Have you read this before: “The Lightning are putting together an
impressive collection of talent that will get them out of the NHL basement.”
Well unfortunately those statements have gone without results from the
players themselves. However all the blame can’t be placed on the players
alone. Changes in ownership, front office, coach and staff have resulted in
a massive overhaul in the Lightning roster. Out is owner Art Williams, in is…
Davidson. Out is GM Phil Esposito, in is Rick Dudley. Out is coach
Jacques Demers, in is Steve Ludzik. To put it in a nut shell the Lightning
upgraded to a more hockey smart (and professional sports smart) owner, a GM
that won’t use aging veterans to band aid the roster, and a coach that
combines his ability to discipline while relate to his players. This new
staff has been given the challenge to rebuild the last rebuilding process of
the Bolt roster. And they are doing a good job of it. Out are big and slow
talent. Dudley has replaced that with big and fast, really fast, talent.
Most of this talent comes on the blueline. Dudley is developing a nucleus of
young defensemen comparable to the New York Islanders of a few seasons ago.
Below is more is a more in-depth look at the defensemen in the Lightning
This has quickly become the organizational strength as far as talent is
concerned. Following graduated prospects Andrei Zyuzin, Sergey Gusev, Pavel
Kubina, and Paul Mara, the Lightning have a good number of defensemen to play
1. Cory Sarich – Sarich, acquired from Buffalo in the Gratton deal, brings a
physical presence that is lacking on the roster. The 6-3 175 pounder is not
afraid to physically clear his crease or punish wingers on his blueline.
Sarich is already on the roster and will remain there. Look for him to put
on some needed weight and be a force for years to come.
2. Marek Posmyk – injuries have limited Posmyk over the past few seasons, but
when healthy he provided a big presence (6-5, 220 lbs.). Posmyk, who has
been compared to a young Uwe Krupp, brings a big time shot (100+ mph).
Baring injury, Posmyk is a huge steal from Toronto.
3. Ben Clymer – this free agent pick up has been a pleasant surprise. This
20-year-old stepped into the lineup and played some valuable minutes. Clymer
(6-1, 195) is a good 5 or 6 defenseman now, but will need some more time to
4. Mario Larocque – Larocque (6-4, 219) is very similar to fellow prospect
Cory Sarich. Larcque has compiled 165 PIM this season for the Detroit Viper
(IHL), while racking up a disappointing minus – 21 plus/minus. The
acquisition of Sarich may have made Larocque expendable.
5. Brett Scheffelmaier – the organization is very high on Scheffelmaier.
This 1999 third round draft choice is make his way up the organizational
depth chart. Brett (6-5, 200) has racked up 270 PIM this season for Medicine
Others to watch for: all of these players have the potential to eventually
make the jump to the NHL in some form. However they all may be caught in the
numbers game brought on by the great number of defenseman prospects.
- Andrei Skopintsev – if the Lightning hadn’t picked up Sarich, Posmyk, and
Clymer Andrei may have been an everday player in the Lightning lineup.
However with ever major move the organization makes, Skopintsev seems to fall
lower and lower on the depth chart. The two things that appear to hurt him
are his age and style of play. At 28 he is 8-10 years older than everyone
else. Also he plays a similar style (offensive minded) to 75% of the
defensemen in the organization. Skopintsev is an excellent player that just
needs a long term shot somewhere.
- Kaspars Astashenko – Kaspars is a nasty defensive defenseman. The
Lightning plucked this 25-year-old prospect out of the 5th round of last
year’s draft and hope he can eventually bring his nasty aggressive style to
the NHL soon.
- Karel Betik – a defensively responsible blueliner, but doesn’t throw his
6-2 210lb body around enough right now to get out of the minors.
- Kyle Kos – Kos seem to fit into the profile for Lightning defensmen, big
(6-3 200) with great speed and good passing skills to move the puck out of
the defensive zone. May be caught in the numbers game but has potential for
- Others – Mikko Kuparinen, Jason Robinson, Curtis Rich, Mark Thompson.
The majority of these prospects were brought into the system this season and
will require a couple of seasons to develop. To aid in this development
Dudley made his most important deal of the year, keeping veteran defenseman
Petr Svoboda. Svoboda is a key asset in tutoring these youngsters to play in
Coming soon: forwards and goaltenders report.