Tocchet, Lawton Let Go From Lightning

New Lightning owner Jeff Vinik has wasted no time in cleaning house as the team announced this morning both Head Coach Rick Tocchet and General Manager Brian Lawton have been let go.

Assistant GM Tom Kurvers will run the operations side until a new GM is named.

Lawton also held the title of GM of AHL Norfolk.

Vinik and the Lightning released the following statement:

Effective immediately, I have decided to replace both Brian Lawton as General Manager and Rick Tocchet as Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. I believe that the hockey side of the TBL organization needs a "fresh start" in order to help us fulfill our goal of being a world-class organization. On behalf of the whole Lightning organization, I thank Brian and Rick for their service to the Lightning and wish them well in their future endeavors.

As you know, our search for a new CEO is well underway. I'm happy to announce that we have received quite a few resumes. We are in the process of interviewing a number of very highly qualified candidates.

Starting today, we will begin our search for a new GM. The new CEO will hire the new GM. It will then be the responsibility of the new GM to hire the new Head Coach. We plan to have this exciting hiring process all wrapped up prior to the NHL Draft.

Although we all are disappointed in the way our 2009-10 season finished, I am very excited about our future. We will all continue to build on the team’s tremendous foundation with the goal of bringing back the enthusiasm and success that the Tampa Bay Lightning and its great fans have enjoyed in the past.

Thank you for your continued support.

I look forward to “bringing it back” with you.

Jeff Vinik, Chairman

NHL Game Day: 4-11-10 Lightning at Panthers

At just barely 20 years old, Steven Stamkos has won a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's best goal scorer. Atta boy, young man.


Mike Smith allowed 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. Smitty got his save percentage up to an even .900 with the performance. That's something positive to build on, I suppose.

First Period
FLA 2:06, Olesz 14 (Dvorak, Matthias)
TB 8:01, Tanguay 10 (Bochenski, Lundin)
TB 10:20, Lecavalier 24 (Tanguay, Malone)

Second Period

Third Period
TB 19:47, Stamkos 51 (Lecavalier)(EN)

Congratulations to young Steven Stamkos, whose empty net goal put him for 51 for the season, tying him with Sidney Crosby for the league's best mark and a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy. Stammer will be the Lightning's second Richard Trophy winner, after Vincent Lecavalier won it with 52 goals in 2006-2007. When one considers that Stamkos just turned 20 in February, it has to be considered nothing less than a remarkable achievement for the young man. Steven Stamkos may be the answer to the question of what a guy like Ilya Kovalchuk, with his finishing ability, could have been without the cancerous selfishness. I said it when he entered the league: Stammer had the best shot of any 18 year old I'd seen enter the league since Kovalchuk. The difference is that Stamkos has dedicated himself to becoming a complete hockey player from his off ice conditioning and preparation to his willingness to backcheck and play the game the right way in all three zones. Mark my words: Steven Stamkos will win a championship in Tampa Bay; probably two or three when all is said and done. He's just scratching the surface of his talent. As time goes on, he's going to become as big a threat at even strength as he is on the power play, and his playmaking skills will catch up with his goal scoring ability. He's too hard of a worker not to continue to elevate his game.

That probably terrifies the NHL league establishment. Stamkos is the inconvenient truth of the NHL. After spending the past few seasons hyping Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin as the second coming of Gretzky and Lemieux, the idea of Stamkos in small market Tampa Bay becoming a better scorer than those two has to be terrifying the league offices. Too bad, Toronto.

And, for anyone trying to put an asterisk on Stamkos' achievement because he had three empty net goals, including the Trophy clincher, or because he played more games than Crosby or Ovechkin, or because he was fresher for not playing in the Olympics, or whatever: (how do I put this delicately?) you're an idiot. Seriously. Anyone who tries to argue Stamkos' achievement is somehow less impressive than what Crosby did is a moron, and should probably leave broadcasting or journalism right now. Hand in your microphone or laptop. Give back your press pass.

Did he have a league leading 24 power play goals (which, last I checked, still count on the scoreboard)? Sure. Did every team in the league that played the Lightning know Stamkos was the number one option? Yep. Could they stop him anyway? Nope. No one ever griped seriously about Kareem Abdul-Jabar's skyhook in the NBA. No one can gripe seriously about Stamkos' power play goals from the high slot or left wing circle. The fact is, Steven and the Lightning have found something that is undefendable unless you're willing to give up a 2-on-1 down low or a 105 mph bomb from the center point. And only Steven has the kind of finishing ability to make that play so incredibly effective.

