Thursday, January 22, 2009


The all-star break is a good time to reflect. If you're a Thrashers fan, maybe the reflection is tough to look at considering the team's body of work from the first half of the season. But if you look close enough, you might start to see a blue line that's coming together thanks to a couple of kids from New York and Slovakia.

Zach Bogosian's development has been meteoric. His smooth skating and ability to rush the puck and engage in the offense has been fun to watch. It's happening before our eyes.

It's happening quickly.

The Massena, New York native is plus-6 in his last five games. He was a plus-4 in last weekend's Atlanta blowout of the Predators in Nashville where he set a personal career high in ice time with 21:26. He was a plus-1 on Wednesday night in Philadelphia.

But maybe the best portion of his development has been his poise. Against the Flyers, he led rushes, propelling the offense. Is it me or does he look like a young Matthieu Schneider? His defensive position has been excellent and much improved from earlier this season when he looked hesitant in front of his goaltenders. It's as if he's flipped a switch from the time he reported back to Atlanta from his stint with the Chicago Wolves.

Boris Valabik looks more like an imposing shut down defenseman than he ever has in his brief career. On Wednesday in Philadelphia, the Slovakian used his stick and reach to perfection and single handedly broke up a Flyers scoring chance late in the game. Had that been in a game a month or two ago, Valabik's stick would have cut the skates out from underneath the Philadelphia player resulting in a penalty. He's starting to understand the timing at the NHL level and is thinking the game better by the day.

Valabik's development in many ways has mirrored Bogosian's, which makes it all that more encouraging for the Thrashers blueline when the team returns from all-star break.

So what does it all mean?

How about options.

While the organization is not necessarily deep in NHL ready defenseman, they do have some wiggle room when it comes to roster moves.

One would think with the development of some of the younger defensemen, a veteran such as Schneider would be attractive to teams seeking an offensive-minded defenseman for the stretch run and playoffs. One of those teams could be Ottawa, who might be willing to part with a young forward. But the Senators will be sellers instead of buyers if they don't right their ship in the next couple of weeks.

Should Schneider be moved, it would create an everyday roster spot for Nathan Oystrick, who in my opinion played well for most of the first half of the season. Additional depth on defense in terms of call-ups could be Brett Skinner, Arturs Kulda and Grant Lewis.

Hey, options are never a bad thing. And right now, Bogosian and Valabik are providing just that.


Big Shooter said...


Great work covering the World Junior tournament. Must have been quite an honor. That game on New Years Eve was classic! You guys did a terrific job describing the excitement in the building...

Madd Dogg said...


Thanks for the note....yes, the WJC was incredible. The game against Canada was a high point in my career...I've done some fun stuff (NBA on TNT cameo, Stanley Cup finals, etc)and that tourney was right up there.


Razor Catch Prey said...

We saw Bogo sit this weekend while Boris and X played. It's easy to listen to the trade rumors (and do your own analysis of the situation) and figure that Schneider and maybe Havy are on the way out, making room in the lineup for Bogo and Oystrick again.

Do you think it will slow Bogo's progress when he no longer has a veteran of Schneider's caliber to mentor him? Ron Hainsey has been a great surprise, but I don't know that he's the Crash Davis that Bogo needs.

With a defensive corps containing Toby Keith Enstrom, Boris, Oystrick, and Bogo, what do you think of the idea of bringing in a new assistant coach specifically to address the development of our young blueliners? Or would it be better to have a mentor on the ice, perhaps trying to bring in a more experienced veteran via free agency this summer to fill that void? That would also force out either one of the young guys or Exelby, who has been greatly improved this year.

I'll also echo Shooter's comments on the WJC. It was great hearing you do the play-by-play again. Wish we had you back in that seat for the Thrashers.