The Syracuse Crunch will open training camp on September 28 with more talent than they originally expected. The NHL lockout forced the postponement of the Lightning’s training camp and subsequently meant all prospects and young NHLers expected to start the year in Tampa will now start the year in the AHL.
While that’s bad news for the Tampa Bay media and fans, it’s good news for the Syracuse fan base, who at this point is like a kid with a birthday the day after Christmas. Not only does a championship team show up at their arena’s front door, now they get a significant upgrade in talent to a team that was already expected to compete for a championship.
This is also good news for the Florida Everblades – another team coming off a championship – as they’ll get the players pushed down from Syracuse.
The question is who?
Here’s a look at the latest minor pro organizational roster of the Tampa Bay Lightning and some notes and predictions for each player, broken down by position.
TAMPA BAY - The Tampa Bay Lightning have renewed their affiliation agreement with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL today, assistant general manager Julien BriseBois announced. Florida will continue to serve as the Lightningâ€™s primary ECHL affiliate and they will provide the Everblades with players under both NHL and AHL contracts.
â€œWe are very happy to continue our partnership with the Florida Everblades,â€ BriseBois said. â€œThe Everblades and their management have a strong track record of providing a winning environment for our prospects to develop in and we look forward to helping them win another Kelly Cup."
It's been a day since the Norfolk Admirals hoisted the Calder Cup for the first time. The amazing thing about championships is that they're a shared milestone in the lives of, really, thousands, between the players, coaches, staff, and fans. Those journeys often contain compelling stories that make the triumph worth that journey. For Jon Cooper, it was about closing down his law practice to coach his way from Michigan high school hockey, to the USHL to working with Hockey USA, to a 2 season sprint to glory in the AHL. For Cory Conacher, it was about not being drafted and playing hockey at off-the-beaten path Canisius, dealing with diabetes, and earning an NHL contract in March of an MVP season before posting 4 assists in the championship clinching Calder Cup Finals game.
The stories of the players and the coaches are the ones we'll read about in the coming months and years, and they should be. When the Lightning made their Stanley Cup run in 2003-2004 and were playing the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals, John Tortorella refused to fire back at Ken Hithcock's remarks about "Italians from Boston," because Torts rightfully understood, "It's about the athletes." Ultimately, they're the ones who score the goals and make the saves. They sacrifice their bodies and take the stitches and they take the slings and arrows if they lose. Ultimately, it's their moment, and to a lesser extent the moments of their families who supported them in the journey up to those moments. The hockey moms and dads who woke up at 6:00 am to drive their kids to games. Scratching together money for skates and ridiculously expensive composite sticks. The wives and significant others who live with the players and coaches through the disappointments and the frustrations, and live in fear of moments when things can go wrong, like when slap shots can hit a man in the ear at 90 miles an hour, similar to what happened to Scott Jackson.
Less compelling, perhaps, is the story of an organization, but, these are stories can be worth telling, too... especially in this case. We started beta testing Bolt Prospects in 2004-2005, one year after the Lightning's Cup win, in the heart of the NHL lockout. That year was also the first year since the Detroit Vipers of the IHL folded after the 2000-2001 season that the Lightning had a full-time minor league affiliate: the Springfield Falcons. Absent a full-time affiliate, it became clear the Lightning would struggle to maintain their spot on top of the hockey mountain, because split affiliates would not give prime ice time and coaching help to another organization's players. That problem prompted the start of an 8 year process for the Lightning that ended in building what must be considered the sport's preeminent developmental apparatus with the Norfolk Admirals' Calder Cup championship and the Florida Everblades' Kelly Cup Championship.
This season Bolt Prospects introduced our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their on-ice contributions.
We wanted to highlight prospects throughout the year to help fans get better acquainted with the next round of Lightning stars while recognizing the prospectâ€™s achievement on the ice.
These three Lightning prospects helped the Florida Everblades to their first Kelly Cup championship last Wednesday when the â€˜Blades topped the Las Vegas Wranglers, 3-2, on an overtime goal by rookie Brendan MacLean.
(W3) Las Vegas Wranglers 2 @ (E5) Florida Everblades 3 (OT)
Kelly Cup Finals â€“ Florida wins best of 7 series 4-1
D Charles Landry, FLA: 0-0-0, +1, 2 SOG, 0 PIM
Playoff Totals: 11 GP, 1-2-3, +7, 5 PIM
Season Totals: 35 GP, 2-7-9, +5, 10 PIM
D Sebastien Piche, FLA: 0-0-0, E, 2 SOG, 11 PIM (tripping, fighting, roughing)
Playoff Totals: 18 GP, 2-9-11, +10, 51 PIM
Season Totals: 16 GP, 3-7-10, +2, 41 PIM
D Kevin Quick, FLA: 0-0-0, +1, 0 SOG, 2 PIM (roughing)
Playoff Totals: 16 GP, 1-3-4, +4, 12 PIM
Season Totals: 33 GP, 0-10-10, -6, 4 PIM (Norfolk property)
G Pat Nagle, FLA: Did not play (backup)
Playoff Totals: 6 GP, 4-1-0, 1.42 GAA, .941 sv%, 2 SO
Season Totals: 39 GP, 20-14-0-3, 2.87 GAA, .905 sv%, 1 SO
Florida won their first Kelly Cup championship on Wednesday night when rookie Brandon MacLean scored early in overtime on a two-on-one to defeat the Las Vegas Wranglers, 3-2. MacLean is a former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound who recently completed four years at Carleton University in Canada. He only played 13 regular season games for the â€˜Blades.
Florida jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but eventually allowed Las Vegas to tie the game in the third period before MacLean played hero. Former Lightning draft pick and current Norfolk Admirals property Kevin Quick had a strong defensive play in overtime that eventually led to the winning goal. Lightning prospect Charles Landry played at least one shift in overtime and Sebastien Piche was among the top minute eaters for the â€˜Blades all night on the blueline.
The Everblades had made the finals two previous times, but this is their first championship. Carolina prospect John Muse, who stopped 41 of 43 shots to get the win in Game 5, was named playoff MVP. Lightning prospect Pat Nagle filled in for him against Elmira and played well, including earning two shutouts. He played twice against Kalamazoo, winning Game 1, but dropping Game 2. He was replaced by Muse in Game 3.
Lightning prospect Alex Hutchings was an alternate captain for much of the season for Florida, but earned a promotion to AHL Norfolk and has been with the Admirals for the last few months.
Congratulations to the Florida Everblades, 2011-2012 Kelly Cup Champions.
(Woody Wommack/Naples News photo)