Did he have 3 empty net goals while Crosby only had 1? Sure. But, how many 19-20 year olds do you know who a coach trusts to put on the ice in the last minute of a 1 goal game? Seriously? And, the reason he had 3 empty net goals is because Stamkos has blazing speed that eclipses even Crosby and possibly even Ovechkin. Stamkos' acceleration is the stuff of legend. If Crosby had it, I dare say he'd have more empty net goals too, but he doesn't. Give Stammer credit for the fact he does.

Did he play more games than Crosby and Ovechkin? Sure. But he also went through a grueling offseason program with Gary Roberts to make sure he was fit enough to avoid injuries. And when the scrapes did come, Stammer played through the pain. He also wasn't running around acting the fool like Ovechkin to get himself suspended, either. So, again, you're going to tell me that Stammer doesn't deserve credit for preparing properly, playing through pain when needed, and staying out of Colin Campbell's doghouse? Please. That's dumb.

Finally, there's the not-so-small matter of the fact that Stamkos plays on the 6th worst team on the league. Not the best team in the East (Ovechkin). Not the defending Stanley Cup Champions (Crosby). Mind you, Stammer doesn't play with awful teammates. Lecavalier, St. Louis, Downie, and Foster are good players, but are the Lightning's best players better than the Pens and Caps? Are they better than Malkin or Semin or Backstrom? Are the Lightning as deep as the Pens or Caps? Obviously not. Put it another way: if you put Stamkos on the Caps or Pens, how many goals would he have scored? Put me down for 60.

Also, congratulation to Zenon Konopka for winning the NHL's penalty minute crown with 265 penalty minutes. I will admit, I was opposed to carrying Konopka on the roster at first. He's become my guilty pleasure when watching a Lightning game, though, and I believe the Lightning should work hard to re-sign him this offseason. Amazingly, despite the large number of PIMs he had, I'm hard pressed to think of a time Konopka did something stupid and undisciplined to hurt the team. He scrapped at the appropriate times and unlike the preseason when he was getting his brains beat in pretty regularly, he held his own in all but one or two of the fights he was in. The fact he was also 62% on draws for the year and is great in the room makes him a valuable weapon for the Lightning that they need to lock up.

The Lightning will finish with the 6th worst record in the NHL. That means the Lightning will pick 2nd, 6th, or 7th this June. The 6th pick is by far the most statistically probable. If things go according to speculation, Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, in some order, will go 1st and 2nd. If the Panthers and Isles were to stay in the 3rd and 5th positions, I would expect them to draft d-men like Cam Fowler, Brandon Gormley, or Erik Gudbrandson. Columbus may be more of a wild card at 4th. That'll put the Lightning in an interesting spot. If the big righty shot d-man Gudranson is there, he might make a lot of sense for the club, but they could be tempted by some of the intriguing wingers available like Brett Connolly, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund, or Vladimir Tarasenko. The team will be in a good spot to continue to build on the impressive core it has with the likes of Stamkos, Downie, and Hedman.

We'll let this season digest a little for the next couple of days before I write more. I will say this, though: sign Mike Lundin. Do it.

Matt Lashoff was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 10:03. He re-passed Vladimir Mihalik on the depth chart, but it's still hard to see how he fits into next year's plans.

Scott Jackson had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:44 in his NHL debut. Congratulations to him. The promotion was well deserved. I kind of expected Dana Tyrell to get a reward recall instead, but Jackson is every bit as deserving. In a way, I could see him evolving into a little bigger version of ex-Lightning d-man Nolan Pratt.

Box score and extended statistics from

European Game Day: 4-11-10

Kval till Elitserien (Sweden)
Rogle 3 @ Sodertalje 2 (SO)
Riku Helenius, Sodertalje, DNP
Season totals: 9 GP, 4-2-2, 0 SO, 2.42 GAA, .923 sv%
Playoff totals: 9 GP, 6-3-0, 1 SO, 2.74 GAA, .911 sv%

With Sodertalje's spot in the Elitserien sewed up for next season, Riku Helenius got today off in the 10th and final match of the promotion/relegation series. Helenius' backup, Pontus Sjogren, stopped 42 shots before allowed 3 of 6 shooters to capitalize in the shootout for the loss. Helenius' roller coaster season is over, and he and the Lightning will now contemplate a way forward for the former first round draft pick who played very well at times, and very poorly at other junctures.

