Kukla's Korner Hockey
from Luke Fox of Sportsnet,
Biggest story line to watch: While it will be interesting to see if so many of the core Lightning players coming off career seasons—Palat, Johnson, Bishop, Hedman, Valtteri Filppula—can continue their upward trajectory, the greater topic of conversation will surround the one guy coming off a nightmare campaign. Despite coming back toward season’s end and producing, Stamkos admitted his displaced right leg was still not quite at 100 per cent power in April. Can hockey’s most dangerous sniper return to his 60-goal form and give Sidney Crosby a run for the NHL scoring title?
2014-15 prediction: A surprising runner-up to Boston for the Atlantic crown last season, don’t be shocked when Cooper’s crew learns from its playoff humbling, plays a more balanced game and goes as far as the Eastern Conference final.
from Jeff Simmons of Sportsnet,
Are you new to hockey? A disgruntled Leafs fan? Looking for a new team to root for this season? You’re in luck.
In our first edition of Icebreakers, we’ll provide the reasons why and why notto support NHL franchises. And for additional perspective, we’ll even compare NHL teams to other North American sports franchises....
Why this team? The Lightning have become a trendy Stanley Cup pick in the East. They have an up-and-coming head coach, a deep core of young players and a true superstar in Steven Stamkos, who may be the most likable player in all of hockey. Just think what could happen if Drouin lives up to expectations.
Why not? If you’re a sports hipster, this won’t work for you. The Lightning are already big in the mainstream, despite the non-traditional hockey market. There are tons of writers and publications banking on this team to make a deep playoff run.
Other sport comparison: Carolina Panthers — Both expansion clubs from the 1990s have star players that were drafted first overall. Stamkos and Cam Newton have vaulted their teams into immediate contention, even after losing iconic franchise staples (Steve Smith and Martin St. Louis) over the past year.
more on the Lightning plus seven more Eastern Conference teams...
from Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune,
“Frankly we were losing a lot of money when we first bought the team, and now we are losing a little bit of money,’’ Vinik said. “It’s been such a fun experience over the past five years. Our mission to try and become the Green Bay Packers of the NHL, to try and become world class, we are gaining on both of those. But we still have a ways to go, and when we get there I will raise the targets because you can’t stop chasing excellence.’’
That includes continuing to increase payroll to try to field the best possible team.
“From Day 1, my philosophy was spend at or near the salary cap, because how lucky am I to be the owner of a professional sports team and a professional hockey league team,’’ Vinik said. “I want our fans and myself to enjoy giving it our best shot to win.’’
So when it comes time next summer for Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman to explore extending Stamkos’ contract and locking the franchise player into another long term-deal that could carry an average annual salary north of $10 million, Vinik said he will let his feelings be known.
“I’ll tell Steven loud and proud that I hope you are with us for your whole career and lead us to a lot of Stanley Cups,’’ Vinik said. “I will let Steve Yzerman handle (the negotiations). The day I get involved with hockey negotiations or picking players is the day you better worry about the future of our franchise.’’
So, what do you think?
from Tal Pinchevsky of NHL.com,
"Last year was a big step forward, but it's only one season," Hedman said. "I want to be consistent playing at that level. I want to keep that going."
For years, the hockey world had been waiting for this breakout season from Hedman, who set career highs in goals (13), assists (42), points (55), plus-minus (plus-5), shots (170), power-play goals (three) and game-winning goals (two). Ranking fourth in points among defensemen, this was what fans envisioned the moment the 6-foot-6 defenseman's name was called at the draft.
At age 18, the product of Sweden's legendary MODO club was immediately inserted into Tampa Bay's lineup, hailed as the latest hockey phenom from the town of Ornskoldsvik, whose prominent natives include Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund and Tobias Enstrom as well as Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin.
"My hometown is 50,000 people. You come to Tampa and it's a whole lot more. It's a big difference and it took some time to get used to it, but I fell in love with the place right away. It's a second home now," Hedman said. "Everything is so big. You need a car everywhere. The people were so nice to me right away. I fit right in."
Below, watch a few of the Bolts players as they examine the 'new 3rd sweater'....
"He's an investment for us. isn't just, 'Well, he was a high draft pick, let's throw him into the lineup and he's going to come in here and be our MVP.' That's not how he should be looked at by everybody. He's a 19-year old junior hockey player that's trying to work his way into the National Hockey League. We want him to not only perform this year, but 10-15 years down the road. For me, there's no rush on Jonathan Drouin. Let's see where he fits in, if he makes the team. We're very confident in his abilities."
-Jon Cooper, head coach of the Tamap Bay Lightning on Jonathan Drouin. A bit more from Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.
from Katie Strang of ESPN,
The Lightning should have a healthy Steven Stamkos and goaltender Ben Bishop, something that was not the case in the 2013-14 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Add some splashy offseason acquisitions -- defensemen Anton Stralman and Jason Garrison, and forward Brian Boyle -- and highly touted prospect Jonathan Drouin, and this could be the sleeper team of the NHL.
Former Lightning defenseman and Stanley Cup champion Pavel Kubina is hoping to see his old team emerge as one of top dogs in the East.
“I think it’s a great mix,” Kubina told ESPN.com in a recent telephone conversation. “[Jeff] Vinik really got behind them -- he’s one of the best owners I’ve ever played for -- and the team has a great future. They’ll definitely make the playoffs.”
“From what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen (another year) has made a big difference (for Drouin).
“I think it probably lit a little fire under him. He’s out there to prove a lot of people wrong and that’s a good thing for us. Physically he looks a lot bigger, stronger and his skating looks great, his shot looks great.
“He’s always had the quickness, the smarts and the playmaking ability, so it looks like he has worked extremely hard and that’s a good thing to see from a guy who has always been the best player on his team.’’
-Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning on Jonathan Drouin. More on Drouin from Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune.
from Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times,
However, when Stralman joined Hedman, 23, last week for the team's informal skates at the Ice Forum, he said they had quick-developing chemistry.
"It's almost like that when you meet a fellow Swede, it's like you've known each other forever," Stralman said. "It's just natural."
How the two Swedes mesh on the ice could go a long way toward determining whether Stralman will join Hedman in the Lightning's top pairing this season, a decision that will be sorted out in training camp, which starts Sept. 18 at Amalie Arena.
Stralman was Tampa Bay's biggest free agent addition on July 1, signing a five-year, $22.5 million deal to help bolster the blue line. And Stralman, who has never been partnered with a Swede in the NHL, would be pumped to be paired with Hedman, who has developed into one of the league's top young defensemen.
"It'd be awesome to play together," Hedman said. "But we'll see what happens."
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at email@example.com