Kukla's Korner

This and That: On St. Pat’s, Fadden Release, Vinny’s Resurgence, Playoff Odds, DP’s Return and More

A happy St. Patrick’s Day to the readers out there from yours truly! May you all be blessed with a plentiful helping of corned beef and cabbage, a pint or three of Guinness and, hell, a nip of Jameson for those of you feeling a wee bit adventurous! And, for the love of your favorite Irishman (or woman), please do avoid green beer at all costs. Dye the local pond, river or stream, if you must, but beer, my friends, should never be green!

A smorgasbord of news items and thoughts on each, in turn, for this fine Thursday afoot:

Farewell, Young Mr. Fadden
The troubling tenure of forward Mitch Fadden as a Tampa Bay Lightning prospect ends today upon his clearing unconditional release waivers and the termination of his contract. According to a report in the Salmon Arm Observer, Fadden, 22, was arrested in Salmon Arm earlier this month on charges of impaired driving, failing to provide a breath sample, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and obstructing a peace officer. All of this, according to the report, after police observed Fadden to be “grossly intoxicated” at – wait for it – 12:57 PM and that he became “violent with officers” upon apprehension.

Yikes. Hope it was a good party.

It is believed that this is not the first time Fadden has found trouble as part of the Lightning organization since being drafted 107th overall in 2007 and general manager Steve Yzerman specifically used the plural issues when telling the St. Pete Times on Wednesday that, “There have been some off-ice issues that, eventually, we decided to terminate his contract.”

Fadden (15-36-51 in 37 games) was leading the ECHL in scoring for the Tampa Bay affiliate Florida Everblades when a blood clot put him on the shelf in January. Now, he is due to appear in provincial court on April 12th.

It’s a disturbing story but hardly one we’ve never heard before when it comes to young athletes, trouble with alcohol or drugs and run-ins with the law. At just 22, it is far from too late for someone in Fadden’s case to get things turned around and, for his sake, let’s hope that he does just that.

If that turnaround involves hockey – clearly of secondary importance, in the grand scheme of things – it will apparently have to be with a different organization.

Rejuvenated Lecavalier
Also in the Times today, a piece on the feel-good return of Vincent Lecavalier to Montreal, where the Lightning will take on the Canadiens tonight, after two-plus seasons’ worth of trips to his homeland marred by questions about trade rumors, injuries and subpar play.

There is no question of the latter recently, not with Lecavalier, arguably, Tampa Bay’s best player since the All-Star break. He has had to deal with injuries yet again this year, missing significant time with a broken knuckle earlier this season and hampered slightly this month by an undisclosed mid-body ailment that forced him out of the lineup for a game in Boston. And, though Steven Stamkos has now taken over as the team’s supreme offensive force and Martin St. Louis gets his fair share of leadership credit, no one can look past what Lecavalier has done since the beginning of February, just shy of a point-per-game pace and showing shades of the ultimate difference-maker he was for the Lightning in years past.

But there will always be those who wonder what might have been when looking back to a time when, despite several public denials, previous management reportedly considered a deal for Lecavalier at the 2009 draft that, as the Times article reminds us, was rumored to include the likes of goaltender Carey Price, forward Tomas Plekanec and defenseman P.K. Subban headed back Tampa’s way. (There was even word in some circles around that time that the speculative return package was expanded further to also contain as much as an additional veteran player and a first round draft pick, plus the aforementioned trio.) There’s no doubting that would have been a haul of a return but to acknowledge as much anymore is dabbling in fantasyland.

It didn’t happen. And that sort of retrospect is now pointless, of course, with this season’s success and a clear path in front of Lecavalier and the Lightning.

Besides, anyone still hanging around pondering, “What if?” at this point is missing out on a great story in the rebirth and lightning-fast turnaround of this franchise.

Come playoff time, it will be the strengths and experience of Lecavalier, St. Louis and Tampa Bay’s other veterans on which the Lightning will rely and the resurgent play of the captain is an overwhelmingly positive sign for the challenges ahead.

