The Capitals face a tougher division this year than the supposed "cake walk" it was a season ago. I am going to preview the Southeast one team at a time starting with Atlanta.
Atlanta these days are looking more like southeast Blackhawks. In the off season that saw the Thrasher make changes among the brass, they also picked up a few salary cap casualties from Chicago. Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Andrew Ladd and Brent Sopel all will be sharing a moving van from Chicagoland to Blueland.
With a new head coach in Craig Ramsay and a general manager that seems to make Atlanta playoff worthy now in Rick Dudley the Thrashers are looking to muscle in the top 8 in the Eastern Conference. But it may take a while for this team to click, they went without a win in the preseason.
The Thrashers can now boast two solid lines for the first time in a long time. If Evander Kane can repeat the season he had a year ago, the Thrash will have some scoring power on the left wing along with Ladd and Eager. The trio combined for over 75 points last season. But there is not a whole lot of talent there. Youths Kane and Niclas Bergfors can't be expected to carry this team to a playoff spot.
Defense - B
Byfuglien was pushed back to the blue line to give this defensive squad some more size. Coupled with the fact that they have some solid youth on the blue line in Zach Bogosian and Toby Enstrom, The Thrash feature a pretty solid defense. That should help out the goaltenders a bit more.
Goalies - C-
The Thrash dealt away their franchise goaltender in Kari Lehtonen. In return they acquired Chris Mason from the Blues. Mason did pretty well in St. Louis posting save percentages above the .900 mark both seasons he played there. If Mason doesn't pan out, their backup in Ondrej Pavelec who has yet to get is goals against average below 3. It could be the only weak point the Thrash have this season.
The Thrashers' organization is a bit frustrated that they haven't been back to the playoffs in some time. They have tried to grow and develop much like the Capitals have, but the patience is starting to wear thin. The changes they have made starting at the top is an aim to shake up the club and start getting production out of their youth. The experience they gain from Chicago should give this team a boost, but it's got to click quickly for it to work.