With the passing of August, the summer is on its decline, and hockey season is almost here in North America. But, in Europe, preseason games are already being played and the regular season is set to begin next week. On Thursday, slick scoring prospect Nikita Kucherov and CSKA will square off against perennial league power Magnitogorsk in their season opener in the Russian KHL. A week later, on 9/15, action starts in the Finnish SM-liiga where Riku Helenius and JYP will open against KalPa. That day also marks the start of the Swedish Elitserien where Johan Harju and Lulea will face Vaxjo.
We're well into the offseason now, with the draft and free agent frenzy behind us. While some teams will make various tweaks and possible additions before training camp begins in two months, the cores of the division's rosters are set.
I looked at the updated depth charts on Forecaster.ca today to see how the division is looking, and how the competition stacks up for against Lightning. While these are not the exact lines for the respective clubs, they give you a pretty good idea of the structure of each teams. Again, these are not exact lines, but the depth charts as Forecaster lists them.
Congratulations to the Boston Bruins on their victory in Game 7 tonight. I didn't think the Bruins had much of a chance going into this season and, on paper, their victory certainly seemed an impossibility once they lost one of their top line forwards, Nathan Horton, to injury for the series. But, games aren't played on paper, and the Bruins were able to get the Canucks so far out of their character that by the end of the series the Canucks looked like a shadow of the team that won the President's Trophy.
As a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, it makes the 1-0 Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals sting that much more. I'll probably go to my grave believing that with one more day's worth of rest the Lightning would've had enough in the tank to take the Bruins out. And, to see how poorly Vancouver played in this series, it's hard not to think the Lightning might very well have been the team lifting the Stanley Cup at the end of this series had they just had the chance to play for it. It's a thought that hurts badly, but it's also a thought that makes me anxious for next season and I suspect will motivate the Lightning's players returning for next year to know it was that close and to take care of the business that was left unfinished.
The only other player even close to as underrated in Lightning history is probably Jassen Cullimore, in my humble opinion.
The Boston Bruins have reportedly removed their signs directed at Lightning fans, something we at Bolt Prospects never wanted to happen. If you believe in them, leave them. And we definitely think attacking the B's marketing department was not the best response.
Did we find the ones going after fans specifically offensive? Sure. Mostly because Lightning fans are tired of biases against ALL southern market teams and the myth that there are no fans in Tampa. We're not the Panthers. Check the stats, check the records, check out the fact the Lightning were a mere two spots behind Boston in average attendance this year (Boston was 16th - it's not our problem they play in a Lil' Tykes Funhouse). At any rate, here's one of the BP Forum's responses to their "Bigfoot. Loch Ness Monster. Lightning Fans." sign.
This photo was taken during the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004, in Game 7, a game the Lightning won 2-1 to claim the Stanley Cup. We'll provide a link here for fans of some teams that haven't seen one in a couple generations: Missing in Boston
If you have anything in response to the Bruin's signs, please post in our forum. The best ones will be moved to the front page.
The Calgary Flames today decided to remove the "Acting" tag from former Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster's title, naming him the team's full-time General Manager. BoltProspects has been very fortunate over the years to have the support and cooperation of many wonderful people in the sport of hockey, but none was as important or as generous in the early years of the website as Jay Feaster. He truly is one of the nicest and most honest people in professional sports today, and we wish him all the luck in the world in Calgary, with the obvious caveats when the Flames play the Lightning.
... he's a Lightning fan. And been one longer than most B's fans have liked the yellow and black, according to the Boston Globe.
(Thanks to ChaseSpace from our glorious messageboards for this photo of Bigfoot/Boltfoot/Mike Smith.)
Nevermind the fact the Lightning beat the Bruins in attendance 5 out of the last 8 seasons. Nevermind the fact the attendance spread was less than 300 per game between the two teams this year (yes, yes, we know the Bruins play their games in a shoebox that doesn't seat nearly as many people as the Forum). Nevermind the fact tickets for Game 3, Game 4, and Game 6 in Tampa sold out in minutes today. Congratulations to the Bruins marketing department for racing head long into the gutter by playing the elitist Northern hockey fan card, thereby reducing a proud Original Six franchise to the level of a third rate sports radio lunkhead trying to drum up ratings by appealing to the lowest common denominator.
