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Cleaning Up Hockey's Future

Dear Hockey's Future,

Some thoughts about your new prospect rankings for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the overall shape of your coverage:

There are things we can have subjective differences about, and those are OK. Time will bear out the quality of a writer's subjective opinions. But then there are things that are objective facts, like who an organization still holds the rights to, that aren't up for debate.

For instance, Johan Harju is playing for Lulea in the Elitserien this season. He doesn't have an NHL contract and he won't be knocking on the door of cracking the Lightning out of camp. Mitch Fadden has been completely cut loose by the organization since his "automobile incident," shall we say? Martins Karsums isn't playing in the NCAA, although we do hear that Dynamo Riga of the KHL does have an excellent Latvian Studies program. And, Levi Nelson did not receive a qualifying offer from the Lightning this summer and will not be back with the team.

These are objective facts, and when you can't get basic objective details correct, you undermine your credibility from the beginning when the time comes to shift gears to subjective evaluations.

Speaking of which, we also have subjective points of disagreement with those rankings, which we would argue are the worst Hockey's Future has put out in about 5-6 years when you guys were leaving prospects like Karri Ramo out of your top-20 altogether.

Is Dustin Tokarski a worse prospect than Harju, after his return to Europe, or an undrafted free agent signee like Tyler Johnson? Erm, no. That's not to say it's a total stretch to put Johnson in the top-10 (we have him at 11 right now), given his junior and Team USA plaudits, but anyone who saw Tokarski in the second half of last season after Cedrick Desjardins went down saw a young, workhorse goaltender who had even better plaudits in junior hockey and with Team Canada. This young man's a heartbeat away from being on the Lightning roster should anything happen to Dwayne Roloson or Mathieu Garon, and it seems bizarre to have him at just 13th in the organization behind a player like Harju who statistically is unlikely to come back to North America now that he's gone back to Lulea.

Should Adam Janosik and Geoffrey Schemitsch really have been held out of the top-20 of their list in favor of a marginal checking line prospect like Brendan O'Donnell, a guy who was a USHL backup last season in Adam Wilcox, and an overage draftee like Ondrej Palat? That's not to say these three prospects don't have the opportunity to be more, particularly Wilcox, in the future. But, Janosik's been a top pairing fixture for Slovakia in recent junior tournaments and played well in those tournaments and in the QMJHL and Head Amateur Scout Darryl Plandowski called Schemitsch one of the Lightning's 10 best prospects in THN's last Future Watch issue despite his injury-plagued 2010-2011 campaign. As with most things we have subjective disagreements about, you don't have to take our word for it. There are scouts and scouting services who have the same opinions.

We'd also make the argument that Matthew Peca is a better prospect in his sleep than O'Donnell is awake after 3 cups of coffee (hence why multiple OHL and QMJHL teams fought for the right to add him to their rosters), but I understand the appeal of O'Donnell's situation at North Dakota over Peca going to a marginal ECAC program at Quinnipiac. Still, Peca falls into the same category of guys with Tokarski and Janosik who were rated around 100 in their draft seasons by, for instance, Red Line Report who HockeysFuture seem to discount because they went in the 5th round or after. These prospects clearly have more upside than the typical late round draft pick, though, and deserve a more critical eye in evaluation, and, again, you don't have to take our word for it because at least one scouting service also says so.

Bottom line, you guys need to step up your game. Part of the reason BoltProspects was founded was that we felt fans were getting poor information from Hockey's Future and there needed to be some other outlet to keep you accountable. At the risk of giving you something that could be interpreted as praise, which we're loathe to do, there's been improvement over the years. But, this last round of rankings is the worst I've seen since about 2005 and is a huge step backwards and the team page on Hockey's Future just continues to get worse with its lack of updates and corrected information. When people Google the name of a Lightning prospect, the links to both our websites come up toward the top in the search, and we're never pleased if your link has incorrect information. We want Lightning fans to be the best informed fans in the NHL about their prospects, and because we can't force everyone who hops on the internet to come here, we have to push other major websites like Hockey's Future to improve their quality, too, if we're going to meet that goal.

Take this as an honest critique and not a personal attack, and make it right.

Sincerely,
Your Pals at BoltProspects.com

Prospect Season Starts Next Week

With the passing of August, the summer is on its decline, and hockey season is almost here in North America. But, in Europe, preseason games are already being played and the regular season is set to begin next week. On Thursday, slick scoring prospect Nikita Kucherov and CSKA will square off against perennial league power Magnitogorsk in their season opener in the Russian KHL. A week later, on 9/15, action starts in the Finnish SM-liiga where Riku Helenius and JYP will open against KalPa. That day also marks the start of the Swedish Elitserien where Johan Harju and Lulea will face Vaxjo.

Southeast Division Depth Charts

We're well into the offseason now, with the draft and free agent frenzy behind us. While some teams will make various tweaks and possible additions before training camp begins in two months, the cores of the division's rosters are set.

I looked at the updated depth charts on Forecaster.ca today to see how the division is looking, and how the competition stacks up for against Lightning. While these are not the exact lines for the respective clubs, they give you a pretty good idea of the structure of each teams. Again, these are not exact lines, but the depth charts as Forecaster lists them.

