut them out, beat the Czech Republic in overtime, and then on Sunday shut down Sweden to advance to the final. 

    The biggest part of their success has to be the play of their goaltender Jaroslav Halak, who has been their best player the entire tournament.

    On Sunday, he stopped 37 out of 39 shots and improved his save percentage in the tournament to .946.

    The other big star for Team Europe on Sunday was Detroit Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar who scored a pair of goals, including the overtime winner.

    After Marian Gaborik scored late in the second period to tie the game at one, Tatar opened the third period with a goal just 12 seconds in when he followed up his own shot and beat Sweden’s Henrik Lundqvist to give Europe its first lead of the game.

    Sweden’s Erik Karlsson scored late in the third period to send the game to overtime.

    Europe now haas to get ready to face a Canadian team that is 4-0 in the tournament and outscored its opponents by a 19-6 margin.

    Canada beat Europe in the first round 4-1.

    Sounds like Blues will be more aggressive

    GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 06:  Head coach Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues watches from the bench during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on January 6, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. The Blues defeated the Coyotes 6-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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    With their former captain now a member of the Boston Bruins and their coach on year-to-year deals, it’s appropriate to say that the St. Louis Blues are in a period of transitions.

    It’s also a convenient choice of words, as it sounds like the Blues are going to change the way they transition on the ice.

    That’s the indication given by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and players like Chris Porter approve.

    “The play in the neutral zone will fit this team great with the speed and the size that they already have in place,” Porter said. “I don’t think it’s a huge adjustment for the guys, I think it’s just a little tweak here or there.”

    Perhaps hiring Mike Yeo had something to do with taking a more modern approach?

    Either way, getting more aggressive makes a lot of sense for the Blues, at least on paper.

    With David Backes and Troy Brouwer out of town, younger and speedier players get to take more of a role. Some Blues fans will probably view this tweak – big or small – as a long time coming.

    Of course, there’s a give-and-take when it comes to situations like these, and becoming more attack-minded sure makes retaining Kevin Shattenkirk that much more important. The underrated blueliner still expects to be moved despite being named an alternate captain, yet you wonder if these changes might prompt GM Doug Armstrong to try to pull some strings to keep him around.

    (Giving Alexander Steen a contract extension means that much less room for the likes of Shattenkirk.)

    Even if the Blues eventually need to part ways with Shattenkirk, there are some other nice assets who can use this change as a catalyst to push this team up another level.

    In an ideal scenario, the Blues would enjoy those improvements and keep Shattenkirk to reap those rewards.

    Update: Clarke MacArthur suffers concussion

    BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 8: Clarke MacArthur #16 of the Ottawa Senators skates with the puck during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center on October 8, 2015 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/ Getty Images)
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    Update: As many feared, Clarke MacArthur suffered a concussion. The Ottawa Senators announced that he will be “evaluated daily.”

    ***

    Rough news for the Ottawa Senators on Sunday: forward Clarke MacArthur needed help off the ice following a big hit during a team scrimmage.

    The hit was delivered by Patrick Sieloff, prompting an immediate response from Bobby Ryan, according to The Hockey News’ Murray Pam.

    MacArthur has been hoping to return to NHL action after some serious concussion issues, so this is a troubling situation. More than a few people wonder if this might end his career.

    Update: Here’s a GIF of the hit.

    Robin Lehner certainly has swagger

    ANAHEIM, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  Robin Lehner #40 of the Buffalo Sabres stretches during the first period of a game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on February 24, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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    Robin Lehner is a big goalie, and barring possible language barrier issues, sure seems to have a pretty big personality.

    That at least seems to be the case with the Buffalo Sabres’ top guy, who provided the Buffalo News’ John Vogl with a great quote:

    “There’s a lot of pressure on me, and that’s fine. … I know I’m a good goaltender,” Lehner said.

    Hey now.

    As much as the Sabres feel like a work in progress, acquiring Lehner was one of GM Tim Murray’s boldest moves. Murray was able to observe Lehner in Ottawa, and despite some struggles, the big Swede (6-foot-5, 240 lbs.) was sneaky-good in 2015-16.

    Twenty-one games serves as a limited sample size, yet a .924 save percentage seems quite promising. His 107 career regular season games are spread over six seasons, so to some extent, the 25-year-old is still something of an unknown entity.

    If nothing else, it looks like he could provide some Bryzgalovian entertainment.

    Back in March, Ben Scrivens admitted he was happy to avoid a fight with a guy he called a “bit of a psycho.”

    Sounds like a guy to watch.