A Closer Look at the New Admirals GM

Today's edition of the Winnipeg Sun has an expose on the rise of Winnipeg native Mike Butters from a struggling LA actor to the new GM of the AHL's Norfolk Admirals.

Quote:

Butters wound up with bit parts in Saw and some of its sequels (including Saw V, which comes out in October), and a not-so-bit part with Koules's new hockey toy, the Junior A Helena Bighorns. Acting as league commissioner, team co-owner and associate coach -- with stints as play-by-play man, radio commercial voice, even program-stuffer -- he learned the ropes of running a franchise, top to bottom.

Helenius Gunning for Norfolk

Mike Morreale, staff writer at NHL.com, has written an article about Lightning goaltending prospect Riku Helenius.

There's some good info in the piece about Riku's work ethic in practice, with some particularly glowing comments from Seattle Thunderbirds teammate Jacob DeSerres. After recently attending Tampa's prospect camp in Victoria, B.C., Helenius' next stop will be the Traverse City Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, MI in early September before the Lightning's training camp opens in Tampa later in the month.

"After sitting out seven months with the shoulder injury, I felt I really played well in Seattle and it was a great year for me," Helenius said. "I also got used to the North American game and the coaches and that was important. I have every intention of earning a spot with Norfolk this coming season." Helenius will face stiff competition for a roster spot in Norfolk from Lightning top goaltending prospect Karri Ramo and Admirals signee Mike McKenna. McKenna, a former Predators draft pick and ECHL MVP runner-up, was one of the AHL's top netminders last season for the Portland Pirates.

Lynx Sign Femenella

The Augusta Lynx have announced the signing of former Lightning defensive prospect Art Femenella to an ECHL contract. The 6'7" and 255 lbs defenseman was originally drafted by Tampa in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft while playing for Sioux City in the USHL, but was never signed to a contract by the organization. The mammoth blueliner completed four years with the Vermont Catamounts in 2007, and attended the 2007 Lynx training camp before missing all of the 2007-2008 season with an injury.

"Art is a legitimate heavyweight who doesn't back down from anything," Lynx Director of Hockey Operations and head coach John Marks said. "You obviously can't coach size, but he also has all the tools to be a very good hockey player. Art's physical presence should help him be the kind of player fans grow to love and appreciate."

Uneasy Anticipation

After a flurry of activity earlier this summer, the Lightning's offseason has finally slowed down. So, I think this is a good time to take stock of everything that has happened so far. There has never been a time in Lightning history where both the roster, the coaching staff, and front office of this franchise has changed so dramatically. The incredible multi-dimensional makeover of the Tampa Bay Lightning has rightfully generated a lot of interest in the upcoming season, and a lot of credit has to be given to OK Hockey on that account. It's not always easy to generate a significant buzz for a team that finished dead last in the NHL last season, and it's a credit to this group's salesmanship that the trade of two of four members of the ex "Fantastick Four" (Brad Richards and Dan Boyle) hasn't been accompanied with a sense of doom in the fan base.

That said, I think anyone with unbridled optimism for the Lightning this coming season needs to ratchet down expectations to a more reasonable level. The simple truth is that OK Hockey has made several risky moves and the outcome of those moves won't be known for months. What we should all be left with, I think, is what I would deem an "uneasy anticipation" for the coming season.

Harju Receives Positive News

Lightning prospect followers can breathe a sigh of relief today as the Bolts' highest ranked European prospect, 22 year-old forward Johan Harju, received some positive news regarding the hamstring injury he suffered Monday in Lulea's first practice session for the upcoming season.

Lasse Lundgren, Lulea physiotherapist, indicated that damage is not uncommon for hockey players and expects the left winger to return to the ice in the next few days. The injury was a "rupture" to the hamstring and intends to get Harju running Wednesday or Thursday as part of the usual rehab of injuries such as this. Lundgren said there would be no rush for Harju and that he would be rested for a bit considering the importance of the upcoming season for Lulea.

Harju admitted that he first noticed the hamstring back in July when he was playing land hockey and missed a tackle.

A sixth round pick by the Lightning in the 2007 draft, Harju has scored 32 goals in 106 games over the past two seasons for Lulea in the SEL.

Norfolk Signs Rosehill, Kearns

The Norfolk Admirals have announced the signing of Bracken Kearns and former Lightning 2003 draft pick Jay Rosehill to standard AHL player contracts. Kearns, a center, was re-signed after playing with the Admirals last year under a similar AHL contract. Rosehill, a defenseman turned left wing, also played for the Admirals last season as a Tampa prospect under a three-way NHL contract.

Harju Injured in Practice

Norrbottens-Kuriren is reporting that Lightning prospect Johan Harju suffered a possible knee injury during an on-ice practice session with Lulea for the upcoming SEL season. Apparently, Harju went to make a turn and felt a snap in the back of his knee. The team is being cautious with the possible injury and Harju left the ice in order to get a medical examination of the knee by a doctor. No further information about the extent of the injury are known at this time.

(Thanks to BP staffer sotnos for the translation help!)

Witkowski Defers Enrollment

From a story dated June 28, the official site of the Western Michigan University athletic program reported that Lightning 2008 draftee Luke Witkowski will defer his enrollment at WMU until the 2009-2010 season. Witkowski had signed a letter of intent in November 2007.

Lawton Impressed With Lawrence, Rogers

TBL.com sat down with the Lightning's Brian Lawton following this week's Prospect Camp to get a feel for which prospects not named Stamkos raised some eyebrows. Getting special props from Lawton were Andy Rogers and Chris Lawrence.

“Chris Lawrence really surprised us, as did Andy Rogers. They are the perfect example of guys who just needed a fresh start and both responded very well. You can expect to see them in our main camp in Tampa and in exhibition games this year. We expect both of them to take a dramatic upswing in their careers.”

Lawton also praised new defensive prospect Ty Wishart acquired in the trade with San Jose for Dan Boyle. “Ty’s been a terrific surprise – he’s got such good size and mobility with strong stick and puck skills. He’s a lot further along than we thought when we made the trade for him.”

Other prospects specifically called out by Lawton include Riku Helenius, Mitch Fadden, Alex Killorn, Scott Jackson, Justin Courtnall, and Norfolk blueliner Darryl Boyle.

Lynx Name John Marks Head Coach

The Augusta Lynx announced Thursday the hiring of John Marks as the team's new head coach. The 60 year old Marks is the all-time ECHL wins leader as a head coach with a 485-412-63-32 record in 990 career-regular season games over 13 seasons with Charlotte, Greenville and Pensacola.

“[We] are ecstatic to be able to bring in a coach of John Marks’ caliber. He certainly knows what it takes to win at this level,” co-owner Robert Burch said. “We feel he’s going to be a perfect fit with our organization and our new affiliation with the Tampa Bay Lightning.”

Marks was set to continue coaching in Pensacola this fall until the team folded earlier this off-season. He contacted the Lynx about the job on the same day former coach Bob Ferguson announced he was leaving. Ferguson, who was the coach of the Lynx for the past three seasons, left to take an assistant GM position with the American Hockey League's Iowa Chops.

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