Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Stamkos Signs 3 Year Deal

First round pick Steve Stamkos has signed a 3-year entry-level deal with the Lightning. Stamkos is currently attending the Lightning’s prospect camp in Victoria, BC. The "standard rookie" contract begins when he actually plays at least 10 games with the big club. If he is sent back to Juniors or to the AHL, the contract would take effect next season. The 10 percent signing bonus is his regardless. The break down of the deal is a maximum yearly base of $875,000, with $2.85 million in performance bonuses available.

Here's the official release from the Lightning:

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed center Steven Stamkos to a three-year, entry-level contract today, vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton announced today at a press conference at Bear Mountain Resort in Victoria, British Columbia. Stamkos is currently attending the Lightning’s prospect camp in Victoria.

“It is with great pleasure that we formally announce the signing of Steven today,” Lawton said. “It is obvious to all of our staff in a brief period of time that Steven is a very special young man with great potential. His work ethic and eagerness to learn have been very impressive. We believe with our veteran leadership that Tampa Bay is the perfect scenario for Steven to grow and mature as a player and person on and off the ice.”

Stamkos, a 6-foot-1, 196-pound native of Markham, Ontario, was rated as the consensus top overall pick in this year’s draft and was subsequently selected first overall by Tampa Bay. Stamkos ranked second in the Ontario Hockey League last season with 58 goals and fifth in points with 197 in 61 games with the Sarnia Sting. His nine game-winning goals were tied for second in the OHL, his 23 power-play goals were third and his five shorthanded goals ranked tied for fifth. He scored 11 goals, including four in Game 4 of Sarnia’s first-round match-up with the Windsor Spitfires, in nine games during the 2008 OHL Playoffs.

The 18-year-old was named the OHL’s Player of the Month for February after recording 13 goals and 22 points in 13 games. He was also recognized as the best stick-handler and as having the best shot in the OHL’s annual coaches poll. The center was one of two players born in 1990 named to Canada’s 2008 World Junior Championship team. He recorded a goal and six points in his first appearance at the tournament as Canada went on to capture the gold medal.

Stamkos played in 124 games during his two-season OHL career. He recorded 100 goals and 197 points during his time with Sarnia, including 14 goals and 17 points in 13 career playoff games. In 2006-07 he was the runner-up for the OHL’s Rookie of the Year award behind Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks. He was also honored with the Bobby Smith Trophy as the OHL’s scholastic player of the year. The award is given annually to the player who best combines high standards of play and academic excellence.

Before joining the Sting, Stamkos recorded 105 goals and 197 points in 67 games with the Markham Waxers AAA midget team in 2005. Sarnia drafted Stamkos first overall in the 2006 OHL Priority Draft.

Stamkos was the third player in franchise history to be chosen first overall. Tampa Bay took Roman Hamrlik with the first pick in 1992 and Vincent Lecavalier with the top pick in 1998.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

NHL marketing

There's been this constant discussion going on about why some NHL teams in the US aren't doing as well as other NHL teams, and whether or not they should be moved to other cities - Canadian or otherwise.

Part of the problem, I think, is how the game is marketed. Or, to be more specific about it, how the game is not being marketed.

I grew up around Seattle, and frequently went to sporting events there. Baseball is popular, so many people go watch the Seattle Mariners of Major League Baseball - and I was no exception. I would frequently sit next to people who had made the trip from Idaho, Oregon, British Columbia, Montana, and sometimes even Alaska, who had come to Seattle just to come watch the Mariners play.

My dad would turn on the radio in the car when games were on, and the Mariners' announcers would list of the states (or provinces) that they broadcast in. And, of course, they'd be broadcasting games in Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon. Games were also televised regionally as well. (To see a list of the Seattle Mariners' broadcast affiliates, go HERE.)

Now, let me tell you about the Vancouver Canucks. Vancouver and Seattle are only about 150 miles away from each other, with an international border in between. However, not a single Canucks' game has been broadcast either on the radio or on television locally in Seattle that I'm aware of. Not one. They have played the very occasional preseason game in the Seattle area, but those are very few and far between with very little marketing of any kind to announce them.