Congratulations to the Boston Bruins

Congratulations to the Boston Bruins on their victory in Game 7 tonight. I didn't think the Bruins had much of a chance going into this season and, on paper, their victory certainly seemed an impossibility once they lost one of their top line forwards, Nathan Horton, to injury for the series. But, games aren't played on paper, and the Bruins were able to get the Canucks so far out of their character that by the end of the series the Canucks looked like a shadow of the team that won the President's Trophy.

As a Tampa Bay Lightning fan, it makes the 1-0 Game 7 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals sting that much more. I'll probably go to my grave believing that with one more day's worth of rest the Lightning would've had enough in the tank to take the Bruins out. And, to see how poorly Vancouver played in this series, it's hard not to think the Lightning might very well have been the team lifting the Stanley Cup at the end of this series had they just had the chance to play for it. It's a thought that hurts badly, but it's also a thought that makes me anxious for next season and I suspect will motivate the Lightning's players returning for next year to know it was that close and to take care of the business that was left unfinished.

Former Lightning Forward Fredrik Modin Retires

Yes, Damian.

The only other player even close to as underrated in Lightning history is probably Jassen Cullimore, in my humble opinion.

Lost Photo Shows Mysterious Fan in Crowd

The Boston Bruins have reportedly removed their signs directed at Lightning fans, something we at Bolt Prospects never wanted to happen. If you believe in them, leave them. And we definitely think attacking the B's marketing department was not the best response.

Did we find the ones going after fans specifically offensive? Sure. Mostly because Lightning fans are tired of biases against ALL southern market teams and the myth that there are no fans in Tampa. We're not the Panthers. Check the stats, check the records, check out the fact the Lightning were a mere two spots behind Boston in average attendance this year (Boston was 16th - it's not our problem they play in a Lil' Tykes Funhouse). At any rate, here's one of the BP Forum's responses to their "Bigfoot. Loch Ness Monster. Lightning Fans." sign.

This photo was taken during the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004, in Game 7, a game the Lightning won 2-1 to claim the Stanley Cup. We'll provide a link here for fans of some teams that haven't seen one in a couple generations: Missing in Boston

If you have anything in response to the Bruin's signs, please post in our forum. The best ones will be moved to the front page.

Congratulations, Jay

The Calgary Flames today decided to remove the "Acting" tag from former Lightning General Manager Jay Feaster's title, naming him the team's full-time General Manager. BoltProspects has been very fortunate over the years to have the support and cooperation of many wonderful people in the sport of hockey, but none was as important or as generous in the early years of the website as Jay Feaster. He truly is one of the nicest and most honest people in professional sports today, and we wish him all the luck in the world in Calgary, with the obvious caveats when the Flames play the Lightning.

Congratulations, Jay.

BREAKING: Not Only is Bigfoot Real...

... he's a Lightning fan. And been one longer than most B's fans have liked the yellow and black, according to the Boston Globe.

(Thanks to ChaseSpace from our glorious messageboards for this photo of Bigfoot/Boltfoot/Mike Smith.)

Bruins Organization Stays Classy

Nevermind the fact the Lightning beat the Bruins in attendance 5 out of the last 8 seasons. Nevermind the fact the attendance spread was less than 300 per game between the two teams this year (yes, yes, we know the Bruins play their games in a shoebox that doesn't seat nearly as many people as the Forum). Nevermind the fact tickets for Game 3, Game 4, and Game 6 in Tampa sold out in minutes today. Congratulations to the Bruins marketing department for racing head long into the gutter by playing the elitist Northern hockey fan card, thereby reducing a proud Original Six franchise to the level of a third rate sports radio lunkhead trying to drum up ratings by appealing to the lowest common denominator.

No wonder Phil Esposito doesn't give a damn about Boston anymore. And remember, his sandwich has capicola on it, dirtbags, because he's the best.

It's on, now.

Time For the NHL to Find a New Poster Child

I realize the NHL has spent a lot of time and money in marketing Alexander Ovechkin as the Russian Magic Johnson to Sidney Crosby's Larry Bird. I also realize that Ovechkin is one of the 2 or 3 purest goal scorers in the NHL today, right along side the likes of the Lightning's own Steven Stamkos and the enigmatic Ilya Kovalchuk of the Devils. However, what I hope the Lightning's sweep of the Capitals proves to the hockey world, and whatever Madison Avenue agency is driving the NHL's marketing strategy, is that you cannot build one half of a league's marketing strategy around a player who simply does not play the game the right way and therefore cannot lead his team anywhere near a championship.

There's a lot that's been said about Ovechkin's "passion" for hockey and his "passion" for scoring goals. Is it a "passion" for hockey? Or is it a "passion" for drawing attention to Alexander Ovechkin? Is it a "passion" for scoring goals that causes this young man to disrespectfully show up his opponents every time he scores? Remember the hot stick? First off, let me say, I savor the fact that some of our guys like Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone were able to issue a check for payback, in full, for that disgusting act from just a little over 2 years ago. But let me also say, how asinine is it that a league builds half of its entire marketing strategy around a player who cares more about individual scoring accolades in the regular season, as shown by that stupid, choreographed routine in 2009, than he does about winning a championship?

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