Jones: Rogers/O'Brien at Head of the Line?

In Tom Jones' [url=http://www.sptimes.com/2006/07/03/Lightning/Sydor_traded_back_to_.shtml]article on the trade of Darryl Sydor[/url] he suggests rookies [url=andy-rogers]Andy Rogers[/url] or [url=doug-obrien]Doug O'Brien[/url] might be in line for a job in Tampa next season. However, GM Jay Feaster still hopes to acquire another veteran defenseman for close to the league minimum of $450,000. Obviously, the shedding of Sean Burke and his $1.6 million dollar salary would significantly improve Feaster's chances of landing another third pairing defenseman to round out the team's roster.

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young d-men

I'm not opposed to bringing in proven talent, but I'd really like to see one of the "project defensemen" Feaster's been stockpiling the last 3-4 years step up. We saw what happened with Ranger this year, and while he's more the exception than the rule, putting another young guy back there playing 10-15 min might jumpstart the rest of the d-men. getting some young legs in the lineup like O'Brien or (don't hold your breath) Rogers could spark the lineup a bit and bring some legitimacy to the last few drafts.

Helbling?

So what's the deal with Helbling? Are we letting him go? And based on what we saw last season when O'Brien was called up into the lineup, I think I'd rather take my chances on Smaby to make the team.

O'Brien

In my opinion, what you saw from O'Brien was typical for a rookie. What was atypical was Ranger, who came up and was arrogant/confident enough to hit the ice and play his game and whatever would happen let happen. O'Brien played tentative, tried not to make a mistake, and thought too much. All dangerous - but expected from a rookie. Feaster really likes O'Brien and OB has a little offense to offer if he can gain that confidence. Give him some more experience and he's likely a different player. He's at that stage where he's ready to take the next step. Some don't take it, some do.

O'Brien

My fear with O'Brien is that it took half a season for him to make the adjustment from junior hockey to the AHL. I don't think the Lightning can afford to have him making mistakes on the job for 30-40 games if he's going to continue to look that hesitant. He's got to prove the adjustment won't take that long in camp. Helbling's lack of upper body strength concerns me. He plays a lot softer than advertised. Ultimately I want to see Smaby, Rogers or Egener step up right now. The Lightnig still haven't replaced Cullimore's physical presence and one of those three guys could do that, particularly Smaby.

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