Features

Articles that are feature stories.

Making $en$e of Vincent Lecavalier's Future with the Tampa Bay Lightning

Vincent Lecavalier's tenure with the club that drafted him first overall in 1998 has been a stretch of lean and occasionally tumultuous seasons interrupted by a cluster of four consecutive postseason appearances that included a Cup and, several years later, another deep playoff run. Though the Lightning's first bona fide superstar and despite widespread admiration for his efforts on and off the ice, Lecavalier has been dogged (see Exhibits A , BCD and E) at various junctures of his professional career by speculation that he is or should be destined for some other hockey market.

He came close.

Lecavalier was nearly traded on three known occasions: first, to Toronto in late 2001 after bristling under the tutelage of temperamental coaching newcomer John Tortorella (cooler heads prevailed), then, in 2006, Lightning GM Jay Feaster shopped Lecavalier to Vancouver for goaltender Roberto Luongo, and finally, in 2009, Canadiens and Lightning brass established parameters for a deal that was never consummated.

Knowledge of these episodes has no doubt kept the prospect of his departure from the Lightning simmering, but it's the succession of injuries and diminished production following an 11-year, $85 million extension signed in 2008 as well as the arrival and rapid emergence of new No. 1 center Steven Stamkos that have really stoked the flames of conjecture. What was once a confluence of impassioned, covetous rumor-mongering that served as a grim specter for those concerned with the state of the Lightning has become a discussion steeped in practicality for fans and pundits alike.

Namestnikov Elevating Game In Postseason


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Vladislav Namestnikov dipped his shoulder, turned the corner on the defenseman and drove right to the net.

The Crunch forward plowed through Springfield Falcons goalie Curtis McElhinney, creating a rebound for Mark Barberio to bury less than a second later to give Syracuse a two-goal lead in the fourth game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals last week. It was Namestnikov’s first of two assists on the night, his first professional postseason points.

"Not a lot of players make that play," said Syracuse coach Rob Zettler. "A lot of players go behind the net instead of going to the front of the net. He's got the courage and the speed to make those plays."

For Zettler, it’s just one example of the recent development in Namestnikov’s game.

"Over the last two or three weeks, his play has really elevated," Zettler said of the 20-year-old. "He's really skating well, he's battling for pucks and going to the hard areas."

Connolly Quietly Collecting Postseason Points

By Jeremy Houghtaling

For a 30-goal scorer, Brett Connolly is essentially flying below the radar.

Overshadowed by the success of the Syracuse Crunch's top line, Connolly has quietly continued his nearly one point per game pace in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He has five points in seven postseason games, having already notched 31 goals and 32 assists in 71 games in the regular season.

Prospect of the Week: May 15, 2013

We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for April 25 is … Syracuse’s Top Gun line (AHL – USA).

Tyler Johnson is sharing the wealth.

Johnson had a hat trick and seven total points (2 GP, 4-3-7) last week as the Crunch came off a week-long break with two wins over Springfield in Massachusetts. Syracuse holds a 2-0 series lead on the Falcons entering Wednesday’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals.

Johnson has won our Prospect of the Week three times in the last six weeks and we’re running out of ways to say he’s good at the hockey, so we’re giving the award to his line, made up of Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Richard Panik. The line was recently named the Top Gun line, though it has also been called the PTPer (Prime Time Players via Dick Vitale). Regardless of what people are calling it, the line is on fire.

New Pro Paquette Making Positive First Impression

By Jeremy Houghtaling

Stacy Roest sees something in Cedric Paquette.

Roest, a developmental coaches working with the Syracuse Crunch practice squad, knows the transition from the junior to professional ranks means a faster pace and stronger competition.

But Paquette, the Tampa Bay Lightning's 2012 fourth-rounder, has the drive.

"He's the ultimate competitor," Roest said of Paquette. "He's a really high compete kid. He has a really good shot. His skating has to come a ways, but he's a good player."

Crunch's Top Line Looks To Keep Rolling in Round 2


By Jeremy Houghtaling

Although all the weight isn’t on their shoulders, the Syracuse Crunch’s top line knows its importance.

Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Richard Panik have provided six of Syracuse’s 12 postseason goals, including two out of the four in each game. Those six markers include all three game-winners, two of which came in overtime.

With the No. 2 seed Falcons looming when the Eastern Conference Semifinals begin in Springfield Friday, the top line will be expected to do what it has done all season – produce points by the bunches in all situations.

"All three of those guys can fly," said Crunch coach Rob Zettler. "That's their best asset – they have speed. If you show that speed early and often, hopefully it will back off their defense and create some room in front of them as the series goes on."

Prospect of the Week: April 25, 2013

We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for April 25 is … Tyler Johnson, C, Syracuse (AHL – USA).

Repeat.

For the second year in a row, a prospect in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization won the AHL’s Most Valuable Player Award as Tyler Johnson of the Syracuse Crunch was given the honor last week. Johnson follows Cory Conacher, last year's winner, as the second Bolt prospect to win the award. Conacher has since moved on to the Ottawa Senators organization via trade.

What to Expect from Mark Barberio

In the old days of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Mark Barberio may be a 2-year veteran at this point in his career.

The Lightning had little organizational depth and if prospects showed flashes of NHL ability, they were called up to the big club and thrown to the proverbial wolves.

When new general manager Steve Yzerman took over, he changed all that, and Barberio is a prime example of his player development philosophy.

Zettler Anxious for First Win


By Jeremy Houghtaling

As he waits for his first win behind the Syracuse Crunch bench, Rob Zettler has gone through a range of emotions.

He’s excited and energetic, and comfortable yet anxious. Although his tenure has started with three straight losses, he knows it hasn’t stemmed from a lack of trying.

“These guys all want to win as much as I do,” Zettler said of his team. “I'm not worried about their effort. I'm not worried about how they played. We just have to find a way to get the W."

Prospect of the Week: April 3, 2013

We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.

The Prospect of the Week for April 3 is … Matthew Peca, W, Quinnipiac (NCAA – USA).

Matt Peca made sure his Quinnipiac Bobcats would advance to the Frozen Four in their first national tournament last week.

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