Now that the new affiliation agreement between the Lightning and the Norfolk Admirals is in place, I want to take this opportunity to welcome Ads fans to Bolt Prospects. I've seen a lot of questions being asked around the internet about the Lightning's minor league system and their previous affiliations in the AHL. I would encourage anyone who has questions to poke around Bolt Prospects. Check the blog archives for stories and game reviews. And, by all means, feel free to register here at Bolt Prospects and talk to the growing community of Lightning fans.
For those wanting to know even more, I would recommend spending some time here on Bolt Prospects thumbing through the player profiles on the Prospects page. Bolt Prospects prides itself on having the most complete and most detailed Lightning prospect profiles on the internet and we're the only site on the web that conducts evaluations of a team's prospects three times a season, so we think we've developed a very valuable source of Lightning prospect information.
For those wanting to know where the Lightning minor league system is going, I think it's important to look at it's past. With that in mind, I would point you toward this article I wrote in May of 2003 prior to the Lightning's full affiliation with Springfield which details the team's history of minor league affiliations. Although I'm loathe to point any web traffic toward Hockeys Future, to my knowledge the article is the most complete history on the Lightning's minor league system.
Finally, for those looking for information about who the Lightning might be bringing into the system for next season's team, I would suggest taking a look at one of our prior blog posts here on Bolt Prospects which speculates on eight possible additions to the organization once the summer hits. While it is just speculation at this point, I think it's a decent starting point as a primer for the offseason to come. And, with the exception of one addendum I would make in that we have learned the Lightning are making a run at signing goaltender Vasily Koshechkin this summer, I think it's pretty complete.
In closing, I'd just like to add one thing about the Lightning organization and their minor league operation. A lot of negative things have been written about the Lightning's affiliation in Springfield over the past three years. Much of it is probably fair because although I honestly believe the Lightning's minor league system has improved greatly over that time period, especially in terms of their talent level, the results did not come in Springfield. But, while it is true to say the team's youngsters have underperformed over the past three years (especially this year), it's not true to say the Lightning don't care about their developmental system or about winning at the AHL level. Over the past three years Jay Feaster and the Lightning have invested heavily to acquire numerous veteran free agents to try and help the Falcons and in a proven winning coach in the AHL in Steve Stirling. We cannot promise that the transition to our organization and our system of play will be pain free and easy. Obviously it hasn't been over the past few years in Springfield. But, I can promise that the Lightning organization will always put forth an honest effort to make the Admirals a winner and to acheive the ultimate long term goal of winning championships at the AHL level.
According to an article in tomorrowâ€™s Virginian Pilot, the Norfolk Admirals will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. Thursday at which they are expected to announce that the Tampa Bay Lightning will be their new NHL affiliate.
The Lightning will fill the void created last Monday when the Chicago Blackhawks, the Admirals' NHL partner for the past seven years, announced a 10-year AHL agreement with Rockford, Ill., beginning with the 2007-08 season.
Tampa Bay and Springfield (Mass.), the Lightning's current AHL affiliate, exercised an "out" clause and mutually agreed to terminate their deal with two years remaining. Springfield promptly agreed to a three-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers.
For more information, see: Admirals Expected to Affiliate with NHLâ€™s Tampa Bay Lightning
There will be a news conference scheduled for 2:00 Thursday in Norfolk. Looks like we're getting married!
I've made the executive decision, in light of the Lightning and Falcons dissolving their affiliation agreement, to not name a Prospect of the Week for 3/12 through 3/18. I would instead like to use this opportunity to salute the Springfield Falcons' fans. Things may not have ended the way the Lightning and the Falcons had hoped, but there's no doubting the class of the Springfield fans and the role that Springfield has played in already putting 4 Lightning prospects full time into the NHL (Ranger, Artyukhin, Craig and Tarnasky).
Credit to Bolt Prospects member Mark for bringing this up in comments...
Fran Sypek writes on the Springfield Republican blog that the Springfield Falcons have called a Monday press conference to announce the team is dissolving their affiliation with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization to form a new one with the Edmonton Oilers. Sypek speculates the press conference means the Lightning have finalized a deal with the Norfolk Admirals to be the Lightning's affiliate next season, given that a precondition of the out clause of the recent deal signed between the Lightning and Falcons was that the Lightning needed to have a deal in place with another franchise to nullify the contract.