Saturday, March 31, 2007


Thrashers Redux

by Greg

With their win over the Bruins today, Atlanta is all but assured of its first playoff spot -- beating a team led by Petr Tenkrat is a pretty excellent gauge of postseason hopes. They've got the 93 points James Mirtle requires for an Eastern Conference team, and that's good enough for me. It would be beyond improbably, at this point, for the Thrashers to drop out. I've been nervous up to now, every shootout loss to the Panthers producing a near-panic, but now I think I can breathe a bit. The Thrashers are in the drivers' seat for a division championship -- if they somehow drop out of the playoffs, it'll be so amazing that it'll be almost a privilege to watch.

But that really isn't enough.

The article that Jes cites here only briefly touches on the on-ice product, but if the Thrashers don't get past the first round, it's going to be a bigger blow than missing the playoffs last year. I don't buy the G&M's assertion that "the future of the franchise ... could be at stake," but it'll become a lot harder to finally make a real dent in the city.

The Thrashers, right now, are at the best point they've ever been at. Each win adds to a franchise record for points, but more importantly, there's a real buzz about the team. Games are selling out (granted, yes, with copious freebies in the mix). At work, people are talking about the Thrashers rather than the onset of the (eccccch) Braves' season.

But there was a buzz last year, too, when they came back from the lockout -- and they lost it. People have been hearing for years that the team is on the verge -- they've been told that Kovalchuk, Heatley, Hossa, Lehtonen was going to put the team over the top -- and they have a grand total of zero playoff games to show for it, while fellow expansioneers Minnesota and Nashville have at least seen the postseason. The Thrashers are stuck in the virgin club with, God help us, the Blue Jackets.

Also adding to the problem -- Atlanta is a very transient city. People come here for a few years in their 20s and 30s to work for Delta or CNN or Coca-Cola, but not a lot put down deep roots. I'm from Colorado -- most of the people I know are from Illinois, or Michigan, or Texas, or New York. There's actually a lot of hockey fans down here -- problem is, they're Rangers or Bruins or Red Wings fans. I've been in town as long as the Thrashers have, and it's only in the last couple years that they've risen to become more than a curiosity in my heart. The people who are growing up with the Thrashers as their primary hockey team are still a decade away from earning a wage. If Atlanta has hopes of winning over the current 20- and 30-somethings, they've got to win now.

Things look good for the Thrashers right now. Despite all my misgivings at the time, the trades for Zhitnik, Tkachuk, and Belanger look really good. The goalies are achieving consistency at the right time. People are talking.

But go four-and-out against the Lightning in the first round? None of that's going to mean anything.

Labels: ,

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?