Go pick on someone your own size!
Now the Habs are off to face the fast-and-loose Ilya Kovalchuk and the Thrashers. The game is in Atlanta, less than 24 hours after losing the home opener to the Sens. They should be pumped - they were already the highest scoring team in the league before adding their Richard trophy winner. Marc Savard is the reigning Offensive Player of the Week. That promising start could disappear in a hurry.
Although the upcoming game against Atlanta worries me, I think the Thrashers are unlikely to be a long-term threat in the East. Prior to the start of this season, they were often labelled as one of the up-and-coming franchises, deep in young talent. Trading Dany Heatly removed a huge chunk of the "young" from their talent pool, replacing it with the comparably talented yet more mature (and pricier) Marian Hossa. Now Atlanta is in a very similar financial boat as Ottawa, only the team isn't as good. After signing Kovalchuk, the Thrashers are brushing against the cap ceiling. When Marc Savard and Kari Lehtonen are up for raises, those big fat contracts doled out to Hossa, Holik and Kovalchuk won't look so great. They were an improving team. Now they're merely an improved team with very little room to grow under the cap.
On the topic of obstruction, this quote by a scout on how defensemen have to adjust to the obstruction crackdown is from the latest article by Chris Stevenson:
"These guys should go watch a good industrial league to learn how to play with these rules. Those guys are ex-junior players playing those non-body contact leagues where it's all about positioning, skating and having a quick stick."
Hear hear! As a stay-at-home defenseman who grew up able to play the body, it really is a big adjustment playing in no-hitting leagues. If players (like yours truly) aren't gifted offensively, playing more conservatively and with less aggression does take a lot of the fun out of the game. The rule changes are meant to make the game more fun for the casual fan to watch, and the casual fan doesn't care how much fun the stay-at-home defensemen are having. The casual fans (and dare I say most serious fans?) want Mario Lemieux, Markus Naslund, Crosby and Ovechkin to have fun on the ice. That is, as long as regular season games don't start looking like the all-star game where only the goalies break a sweat.
Lastly: Like stats? If I had data like this on all 30 teams, I would only have time for hockey pools.