In an article in today's St. Pete Times, Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster acknowledges that lack of firepower was a main reason the Springfield Falcons struggled as the Lightning's affiliate.
"We need to find some goal scorers," Feaster told the Times. "Even if they're not immediately going to be big-time goal scorers here they can be big-time goal scorers down there and give us that organizational depth."
Damian Cristodero, the article's author, suggests this may be a mult-year project. Head scout Jake Goertzen told the newspaper this year's draft is believed to be generally shallow. He said the greatest talent will be available in 2008.
Goertzen said the team would not pass up a stud at another position but agreed, "We must upgrade our skill and scoring."
The Lightning were in this position two years ago when they focused on addressing the need for skill and scoring at the 2005 draft, but ended up taking behemoth defenseman Vladimir Mihalik in the first round. The Lightning's next six picks were skilled players, and though at the time Feaster said, "Of our top four picks, we would've been happy taking any of them with our 30th overall pick," Mihalik made it three straight years Tampa Bay took a defenseman with their first pick.
According to the Hampton Roads Pilot Online, Norfolk Admirals President Ken Young says the recent affiliation moves by the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers will not hinder his pursuit of a new NHL affiliate.
"There's a lot of interest," Young told the Pilot. "There's absolutely no danger of losing AHL hockey in Norfolk."
Young also told the Pilot that he expected to have a deal in place by the end of the month.
Norfolk will end its regular season on April 15 in Bridgeport. The first possible playoff date is April 17.
Of interest: Young makes his home in Tampa, Florida.
Andreas Holmqvist and #4 Linkopings have had the week off after having swept #7 seed Lulea out of the first round of the Elitserien playoffs. But, with a pair of game seven matchups completed today, the final four is finally set. Unfortunately, Linkopings will face #1 seed Farjestads in the second round of the Elitserien playoffs. The Elitserien semifinals begin on Wednesday.
Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster has released a statement concerning the Lightning's search for a new AHL affiliate. The Tampa Tribune posted the following statement in a March 19 online article:
"While we have worked extremely hard, and invested significant financial, human and other resources, to return winning hockey to Springfield our on-ice results the past three years have fallen well-short of everyoneâ€™s expectations.
"We are currently in the process of negotiating to secure a first-class AHL affiliate for the 2007-08 season and beyond, and we are confident that we will be successful in our quest. Once a new affiliation arrangement has been finalized and the time is appropriate we will make an announcement concerning our AHL future.
"We want our fans to know that we continue to place a high degree of importance on our development system and we will not waiver in that regard."
For the full Tampa Tribune story, please see Bolts, Springfield to Part Ways.
In related news, the AHL announced today that the leagueâ€™s Board of Governors has unanimously approved approved the sale and relocation of the inactive AHL franchise owned by Gardens Hockey Inc., of Cincinnati, Ohio, to the Rockford MetroCentre of Rockford, Ill. The team, which will be known as the Rockford IceHogs, has also entered into a 10-year affiliation agreement with the Chicago Blackhawks and will serve as the NHL clubâ€™s top development team beginning in 2007-08. (AHL.com)
As rumored, this move, now official, opens the door for an NHL club such as Tampa Bay to enter into an affiliation agreement with Norfolk.
(Edmonton Oilers Release)
03/19/07-The Edmonton Oilers are pleased to announce they have signed a new three-year affiliation agreement with the American Hockey League's Springfield Falcons, enabling the Oilers to ice their own AHL affiliate for the first time since 2004-05.
The new partnership will see the Oilers top prospects playing in Springfield, Massachusetts for the next three seasons, beginning in October 2007.
By all appearances, Johnstown is done.
Morgan Cey allowed 5 goals on 26 shots in the loss. Gus Katsuras and newcomer Rob Lehtinen had the Chiefs goals with individual assists belonging to Zbynek Hrdel, Maxime Boisclair, Jean Desrochers and Dimitri Tarabrin.
Johnstown now finds themselves 8 points behind 5th place Reading for the final playoff spot in the ECHL North Division and while the Chiefs still hold games in hand that could get them back in the hunt, the sad truth is that with Randy Rowe injured and Stanislav Lascek, Radek Smolenak and PJ Atherton up in Springfield, this Johnstown team is running on fumes and looks like it is going to limp to the finish line of the season. Obviously for the Lightning it is going to be a long offseason as they ponder why a season that started with so much promise for their minor league system went so wrong.
