Late tonight, after the conclusion of the Admirals' game against the Adirondack Phantoms, the Lightning and GM Brian Lawton announced that Head Coach Darren Rumble has been relieved of his duties. Assistant Coach Jim Johnson has been named the new Head Coach and Assistant Coach Leigh Mendelson will remain with the team. Rumble departs the Admirals, officially, with a 50-61-6-5 record in one and a half seasons with the team, although he unofficially assumed the role of Head Coach midway through the 2007-2008 season. Norfolk is currently 17-23-2 this season, which is last place in the AHL's East Division and six points out of a playoff spot.
In my mind, two things contributed to Brian Lawton's decision to make a move. First, although the Lightning have promoted several players to Tampa Bay this season, Norfolk returned a very deep roster dotted with numerous NHL and AHL veterans. While it may not have been fair to expect this team to be competing with Hershey for the division title, this roster probably should be in the thick of the pack in the East Division fighting for second or third, not in last place. The second factor is that, although some prospects like Blair Jones and Dustin Tokarski are having excellent seasons, some of the Lightning's most prized prospects have struggled, namely Matt Lashoff and Dana Tyrell.
The Admirals have got to win these close division games if they have any shot of climbing into the playoffs.
Jaroslav Janus allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the loss. It's the first time in four AHL starts this season that Janus has had a sub-.900 save percentage in a game. He has yet to taste victory as a pro despite his .919 season save percentage.
NOR Wishart, (5) (Jones, Parrish), 9:23 (PP)
ADK Kolanos, (8) (Matsumoto, Nodl), 13:54 (PP)
ADK Beaulieu, (2) (Klotz, Clackson), 10:20
ADK Matsumoto, (17) (Kolanos, Laliberte), 11:05
NOR Wishart, (6) (Jones, Janus), 11:16
Box score from TheAHL.com.
NORFOLK, Va. â€“ Norfolk Admirals and Tampa Bay Lightning prospect forward Blair Jones has been named to the Canadian AHL All-Star team for the 2010 Time Warner Cable AHL All-Star Classic to be played next week at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine. Jones will replace Admirals leading scorer Brandon Bochenski, who was named a starter to the PlanetUSA AHL All-Star team but is currently on NHL recall to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Jones, 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, has six goals and 13 assists in 27 games for the Admirals in 2009-10. Currently he is third on the team in assists and tied for fourth in points. The fourth-year pro has also played in 14 games with Tampa Bay this season, recording ten penalty minutes and averaging 12:50 in ice time per game.
Following up from a story from Monday, the Tampa Bay Lightning are reporting via Twitter that prospect forward Blair Jones has been reassigned to the Norfolk Admirals after clearing waivers at noon on Tuesday. Still no word on the destination of prospect forward Martins Karsums after he cleared waivers on Monday.
Bob McKenzie of TSN is reporting via Twitter that the Tampa Bay Lightning have placed prospect forward Blair Jones on waivers. BoltProspects assumes that Jones has been waived for purposes of reassignment to the Norfolk Admirals. Jones had recently been criticized by head coach Rick Tocchet as not being opportunistic with potential scoring chances over the last few games, despite bringing a physical and energetic role to the Tampa frontline.
McKenzie is also reporting that prospect forward Martins Karsums has cleared waivers, but his destination at the moment is uncertain. It has been speculated by some in the local Tampa media that Karsums was on waivers as a precursor to his returning to Europe, but with Jones being place on waivers it would seem that perhaps Karsums will be recalled to the Lightning.
Stay tuned to continued developments as this story unfolds.
Fortunately, all this bizarreness results in two important points for the Lightning.
Mike Smith allowed a total of 2 goals on 35 shots for the win.
TB 6:58, Downie 9 (Foster, Malone)(PP)
TB 5:13, Bochenski 1 (Stamkos, Foster)(PP)
TB 10:04, Stamkos 22 (St. Louis, Lecavalier)
NJ 8:36, Zajac 12 (Langenbrunner, Oduya)
TB 9:35, Stamkos 23 (St. Louis, Bochenski)
NJ 19:26, Parise 20, (Zajac, Langenbrunner)
It was frightening to see the Lightning have less shots on goal in the second half of this game than they had in the first half. Still, they made it stand up. No complaints. Just get out of New Jersey while the lights are still on.
Paul Szczechura ended up -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 15:23. He was also 70% on draws.
Blair Jones had 3 shots and 2 hits in 12:33.
Victor Hedman played a total of 23:11 in this, his graduation game from prospect status on Bolt Prospects.
Is it Richards? Carter? No. Apparently Blair Betts owns the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Antero Niittymaki allowed 3 goals on 30 shots for the loss.
PHI 13:01, Giroux 9 (Richards, Gagne)(PP)
PHI 3:36, Hartnell 10 (Briere, Pronger)
TB 13:05, St. Louis 11 (Stamkos, Downie)
PHI 16:55, Betts 5 (Laperriere, Coburn)
PHI 19:33, Betts 6 (unassisted)(EN)
If Blair Betts played more games against the Lightning, he might be a 30 goal scorer. It's a strange thing to see a Lightning team that put up 6 goals in 4-1/2 periods against Ryan Miller and Martin Brodeur revert back to offensive ineptitude. Of course, when you only get 18 shots on goal, that will happen. Now the Lightning have to go back to New Jersey and try to make a 3-0 lead stand up for 29 minutes. How bizarre.
Paul Szczechura had 1 shot in 10:11.
Blair Jones was -1 with 5 penalty minutes in 10:43.
