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I have come down from my rage over the Boyle trade, and have decided it best to make an honest attempt to decipher just what the "new" Lightning are up to. What appears to be on the outside, isn't always representative of what's on the inside...case in point, those boxes of mixed chocolates, I hate gettting something that looks great but tastes like garbage. In the case of the Lightning, the ouside looks, well like the guys at XM Home Ice said, "a bunch of frat boys that bought themselves a hockey team. Go get the beers and girls and meet me in the suite to party!" But what is really going on underneath the blue jean clad, untucked shirt and over quaffed hair of the new guys?
What has been said by the new owners is that they are retaining core players (actually just Marty, Vinny L. and Vinny P.) while adding veteran depth to assist in the development of younger players. I know the Boyle trade seems contrary to this theory, but that is what they are saying. They have done this with regard to the forwards and goaltending. Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi are definately gritty veterans, perhaps brought in to fill a role similar to that of Dave Andreychuk. The Pens Sidney Crosby definately benefitted from the presence of Roberts, and perhaps the thought is, is that rookie Steve Stamkos will also learn from him as well. In goal, the addition of Olaf Kolzig to "mentor" Mike Smith looks like a great move. Smith has shown a ton of promise, but has never been the outright #1 for a full season. Having a veteran like Kolzig to guide him along this season will no doubt help the guy develop into a solid NHL starter.
That brings us back to defense. Melrose and the owners are looking for big guys to clog up the neutral zone, and cut off the blue line to the oppostion. Not a trap, just "Detroit-Like" puck control. Cough..trap..cough...The defensmen currently average about 6'2 - 215, so they are big. Unfortunately they are also young and inexperienced, with 6 players at 24 years old or yonger. The gizzled veteran of the bunch is 31 year old Filip Kuba, a less than offensive or mobile defenseman. Just what the final lines will look like is anybodys guess. With a plethora of forwards on the roster, it is rumoured that the Lightning are still looking to trade for more veteran defense. The new owners and coach Melrose seem to think newly aquired Matt Carle is the heir apparent to Dan Boyle as a puck moving defenseman. That is yet to be seen. After having a solid 06-07 season recording 11 goals, 31 assist and going +9, he fell off in 07-08, and the Sharks saw him as disposable. If he can pull it together the Lightning may have something in this kid. Returning after a solid rookie year is Mike Lundin, perhaps the lone bright spot on defense from last year. After coming to camp, expecting to be sent to the AHL to develop. He surprised everyone beating out the likes of Matt Smaby to earn his spot witht the big club. The 23 year old played solid defense all season recording only 6 points, but more importantly, he was +3 on a very shaky defensive team. Alex Picard, aquired in the trade with Philly for Prospal, played like a man posessed down the stretch, and most certainly will be needed to lock down the opposition. Add to the group newly aquired Andrew Hutchinson who played the last couple of years in the Carolina organization, Paul Ranger, Matt Smaby and wild man Shane O'Brien, and you have the current Lightning defense...nervous yet? I am, but not many NHL teams are. Will the Lightning head into the season with this as their actual defense...stay tuned.
So what am I getting at here? I think the new regime actually has some sort of plan. It just appears that we are heading into anpother season with a lot of questions on defense. We have solid lines of forwards. With the addition of Stamkos the potential is there to have two potent powerplay units. Kolzig and Smith solidify the net in a way that hasn't been there since the departure of the Bulin wall circa 2004. If the defense plays solid, not great, just solid, we could be calling the new guys geniuses by the end of the year as we raise a division banner (according to Barrie). If not, we could be wondering just who thought it was a good idea to give control of an NHL franchise to a couple of rich frat boys.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
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