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 Read more»
After all the personnel changes by the Lightning organization, I assumed the first couple of days of camp would be taken up with introductions. Between trades, signings, invitations, and every other conceivable means of acquiring players, the Tampa Bay training camp roster looked very little like last years. The Lightning had a horrible past two seasons, but they did have a core of good players. Injuries were also a problem for the Bolts. Rick Dudley, G.M. of the Lightning, did a good job of bringing in a lot of players. One of the biggest problems in the last couple of years in Tampa was depth. With having to hurry draftees into the lineup and no real minor league system to speak of, the team was not able to develop any depth within the organization.
Ok, so he played regularly in the NHL last season and is in no way a prospect, but he is only a little over one year removed from being the number one overall draft pick. Although he didn’t put up big numbers, mostly because he was handled very carefully by the team and he didnt exactly have a lot around him, he did show signs of why he is one of, if not the, most talented players drafted in the last several years. He has added another 15 pounds of solid muscle, taking him up to between 205 and 210. I will address that in the interview. After seeing him in the first two days of workouts, I’d have to say that the extra size has definitely helped him, without slowing him down a bit. Look for him to have a very good season. Well, enough of my blabber, let’s hear what Vinny has to say.
RH – What is your overall impression of the NHL after your first season?
VL – The speed and the size of the players. It’s a much tighter game up here. There’s not as much room so you have to learn how to get to where you want to be on the ice.
RH – Do you think you learned that?
VL – Yes. By the end of the season I was pretty comfortable with things. I got a lot of help from some teamates with that type of stuff.
RH – Who helped you learn the ropes so to speak? Read more»
After making the trades on draft day, the Lightning’s first pick in the 1999 draft was in the second round, the 47th overall pick. With that pick they selected Sheldon Keefe, RW from the Barrie Colts. Although he came with tremendous statistical numbers, 51 goals, 65 asst., 116 pts. in 66 games, he also came with some baggage. Namely Mr. Frost. The agent/representative was rumored to have been advising Sheldon. Whether or not he actually was, is not clear. It is now, and was at the time of the draft, clear that if there was any connection between the two it had been terminated.
Tampa Bay had confidence that the information they got, about there being no ties between the two, was good. They also had heard that some of the other criticism about his attitude and size were mainly sour grapes brought on by the rumors about Mr. Frost. At pick #47, if their information was correct, they had a steal.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, and even myself personally, are still taking some criticism from people over the trades made on draft day. I am still of the opinion that this criticism is way off the mark. With the dust still settling from the moves made in Boston last month, they again juggled their personel. They sent Niklas Sundstrom, acquired in the draft day trades, and a 3rd round pick also acquired in the same deal, to the San Jose Sharks for four players.
The players coming to the Lightning in the deal are Billy Houlder, Shawn Burr, Andrei Zyuzin, and Steven Guolla. Houlder and Burr, both formerly with Tampa Bay, will add some needed character, experience, and depth. Guolla and Zyuzin add two more talented young players to the rebuilding Lightning.