I've been asked many times for opinions on various players in this weekend’s Lightning games. Rather than respond to each request, here are some quick thoughts on each player participating:
(NOTE: Comments are just based on two viewings here so this is by no means “the book” on any player.)
For those paying attention to the past three drafts by Steve Yzerman and Al Murray, the Tampa brain trust seems to cast an eye on at least one juniors or European player that can provide immediate help to the AHL affiliate or at least fast tracked to help the following season.
It’s no secret the Lightning are in need of another top-4 defenseman if they are to make a run at the conference title next season. With the expected departure of Sami Salo this summer, and the overuse of Radko Gudas last year, there’s a hole next to Victor Hedman on the top pair that has to be filled. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has a hoard of tradable assets in his back pocket ready to make a deal (2 first round picks this year and next, young forwards with scoring upside, Gudlevskis/Wilcox) in June.
The following list is as informal as it gets. These are players who are either rumored to be on the block, may be on the block (not “core*” players), or could be available for the right price based on their individual situations or existing depth on their respective clubs.
The list is limited to right-handed defensemen, preferably with the ability to move the puck and run a power play (unless otherwise noted). Lightning coach Jon Cooper used Mike Kostka more than he probably should have last year as he was one of the few (only?) players he had able to move the puck on the right side. Cooper has shown in his career with the Lightning organization that gives his defensemen a bright green light, and the more forward-like they are while maintaining defensive responsibilities, the better.
The following categories are broken down into those capable of top-4 minutes now, those who could work their way into that role quickly, and those who could be acquired in addition to a top-4 if Yzerman wants to get a righty puckmover on the cusp of top-6 defensemen minutes – something that is severely lacking in the system.
Another week of hockey season is in the books, though the Lightning weren’t in action as a team due to the Olympic break. Syracuse paused for the All-Star break (congrats, Brett Connolly), then resumed with two close losses to former affiliate Norfolk.
Random thoughts on the week:
1. Superman just bought himself Kristers Gudlevskis pajamas. I said in a previous blog entry that Kristers Gudlevskis had the most to gain from his Olympic appearance and today’s 55-save, 2-1 loss to Canada was the perfect example. Now every notable hockey person and a few hundred thousand fans know who he is, and there’s an overwhelmingly positive opinion attached. He was the story of the day and maybe the story of the tournament so far. Carey Price said it was the greatest performance he’s seen. Martin Brodeur also gave him props, as did Canadian astronaut Chris Hatfield. What an exceptional performance. Easily one of the greatest moments I’ve had in 15 years following Lightning prospects.
The Lightning ended the week on a high note, defeating the Red Wings, 4-2. The Bolts went 1-2 last week, dropping a close decision in Minnesota, 2-1, and at home to the Maple Leafs, 4-1. They enter the Olympic Break one point up on Toronto and Montreal for second in the Atlantic Division, seven points behind Boston.
The Baby Bolts of Syracuse went 1-1-1, beating Rochester, 4-1, and losing in regulation and overtime to the first place Springfield Falcons – a former affiliate of the Lightning.
Random thoughts on the week in and surrounding TampaCuse: