Tampa Bay Lightning 2005-2006
General Manager: Jay Feaster, third year with the Lightning.
Coach: John Tortorella, fourth year with the Lightning.
Forgotten Moves: In the off season after the Stanley Cup win, the Bolts were very busy, a few of their moves were:
• Re-signing of Captian Dave Andreychuk
• Acted on Nikolai Khabibulin’s $6.5 million one year option
• Elected to walk away from the $3.9 million salary awarded to Cory Stillman
• Acquired Vaclav Prospal in exchange for pick in ‘05
• Signed Fredrik Modin 3 year deal for $2.9 million
• Ruslan Fedotenko awarded $1.5 million contract in arbitration
• Cullimore signed a 3 year $7.5million deal with the Blackhawks
• Kubina given a 2 year $6.5 million dollar deal through arbitration
• Alexeev and Afanasenkov accepted qualifying offers of $1,182,500 and $880,880, respectively
All of theses moves were enacted to attempt to keep the Stanley Cup team together.
Team Mode: The Bolts are looking to repeat their Stanley Cup performance. They want a repeat run. Hopefully, that is what’s on the horizon for this young group. With the new rules, look for this team to flourish. With the additional scoring opportunities added offensive talent in Lecavalier, Richards and St. Louis will be amplified. “The changes will be good for our style of play…” St. Louis said. However, the new rule that this team like many others will have a trouble with is the newly enacted shootouts. Many goalies have trouble with one on one confrontation.
To Take Charge: This is the year that former captain Vincent Lecavalier will break out and become a force to be reckoned with. His numbers from seasons past haven’t been the best, but he’s matured greatly due to the run to the Stanley Cup. Look at the World Cup last year, he wasn’t even supposed to be on the roster, yet he was a late addition and was named MVP of the tournament. He has obviously matured, and ready to take the leadership that was once forced on him to early. “Vinny is at another level right now,” said Pierre Maguire, hockey analyst for TSN and former NHL coach. “Vinny is about to explode on the scene. Everybody knows how good he is, but now he has become a more complete player.”
On the Rush: The Lightning has an awe-inspiring offense lined up. One offensive threat is reigning Art Ross Memorial Trophy winner Martin St. Louis. In 2003-04 regular season he had 94 points in 82 games, and during 23 playoff games he had 24 points. He especially feels he has something to prove to everyone because of his height. He wants to prove that 03-04 wasn’t a fluke and that he’s in it for the long haul. Not to mention that he has the highest number of shorthanded goals on the team from 2003-04. Another offensive threat is Brad Richards, the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, who has used the power play to his advantage and will continue to do so. Each year that Brad has been in the NHL, he has improved. In the playoffs of 2003, Brad had only 5 points in 11 games, while in 2004 he had 26 points in 23 playoff games, leading all playoff scorers. This young man is usually overshadowed by his close friend and teammate, Vincent Lecavalier. Expect both of these young men to go far. As stated above, Lecavalier is going to be a real force this year. Jay Feaster is willing to believe this man will be the superstar expected. Jay Feaster knows what he’s talking about. One last offensive menace is Ruslan Fedotenko. While with the Bolts his numbers have progressed up. He went from 32 points with a -7 +/- rating in 76 games back in 02-03, to 39 points with a 14 +/- rating in 03-04, having played 77 games. Also his performance in the playoffs has improved. In the 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs he had only one measly assist in 11 games, while in 2004 he had a dozen goals and two assists. That’s definitely improvement!
Covering the D-zone: The number one defenseman on this flowering team is Dan Boyle. Boyle is an offensive defenseman; he even won the award for the best offensive defenseman in 1997-98 at the University of Miami. Even though he suffered a set back in 2003-04 (he went from 53 to 39 points), he still has had 4 seasons with more than 20 goals (3 with the Lightning). He is one of the underrated defensemen, but he is beginning to get the recognition he deserves. Another defenseman under contract by this club is Pavel Kubina. As joked about during the broadcast of Game 7, he’s a ‘human shot blocker’. Kubina’s point totals have gone consistently up (excluding 2002-03) throughout his career. He has six consecutive seasons with over 20 points. As shown through the playoffs, he has gotten better. In 2003 he had no points and had a -4 +/- rating, which improved to 4 points and an even zero +/- in 2004. And he was even better in 2005. He played in the Czech league, and in 12 games he had 10 points and was +8 +/- rating, his best totals yet! One last defenseman to be discussed would have to be Cory Sarich. Cory might not be offensively gifted, but he does the little things that keep this club tight. He’s usually more than willing to drop the gloves to stand up for a teammate. Since joining the Bolts his regular season totals have gone up, while his playoff stats have been dependable. The blue line will definitely be well manned this year.