It's on, now.
I realize the NHL has spent a lot of time and money in marketing Alexander Ovechkin as the Russian Magic Johnson to Sidney Crosby's Larry Bird. I also realize that Ovechkin is one of the 2 or 3 purest goal scorers in the NHL today, right along side the likes of the Lightning's own Steven Stamkos and the enigmatic Ilya Kovalchuk of the Devils. However, what I hope the Lightning's sweep of the Capitals proves to the hockey world, and whatever Madison Avenue agency is driving the NHL's marketing strategy, is that you cannot build one half of a league's marketing strategy around a player who simply does not play the game the right way and therefore cannot lead his team anywhere near a championship.
There's a lot that's been said about Ovechkin's "passion" for hockey and his "passion" for scoring goals. Is it a "passion" for hockey? Or is it a "passion" for drawing attention to Alexander Ovechkin? Is it a "passion" for scoring goals that causes this young man to disrespectfully show up his opponents every time he scores? Remember the hot stick? First off, let me say, I savor the fact that some of our guys like Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone were able to issue a check for payback, in full, for that disgusting act from just a little over 2 years ago. But let me also say, how asinine is it that a league builds half of its entire marketing strategy around a player who cares more about individual scoring accolades in the regular season, as shown by that stupid, choreographed routine in 2009, than he does about winning a championship?
You know, living out of town, I haven't had the opportunity to see Rick Peckham and Bobby Taylor's broadcasts of the Penguins series. Now, as anyone who has read my game posts knows, I do enjoy the occasional meta-critique of the other team's announcers any time I get their feed on Center Ice. In particular, folks know how I feel about Atlanta color man Darren Eliot, the Carolina crew of Forslund and Tracy, and some of the members of the Buffalo Sabre's broadcast team (not Rick Jeanneret, but on-ice reporter Rob Ray and studio personality Mike Robitaille). But, as this is the playoffs, I didn't want to detract from what was going on by chastising the media. As John Tortorella said in the Flyers series in 2004 when Ken Hitchcock tried to goad him into a media spat by making an off-color remark about Tortorella's heritage, it's not about anyone off the ice. It's about the athletes.
However, now that the series is over, I can stop biting my tongue about Penguins color-man Bob Errey. I would've never thought that anyone could supplant the uber-pompous Darren Eliot on the Mount Olympus of NHL broadcasters I can't stand, but after having to watch the Pittsburgh Root Sports broadcasts for 6 of the games in this series, I can now say Bob Errey is now the uncontested champ. I have never in my life heard a broadcaster who was so thoroughly unobjective, so thoroughly disrespectful to the opposing team, and so thoroughly nonsensical about it. I made the decision as the series progressed that play-by-play man Paul Steigerwald probably isn't that bad. He has a level of bias, but I suspect with a normal color man beside him he wouldn't be any worse than the average NHL broadcaster. But Errey? How can Root Sports pay a man this unprofessional?
In general, there was the unqualified praise of Penguins players, the constant whining about officiating going against the Penguins (tell that to Marty St. Louis' front teeth), and the portrayal of Lightning players as heartless, talentless, brainless clods. That was bad enough. When a Penguins player would put his arm down on a Lightning player's stick to induce a hooking call, that would be "savvy." When a Lightning player would do the exact same thing 5 minutes later, suddenly it would be a gross miscarriage of justice perpetrated by those devious, dirty, shifty Lightning players (who 10 minutes later would be reclassified as heartless morons). Fine. That's annoying, but that's not any worse than Eliot, Forslund, or Tracy. Heck, at least the Pens have won something. One of the central parts of my critique of Eliot has been the undeserved sense of entitlement he and the Thrashers organization operates with given the fact they have a whopping 0 playoff wins in their franchise's entire history. The one solace I had after Game 4 of this series was that even if the Lightning lost Game 5, they still would've had more playoff wins in ignominious defeat than the Trashers have had... ever. But, I digress.
No, what elevated Errey to his perch atop the landfill of NHL broadcasters can be summarized by three instances from this series: