Tuesday, 20 December 2016

#DistantThunder: Chasing the Lightning Across Western Canada

I grew up just outside Vancouver, British Columbia.  I now live right in the heart of Edmonton, Alberta, just a few blocks away from the newly-constructed Rogers Place.  I've never called Tampa, Florida home.  I have no family connections in Tampa, or the southern United States for that matter.  So, it comes as little surprise that I've been asked the whole "How did you become a Lightning fan?" question a million times.  I wrote about that in an early blog here at The Lightning Lounge.

According to Google maps, the distance between my condo and Amalie Arena is in excess of 4,000 kilometers.  It would take approximately 42 hours to make that trek in a car, and it's basically a full-day journey by plane given that there's almost always a connecting flight involved.  The tremendous distance between my place of abode and the team I cheer for every night is what makes the Lightning's now-annual swing through Western Canada so special.  Getting down to Amalie Arena obviously isn't the easiest thing in the world for me, but walking two blocks to Rogers Place is quite literally a walk in the park(ing lot).

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Coburn's Play an Unexpected Bright Spot for the Struggling Lightning

A lot has been made over the last couple seasons of the Tampa Bay Lightning's salary cap management.  Contracts like Ryan Callahan's and Braydon Coburn's left fans puzzled, as the need for dollars to re-sign players like Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin, among others, is significant.  As much as the decision to sign Coburn to a three-year, $11.1M extension through the 2018-19 season left this blogger with a lot of question marks, his play on the ice this season has left me with anything but.  In short, he's been an unexpected bright spot for a struggling Bolts team to start the year.

To truly understand why the descriptor "unexpected" was used in that last sentence, it's important to look at some of Coburn's historical numbers, courtesy of Puckalytics.com:

In short, the trend over the past handful of seasons hasn't been pretty.  With the exception of 2013-14, Coburn has been a drag on team shot attempt share every year since 2009-10.  The thought from many when the Lightning extended Coburn was simple: Did it make sense to use finite cap space on a now 30-plus-year-old defender who hasn't been a consistent driver of shot attempts for quite some time?  Likely not.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

The Future is Now in the Lightning Crease

"We'll ice the lineup that gives us the best chance to win," is a common refrain among NHL coaches.  Right now, and as long as his team continues to start Ben Bishop over Andrei Vasilevskiy in net, it just isn't true for Jon Cooper's Tampa Bay Lightning.

Since he was drafted 19th overall at the 2012 draft, all the talk surrounding Vasilevskiy has been that he's "the future" in the Lightning crease.  Based on his performance thus far in 2016-17 and that of the team's current number-one guy, the future is now.

While Bishop has struggled mightily in an admittedly small sample size, Vasilevskiy has thrived.  As the Bolts continue to plod along in what should be a ripe-for-the-picking Atlantic Division, it's time for the goaltending equation to become a "What have you done for me lately?" sort of game.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Memo to Oilers Fans: Falling in Love with Kris Russell is a One-Way Trip to Heartbreak Hotel

One of the things I've noticed on my daily commute here in Edmonton is the amount of love that Oilers defenceman Kris Russell has been receiving on the airwaves - it's non-stop.  Callers and commentators alike can't stop mentioning his supposedly superb play.  And they don't stop there.  Discussing Russell's stellar play, you see, is a perfect opportunity to segue to a let's-bash-analytics fireside chat.

Unfortunately for all those who have used Russell as the shining beacon of all things anti-number, the D-man's on-ice success likely isn't all that sustainable.  While some in Edmonton are already calling for the Oilers to offer him a rich, multi-year extension, it's worth remembering that it's probably not a coincidence that he didn't get such a contract this past summer even with so many teams clamouring for rearguard help.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Making an Impact: Todd Richards and the Lightning Power Play

While Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman stole all the headlines, one of the big "gets" for the Tampa Bay Lightning this offseason was assistant coach Todd Richards.  Richards, the former head coach of both the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets, has been the man in charge of what can only be described as a resurgent Lightning power play.

Analyzing a team like the Lightning can sometimes be a little bit difficult, simply because talent can mask a lot of process issues.  Simply put, few teams in the league have had the ability to send out a power play unit that includes some combination of talent like Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat, etc. over the past few seasons.  That type of talent can hide a truly horrendous process.  Case in point: The Lightning's man-advantage unit was ranked 14th in the league with an 18.4% conversion rate in 2014-15, despite looking absolutely horrible whenever it was out on the ice.

