Oh, to be Steve Yzerman.
NHL Hall of Famer, three-time Stanley Cup champ, multi-gold medalist, jersey in the Joe Louis Arena rafters, sharp dresser… you get the picture.
He’s also general manager of the Lightning, a team that currently resembles a snowbird in the far left lane of the Howard Johnson in rush hour trying to figure out this “GPX-Box” their grandson gave them. They have no idea what direction they’re going and can’t get out of their own way. And it’s annoying you, big time.
Oh, to be Steve Yzerman.
In a season not sabotaged by Gary Bettman, the Lightning would be going through an understandable December roller coaster with months of recovery time in front of them. It happens to every team in every season, but this 48-game season is obviously different.
Tampa Bay, like everyone else, began the year in the thick of a playoff race.
With the Lightning still trending down, if this was Toronto or Manhattan, perhaps firing the coach to right the ship would be the most logical choice to satisfy the masses holding pitchforks and torches.
Despite controlling the play for the first 40 minutes, the Syracuse Crunch entered the third period in a scoreless tie.
The Crunch led the Albany Devils in shots, 26-11, and rang several shots off the pipes behind netminder Jeff Frazee, but were unable to land the proverbial knockout blow.
Albany countered with a pair of goals one minute apart in the third to upend Syracuse, 3-1, at the Onondaga County War Memorial Friday night. The loss snaps an eight-game winning streak for the Crunch, who still pace the Eastern Conference with 74 points.
"I thought we played well enough to win, but we had a few mistakes that cost us," said Syracuse forward Brett Connolly. "That was the difference in the game."
With the NHL and NHLPA coming to an agreement last night, it’s time to take a peak at what the Lightning might look like when the season starts in a couple weeks.
I was asked on Twitter this week how I thought the Lightning would fare in a shortened season. My answer is three fold. It depends on:
2. Special teams
3. How quickly the team gels
Despite the large void the NHL lockout created, the hockey season is already long underway. Various amateur and professional leagues throughout North America and Europe have wrapped up their preseasons and are set to begin or are already in the thick of regular season action.
The Lightning's new AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, open their 2012-2013 season tonight with an impressive roster that boasts the nucleus of last season's Calder Cup-winning roster and an infusion of talent with varying professional experience: (J.T. Brown, Brett Connolly, Danick Gauthier, Riku Helenius, Dmitry Korobov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Jared Nightingale, Matt Taormina and J.T. Wyman). In the absence of big-league action, watching much of the (currently foreseeable) lifeblood of the Lightning's future skate and bond together is a much-welcomed tonic.
Brett Connolly, you may have noticed, has been a polarizing figure for some time now. From the day he was drafted, really, as his gum-chewing and detached demeanor during an interview rubbed some the wrong way. Subsequent appearances have not helped much to alleviate the general perception of Connolly as cold and aloof, the antithesis to the ebullient Steven Stamkos. Perhaps, too, the early returns Anaheim and Carolina have received from Cam Fowler and Jeff Skinner may have had some fans wondering if Yzerman chose the wrong kid in 2010. However, a lackluster personality and not developing as quickly as others can easily be forgiven.
That Connolly's immediate future within the Lightning organization has come into question, though, is mostly a result of his roller-coaster of a rookie season during which he seemed to spend more time plummeting than climbing. The late-season signings and professional debuts of J.T. Brown and Alex Killorn as well as AHL MVP Cory Conacher earning a contract are significant factors too, but the discussion truly begins and ends with Connolly's own performance, of which opinions seem to range from entirely disastrous to, at best, disappointing. The prescriptions vary, too, from calls to bury Connolly in Syracuse for at least a season, starting him there with the expectation he'll earn a call-up, having him battle for an available roster spot in training camp and even reserving one for him so as to avoid crushing his confidence.