Guarding the Net: As everyone knows, the Lightning really was the biggest loser due to the work stoppage. The undisputedly highest ranking loss for this bright young group was goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin (he bolted for Chicago, who offered him a four year $27 million dollar deal). Now between the pipes, there is John Grahame and Sean Burke to fight for the start. Grahame, who was acquired from the Boston Bruins on January 13, 2003, played in 29 games in 2003-04, with a record of 18-9-1 (including 1 shutout), and with a 2.06 goals-against average (which ranked 7th in the league). His numbers for his time with the Lightning are: 24-14-5. A small note on his play: his play over the years has fluctuated. This year, however, he will be motivated to play as he has performance incentives in his contract, and that he’ll be up for a new contract at the end of the season. Meanwhile, Sean Burke last year played for the Flyers and was 6-5-2, with a 2.55 goals-against average. Burke’s regular season numbers from the past four seasons are: 86-69-28 including 13 shutouts, and a 2.37 goals-against average. His playoff stats (overall) are: 12-22-0, with a 3.29 goals-against average. The new rules are going to restrict Grahame from playing around outside his crease, which might improve his numbers. While the shootouts probably won’t be helpful to the number of goals that Burke allows. Let’s see what happens!
Next Generation: The Lightning has many interesting prospects this year. A look at three:
1. Mike Egener (Defenseman) – Egener was Tampa Bay’s second choice in the 2003 draft. For a big man (6’4”, 195 lbs.), he is an amazing skater. At the 2003 Top Prospects game he registered a remarkable 60 foot dash in under three seconds, and timed less than six seconds for the 150 foot dash. He also has an amazingly impressive slap shot at 95 mph. Overall, he had the second best performance amongst blueliners. Throughout the entire event he was ranked the best overall performance. This rugged defenseman was even invited to Canadian National Junior Team Development Camp, and ended up being one of the final cuts. Before 2003, Egener played in 110 games with the Calgary Hitmen, in his first two years. In 2002-03, and 2003-04 he led the team in penalty minutes. In 2003-04 he registered career bests of 17 points, 228 penalty minutes and a +26 +/- rating. He is a fluent skater with a skill when it comes to passing. He also has soft hands and a firm shot. Only downsides to this defenseman, is that he isn’t a playmaker, and he’s reckless; he loves to throw his weight around. He’s more than willing to drop the gloves, which in the wake of Andre Roy, is needed.
2. Alexander Polushin (Forward) – This two-way forward was Tampa’s second round pick in the 2001 Entry Draft. By The Hockey News, he was ranked 27th overall and 8th in Europe by CSB. In 2000-01, he played on the top line for most of the tournaments Russia’s National Team played in. He might not have scored many goals, but his +/- rating showed that he was very important to the team. The next year, he was named to Russia’s U-20 WJC team, where he played on the second line and notched two points in the team’s win over Canada. Some even went so far as to say he was the best two-way forward in the competition. Jake Goertzen, Tampa’s head scout said, “Polushin has excellent size and he is a very, very smooth skater with good talent level. He displayed all of this at the World Juniors Championship. What was most impressive though was he brought his intensity level up to match the caliber of the tournament and he scored, arguably the best goal of the championship game. If he plays the way he played in the tournament, and there is no reason he can’t, he will have no problem adjusting to North American style hockey. He showed the willingness to hit and grind it out to get the puck … he was impressive.” To reiterate, this kid’s got skill.
3. Gerald Coleman (Goalie) – this young prospect shows much ability. He was drafted in the seventh round although in 2003. He’s spent the past three seasons with London of the OHL. His best season was 2004-05; he was 32-2-2, not bad. His playoff stats from 04-05 are just as impressive: 7-1-0. He very well may be called up. In training camp this year, he has impressed coaches and management alike. “I just think that what happened with Gerald in terms of his maturity is his mental toughness improved dramatically last season. I think that mentally he is very, very strong,” Jay Feaster said. “He really did respond last year. A lot of times guys will pout, they’ll bemoan their situation is not fair and all that — none of that from him. Whenever they asked him to go in, all he did was stop the puck and win. I think he has matured tremendously, and we’re excited about the possibilities with him.”
Left Wing Center Right Wing
Fredrick Modin Brad Richards Martin St. Louis
Vaclav Prospal Vincent Lecavalier Ruslan
Dave Andreychuk Tim Taylor Dmitri
Chris Dingman Martin Cibak Rob DiMaio Adam Henrich Jason Jaspers Norm Milley
Expectations: Many feel that the Bolts will be contenders for years to come, if they don’t sit on top of the Eastern Conference, they’ll at least be Southeast Division Champs. They definitely will make the playoffs. They are the reigning Stanley Cup Champs; they’re definitely going to rally together and work hard to get back there. Expect them to continue being a force in the league.
Projected: This team is going to reach for the coveted Stanley Cup, and is either going to come back victorious, or die trying. This group has a lot of talent and skill and aren’t afraid to show it. The Bolts are going to start off red hot like they did back in 03-04. They’re bound to be charged due to the year lay off. They will annihilate the Hurricanes. The banner raising is definitely going to renew the spark, and momentum they had back in June of ’04. It will be an emotionally charged game, and everyone’s gonna love it. By December they’ll be in first place, but then go through a slump. They’ll pull themselves out by February and before playoffs regain the lead. They’ll be first or second seed when playoffs come around. They’ll probably make it all the way to conference finals before injuries start to take hold. They’ll have a little more trouble, and be on the brink of elimination, when either Lecavalier or Richards or maybe Fedotenko or St. Louis saves them, and propels them into the Finals. They’ll have one of the following:
• a four game sweep
• a grueling seven game series resulting in a win
• an exhausting seven game run ending in loss
• an embarrassing four game loss