Much of the Seattle area does receive the CBC on cable, so Hockey Night in Canada is available to people. But HNIC plays on Saturday evenings when people are just getting back from watching college football games and getting ready to go out with friends. With no outside marketing of hockey in the area, people might stumble over it while flipping thru channels - if they're lucky. (I don't consider HNIC to be a Canucks broadcast, but a CBC broadcast.)

The Seattle metropolitan area contains over 3 million people - about a million people more than the Vancouver metropolitan area - most of whom have no idea that there's an NHL team a 2½-hour drive away. Sure, the Canucks have plenty of fans from British Columbia to fill their arena, although they are seriously missing out on more merchandise revenue. But if the NHL is serious about growing the popularity of the game in American markets, then they should take the example of MLB. Even teams like the New York Yankees do marketing.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Darche to Buffalo / New ECHL Affiliation

From TSN:

The Buffalo Sabres signed left wing Mathieu Darche on Thursday. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Darche, 31, played in 73 games last season with the Tampa Bay Lightning, posting career highs with seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points. Prior to last season, Darche had notched just a goal and an assist in 28 games over parts of four seasons with Columbus, Nashville and San Jose.


The Tampa Bay Lightning have entered into a one-year affiliation agreement with the Augusta Lynx of the ECHL, it was announced today by Lightning vice president of hockey operations Brian Lawton. Augusta will serve as the Lightning’s primary ECHL affiliate starting with the 2008-09 season.

Norfolk Admirals general manager Mike Butters, Augusta general manager Dan Troutman and owners Jan and Robert Burch made the announcement at a 1 p.m. news conference today in Augusta. The Lightning organization will provide the Lynx with players under NHL and AHL contracts. Tampa Bay will also play a role in selecting the coaching staff.

“We are extremely pleased to welcome the Augusta Lynx to the Lightning organization,” Lawton said. “The Lynx and their management team are committed to success and it shows by them making the playoffs in six of their 10 seasons in operation. We feel that due to the organization’s desire to win, and because of its proximity to Tampa and our AHL affiliate in Norfolk, there really is not a better option for us in the ECHL. We look forward to our prospects playing an important role in bringing the Kelly Cup to Augusta.”

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What's the Plan, Man?

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.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Roy Signs with Calgary

It seemed pretty apparent that the new owneship wasn't interested in re-signing Andre Roy along with a few others. Roy has landed in Calgary, joining former Bolt Cory Sarich.

''Andre is a player with a Stanley Cup championship, who provides us with a dimension that is still important in the league,'' said Flames general manager Darryl Sutter. ''It was our goal to replace that aspect on our team and we felt it was better to do it now than to trade for it as we go into camp.''

So there you have it. The speculation can end. It will be sad to see the big guy go. If anything, you can't say he didn't play with passion and heart. Unfortunately at times that got him and the team in trouble.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

08-09 schedule released today

Lightning Open 16th NHL Season Oct. 4th Vs. New York Rangers in Prague; Home Opener Set for Oct. 11th Vs. Carolina

As probably everybody in hockey knows all about already, the full schedule came out today. Hooray for us!

So if I’m not around for the next couple of days, it’ll be because I’m poring over the schedule, a calendar, my bank account, and my budget trying to figure out what games I can go to. And, now that I’m in Virginia, I can potentially go watch the Lightning play in Carolina, Pittsburgh (while I’m visiting family), and Philadelphia as well as Washington. So all kinds of choices abound for me.

Now, where can I go watch them first? How many games can I go to this season? Oh, and when can I order NHL Center Ice...?

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Preseason Schedule Released

Date Opponent Location Time

Sat. Sept. 20 Pittsburgh Mellon Arena 7:30 p.m.
Mon. Sept. 22 Pittsburgh Home 7:30 p.m.
Tue. Sept. 23 NY Rangers Home 7:30 p.m.
Thu. Sept. 25 NY Rangers MSG 7:00 p.m.
Sun. Sept. 28 Eisbaren Berlin, Ger. 10:00 p.m.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lightning mismanagement

There are already signs of the Lightning being mismanaged, and the regular season hasn't even begun yet. Will it get worse? Will it get better? Only time will tell, unfortunately.

