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.
Added a new link today to contracts up on the primary links bar above. This page is a storehouse for contract information about players in the organization, and initially contains the lists of upcoming restricted and unrestricted free agents.
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.
For anyone who is wondering, here was Red Line Report's take on defenseman Ty Wishart heading into the 2006 draft. Wishart was ranked the 16th best prospect in the draft class by Red Line, and here is what they had to say:
Cookie & Steve
Say it ain't so about our guy Danny