Atlanta’s Addition by Subtraction
March 23, 2010 by Big Tony
Addition by subtraction; a phrase that in and of itself makes little sense when it stands alone, but it certainly has an comprehensible application when describing the Atlanta Thrashers this season. For most of the season their leading scorer was Ilya Kovalchuk—as has been the case for the better part of the last decade. The team as average at best flirting with a playoff spot but essentially backing off every time it seemed like they could make a move to solidify themselves as a contender so they decided finally this was the time to deal Kovalchuk elsewhere and cut their losses. Well now they had absolutely no chance of making the playoffs right? They had just traded their long time best player so certainly the wheels were going to fall off and back into the basement of the Eastern Conference is where they Thrashers would land right? (not to mention the pick-up of 48 year old Defenseman Chris Chelios, if that isn’t the sign of a desperate team I don’t know what is) Well at first it certainly seemed that way, they were average at first but then the team lost six in a row, clearly the beginning of the free fall to the bottom we all anticipated. NOT SO FAST!
Since stealing a point from Phoenix in an overtime loss on the 14th, Atlanta has reeled off four in a row giving them a point in each of their last five games putting them just one point out of the playoffs with ten games to play. Nik Antropov has taken his new role as team leader by the horns and essentially saying “look we’re so much better without Ilya!” The play of others like Maxim Afinogenov and Tobias Enstrom has also improved and Johan Hedberg has been fantastic in goal. I don’t know if Kovalchuk leaving was a rallying cry for this club or if they had this in them all along but the character they are showing right now is rather impressive. A lesser club would have taken the loss of their leading scorer as a sign of the beginning of the end, but instead Atlanta has banded together as a team and about everyone on the club is playing well and continuing to get better. Whether Atlanta makes the playoffs of course remains to be seen. And even if they do qualify it is unlikely that they have enough experience and depth to push past the first round. But there’s one thing we already know about the Thrashers, it’s that they all take pride in themselves and each other and show it night in and night out; proving for once that addition by subtraction actually does make sense.