Pete Choquette's blog
At the start of the week I blogged about a number of questions about the Lightning's prospects that would begin to be answered at the Traverse City tournament. Unfortunately, half way through the tournament, the early reviews are not good:
Just some quick thoughts of mine going into this week's tournament:
First off, Bolt Prospects apologizes for being down last night. Unfortunately we had some technical difficulties with the ISP that our server runs on that took about 12 hours to remedy. The site is up and running again now and we don't foresee any related problems in the near future.
Second, stay tuned to Bolt Prospects over the next few weeks as we are expecting to get a glimpse at the preliminary roster for the Traverse City prospect tournament pretty soon.
With all of that out of the way, the flurry of free agent signings that came in the first three weeks of July seems to have subsided. The team now has 47 players under contract that will count against the 50-man roster limit, with Ryan Craig remaining to be signed who will be the 48th. For the most part the roster is set, which offers the opportunity to speculate on how the Lightning's organizational roster and lines will look at the NHL, AHL and ECHL level.
We're going to switch gear and do something a little fun over the next week or two. One of the next features we're going to have on the site, now that we've released our 15th season All-Time Lightning Team is to create the All-Time Lightning All-Dog Team. We're going to go back through 14 seasons of Lightning hockey to reminisce on some of the worst players ever to wear the bolt and we need your help in crafting the list.
Here's the rules:
1.) You can't nominate any player whose rights are currently held by the Lightning. We're not looking to poison morale in the present, just to look back fondly on some of the bad old days. Sorry Tim Taylor haters, take it down the road.
2.) Whoever you nominate has to have played at least 10 games in a Lightning jersey. You lucked out Mario Larocque.
In the end we hope to have 12 awful forwards, 1 punchless enforcer, 6 defenseless defensemen and 2 sieve-like goaltenders. Nominees will be graded by the Bolt Prospects staff based on only the most unscientific of criteria, the foremost of which will be the shear stench they emitted while on the rink.
Don't feel like you have to give us all 22 players. Individual nominations are actually preferred. Use this blog thread to nominate who you think was the biggest mutt in Lightning history and give us a paragraph on why you think that player should be thrown in the pound. Then, keep checking Bolt Prospects over the next couple of weeks to see if we put your pooch on the list.
Since the Lightning's new logo unofficially leaked on the internet a couple of days ago there's been a groundswell of outrage in the Lightning fan base. I hate to divert from the primary focus of the website which is covering prospects to talk about fashion issues, but seeing as this is the identity of the franchise we're talking about, I understand why passions are riding high amongst the fan base. And, seeing as Erik Erlendsson posted it on his blog, I figured he gives us professional cover to do so as well.
In my opinion, the logo itself isn't terrible. The font on the text is tragically cartoonish though, like they came straight out of the old Batman television series and Adam West and Burt Ward just "Bam, splat, bort, biffed, Tampa Bayed" a bad guy. It's HORRIBLE. It's way too childish and too kitschey. It's hard to take that logo seriously as a result.
For my money I've always loved the Lightning's secondary logo with the silhouette of the state in the background. I've always thought that was the classiest part of the Lightning's uniform. Give me jet black jerseys (like the Springfield Falcons' home jerseys with some simple blue trim around the waist, maybe even have the same white old school lace ties in the front too), jet black pants with the lightning bolts on the side, and jet black socks and switch the primary and secondary logos in order on the hierarchy and that's the uniform I would want. Simple, elegant, fierce. You know when they say "(Insert name of color here) is the new black." When they say that I always wonder why not just go ahead with black? It worked for Spinal Tap with their album cover on Smell the Glove did it not?
Kidding aside, what do you all think? The new logo designs are posted after the jump.
Long time readers of the website know that the staff here at Bolt Prospects has a bit of a chequered past with that other hockey prospects website, Hockeysfuture. Without getting to deep into the specifics, after years of myself, Chad and Tim working the Lightning page on that website we as a group had a falling out with management over what seemed to us to be obvious bias in their decision making process against us and the Lightning's prospects. It wasn't something that happened overnight and we didn't leave all at once but eventually Tim had the idea to start a blog and we seized on it and started making plans. The rest, as they say, is history.
Long time readers of this website also know that we've never been afraid to call out Hockeysfuture for what we've seen as continuing bias in the product over at that website. One of the most obvious points of contention we had with HF was their refusal for almost two years to assign a writer to cover the Lightning's prospects. It wasn't until shortly after the Lightning internet community responded strongly to an incident in which a high ranking HF writer called prospects Blair Jones and Justin Keller trash and Bolt Prospects' subsequent smackdown of said writer that HF finally conceded and assigned longtime writer and all around standup guy Phil Laugher to cover the team's prospects. Laugher earned his street cred with the Lightning fan base when he apologized publicly to Lightning fans about a year prior when HF released a set of rankings that had NHL regular Paul Ranger 9th in the organization, soon-to-be NHL regular Nick Tarnasky 19th in the organization, and Keller and Russian superprospect Vasily Koshechkin out of the rankings altogether.
Under Laugher, it has been our website's opinion that the product on HF has improved by leaps and bounds. Considering he's been struggling upstream against an online editor who clearly has ulterior motives, their site has actually become tolerable over the last year. As such, we've had an unofficial truce with HockeysFuture over the past 14 or so months. Unfortunately, Phil didn't write the horribly divorced from reality draft review HF just put out for the Lightning, a piece so bad I got multiple e-mails from the Bolt Prospects staff within moments of their reading it. Considering their strong negative reaction to the article, I'm afraid we as a site have to respond.
