Welcome Norfolk Fans

Now that the new affiliation agreement between the Lightning and the Norfolk Admirals is in place, I want to take this opportunity to welcome Ads fans to Bolt Prospects. I've seen a lot of questions being asked around the internet about the Lightning's minor league system and their previous affiliations in the AHL. I would encourage anyone who has questions to poke around Bolt Prospects. Check the blog archives for stories and game reviews. And, by all means, feel free to register here at Bolt Prospects and talk to the growing community of Lightning fans.

For those wanting to know even more, I would recommend spending some time here on Bolt Prospects thumbing through the player profiles on the Prospects page. Bolt Prospects prides itself on having the most complete and most detailed Lightning prospect profiles on the internet and we're the only site on the web that conducts evaluations of a team's prospects three times a season, so we think we've developed a very valuable source of Lightning prospect information.

For those wanting to know where the Lightning minor league system is going, I think it's important to look at it's past. With that in mind, I would point you toward this article I wrote in May of 2003 prior to the Lightning's full affiliation with Springfield which details the team's history of minor league affiliations. Although I'm loathe to point any web traffic toward Hockeys Future, to my knowledge the article is the most complete history on the Lightning's minor league system.

Finally, for those looking for information about who the Lightning might be bringing into the system for next season's team, I would suggest taking a look at one of our prior blog posts here on Bolt Prospects which speculates on eight possible additions to the organization once the summer hits. While it is just speculation at this point, I think it's a decent starting point as a primer for the offseason to come. And, with the exception of one addendum I would make in that we have learned the Lightning are making a run at signing goaltender Vasily Koshechkin this summer, I think it's pretty complete.

In closing, I'd just like to add one thing about the Lightning organization and their minor league operation. A lot of negative things have been written about the Lightning's affiliation in Springfield over the past three years. Much of it is probably fair because although I honestly believe the Lightning's minor league system has improved greatly over that time period, especially in terms of their talent level, the results did not come in Springfield. But, while it is true to say the team's youngsters have underperformed over the past three years (especially this year), it's not true to say the Lightning don't care about their developmental system or about winning at the AHL level. Over the past three years Jay Feaster and the Lightning have invested heavily to acquire numerous veteran free agents to try and help the Falcons and in a proven winning coach in the AHL in Steve Stirling. We cannot promise that the transition to our organization and our system of play will be pain free and easy. Obviously it hasn't been over the past few years in Springfield. But, I can promise that the Lightning organization will always put forth an honest effort to make the Admirals a winner and to acheive the ultimate long term goal of winning championships at the AHL level.

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Thank you for the welcome. I look forward to your being here as well. I also thank you for your honesty in your comments. It is no secret that Springfield didn't have a good season. In one of my earlier posts here, MrHockey, who is a Springfield fan pointed out prior statements made during the course of the affiliation between Tampa Bay and Springfield.

But I think the manner in which NHL teams must do business now mandates that they develop within a number of their players. The salary cap does not allow for massive stockings of teams anymore. And your agreement with Springfield predated the lockout.

To Feaster's credit, he candidly admitted that the situation in the Bolt's farm system was not what they wanted to be. But he wants to improve that and to put a winner on the ice in Norfolk next year.

I agree, it will not be easy or pain free. We currently have one of the best teams in the league right now. Frankly, even if we stayed with Chicago, we probably would have a hard time duplicating that success next year. Improvement will not come overnight. All I want to see is the commitment to improve in a concrete fashion. People are always more tolerant if they can see that the steps are being taken to improve.

Although born in the South, and having never played the game, I have season tickets to the Admirals and have come to love the game. I will not be going anywhere next year.

The bottom line is that improving your farm system helps us but it also helps you.

I look forward to our time together. And I look to be spending some time on the site as well. For those who don't know, you may want to visit admiralszone.com. It is the best unofficial blog for the Admirals. Be advised, there are some there who are still smarting over the Hawks leaving and are concerned with the current state of affairs in the Bolts minor league system. Much of this comes from viewing the situation in light of the excellent season we have had here and the overall success for the last 18 years the Admirals have been a franchise in the ECHL and AHL. But there are some damn good hockey fans and good people there. Come on in and get to know us. I want to get to know you. Because next year we will both share the desire to see the Bolts from top to bottom get better.

Another welcome..

At the very least, if you're a fan of following your favorite players on to the NHL level, then things aren't too bad in that regard. The Lightning have been able to graduate some very valuable support players from their farm system despite the losing that's been going on down there (in that sense, the Springfield years have been a runaway success story compared to what we've had before). The character and pure effort guys are already accounted for, we just have a severe lack of true skill players in the system, between having very few and very low draft picks to work with. That needs to be seriously addressed if the minor league affiliate is ever going to win consistently, and if the Lightning plan on continuing to be competitive in the long term.

So anyway I wouldn't blame Norfolk fans for expecting the worst. I just hope there's a pleasant surprise for both of us or that the growing pains don't last too much longer. The Bolts have a lot of damage and neglect to undo so you'll have to bear with us.. :/

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