Pete Choquette's blog

Upcoming Graduations

A quick update for anyone interested in upcoming prospect graduations...

Karri Ramo needs just 6 more decisions to graduate from prospect status according to our site's criteria.

Matt Smaby needs just 11 more games this season to graduate.

Noah Welch needs just 13 more games this season to graduate.

The Lightning have exactly 13 games remaining on their schedule. Bolt Prospects will issue its Final Rankings for the 2008-2009 season following the conclusion of all prospects' playoff seasons, and with prospects like Dustin Tokarski, James Wright, and Luca Cunti possibly poised to make some deep runs, it may be a while. Expect significant changes at the top of the list, though, with two of the only four prospects ever to hold the #1 spot (Stamkos and Downie being the other two) on our rankings likely to graduate by year's end. And then there's the playoffs...

It should be fun.

Remembering Bill Davidson

Tragically, the Lightning had a death in the family this week, as former owner Bill Davidson passed away at the age of 86. Davidson, who built a billion dollar business, sports and entertainment empire, won three NBA championships with the Detroit Pistons, one NHL championship with the Lightning, one IHL championship with the Detroit Vipers, and three WNBA championships with the Detroit Shock. In short, Davidson left a tradition of success wherever he went, whether it was in building his family's glass company into a global giant, or building the Palace of Auburn Hills without a dime of public money.

I don't know if I'm the best person to write about Bill Davidson, because I always got the impression from watching Davidson that if you locked he and I in a room we probably wouldn't have agreed about anything: politics, business, sports, etc. Then again, maybe that makes me the perfect person to write about Davidson's impact on the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise, because I've never really viewed Davidson through the lens of doe-eyed admiration or sentimentality.

Did I have disagreements with the way Davidson ran the Lightning? Sure. I especially had disagreements with the trust he places in Palace Sports and Entertainment executive Tom Wilson who, in a fit of PR genius, was quoted in the Detroit papers the day after Davidson bought the Lightning as claiming PS&E didn't care about the hockey team and only was interested in turning the then Ice Palace and the parcels of land surrounding it into a profit generating machine. Davidson ran the Lightning with a patience, coolness, and dispassion that, in my mind, surely came from being an owner who wasn't from Tampa and probably always viewed the Lightning as a stepchild to his beloved Pistons. Some of his budget decisions probably prolonged the time it took for the Lightning to rebuild, and the faith he also placed in some of the former hockey operations people from his Detroit Vipers probably also prolonged the time that Lightning fans had to suffer watching last place hockey.

But, with that said, I can't argue that Bill Davidson didn't improve the condition of the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise immeasurably in the time that he owned it. It's also inarguable, in my mind, that the franchise has slid backwards, to a degree, since he sold the team. Davidson and his PS&E management brought professionalism and real-world experience to a franchise that had been nothing short of a zoo in the years that it was owned by Japanese consortium Kokusai, and flamboyant braggart Art Williams. He might have done it at a slow and steady pace, but he brought a championship to a Lightning team that only managed two playoff wins in all the preceeding years before he bought the club.

That, ultimately, is the only objective way we can measure a man's success in his life's endeavors, whether they're in his family, his business, or in a multi-million dollar sports franchise. Did you leave it better off than when you came into it? Bill Davidson left the Lightning better off than when he gained control of the team, turning it from one of the NHL's longest running jokes into a team that, for a time, was touted as the very model of how a franchise should be run in a small, Southern market. That's the legacy Bill Davidson left behind, and that's why this writer and everyone at Bolt Prospects extends our condolences to the family and friends of Bill Davidson on this sad day. And, that's why, no matter what happens, the Davidson family will always have a place in the Tampa Bay Lightning family.

"High Profile Busts"

Memo to Hockey's Future: when a 5th round pick and a 6th round pick don't pan out, that's not a "high profile bust."

Your pals,
The Bolt Prospects Staff

P.S. Alexandre Pic(k)ard is an Ottawa Senator. Better luck next time.

Uneasy Anticipation

After a flurry of activity earlier this summer, the Lightning's offseason has finally slowed down. So, I think this is a good time to take stock of everything that has happened so far. There has never been a time in Lightning history where both the roster, the coaching staff, and front office of this franchise has changed so dramatically. The incredible multi-dimensional makeover of the Tampa Bay Lightning has rightfully generated a lot of interest in the upcoming season, and a lot of credit has to be given to OK Hockey on that account. It's not always easy to generate a significant buzz for a team that finished dead last in the NHL last season, and it's a credit to this group's salesmanship that the trade of two of four members of the ex "Fantastick Four" (Brad Richards and Dan Boyle) hasn't been accompanied with a sense of doom in the fan base.

That said, I think anyone with unbridled optimism for the Lightning this coming season needs to ratchet down expectations to a more reasonable level. The simple truth is that OK Hockey has made several risky moves and the outcome of those moves won't be known for months. What we should all be left with, I think, is what I would deem an "uneasy anticipation" for the coming season.

Lightning Not Done On Defense/Feaster Out?

Apparently the local media got some face time with new-GM-in-waiting Brian Lawton this afternoon, and Erik Erlendsson reports on his blog that Lawton is not done tweaking the Lightning's blueline, contrary to earlier talk by Len Barrie that the team was done making moves. Thank goodness. The corps, as currently constituted on paper, is softer than a stick of butter left out in the sun and greener than the Incredible Hulk. The Lightning desperately need a veteran stay-at-home thumper capable of playing a minimum of 18-20 minutes a night. They need a defenseman who, if nothing else, Coach Melrose can throw out on the shift after goals or on the penalty kill in momentum-changing scenarios to keep the game from tilting against them. They also need that player to have a more physical edge to move players out from in front of Mike Smith and Olaf Kolzig's crease. Forwards like Jussi Jokinen or Michel Ouellet are rumored to be the bait.

Lawton also cleared up questions regarding last year's assistant coaches Mike Sullivan and Jeff Reese. Both are still under contract but are actively seeking work elsewhere.

Claude Loiselle and Tom Kurvers will split Assistant GM duties. Loiselle will handle contract issues while Kurvers will be more active in player personnel decisions.

And finally, in sadder news, rumors continue to crescendo that GM Jay Feaster is about to have the final three years of his contract bought out so he can depart the organization.

And the shoes keep dropping.

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