Victor Hedman was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 22:54. At the intersection of weird and unprecedented, Hedman's 41st game of the season was last night, which I suppose means his graduation date will go down as 1/8/10 on the Bolt Prospects Alumni page. But he got one more night tonight to have the spotlight by virtue of Lou and the Devils not being able to keep on their lights. Congratulations to Victor on becoming an NHLer.
The Lightning shouldn't be down 3-0 before I unwrap my sub sandwich. Seriously.
Mike Smith allowed 5 goals on 35 shots. I'm going to make a bold prediction that he won't be one of the NHL's weekly three stars in back-to-back weeks.
BUF 0:23, Myers 4 (Connolly)
BUF 1:11, Hecht 9 (Rivet, Tallinder)
BUF 2:11, MacArthur 11 (Mair, Lydman)
TB 12:03, St. Louis 10 (Stamkos, Malone)
TB 13:25, Hedman 4 (unassisted)
BUF 1:19, Stafford 10 (Roy, Rivet)(PP)
TB 5:34, Lecavalier 10 (Downie, Lundin)
BUF 7:25, Pominville 11 (Lydman, Connolly)
I give the Lightning credit for not laying down after falling behind so much, so early. However, you've got to be more prepared to play a hockey game and you've got to protect the front of your net better.
Zenon Konopka was -1 with 1 shot, 4 hits, and he was 78% on draws in 9:06. He picked off a Ryan Miller clear and almost assisted on Jones' first goal of the season. No dice, though. Still, it was a nice play. Tonight was Konopka's 41st game of the season, which graduates him from overage prospect status on Bolt Prospects. So, congratulations to Zenon Konopka on becoming an NHLer.
Paul Szczechura had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:43.
James Wright was scoreless in 9:31. Tonight was also Wright's 41st game of the season, which graduates him from prospect status on Bolt Prospects. Congratulations to the pride of Saskatoon on becoming an NHLer.
Blair Jones had 4 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:53. That first goal of the season seems close.
Victor Hedman scored a highlight reel goal and was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 20:48. He made a bad little turnover close to his own blueline, used his speed and reach to recover and break up a pass, and then swooped from his zone into the Buffalo zone and sizzled a snap shot right past Miller to get the game to 3-2. It was an amazing individual effort, and 6'6" 230 lbs guys shouldn't be able to skate that well. That's the second or third time this season he's taken over a rush a la Dan Boyle and created a goal with his speed and skill. Hedman's next game will graduate him from prospect status on Bolt Prospects.
The Lightning start 2010 with a signature victory.
Mike Smith allowed just 1 goal on 26 shots for the win. He got the benefit of three posts and the goal he allowed was off a bad rebound, but who cares? Just win, baby.
TB 1:03, St. Louis 9 (Ohlund, Stamkos)
PIT 17:15, Guerin 13 (Staal, McKee)
TB 14:26, Konopka 2 (Downie, Stamkos)
TB 7:11, Downie 8 (Ohlund, Lecavalier)
So the Lightning reach the halfway point of the season at 16-15-10, 1 game over .500 with 42 points in the standings. They're now just a single point out of eighth in the East and they currently sit alone in 9th place pending the outcome of Atlanta's game against the Isles tonight.
Want to win a city over? Tomorrow is the Bucs last game of the season. The Rays don't start Spring Training up for a little while. The Lightning are about to have the stage to themselves and they went out and thumped the defending Stanley Cup champs in front of a crowd of 20,000+ in a very entertaining style of game. That's a signature victory and a good way to pull the partisans in for the second half. The Lightning will need the support, because they'll need to crank it up even more in the second half to make the postseason. I suspect it'll take 92-94 points to get in. Right now they're on a pace for 84. No rest for the wicked.
It's been like a breath of fresh air since Jones was recalled and Krajicek was sent down and the roster finally took, more or less, the shape I think most of us expected it to at the start of the season (sans, of course, Paul Ranger). Having the youthful physicality of guys like Jones and Matt Smaby (+1 with 3 hits tonight and didn't mind telling Ruslan Fedotenko what to do with himself at one point during the game) has started to give the Lightning the personalty it was lacking for the first third of the season. I'm fine with it being a young team and I'm fine with there being a few more mistakes, because I think having some more jam and some more hustle helps light a fire under the whole team. This is going to be an exciting second half to watch unfold. I don't think we're going to be talking about lottery position come March this year.
Zenon Konopka had a goal and 2 penalty minutes to go along with 2 shots, 1 hit, and a 57% faceoff percentage in 8:31. Game winning goal! Konopka will graduate from overage prospect status on Bolt Prospects in his next game. It's hard not to love the guy.
Paul Szczechura had 4 shots, 1 hit, 2 blocked shots, and he was 22% on draws. The turning point of the game, in my opinion, was a second period penalty kill where Szczechura's group was on for the full two minutes and Paul was forced to play without a stick. He showed incredible athleticism to stay in passsing and shooting lanes and he actually got his feet on a couple of Penguins attempts. I think you could see the Lightning's energy level go to 11 after they killed that penalty off, and Konopka scored the winner shortly thereafter.
James Wright was -1 in 6:13. He will graduate from prospect status here on Bolt Prospects in his next game.
Blair Jones had 3 shots and 1 hit in 13:13. The goals are going to come. He could've had one in the third period on a rebound off a Szczechura slap shot, but Fleury was very quick to stop the bid. If he keeps getting 3-4 shots a game, though, they're going to start going in. He's got a very good shot. Ask the Admirals fans.
Victor Hedman was -1 with 1 hit in 22:37. Big Victor is 2 games away from graduation here on Bolt Prospects. In other words, expect the new Midterm Rankings soon.