NHL Game Night 1/3: Lightning at Canadiens

And with their first pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the Lightning select... Colin Wilson? Kyle Beach?

TB-3
MTL-6

Karri Ramo played his first really poor game as a starter allowing a couple of long, unscreened shots from the wing off the rush. He had his moments stoning several wide open looks Montreal got off 3-on-2's, but in the end he couldn't make the key save in the third period to keep the Lightning alive in this one. He ended up allowing 6 goals on 30 shots in total.

Tonight was the halfway point of the season: game 41. I'm sure nobody saw this coming but a Kings win tonight could put the Lightning at dead last in the entire league when you open your paper tomorrow morning. This team has been snake bitten by freak injuries (Dan Boyle), inexperience (half the defensive corps), stupidity (the other half of the defensive corps), and inconsistency (the goaltenders and the forwards). Now they're seven games under .500 and about 10 points out of a playoff spot and some hard questions are going to have to be asked.

The Lightning haven't been sellers since 2001-2002, but now they're going to have to decide how much of the current team they want to keep in Tampa if the ship isn't righted in the next couple of weeks. Vaclav Prospal and Filip Kuba, due to their contract statuses, seem like obvious choices to move. Dan Boyle is also about to turn UFA and that is probably the most pressing question of all: do you swallow hard and deal Boyle or do you keep him? Beyond that: do you call the Michel Ouellet experiment a mistake and deal him off? Is there a team that needs goaltending that would want to rent Johan Holmqvist? Brad Lukowich? Ryan Craig? Chris Gratton?

At the end of the day I expect the Lightning will keep Lecavalier, Richards, and St. Louis together as the potential new ownership seems inclined to keep that core group together. Beyond those three, it looks like wholesale changes could be in the offing.

And, seeing as this is a prospect site, there is the potential of the Lightning holding a top-5 pick in June. That pick, undoubtedly, will be the most important for this franchise since Espo and Demers plucked Lecavalier at 1st overall in 1998 almost a decade ago. Will they get an opportunity to select the player being touted as the clear cut #1, Steve Stamkos of Sarnia? I shudder to think the Lightning will end this season in dead last, but as it stands tonight it's a possibility. If they're in the more likely 4-8 range, will they have a shot at BU standout Colin Wilson? Petulent but ultra talented Kyle Beach of Everett who is the kind of power forward Lightning fans have always dreamt of? What about mighty might Zach Boychuk of Lethbridge? It's been, thankfully, a long long time since the Lightning had to make such a high selection and this will be the first time it will be done with the thought of adding a critical complimentary piece around Lecavalier and Richards. Make no mistakes, jobs could be secured or lost in the scouting staff based on any potential selection.

Going back to tonight's dismal outcome, Mathieu Darche was even in 15:42 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots.

Mike Lundin played his 41st game tonight thereby making him a graduate by the Bolt Prospects website criteria. Although this doesn't seem like an appropriate night for celebration, congratulations are definitely in order for the young man. He played 13:41 tonight and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot. If the season really does get out of hand, I hope Tortorella and Sullivan start upping Mike's ice time and start grooming him for a bigger role next season.

If that scenario comes to pass, I also hope Jay Feaster calls up Blair Jones and Matt Smaby and starts the grooming process for their futures as well. Cups of coffee for guys like Vladimir Mihalik and Justin Keller might be in order as well down the stretch.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

I Understand

Being a Norfolk fan, reading the last part of this causes me to shudder. But this situation is not unlike what we went through with Chicago for the last couple of years. My term for it is audition time. Bring up some of your prospects to see how they fair in the big show. When it happened to us last year, Norfolk was locked in a tight race for the Eastern Division title and we lost our edge. And when Chicago's season was over and some of them got sent back for the playoffs, there was zero chemistry, and despite having our best team ever, we went out with a whimper in the first round.

Now if audition time comes to pass this year, the only thing it will probably do is to guarantee us a worse record than what Springfield had last year. But that is minor league hockey and the Tampa management is looking to see which prospects are possibly ready for the big time.

If Tampa doesn't turn it around soon, they are going to have to do a major restructuring of the team. And I agree the Big 3 are untouchable. But after that, anyone should be fair game for the trading block with only a few exceptions. I would only hope that if Tampa is going to become sellers, they do so with an eye to the future.

If this comes to pass I think they need to be addressing at least two areas. First is obtaining decent 2nd and 3rd line forwards. Teams may be willing to give up these types of players to get something they need. Second, make the trade partner unload some really good prospects. It is the quick way to restock the minor league system that suffers from a lack of quality prospects. Either way, the salary cap hit should not be so severe as to limit who the Bolts can go after on July 1. And certainly in any of these trades draft picks are going to come back. These can be used for looking at the long term supply of players. Because anyone drafted is not going to be of immediate help, except for the superstars, those in the top 10 of the draft as a rule.