Sodertalje finished first in the Kval till Elitserien with 21 points, 3 ahead of Allsvenskan side AIK, which defeated Vaxjo Lakers 2-0 today to grab a promotion into the Elitserien for next season. It's a remarkable accomplishment for a team that just a few months ago was contemplating a move into the KHL. They finished 2 points ahead of Rogle, which will be relegated to the Allsvenskan next season.

KHL (Russia) Western Conference Finals
No Lightning prospects were involved, but in Game Seven KHK MVD defeated Yaroslavl 2-1. Ex-Thrashers prospect Michael Garnett stopped 25 of 26 shots he faced in the win. He'll face Ak Bars Kazan and Lightning prospect Dmitri Kazionov in the KHL Gagarin Cup Finals, which begin on Thursday in Kazan.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-10-10


No.4 Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 1 @ No.5 Moncton Wildcats 3
Quarterfinals, Game 5. Moncton wins Best of 7 Series 4-1
D Mark Barberio, MCT: 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 4 SOG
Playoff Totals: 10 GP, 3-9-12, +6, 8 PIM
Season Totals: 65 GP, 17-43-60, +39, 72 PIM

The Wildcats finished off the Huskies in five games by winning 3-1 at home Saturday. Barberio had an assist to give him two goals and five assists in the series. He had at least a point in all five games. No.5 Moncton will now face second-seeded Drummondville in the semifinals. No.1 St. John will play No.6 Victoriaville in the other.

Draft Watch - Possible Lightning First Round Targets
Moncton defenseman Brandon Gormley had two assists in Game 5 and was named the game’s Third Star. Playoff totals: 10 GP, 0-11-11, +8, 0 PIM.


Portland Winterhawks 5 @ Vancouver Giants 4
Conference Semifinals, Game 5. Vancouver leads Best of 7 Series 3-2
C/W/D James Wright, VAN: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM
Series Totals: 5 GP, 6-3-9, +2, 2 PIM
Playoff Totals: 9 GP, 6-5-11, +4, 4 PIM
Season Totals: 21 GP, 6-13-19, -3, 17 PIM
With Tampa Bay: 43 GP, 2-3-5, -9, 18 PIM

Possible Lightning draft target Nino Niederreiter had two goals and an assist for First Star honors to lead Portland to a 5-4 Game 5 road win and send the series back to Portland for Games 6 and 7. Wright saw his five-game point streak and four game goal streak come to an end. Game 6 is Tuesday night.

NHL Game Night: 4-10-10 Panthers at Lightning

Stamkos. Steven Stamkos.

TB-4 (SO)

Antero Niittymaki allowed 3 goals on 32 shots and stopped all 3 shooters he faced for the shootout win.

First Period
TB 4:11, Stamkos 49 (Foster, St. Louis)(PP)
FLA 18:39, Weiss 28 (Horton, McCabe)(PP)

Second Period
TB 5:28, Stamkos 50 (Meszaros, Konopka)(PP)
TB 10:24, St. Louis 29 (Stamkos, Foster)
FLA 11:46, Frolik 21 (Horton, Kulikov)

Third Period
FLA 8:08, Horton 20 (Weiss, Ballard)(SH)


TB- Stamkos

With a pair of goals, Steven Stamkos tied Alex Ovechkin for the league lead with 1 game left to play. Sid Crosby sits 1 goal behind them. All three players will be in action tomorrow with the Richard Trophy on the line. Stamkos took 20 shots tonight. 10 were on goal, 8 were blocked, and 2 missed the net. Hmmmm. I'm thinking Stammer wants the hardware. Martin St. Louis is now 1 goal shy of 30 for the season. That's somewhat remarkable considering how slowly he started the year in the goal scoring department.

There could be some callups for tomorrow's game in Sunrise with the Norfolk Admirals completing their season tonight. So, watch the transactions wire. Either way, I could see Tocchet playing Stamkos 25-30 minutes tomorrow as Steven tries to get the 1 or 2 more goals he'll need to win the Richard Trophy.

The Lightning have dropped down to the 4th most ping pong balls in the draft lottery with the victory.

Box score and extended statistics from

AHL Game Night: 4-10-10 Bears at Admirals

With their boots on and their heads held high...