TREN Bertoli, (21) (Riddle), 14:55
TREN Mondou, (18) (Tremblay, Haggett), 16:48 (PP)
TREN Riddle, (25) (Bertoli), 17:32
TREN Pandolfo, (17) , 8:44
JHN Katsuras, (6) (Hrdel, Boisclair), 14:50
TREN Tremblay, (4) (Bertoli), 16:26
JHN Lehtinen, (1) (Desrochers, Tarabrin), 18:57
Game sheet from ECHL.com.
And, just like that, the Lightning no longer control their division title destiny.
Johan Holmqvist allowed 4 goals on 24 shots for the loss while Marc Denis allowed 3 goals on 5 shots in relief. Filip Kuba had the only Lightning goal off assists from Doug Janik and Nick Tarnasky. The Lightning now trail Atlanta by six points in the division with a game in hand after the Thrashers' overtime win against Buffalo today. Just 4 points separate 6th place Tampa Bay and the 9th place New York Islanders now, putting the Lightning in the uncomfortable position of not only seeing their division title hopes slip away, but also seeing that making the playoffs may become a difficult task as well.
Bad, bad, bad time of year for a three game losing streak.
Washington 5:31, Tomas Fleischmann 3 (Boyd Gordon)
Washington 13:38, Tomas Fleischmann 4 (Kris Beech, Milan Jurcina)
Washington 1:14, Alexander Semin 35 (power play) (Chris Clark, Brian Pothier)
Washington 6:45, Alexander Semin 36 (Tomas Fleischmann)
Washington 8:18, Alexander Semin 37 (Kris Beech, Matt Bradley)
Tampa Bay 17:44, Filip Kuba 11 (Doug Janik, Nick Tarnasky)
Washington 10:34, Alexandre Giroux 2 (unassisted)
Washington 17:55, Boyd Gordon 5 (Tomas Fleischmann, Shaone Morrisonn)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
The 2007 NCAA Tournament bracket is set. 16 teams make up the bracket with four different regions of four teams. The winners of the regionals will meet in St. Louis for the Frozen Four, Arpil 5-7.
Three different teams will have Lightning prospects. Boston College and backup goaltender Joe Pearce are the No. 2 seed in the Northeast region and will face No. 3 seed St. Lawerence. Boston College won the Hockey East tournament.
John Wessbecker and UMass got the No. 4 seed in the East region and will take on No. 1 seed Clarkson, who won the ECAC tournament.
Mike Lundin and Maine, who were on the bubble after losing early in the HEast tourney, got the No. 3 seed in the East region and will face St. Cloud State.
Notable teams that did not make the tournament were Denver, Colorado College, Vermont, and last year's National Champs, Wisconsin. The first round begins next weekend. Bracket
London 6 @ Erie 4
Kevin Beech did indeed get the Otters' final start of the season and it will be the last start of Beech's junior career as he is an overager. Beech gave up 7 goals on 39 shots last night in 2 periods. Tonight, Beech gave up 6 on 33 shots for the game. Usually outshot by a large margin night in and night out, the lowly Otters had 60 shots in their favor. Erie finishes the year with a record of 15-50-1-2.
Beech's season stat line (Sudbury, Erie): 19-29-2-4, 3.92 GAA, .891 sv%, 1 shutout.
Kingston 3 @ Mississauga 4
Chris Lawrence had an assist as the IceDogs finished their regular season with a win over the Frontenacs. He had an even rating for the game. Mississauga will play either Sudbury or Ottawa in the first round.
Lawrence's season stat line: 64 GP, 47-41-88, +29, 113 PIM.
Guelph 5 @ Owen Sound 4
Marek Bartanus was scoreless and even with a fight as the Attack lost at home to the Storm. Owen Sound will get the "honor" of playing top seeded London in the first round of the playoffs.
Bartanus's season stat line: 57 GP, 6-14-20, -9, 56 PIM.
Vancouver 0 @ Everett 2
Dane Crowley was scoreless as the Silvertips finished out their regular season with a home win over the Giants. Crowley was scoreless and even. Everett will play Spokane in the first round of the WHL playoffs.
Crowley's season stat line (Swift Current, Everett): 62 GP, 8-28-36, +1, 124 PIM.
Prince George 2 @ Kelowna 3
Vladimir Mihalik had an assist and a fight in the Cougar's final game of the season - a 3-2 loss to Kelowna. Prince George plays Kamloops in the first round.
Mihalik's season stat line: 53 GP, 7-19-26, +2, 91 PIM.