Bad sign #1 - Free agent signings

It doesn't take a rocket scientist (and really, I've talked to a few, and you probably wouldn't want one running a team anyway) to figure out that you need a plan of attack in the off-season when your team was one of the last in the league last season. However, having 17 forwards doesn't seem like very good planning to me. It sounds more like "let's get as many players as we can and see who's willing to trade for what we have later on" or "we can always send some to the minors, right?" That sounds like flying by the seat of your pants, if you ask me. And a multi-million dollar business shouldn't be run like that if you want to be successful. It should've been more methodical, like "lets do an internal assessment, find out what our needs are, who fits what we're trying to accomplish and who doesn't, and then let's see what we can do to fill in the holes."

Bad sign #2 - Dan Boyle

This one was ugly in so many ways. Being told that you're a key element to the team, and then being forced out is a huge sign of mismanagement. Not to mention some serious miscommunication going on between ownership, coaches, and players. Not having everyone on the same page at all times is just bad managing and poor business sense. Not caring what people think about it is bad PR. Not doing some post-PR spin to help fix the public's perception is just a bad idea. Not one of the more steller moments of this new ownership.

Bad sign #3 - Jay Feaster

Not utilizing the people you have doesn't make sense. Ignoring them and hoping they'll take the hint so you don't look like bad guys for firing the GM who led the team to a Stanley Cup is even worse. Not only that, it sets a poor precedent for how people in the organization will be treated, and creates bad morale. I don't know about you, but if my boss was ignored by new upper management until he took the hint and left, I'd be looking for another job myself because I'd be thinking that I might be next.

Bad sign #4 - Chris Gratton

See #2, Dan Boyle. Personally, while I think they ought to keep Gratton, I don't think that they will. I think signing him was a PR move that came out of the Boyle mess. Fans like him, and teammates like him, so they decided to sign him. However, I fully expect him to not have a spot come training camp. Since André Roy was already on the outs with the previous coach, and therefore the public was already used to the idea that he probably wasn't going to be a part of the team anymore, they more than likely didn't feel like they had to do anything about him and left poor Roy hanging out in the wind.

I could probably go on, but you get the idea. So far, it's not so good. I'm definitely taking a wait and see approach with how this team goes. Intially, I was really excited about how things were going - right up until they traded Boyle, anyways. I don't have a lot of confidence in this new ownership group, tho, that's for sure.

I could be more philosophical if they were clueless, but they're not. Former hockey players are in charge, so you'd think that they'd have a better idea about how to run things. And, not only that, they're successful business men who are self-made millionaires/billionaires. So why aren't they running the team accordingly?

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Lecavalier signs for 11 years with Tampa Bay

From a purely business perspective, this is a bad deal for Lecavalier. Unless there are incentives tacked on in the fine print that we don't get to hear about, of course. The first half of the deal is probably a good deal, but it's the last few that really aren't from what I can tell.

However, there's a lot more to life than just money - regardless of what most people think. It's obvious, at least to me, that that it's the intangibles that you can't put a price tag on that matter a lot to Vinny. It's apparent that he wants to play his entire career with one team, which is almost unheard of now, and this is his way of ensuring that that will probably happen. I could probably sit here and speculate all day as to why that is, but the fact is that I'll probably never know.

Going back to that rumor of a 9-year deal, I'd still like to know what the rationale is for such an odd number. Again, I'll probably never know, but it does make me curious. I noticed that when Ryan Malone signed, he signed a deal until he turned 35. That's pretty typical, I think. I guess Lecavalier doesn't think like most people do?

I can see him playing out the contract, too. He's been relatively healthy, from what I've gathered, so probably no chronic injury problems there. But, while I always knew who he was from the time he was drafted, I never really paid all that much attention to him or the Lightning until about a year ago when I moved to Tampa. So I'm a little shaky on his injury history, I have to admit.

He could probably transition his game like Sergei Fedorov has into playing both defense and center. Defense isn't nearly as physically brutal as playing center is. Usually, anyway. Now that I'm thinking about it, Lecavalier & Fedorov do play a similar game. Vinny just isn't afraid to fight now and then is the biggest difference, really.

Félicitations Monsieur Lecavalier. Bon chance. And congratulations to the Lightning as well. May it turn out as well as you hope it does.