Eventually, luck (read: shooting percentages) dry up and process warts start to show themselves.  That's what happened last year, as the Lightning finished 2015-16 with the 28th (!) ranked power play per NHL.com.  When talent stops masking process weaknesses, things can get pretty ugly.

And that's what makes Todd Richards' impact to date so important.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Scratching Koekkoek Takes One of the Lightning's Better Defenders Out of the Lineup

Per Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, there will be no lineup changes for the Tampa Bay Lightning for tonight's game against the New Jersey Devils aside from a goaltending switch.  That means that 22-year-old Slater Koekkoek, the team's first round pick from the 2012 draft, will once again find himself on popcorn duty.

The good new for the Lightning is that they don't have a history of scratching supremely talented young players who have proven that they are ready to contribute at hockey's highest level.  They don't have a history of driving those players to the brink, resulting in a showdown between player and management.  They don't have a history of needing a magic breakfast meeting to smooth things over, either.

Oh, right.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Making Dollars (and Cents) of Kucherov's Three-Year Contract

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced yesterday that Nikita Kucherov has signed a three-year deal, confirmed by Bob McKenzie as being worth $4.766M per season:
The deal, which keeps Kucherov in Bolts blue while the team works to get its "cap house" in order, was signed just in time for Number-86 to be in the lineup for Thursday's season opener against the Detroit Red Wings.

Monday, 10 October 2016

REPORT: Kucherov, Lightning Getting Close to a Deal

After months of radio silence, it sounds like a deal between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nikita Kucherov is getting close.  Per TSN's Bob McKenzie:
If there's one thing the hockey world knows about Bob, it's that he won't go live with that sort of report unless he has a substantive reason to do so.  In short, there is tremendous reason for optimism if you're a fan of Kucherov and the Lightning.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Point's Preseason Play Provides Lightning with Reason for Optimism

As the clock continues to tick on the NHL's preseason, Nikita Kucherov remains without a contract.  One of the big questions for the Tampa Bay Lightning right now is who can and will step up to serve as a "replacement" for the dynamic Russian should the need arise.  If preseason play is any indication, Brayden Point appears poised to do the job well.

The general consensus heading into camp was that Cory Conacher would fit the role, having performed at a high level with the Lightning's top players in the past.  That much was made clear by Lightning Assistant GM Julien BriseBois, who framed Conacher's situation as follows:
If the plan is for him to be up with the Lightning all year anyways, it just makes sense to slide him into Kucherov's spot until Kucherov signs on the dotted line, right?  Even if Conacher isn't the offensive dynamo and everyday NHL player he appeared to be during his original stint with the Lightning, him taking a short-term tour of duty playing in a familiar top-six setting likely can't turn into a disaster.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Lightning to Retire Marty St. Louis' Number-26

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today that they will be retiring Martin St. Louis' Number-26.  Scheduled for January 13th, the ceremony will mark the return of a player who defined what it meant to be a Bolt for so long.  While his departure from the team is marked with controversy, the fact remains that Marty is and was the best of the best in Lightning blue.  While people can debate the timing of the honor, there is no denying that it is well deserved.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Making (Dollars and) Cents of the Nikita Kucherov Contract Negotiation

I wrote earlier in the week about the Tampa Bay Lightning's unenviable situation with restricted free agent Nikita Kucherov.  In short, he's not showing up until he has signed on the dotted line.  The big question, though, is what the contract above that dotted line might look like.  There's been a lot of talk of long-term deals and big money contracts, but one under-discussed option is that of a bridge deal; the idea was first floated to the masses by Mike Gallimore earlier in the year:
At first blush, the thought of a bridge deal seems patently unfair to a player who has scored 131 points in 159 games over the last two seasons.  It seems almost like a penalty against a player who is arguably the team's offensive leader.  Why should Kucherov have to sign a short-term deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4M per season given all he's done for the team?  Don't be a monster, Steve!!

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Kucherov to Sit Out from Training Camp Until Signed, Remains Without Contract

Per Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov's agent has informed the team that the young sniper will be sitting out from training camp so long as he remains without a contract:
Kucherov, a restricted free agent, has been without a contract since the 2015-16 season ended.  Having scored 131 points in 159 games over the past two seasons, all while being an incredible possession driver, Number-86 is in a position where he no doubt deserves a hefty pay raise.  When you look at deals signed by players like Filip Forsberg, Nathan MacKinnon, and Vladimir Tarasenko, among others, it's quite easy to envision a situation in which Kucherov receives north of $6.5-million annually on a long-term deal.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Vincent Lecavalier to be Honored by the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 18th

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today that they will be honoring former captain Vincent Lecavalier on October 18th, when the Florida Panthers will be in town for an interstate matchup.