Dustin Tokarski allowed 2 goals on 26 shots for the win. He finishes his rookie campaign with a 27-25-3 mark, 4 shutouts, a 2.51 GAA, and a .915 sv%. That's a very respectable starting point for a young career.

First Period
HER Bouchard, (21) (Perreault, Bourque), 8:43
NOR Fornataro, (11) (Dehner), 13:11

Second Period
NOR Szczechura, (8) (Parrish, Craig), 2:36 (PP)
HER Giroux, (50) (Aucoin, Bourque), 15:43 (PP)

Third Period
NOR Simek, (20) (Jones, Mihalik), 1:49
NOR Simek, (21) (Hall, Jackson), 5:41
NOR Hall, (16) , 19:51 (EN/SH)

Juraj Simek, Matt Fornataro, and Paul Szczechura were the game's three stars. Simek, after seeing his playing time dwindle in the past month or two, finally topped 20 goals in the season finale.

Unfortunately, there will be no postseason for the Admirals as both Lowell and Bridgeport won tonight, meaning the crossover rule will go in effect. The propriety of the crossover rule is dubious at best considering the unbalanced schedules that are played, which meant Norfolk had to play world beaters Hershey 10 times while clubs like Bridgeport and Lowell got to feast off the worst team in the league, Springfield. Still, it is what it is, and Norfolk will cede its playoff spot to the 5th place team in the Atlantic Division. Norfolk finishes the regular season with 84 points (39-35-3-3).

In the short term, I suspect there might be a recall or two for tomorrow's Lightning season finale in Sunrise against the Panthers. Specifically, I feel like Dana Tyrell deserves a reward for his hard work, and the Lightning may want to take a look at Carter Ashton, who has spent his time on Norfolk's second line since Mark Parrish and Paul Szczechura were sent back down to Norfolk.

In the long term, this offseason will be a challenging one for the Admirals. The Lightning have a lot of decisions to make with veteran players like Ryan Craig and Adam Hall and 3rd and 4th year pros like Blair Jones, Simek, and Vladimir Mihalik. The only knowns I think Admirals fans can count on for next season are that the team will probably be younger and the team will probably still have fantastic goaltending between Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus, who actually has been practicing with the team this week and might've been ready to come back had the Admirals made the post season.

Box score from

KHL Playoff Game Day: 4-10-10

KHL Eastern Conference Finals
(3)Kazan 2 @ (1)Yulaev 1
Kazan Wins the Series 4-2
Dmitri Kazionov, Kazan, 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Season totals: 52 GP, 18-9-27, +8, 18 PIM
Playoff totals: 15 GP, 3-1-4, +2, 8 PIM

Ex-Thrashers draft pick Ilya Nikulin scored a power play goal with 4:53 left in regulation to lift Kazan to a 2-1 Game Six, series clinching win at Yulaev. Kazan wins the series 4-2 and will face the winner of Game Seven between KHK MVD and Yaroslavl tomorrow in the Western Conference Finals. Lighntning prospect Dmitri Kazionov played 18:47 in the match.

CHL Playoffs Game Night: 4-9-10


No.4 Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 5 @ No.5 Moncton Wildcats 4 (2OT)
Quarterfinals, Game 4. Moncton leads Best of 7 Series 3-1
D Mark Barberio, MCT: 0-2-2, +1, 4 PIM, 2 SOG
Series Totals: 4 GP, 2-4-6, +3, 6 PIM
Playoff Totals: 9 GP, 3-8-11, +6, 8 PIM
Season Totals: 65 GP, 17-43-60, +39, 72 PIM

The Wildcats had a chance to finish a sweep of the Huskies, but former Rimouski Oceanic Phillipe Cornet (Oilers 5/08) scored in the second overtime to extend the series for Rouyn-Noranda. Moncton outshot the Huskies 20-14 in the extra sessions and 50-47 overall, but were unable to complete the sweep. Barberio had two primary assists on the night, including one with under 30 seconds to play that forced overtime on a goal by Kelsey Tessier (Avalanche 4/08). Barberio has six points in the series so far (two goals), which will see it's next game Saturday in Moncton. No.1 St. John, No.2 Drummondville, and No.6 Victoriaville (swept No.3 Quebec) have already advanced to the semifinals.

Draft Watch
Moncton’s Brandon Gormley, a defenseman expected to go in the 3-8 range this summer, was scoreless and minus-2 in the game. He has nine assists in nine playoff games, to go with a plus-6 rating. Gormley had 43 points (nine goals) in 58 regular season games for the Wildcats and was plus-31.