Because the first two of my scenarios will result in more immediate results, if the fire sale is to come, they should concentrate on those. I am resigned to eating humble pie this year in Norfolk. I would just like to upgrade my menu selection next year in Norfolk.

But if a restructuring is to take place, I know the big club's problems are the priority. But don't let this opportunity go by to jump start your minor league system as well.

The truth is Randy, teams

The truth is Randy, teams usually don't unload prospects in these kind of deals, they unload picks and the Lightning will probably be in a position to stockpile them. You won't see those players until 09-10 and 10-11 but at least you'll know they're on the way.

I'm Not Disagreeing

I agree, you will not get prospects in every deal the Bolts may, and I repeat may, make. But with someone like Boyle, who is a great talent, maybe some prospects could be pried away from the team to get someone of Boyle's caliber.

I'm not saying it's going to happen, but hopefully the subject will be broached during any trade negotiations. What do you have to lose, all they can do is tell you no to that aspect of the deal.

As to draft picks, one can never have too many of them. The draft is a crapshoot, so the more picks you have, the better your chances of picking up someone who can eventually contribute to the organization. The only trouble there is that you won't know the results of your draft for at least a year or more until that player moves up the ladder to the AHL and above.

But I agree with you. Absent a major turnaround, the Bolts need to do some serious restructuring at all levels of the organization.

Let me ask you a question

Let me ask you a question though Randy: if you're Jay Feaster would you rather have another team's draft pick or their 1st round pick for Boyle? It's human nature to want to draft and cultivate your own guy rather than to take someone else's guy and I honestly believe Boyle will be worth (at least) a first round pick (probably in the 20's from a contending team) if he is back and healthy before the March deadline and the Lightning decide to pull the trigger and move him.

I'm interested to see what everyone else thinks Prospal's value will be on the open market. He's a point a game player right now but the perception is (rightfully) that he sponges off of Lecavalier and St. Louis for a lot of those points. It's harder for me to figure what he's worth. It's not like he's Keith Tkachuk or Bill Guerin reputation wise, but the numbers are certainly there this season. Is he worth a 1st? 2nd? 3rd? My knee jerk is a 2nd round pick but I honestly have no idea.

And what's Kuba worth? There's another interesting question. Love him or hate him he's a minute eater and he's on pace for another 30+ point season. Is it really insane to ask for a 2nd round pick for the guy?

Of course, maybe Randy you will get your wish and Feaster finds a sucker like Waddell was last season when he dealt off Coburn and Bourret, not that Bourret has set the world on fire in the AHL. Who knows. All I do know is there are about six players on the NHL roster and maybe 5-8 prospects in the system that are untouchable and the rest can and should be dismantled and rebuilt if the team continues to circle the drain.

No Doubt

You take their first round pick. If they are giving up a player who was previously thought to be worthy of a first round pick, one would be wary. I think you are right, we will probably get draft picks rather than players. But then again as you stated, there may be another sucker out there like Waddell, highly unlikely, but not impossible.

But if it is possible to pry some prospects loose from a team, I wouldn't ignore it as well. The minor league system needs a jump start badly. To give you an example, Stirling was on the local radio call in show. He was asked why does he keep the same players out there virtually the whole power play. His answer was he doesn't have enough decent puck handlers to rotate them. And I believe we either lead the league in short handed goals allowed or are at least in the top three.

It is certainly a situation with no easy answers at any level of the organization. And due to the team sales negotiations, just how far will they go to shake up the team. Certainly while there may be deal in principle in place by the trading deadline, which I believe is February 26, the sale won't be approved until late Spring at the earliest.

I don't foresee Oren Koules

I don't foresee Oren Koules standing in the way of Feaster unloading UFAs (Boyle, Kuba, Prospal, Gratton, Holmqvist, let me know if I've missed anybody) rather than just letting them walk and getting nothing for them.

I think the more important question is whether or not Boyle is healthy by the deadline. If he isn't, there's a bad scenario that could play out where the Lightning lose him and get squat in return because they can't trade damaged (at the time) goods.

Kuba

I know we signed Kuba after the '05-'06 season to a 3 year deal. Meaning his contract would be up after the '08-'09 season not after this season.

My bad, you're correct. I

My bad, you're correct. I thought they only gave him two years.

Confidence in Feaster?

I was such a Feaster fan. But I must ask , who feels confident having him deal, or make major decisions on our personnel going forward? I don't. You can blame his situation of limited cap space, ownership change, injuries, even coaching (but that's on him again), but with him not being able to solve the goaltending dilemma since Habby chased the dollars, I'm not on board! The Denis situation... Gratton, (losing)Perrin (cause he wasn't any more than 4th line- where would he be now?) , Oulette, Grahamm, Luckavitch, Hlavac... then you have Ward C-, Obrien C+, Kuba B- (maybe). Could you imagine who he might get for Vinny? Please no! We need some major hockey brains right now, before we jump from the pan...

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.