Lecavalier, 36, retired this offseason after finishing his career on a relative high note with the Los Angeles Kings; after being all but written off as an NHL player during his time with the Philadelphia Flyers, Lecavalier established himself as a reliable bottom-six presence for the Kings by putting up 10 goals and 7 assists in 42 games to end his National Hockey League career.  In total, the Quebec native suited up for 1,212 (!) regular season contests and notched 949 (!) career points.

Friday, 1 July 2016

BREAKING: Andrei Vasilevskiy Signs Three-Year, $10.5-million Contract Extension

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced this afternoon that they have signed goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to a three-year contract worth $10.5-million total, or $3.5-million per season.

Keeping his streak of signing players to cap-friendly deals alive, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman managed to ink Vasilevskiy in such a way that will give the Bolts an above-average starting goaltender at a very affordable rate.  The signing of Vasilevskiy undoubtedly signals a changing of the guard for Tampa Bay, as it is almost a certainty now that Ben Bishop will be shown the door in one way or another.  If there's one thing his run in the playoffs proved, it's that Vasilevskiy is prepared to be 'the guy' for the Lightning.  He's going to get that shot.

BREAKING: Lightning Sign Victor Hedman to Eight-Year Contract Extension

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced this morning that they have re-signed defenseman Victor Hedman to an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value of $7.875-million.  This news comes on the heels of the team signing Captain Steven Stamkos to a similar eight-year extension just two days ago.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Lightning Waive Matt Carle with Buyout in Mind

The Tampa Bay Lightning put defenseman Matt Carle on waivers today, with the intention of buying him out tomorrow.  This, combined with yesterday's news surrounding Steven Stamkos, basically sent Bolts Nation to the moon.

Why, you ask?

Because, since signing with Tampa in the summer of 2012, Carle has been a 'lightning' rod (no pun intended) for criticism.  His play has underwhelmed in a significant (read: enormously monstrous) way, especially when you compare it to the $5.5M cap hit he carries/carried:
As the tweet says, you can't have a guy on your roster carrying a $5.5M cap hit who does... that.  It wasn't good enough.  No matter how you slice it, there are better ways for the Lightning to be spending that money.  It's hard to argue against Steve Yzerman's choice to end Carle's second tenure with Tampa Bay.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Stamkos Signs for Eight Years

Well that was quite a day, wasn't it?  With Taylor Hall (!!!) being traded to New Jersey for Adam Larsson and P.K. Subban (!!!) being traded to Nashville for Shea Weber, it's amazing that there was any room left on the airwaves to announce that the Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed Captain Steven Stamkos to an eight-year contract worth an average of $8.5-million per season:
With the hockey world (yours truly included) practically certain that Stamkos was set to walk when the clock struck July 1st, the captain surprised everyone by signing a very, very, very affordable deal with Tampa Bay.  Remember all that talk about him getting $10-million, $11-million, or even $12-million per year on the open market?  Somehow the Bolts locked him up for an amount that can only be described as a discount.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Edmonton's Nail Yakupov is the Right Fit at the Right Price for Tampa Bay

One of the bigger storylines to come out of this year's draft weekend was all the fuss surrounding the Edmonton Oilers.  It seemed that any time a rumor was brought up, the Oilers found themselves right in the middle of it.  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins?  On his way out.  Taylor Hall?  We'll miss you.  Jordan Eberle?  You can kiss him goodbye.  Leon Draisaitl?  He'll look great in a Montreal jersey.  Aside from Connor McDavid, almost every Oiler of note had his name thrown around the rumor mill in one form or another.

Of course, with all those big names spamming the headlines, some of the smaller-ticket items found themselves slightly off the radar; that included Nail Yakupov, who reportedly was available for... basically nothing:

While the draft is now over and those picks have been made, the Nail Yakupov sweepstakes are likely ongoing.  With the addition of Jesse Puljujarvi at the draft, the Oilers once again find themselves with a bevy of forward talent and a dearth of wealth on the blue line heading into the offseason.  Something has got to give, right?  It seems that Yakupov, in desperate need of a fresh start, could be one of the players who is shipped out of Alberta's capital region.  If he is indeed available, the Tampa Bay Lightning should absolutely be giving Peter Chiarelli a call.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Lightning Need to Make Game Four Power Play Adjustments Permanent

One of the big mysteries in today's NHL is how a team with as much talent as the Tampa Bay Lightning can have such a useless (for lack of a better word) power play.  While there's been some talk of the team's power play being fixed as a result of some "success" against the Detroit Red Wings, the reality is that this team still has a lot of work to do with its man-advantage unit.

