Entries with the tag: Tampa Bay Lightning
Only one team can win the Stanley Cup. Does that mean that the season is a failure for the other 29 teams? For teams like Chicago and Washington, the answer could be yes, though I’d say that making the final four teams could be argued as the measuring stick for a reasonably successful season. For the rest of the teams, I think fans have to consider the context of their expectations going into the season. Did you expect your team to vie for the Stanley Cup this season or were you just hoping they wouldn’t finish in the basement again?
For the latter, it’s important to temper mid-season frustrations with a little bit of realism. If rookies are having a good first season and the team is competing hard most nights, then a .500 record could be a major step forward—and anything else could just be a bonus. Let’s look at a few examples.
Oh, those wacky Tampa Bay Lightning. Oren Koules and company are lucky that there are riveting second-round series going on this week; otherwise, more people in the hockey world might have noticed his bit of public idiocy (and a bit of contempt, really) when it comes to previous Lightning GM Jay Feaster. From the Lightning’s open house (courtesy of Raw Charge):
This is where the Cowboy moniker was earned by OK Hockey. And it showed up on Monday night during the Q and A forum when Oren Koules declared to the world that Jay Feaster had never had the nerve to say he wouldn’t trade Vincent Lecavalier:
“Feaster probably said that after he was fired. He didn’t have the guts to say it before.”
Um…Oren? You might want to pull out your Saw DVDs and pop in the Lightning’s championship DVD where—on film, digitally encoded, preserved until the end of freakin’ time—Jay Feaster says that he didn’t want to be remembered as the guy who traded Vincent Lecavalier. Yes, he said it, and yes, he said it in public. He also said it in print and the story’s been around for years. And here’s a first-hand recount of the tale courtesy of Feaster’s blog at The Hockey News.
What’s sad about this whole thing is that Tampa Bay built up a pretty solid fan base since the start of the decade and OK Hockey’s arrogance and foot-in-mouth syndrome are killing any confidence the public has about the team’s management. Here’s hoping that Jacques Lemaire does end up in Tampa Bay as rumored so an old-school hockey guy can hopefully beat some humility into the team’s upper management.
Like a train colliding with a Zamboni that’s crashing into a rusty old shack, the Tampa Bay Lightning story is just something I can’t stay away from. All personal bias aside (I always loved Barry Melrose’s enthusiasm on TV, even though I thought he was wrong much of the time; I’ve also been a closet fan of the Bolts since their 1996 Alexander Selivanov-Daren Puppa run), this story just keeps going and going. In summary:
-Barry Melrose thinks he wasn’t given a fair shake, Steven Stamkos isn’t ready for the NHL, and Rick Tocchet is a puppet of the ownership.
-The ownership thinks that Melrose is guilty of gross negligence when it comes to preparation and research and that he should, to steal a phrase from old Bolts coach John Torterella, shut his yap.
-Rick Tocchet thinks that Melrose is sour grapes and sees the team as slowly evolving into using a real system.
The real culprit? I can see why people can point fingers at one guy or another (though Stamkos is absolved of everything other than simply being an 18-year-old rookie learning the ways of the NHL) but when it comes down to it, everyone is at fault here, from the wacky ownership duo of Len Barrie/Oren Koules to Melrose and his then-assistants to veteran leaders like team captain Vincent Lecavalier.
God, I love the Tampa Bay Lightning. Every time you think they’ve settled down, the do another thing to stir the pot. This time, Radim Vrbata told ownership that he wants to go home because his confidence is low. I believe that’s the hockey equivalent for “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!” or “You guys are freakin’ bonkers!”
Oh, and Chris Gratton was waived too. So let’s look at significant transactions since the start of June. Guys in bold have already come and gone with the team.
One of the biggest supposed complaints Lightning players had about Barry Melrose was that he lacked a real system. If the Bolts looked lost during games, it sounds like it was because they literally were—true defined roles and systems weren’t in place.
Whether it’s because the players didn’t gel with Melrose or because Rick Tocchet is offering some more structure, the two games that Tampa’s played has shown some statistical differences. No, not in the win column (though two shootout losses in two games isn’t exactly terrible) but more so in ice time:
I really hate quoting myself but the knee-jerk reactions in Tampa Bay, now with the firing of Barry Melrose, are taking the franchise from “amusing sideshow” to “sad joke.” Oren, Len, (and Brian Lawton if he actually does anything), please review a tale that I posted a few days ago about the 2003-04 San Jose Sharks. I think you’ll find it educational.
And a quote from a wise Jedi master: Patience! For the Jedi, it is time to eat as well.
Oh, those wacky Tampa Bay Lightning. You just never know what they’re going to do next. But rather than being unpredictable in a “Saw” slasher-movie kind of way, I think they’re more in line with the old John Ritter film “Problem Child.”
When I saw that the Lightning had shaken up their roster yet again by moving Matt Carle for Steve Downie and Steve Eminger, I just shook my head. I’m sure lots of people probably did it too, and I wonder what Vincent “Lifetime With The Lightning” Lecavalier thought.
I doubt that Vinnie and Matt Carle became BFF during their two months of shared ice time, but the Lightning captain’s gotta be sick of the roster turnover now. Yet, Tampa’s management—a two-headed monster run by Oren Koules and Len Barrie with Brian Lawton as a GM figurehead—isn’t just acting like a kid in a candy store; it’s acting like a bratty kid in a candy store.
It wasn’t too long ago when those carefree kooks running the Tampa Bay Lightning were handing out big checks left and right to any mid-level free-agent forward they could find. Like a twisted episode of The Price Is Right, here was owner Oren Koules yelling, “Radim Vrbata, come on down! You’re the next recipient of a lot of money for not a lot production!”
And the majority of us in the hockey world thought that the Bolts would at least have a lightning-strong attack with absolutely zero defense. Well, one out of two ain’t bad. True, Tampa doesn’t have much defense (fortunately for Lightning fans, Mike Smith and Olaf Kolzig have taken the Double Dare Physical Challenge with this team).
That dynamic offense, though? Well, a lightning bolt is a bit of an exaggeration. It’s more of a static-electricity zap, the kind that you get when you rub your shoes on thick carpet, then touch a metal door handle. It’s mildly annoying and surprising but in the end it disappears just as quickly as you noticed it.
Let’s break down the bang—erm, zap—for the buck, shall we?
Matt Carle has the potential to be a great hockey player. But he’s not one right now. He’s an inconsistent but talented player that’s being thrown into the whirlwind mix of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” season. And generally, these types of situations either produce a superstar (rare, but possible) or shellshock career development (what happens most of the time). For better or worse (most likely worse), Carle epitomizes everything that’s wrong with the Tampa Bay Lightning in this young season.
While Tampa Bay celebrates having the Devil Rays actually do something meaningful, I’m much more interested in the beginning of the Steven Stamkos era. It’s 8:45 AM PST and I’m revved up for an actual regular season game. This post will be a liveblog of the first period between the Rangers and Lightning from Prague, Czech Republic (unfortunately, a family event will force me to Tivo the rest of the game) but rather than just comment on the game in general, I’m gonna answer the damn “Seen Stamkos?” question and put an emphasis on Stamkos and his shifts.
I’m not sure what Tampa Bay puppetmasters Oren Koules and Len Barrie are thinking with their pushing of young Steven Stamkos (and I’m pretty sure this was their decision) but I wonder if it’s really worth it to put so much pressure on young Stamkos’s shoulders. Didn’t they learn anything when “Crazy” Art Williams dubbed his #1 pick the “Michael Jordan of hockey”? Pressure and expectation can crush a young player, as well as distort their perspectives on professionalism and ego.