I was fortunate enough to be invited down to The Scope before Saturday morningâ€™s optional skate to talk to Norfolk Head Coach Steve Stirling and Norfolk General Manager Claude Loiselle. At about 9 am I made my way down to the building in the heart of a quiet downtown Norfolk. The hockey operations staff were in a good mood after beating the Binghamton Senators 5-1 in the Admiralsâ€™ home opener, and there was a feeling in the building that things were starting to get on the right track.
In the new era of the NHL where the salary cap reigns, it is imperative clubs find and develop their own talent through their farm system. Since the lockout in 2004-2005, the Lightning has been forced to compete to stay at the top of the food chain by carefully shopping for affordable free agents and coordinating financially-sensitive trades. While other clubs have had the option of plugging multiple holes with cost-feasible prospects, the Lightning has been forced to look outside the organizational depth chart for help.
Mike Lundin arrived at Lightning training camp last week and did his best not to be star-struck at the amount of star power assembled in Tampa Bay's locker room.
Following a four-year career at the University of Maine where he posted 12 goals and 58 points in 159 games, the 2004 fourth-round draft pick enters his first year as a professional trying to find his place within the organizational roster.
Judging from his first few days of camp, his stock might be higher than previously thought.
To read the rest of the feature, see the Tampa Tribune.
Since Jay Feaster took over as general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2002, two things have stood out as being top priorities with the organizationâ€”winning and work ethic.
Success is earned.
In this meritocracy system, Feaster will do whatever it takes to win, and if a player doesnâ€™t perform up to expectations, he is in danger of losing his spot on the depth chart, if not the roster.
Starting off their pro careers on the right foot is essential for young prospects in the organization, such as the 20 that finished eighth out of eight teams in last weekâ€™s Traverse City (TC) prospects tournament in Michigan. Individual performances aside, winning is priority number one with the club and the last-place finish is not sitting well with the general manager.
â€œI am not pleased with the results,â€ Feaster made sure to tell Bolt Prospects before providing player evaluations.
Luca Cunti is just happy to be here.
Wearing a St. Cloud State hockey T-shirt, on Tuesday he began his assimilation with the rest of the Huskiesâ€™ freshmen.
A forward from Switzerland, Cunti attended his first class earlier in the day, then was one of the first to arrive for an afternoon workout at the National Hockey Center.
While eight other incoming recruits started school last week, Cunti is a late addition. He committed in July and it wasnâ€™t until little more than a week ago that he made the decision and processed the necessary paperwork in an effort to begin college this year instead of in 2008.
Heâ€™s still waiting for clearance by the NCAA, but expects to be able to play when the team opens the season next month.
To read the rest of this story, see the St. Cloud Times.
As the countdown to the start of the 2007 Traverse City (TC) Prospects Tournament finally comes to an end tomorrow, the future is now for many of the prospects making up the Lightningâ€™s 2007 TC squad.
Redwingscentral has released their copy of the Lightning's Traverse City roster with only a few minor amendments to the roster released by Erik Erlendsson of the Trib. As expected, Windsor forward John Kurtz will suit up for the Red Wings instead of the Lightning and defenseman Justin Fletcher will replace injured enforcer Arthur Femenella.
The Lightning prospects' first official practice is slated for Friday at 11 am with their first game action coming that night at 7 pm against the New York Rangers' prospects.
The nominations are in and the list has been carefully whittled down to 21: The Bolt Prospects Lightning All-Time All-Dog team, a celebration of the very worst of the Lightning's first 14 years in the league. The rules were simple: no player whose rights are currently held by the Lightning could make the list (no need to poison present day morale) and only players with 10 or more games in a Lightning jersey could carry home the coveted silver dog dish. The competition was fierce, but in the end, the liquidy nasty stuff sank to the bottom.
Image Courtesy haggul.com
So without further adieu, the Bolt Prospects Lightning All-Time All-Dog Team, sponsored by former Chicago Blackhawks coach Alpo Suhonen and, of course, Michael Vick.
Now that we're in a lull in the hockey world (and talking about logos to pass the time), I thought it would be a good time to roll out a couple of features we've been kicking around here at Bolt Prospects for a while. Without much fanfare, the Lightning will reach a bit of a milestone this coming season as it will be their 15th in the NHL. The franchise is coming of age. 5 playoff appearances, 2 division titles and a Stanley Cup later the Lightning are no longer the league's fledgling Southern experiment. The Lightning, the first of their expansion cousins to hoist Lord Stanley's chalice, have proven hockey can work south of the Mason Dixon and have etched their place in the sport's history with blood, sweat and unyielding effort.
To celebrate this milestone, Bolt Prospects would like to take you on a trip down memory road to a fairgrounds halfway to Brandon, a baseball stadium in St. Petersburg, and a Forum that used to be a Palace. In these places, which now only exist in our recollection, we saw dozens of world class athletes put on the Lightning sweater and challenge the elite of the NHL. This, we think, is the best of the best: Bolt Prospects' All-Time Lightning Team:
Bolt Prospects 2006-2007 Final Rankings
2006-2007 was a difficult season for the prospects of the Tampa Bay Lightning. After two years of modest improvement with their full affiliation in Springfield of the AHL and a large crop of talented junior scorers coming into the organization, expectations were that this was the season the Falcons and the Lightning organization would finally turn the corner. Expectations were not met, and the Falcons took a large step backward with a miserable second half of the season that led to the dissolving of the affiliation. The Lightning also saw ties severed with their ECHL affiliate in Johnstown after two years of control over hockey operations only led to a pair of 5th place divisional finishes.
The Bolt Prospects 2006-2007 Final Rankings reflect the painful lessons of a campaign which, for the Lightning's minor league system, was one of the worst in recent memory. As a consequence of overall poor play indicating a lack of depth, the Bolt Prospects staff voted unanimously to trim the Top-25 rankings to 20 for the first time in the history of the site. Make no mistake, the decision is an indictment of what we saw from the Lightning's prospects in 2006-2007. There are passengers in this organization, and we suspect several of them will begin to be culled from the organizational roster during the off season. The rankings are also an indictment of the promising class of young rookie forwards who failed so spectacularly to make an impact in their pro debuts. On the bright side though, they also show the strength the organization has developed at the goaltending and defenseman positions. Of our top ten prospects, only one (Blair Jones) is a forward, while four are goaltenders and five are blueliners.
So, without further adieu, here are the Bolt Prospects 2006-2007 Final Rankings. They are the last of a year we'd rather forget and a starting point on the way to 2007-2008, a new season and a new affiliation with Norfolk of the AHL that we hope will bring redemption for some of the organization's young talent.