Now, admittedly I have no idea who Elisa Hatch is. And let me just say ahead of time, it's not her fault Hockeysfuture's editors and management decided to put her in a difficult situation and its not her fault they offered her so little editorial support in the course of writing this article. Nearest as I can tell this is Hatch's first solo article at HF and unfortunately, without knowledgable editors who actually care about the subject matter, the quality of the work suffered.
Bottom line: several of the contentions of the article are diametrically opposed to the professional opinions of several reputable scouting outlets including the Lightning's scouting staff, THN, Red Line Report and the NHL Central Scouting Service. You don't have to take it from us that the article is flawed. Take it from those other professionals.
According to Randy from AdmiralsZone.com in the comments, the AHL and PHPA have ratified the sixth veteran rule. Randy also clarifies the rule noting the 6th veteran will have less than 320 games of experience, not greater than. Karl Stewart and Bryce Lampman would both fit in under this sixth veteran rule.
Thanks to everyone for being patient with me while I get schooled up on these rules.
With the flurry of free agent signings and trades aimed toward stocking up the Norfolk Admirals roster over the last week, I think we've all had some questions about how the Lightning/Admirals will navigate around the AHL's veteran rule. I, admittedly, still didn't know the ins and outs of the rule as early as about a week ago. Thankfully, several of the Admirals fans have pointed out some of the intricacies of the rules and how the Admirals are indeed going to be able ice all this new talent they've accumlated recently.
First, here is how the rule was in effect last season. According to TheAHL.com, teams were allowed to use up to five players with 260 or more games of experience at the IHL/AHL/NHL or European elite league level at the start of the season. Goaltenders are exempt from the veteran rule. ECHL games do not count against the veteran rule.
For this season, according to rumors, the AHL/PHPA are expected to expand the AHL's veteran rule to include a sixth veteran with less than 320 games of experience at the IHL/AHL/NHL or European elite league level.
So where do the Lightning's recent signings fall in terms of games played? The following players will count against the Lightning's six veteran slots:
Remind me next year to order Red Line three weeks before draft day instead of two...
Anyway, looking through Red Line's draft guide there are a lot of positives for the Lightning coming out of this draft. Here's how they had the picks the Lightning took rated and, where given, the short blurb about each:
#30 Dana Tyrell: "Love his speed, smarts, and competitiveness."
#54 Luca Cunti: "It's a team game, Luca. It's not all about you."
#62 Alexander Killorn: "Blazing fast playmaker. Stock rising like gas prices."
#100 Mitch Fadden: "Dynamic scorer should've been taken last year."
#160 Matt Marshall: "Bull in a china shop, but has no hands or finesse."
#207 Torrie Jung
#290 Michael Ward
NR Johan Harju
NR Justin Courtnall
Asked about the quality of hockey in Switzerland, controversial Lightning draft pick Luca Cunti had this to say in the St. Pete Times:
Center and third-round pick Luca Cunti doesn't think much of hockey in his Swiss homeland. Asked about the country's developmental program, he said, "It's not better. That's why I want to come here."
Right answer. I don't think this young man is quite the coach killing punk some have made him out to be. I think he's bored playing inferior opponents in Swiss Junior A and the NLB which isn't even the top Swiss leage. He's looking for a challenge, and that's what you want from this guy: the desire to get better. So much was made about whether or not Luca would come to North America but if you look at everything the young man has said he is talking in very specific and very concrete terms about pursuing his career over here. Good. Being in the right frame of mind is a big hurdle for Cunti to get over and it looks like he might get there. The next step is to prove he can play North American hockey in the CHL or USHL and not get his helmet fed to him.
Entering the draft the Lightning's prospects of filling their organizational needs at forward looked so bleak the local media was printing stories that were already ratcheting down expectations. The team had no first round pick. It might not have had a second round pick if the Panthers had exercised the option they gained in the Chris Gratton trade. 2007 looked like a throwaway draft. Yet for some strange reason I actually had a good feeling about this draft because there were parallels to the 2002 draft. You'll recall in 2002, Jay Feaster's first draft as the head of the Bolts, the team dealt off its #4 overall pick in the controversial Ruslan Fedotenko deal and then dealt off a second round pick for defenseman Brad Lukowich leaving the team with a lone second round pick as their only selection in the first three rounds. And, like this year's draft, 2002 was panned as a poor draft class with the exception of the first 4 or 5 picks.
2002 was the finest hour of the Lightning's scouts during the Jay Feaster era even despite stubbing their toe with Adam Henrich with their first selection. They succeeded by outworking the rest of the league that day. Most of the other scouting staffs in the NHL were so sour on that draft class they didn't even want to deal with the later rounds of the draft. Carolina practically gave away a bundle of picks to the Lightning because there were no more players they wanted left on their list. And so the much maligned Lightning scouting staff crafted a working man's masterpiece almost entirely from round six on: Paul Ranger, Fredrik Norrena and Ryan Craig are all NHL regulars. Darren Reid has seen time in the league each of the last two seasons. Vasily Koshechkin is considered perhaps the best goaltending prospect in all of Russia. The team thought outside the box. They took overagers (Craig). They turned over rocks to find players (Koshechkin). They gambled on players who might not have played much during the year but had the skills and upside to warrant taking a flyer (Ranger). They haven't had a draft that good since.
Something about the challenge of making something out of nothing makes this Lightning staff rise to the occassion, and while I can't guarantee that the 2007 draft will pan out as well as that 2002 draft, there's reason to be very optimistic. The philosophy was different for this draft, but the work ethic wasn't and when Ottawa practically gave away a bundle of three picks for a spare 4th round pick today the comparisons to 2002 became even stronger. I liked what I saw today.