Tomorrow I'll be back with what happened last week. I need to sleep off some jet lag, and I should be ready to go. Hopefully this came out coherent for everyone, because while I think it did, my judgement is a little bit suspect at the moment since I'm pretty much in a haze. I'm sure there are a typos galore in this blog, but I don't want to deal with that right now. Anyways, the Gratton signing, Feaster leaving, and all the rest will be tackled tomorrow. Hopefully.

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Will the Bolts Play Only Forwards?

Now the Lightning have re-signed Gratton, bringing the grand total of forwards currently on the rostrer to 17. 9 total defensemen including everynone's favorites Shane "which way did he go" O'brien, Matt "not ready for prime time" Smaby and Filip "I'm supposed to shoot the puck at the net?" Kuba. Granted quite a few of the forwards awill end up in the minors. But talking with a friend, we were throwing around ides of what the Lightning were actually going to put on the ice. Maybe 4 forwards and 1 defenseman. Perhaps a defesive minded forward as 1 of the 4. How about just saying "screw it" to defense and put out 5 forwards and a goalie! Maybe 4 forwards and 2 goalies. It all makes as much sense as signing Boyle long term and then trading him away a few months later. As much as giving the axe to a Stanley Cup winning coach, and replacing him with a TV analyst. Who needs defense anyway? I say go out there with the goalie pulled from the start and attack with 6 forwards. But I digress. I must admit, I can't figure out what the Bolts are doing or where they are going. I'm sure the new brass have some sort of "master plan" that will have us all putting our feet in our mouths. I hope this isn't just a rouse to discourage a fan base, lower attendance and profits, and sweep the team off to Vegas...

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See Ya Jay!

Wonder what took so long?

From TBL.com

TAMPA BAY – Tampa Bay Lightning Executive Vice President and General Manager Jay Feaster submitted his resignation this afternoon, effective immediately, Lightning owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie announced. Feaster had been the team’s general manager since being promoted to the position by team President Ron Campbell during the 2001-02 season. His Lightning teams made four post-season appearances, won two Southeast Division championships and a Stanley Cup (2004) in his six years as general manager.

“For the past two weeks I have watched from the sidelines as Brian Lawton, Len Barrie and Oren Koules executed to perfection the game-plan they shared with us prior to the NHL Draft in Ottawa. During that time it became apparent to me that this new ownership group did not need my advice or expertise, and I came to the conclusion that it was time to move on. When I expressed that sentiment to Oren and Len they immediately agreed to honor my contract and accept my resignation. I thank them for working with me through a difficult time and I wish them every continued success.”

“I want to thank Mr. Davidson for giving me the chance to manage his hockey team for the past six seasons, and I want to especially thank Ron Campbell. Like Bruce McKinney did 12 years earlier in Hershey in the American Hockey League, Ron believed in me when no one else did. Even as those around him questioned his judgment and wanted to look elsewhere for a GM, Ron stuck with me. He was, in my opinion, the unsung hero of our 2004 Stanley Cup Championship and our success through the years. I thank him deeply for his unwavering support. Finally, I want to thank our great fans who make it possible for all of us to enjoy working in this great game!”

Feaster joined the Lightning as assistant general manager on October 20, 1998, and held that position for nearly three-and-a-half years before being elevated to the GM role on February 10, 2002. The fourth general manager in the team’s history, he guided the Lightning for five full seasons (in addition to the 2004-05 lockout season), making the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs four times. His teams posted 207 wins and compiled a .547 winning percentage – both franchise bests for a GM – while winning division titles in 2002-03 and 2003-04. Feaster was named the NHL Executive of the Year by The Sporting News in a vote of his peers following the 2003-04 Stanley Cup Championship season.

“We thank Jay very much for his service to the Lightning organization and the Tampa Bay community,” said Koules and Barrie. “He built a great foundation for this franchise, highlighted of course by the great Stanley Cup victory in 2004. He has been nothing but the ultimate professional through the process of our ownership transition and we wish he and his family the very best moving forward.”

Before joining the Lightning as assistant general manager under Jacques Demers in 1998, Feaster was one of the leading administrators in the AHL, having worked for the Hershey Bears for nine years. While in Hershey, he won a Calder Cup and was named the AHL Executive of the Year in 1997.

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Lightning did what?!