Portland Winterhawks 3 @ Vancouver Giants 5
Conference Semifinals, Game 4. Vancouver leads Best of 7 Series 3-1
C/W/D James Wright, VAN: 2-0-2, -1, 0 PIM, *First Star*
Series Totals: 4 GP, 6-3-9, +2, 2 PIM
Playoff Totals: 8 GP, 6-5-11, +4, 4 PIM
Season Totals: 21 GP, 6-13-19, -3, 17 PIM
With Tampa Bay: 43 GP, 2-3-5, -9, 18 PIM

Wright (pictured) had two goals for the second straight game, giving him six goals this series, as the Giants took a … well … giant step forward toward eliminating the Winterhawks with a 5-3 win Friday. They now lead the series 3-1 and can close it out Saturday night at home.

Draft Watch
Portland winger Nino Niederreiter, expected to go in the top-10 this summer, scored Portland’s third goal to cut Vancouver’s lead to 5-3 late in the third. El Nino is 5-7-12 in 11 playoff games.

AHL Game Night: 4-9-10 Bears at Admirals

The playoffs are now a very remote possibility for the Admirals.


Dustin Tokarski allowed 6 goals on 29 shots for the loss. Other than the 4th Hershey goal, Tokarski was just hung out to dry. The Admirals gave up way too many odd-man rushes and just didn't do much to disrupt the Hershey power play.

First Period
HER Giroux, (47) (Bourque, Alzner), 9:40 (PP)
NOR Fritz, (2) (Marks, St. Pierre), 10:56

Second Period
HER Giroux, (48) (Helmer, Aucoin), 4:44
HER Giroux, (49) (Aucoin), 8:35
HER Rome, (6) (Alzner, Bouchard), 9:19
HER Joudrey, (15) (Pinizzotto, Kane), 11:27

Third Period
HER Gordon, (37) (Aucoin, Bourque), 6:18 (PP)

The night went about as badly for the Admirals as it could have. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton knocked off Albany 4-3, so the Penguins have clinched 3rd place in the East Division. Meanwhile, in the crossover, Bridgeport defeated Lowell 6-3 in Lowell. So, both Lowell and Bridgeport are 2 points ahead of the Admirals and each team has 1 game in hand. That means to make the playoffs the Admirals would have to beat the Bears tomorrow night and either Bridgeport or Lowell would have to lose both of their remaining games in regulation, because the Admirals would hold the tiebreaker for more regulation wins. A loss tomorrow night or a single point for both Bridgeport and Lowell and the postseason hopes are done.

Considering where the Admirals have been the past couple of years, I think it's progress that they can honestly say that all 80 games this season were meaningful. That said, this still feels rotten.

Box score from

NHL Game Night: 4-8-10 Senators at Lightning

Stammer stays right in the Kid's rearview in the Richard Trophy race.

TB-4 (SO)

Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 38 shots and stopped all three shooters he faced in the shootout for the win.

First Period
TB 8:01, St. Louis 28 (Stamkos, Lundin)
TB 19:32, Purcell 6 (Lundin, Malone)(PP)

Second Period
TB 3:33, Stamkos 48 (St. Louis, Foster)(PP)
OTT 12:44, Foligno 9 (Ruutu, Cullen)(PP)
OTT 18:42, Spezza 23 (Alfredsson, Karlsson)(PP)

Third Period
OTT 4:16, Fisher 25 (Alfredsson, Spezza)(PP)


TB- Purcell

Steven Stamkos got his 48th goal of the season with 2 games left to play. That's 1 behind Sid Crosby, who scored one goal tonight and was nearly credited with his 50th goal too. But, for now, Stammer's just 1 off the pace.

Teddy Purcell done really nicely since coming over from the Kings. In 17 games he has 3 goals and 9 points. That pro-rates to 14 goals and 43 points over an 82 game season. That's not world beating numbers, but it give you hope he gets his butt in gear and trains hard this offseason and comes back next year ready for a 20 goal and 50 point type campaign.

The win doesn't cost the Lightning a draft position because Florida beat New Jersey tonight. Unfortunately, the Lightning have no chance of having the second most ping-pong balls after Toronto lost last night, so barring a minor miracle they'll be picking somewhere between the 3rd and 5th spots. That's no-man's land in this draft, and definitely the kind of pick position that makes scouts sweat.

Box score and extended statistics from

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