The Numbers Don’t Lie
If there’s anyone miffed at me for speaking in absolutes of late, regarding the Lightning’s playoff chances, I present to you the cold, hard facts:

According to the wonderful stat site SportsClubStats.com, as of today, the Bolts have a 99.972291% chance of qualifying for the postseason. So, if you can get someone to bet against them at this stage of the game, by all means, ante up! Just don’t forget who pushed you in that direction all the while…

Maybe these facts aren’t so much cold and hard as they are warm and cuddly, after all?

Nah… Cold and hard would be Tampa Bay’s playoff chances at this time a year ago, which were juuuuuuust a shade lower than 99.972291% at 9.9%.

And, in case you’re wondering about the odds on the New Jersey Devils, in the midst of their incredible 23-3-2 run, the site has them still with just a 5.5% chance.

The Return of the Rick (Again)
The New York Islanders announced yesterday that goaltender Rick DiPietro has been removed from injured reserve and is set to return after missing five weeks with facial fractures stemming from his one-sided fight with Pittsburgh goalie Brent Johnson on February 11th.

The Penguins and Islanders get together one last time this season, April 8th on Long Island. If DiPietro lasts that long in his latest return to relative health, anybody want to guess how likely he is to do something stupid in that game?

SportsClubStats.com doesn’t have odds up on that one but I’m ready to place my wager.

Just sayin’…

Two Steps Forward, Two Back for Carolina
A night after dominating against the Buffalo Sabres in a 1-0, 40-save shutout victory, Carolina goaltender Cam Ward allowed three Toronto goals on just 19 shots and the Hurricanes fell to the Maple Leafs 3-1.

Just two points now separate 10th place Toronto from ninth place Carolina and the ‘Canes failed to capitalize on an opportunity to pull even with Buffalo for eighth with the loss.

Sorry, Caniacs, but this one’s my fault. (Well, mine and the Lightning – you can blame us both.)

I’ll take your lashings because of some bad ju-ju (as my late Grandma Tess used to say) stemming from my poor managerial skills as a fantasy hockey participant. In the midst of my first round playoff matchup (against quite the formidable adversary, I might add), I sat Ward on Tuesday night, scared of Buffalo’s offensive potential, in favor of Philadelphia’s Sergei Bobrovsky, who ended up not even playing against the Florida Panthers. Last night, I threw your boy back in there and he dumped on me, in turn. Serves me right, I know.

And the Bolts have their own culpability for apparently firing up Leafs goalie James Reimer, who told reporters as much after last night’s win:

“To be honest, I had a little bit of extra motivation today because I had heard through the grapevine that Tampa Bay had said that something to the effect that I was just a typical Francois Allaire goalie and they knew how to beat me.”

“I’m not going to lie. That kind of rubbed me the wrong way and ticked me off.”

So, there, Hurricane Nation: I gained much love for your hometown and your organization during All-Star Weekend, making it only fair, if it makes you feel any better, to throw some barbs my way.

(Just make sure the Bolts get some too, you know, for “ticking off” young Reimer…)

A Hack’s Bracket
Like many of you, I filled out a bracket for the NCAA basketball tournament that kicks off today. Unlike a lot of you, I have absolutely no clue when it comes to college basketball – like, none. But I entered some contest or other where I can win something or other so I figured I’d give it a whirl.

Problem is, I lost my bracket and trying to replicate who I picked would be as pointless as my trying to walk on to play for one of these schools would be.

So, for the only time all year – and mostly because, during the daytime hours, there’s nothing else to throw on the tube – I’ll watch a minute of basketball here and there.

Teams will win and others will lose and I won’t pretend to know, either way, how that affects my performance.

But, should I get notification come tournament’s end that I actually ended up winning something, oh how I shall laugh.

And anyone in the same contest as I that finished below me should feel monumental levels of shame, should that come to pass.

Happy St. Pat’s!

JJ on Twitter

Filed in: Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink


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