It was all fun & games until defensemen were asked to waive their no-trade clauses. Then reality hit us all up-side the head and we came back down to earth. But it’s good to know before the season starts as to how this ownership group deals with things, right? Forewarned is forearmed, or something like that.

I also now see what their game plan is. Apparently this ownership is a group of people who feel that defensemen aren’t important. As long as you’ve got high-powered scoring up front, and decent goaltending at the back, then they should do great, I think is their philosophy. Defensemen are extraneous players who just take up space.

I think I’d like to withdraw my earlier comment of this team going deep into playoffs at this time, and just take a wait & see approach.

How can they even think that this is okay? Even with run-&-gun teams, the defense typically runs-&-guns with the offense. And especially when they hired a head coach who used to be a defenseman himself? I started to get suspicious when all they were bringing in were forwards, and now my suspicions have been confirmed with them shipping out two key defensemen. What the heck are they thinking?

(In the effort for full disclosure, yes, I used to be a defenseman.)

For all of you Lightning forwards out there, be prepared to have a very scary +/- that’s more than likely leaning towards the heavily minus side this season. While the defense is adequate as it stands, you’ll either be asked to contribute more to the overall defense and/or you’ll be asked to just outscore your opponents. Either way, your +/- probably isn’t going to be very pretty.

So, that’s the deal. The plan is for the Lightning forwards to just outscore everybody. Gee, no pressure or anything, guys. If you win, it’ll be a team effort. If you lose, it’ll be because you didn’t score enough. (I guess you’ll now know how the goalies feel, huh?) Never mind that the defense is still a little young, the goaltending may or may not be better, and the coach unproven.

You’ll probably be safe from being traded at a whim since you’re forwards. But then, Boyle thought he was pretty safe, too. You might want to watch your backs, just in case, since I don’t think anybody on this team really is safe – and yes, I’m talking to you, too, Lecavalier. Especially since ownership is running the team, not the GM or coach. I get the impression, even from afar, that you shouldn’t trust these guys – particularly when they’re smiling.

I wonder if Melrose will be able to make his own decisions, or if he’s going to turn into an ownership puppet like Feaster has….

New active ownership? New coach? New players? Yeah, I think that this is a case of “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.”

Best of luck to Boyle & Lukowich. It could turn out that you were the lucky ones after all.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Big news

The Lightning have asked Dan Boyle to waive his no-trade clause. As of right now, ESPN is reporting that Boyle & his agent will waive it for the right situation, but what other team might be involved, or who they want to trade for, that's still unknown. It's speculated that they want to trade Boyle mostly to reduce salary. So stay tuned.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The new & improved Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning are now far more American than they once were. Of the players that were signed in the last few days, two (Malone & Hall) of the five are from the States. The other three are Czech (two – Prospal & Vrbata) and Canadian (one – Roberts). They were trying to acquire Brian Rolston, who is also American, but that deal fell thru.

They picked up yet another American (Halpern) at the trade deadline, and from what I understand that was orchestrated by the new ownership team as well. I find that to be curious. Makes me wonder if it’s all by accident or by design. I don’t have a problem with it, I just think it’s interesting.

As the team stands, I think they can go deep into playoffs – assuming that the coaching piece of it falls into place. Melrose is still something of an unknown quantity right now, so we’ll see how that goes. As for the talent, chemistry will be the biggest hurdle. My gut feeling is that it’ll work out great, but I’m trying to keep an open mind until I see them all play together.

I’m going to do something a little uncharacteristic for me. I’m going to throw out my line combinations, defensive pairings, and goaltenders with the roster as it currently stands, only adding in Stamkos as well since he’s pretty much a given to play next season. Don’t get too excited; I’m just in a mood. And, don’t worry, it probably won’t happen again. wink.png

Prospal – Lecavalier – St. Louis
Malone – Halpern – Vrbata
Roberts – Stamkos – Hall
Jokinen – Tarnasky – Ward
Ouellet (reserve)

Boyle – Ranger
Lukowich – Picard
Lundin – Kuba
O’Brien (reserve)

Smith (starter)

Now, wasn’t that fun? That’d probably be my team. Of course, that’s on paper. It might be entirely different if I see them play together. But, there you go.

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