I've made the executive decision, in light of the Lightning and Falcons dissolving their affiliation agreement, to not name a Prospect of the Week for 3/12 through 3/18. I would instead like to use this opportunity to salute the Springfield Falcons' fans. Things may not have ended the way the Lightning and the Falcons had hoped, but there's no doubting the class of the Springfield fans and the role that Springfield has played in already putting 4 Lightning prospects full time into the NHL (Ranger, Artyukhin, Craig and Tarnasky).
Sorry for my tardiness.
Johan Holmqvist stopped 21 of 24 shots faced for the win. Eric Perrin and Jason Ward led the way with 1 goal and 1 assist while Brad Richards had a pair of helpers. Vincent Lecavalier and Filip Kuba scored the other Lightning goals. Martin St. Louis, Doug Janik, Ruslan Fedotenko and Dan Boyle had individual helpers.
Game sheet from NHL.com.
According to ECHL.com, the Tampa Bay Lightning have reassigned rookie left wing Radek Smolenak and the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League have reassigned rookie defenseman P.J. Atherton to Johnstown.
Smolenak has 25 points (13g-12a) and 31 penalty minutes in 32 games with Johnstown and one assist and eight penalty minutes in 20 games with Springfield.
Atherton has 26 points (4g-22a) and 46 penalty minutes in 49 games with Johnstown and two points (1g-1a) and two penalty minutes in seven games with Springfield.
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.