Consider the following: Among the 16 teams that made the playoffs this season, and through the first handful of games in the postseason, Tampa ranks third last in CF/60 on the power play.  They simply aren't throwing the puck towards the net with regularity.  And, if you look at teams that have consistently strong power plays, you'll see that they typically send the puck in the opposing goaltender's direction with some measure of regularity.  Tampa didn't do that in the regular season.  Tampa hasn't done that for the most part so far in the postseason.  A visual representation:

Obviously the small sample size makes the disparity far greater than it likely would be over time, but the fact remains that Tampa Bay has failed to generate shot attempts at the same rate as some of the teams they are competing against for hockey's biggest prize.  It's just not a recipe for success if you're looking to score with the man advantage.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Quick Thoughts on Drouin's Start to the 2016 Playoffs

One of the big questions for the Tampa Bay Lightning heading into the playoffs this year was who would fill the void left by Steven Stamkos, who continues to sit on the sidelines after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot in his arm.  Down the stretch in the regular season, offence was at a premium, so it was only natural to wonder who would replace one of the game's biggest scoring threats.  Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson have done a lot of the heavy lifting through two games, but another guy who deserves oodles of credit is Jonathan Drouin.

Yes, that Jonathan Drouin.  The same Jonathan Drouin who wanted out by the trade deadline.  The same Jonathan Drouin who sat at home for a huge chunk of the season.  He's been fantastic, and he's quickly establishing himself as a very important piece for the Lightning.  Maybe trading him isn't such a good idea, after all.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Thoughts on the Stamkos Injury and Its Impact on the Lightning

When news that Steven Stamkos will miss the next 1-3 months with a blood clot issue broke last night, a sense of shock echoed through the hockey world.  The immediate reaction from all corners of hockey's tight-knit community was to wish the Tampa Bay Lightning Captain all the best during his surgery, which is scheduled for Monday, and recovery.  Beyond that, there were big questions posed about the injury's impact on the team's chances this season.  I mean, let's be honest, the Lightning are now without two (Stralman is out with a fractured fibula) very key cogs in their machine:
The picture painted there is bleak, so it's only reasonable to be a little bit down on the Lightning's chances this spring.  Combine that with the very real possibility that Stamkos may never suit up in a Lightning jersey again, and it would be easy to get quite morose about this whole situation.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Stamkos to Undergo Surgery for Blood Clot Issue, Out 1-3 Months

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced tonight that Captain Steven Stamkos will miss 1-3 months due to a blood clot issue, similar to what Andrei Vasilevskiy dealt with earlier in the season.  The news comes on the heels of the team's 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils at Amalie Arena on Saturday night, a game that Stamkos missed with what was originally described as an upper-body injury.  Per the team's press release (included below), Stamkos will undergo vascular surgery on Monday to treat the condition:
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos is scheduled to undergo surgery to treat a type of Vascular Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (called Effort Thrombosis) near his right collarbone, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today. The procedure is scheduled to be performed on Monday, April 4 by Dr. Karl Illig, Director of Vascular Surgery at Tampa General Hospital. Stamkos is expected to fully recover and he should be able to return to the ice in 1-3 months.  
“Obviously this situation is extremely disappointing because I wanted to help my team clinch a playoff spot and prepare for the start of the postseason,” Stamkos said.  “During my recovery I will do all I can to help my teammates, and I hope to rejoin them soon in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.”

Reaction to the announcement has been swift and consistent.  Tampa fans are rightly concerned about the team's chances at success in the postseason with Stamkos and Anton Stralman (fibula) both injured, but they are also concerned about the Captain's health from a non-hockey-related perspective.  Some things are bigger than the game, and health is certainly one of them.  The outpouring of support for Stamkos from Tampa fans and hockey fans in general is certainly special to see.

Monday, 28 March 2016

OPINION: Radulov a Flawed, Risky, but Potentially Intriguing Option for Tampa Bay

A report out of Russia this morning indicated that the Toronto Maple Leafs were in the process of negotiating with pending-UFA Alexander Radulov, who last suited up in the NHL with the Nashville Predators back in the 2011-12 season.  While Sportsnet's Elloitte Friedman debunked that report following its release, it is worth noting that there is a very real possibility that Radulov returns to the NHL in time for next season.  The player said as much in an interview translated by The Hockey News last summer:
“You see, I’m not so young,” Radulov told the paper, according to a rough translation. “(I’m) not 20 years old, and it is possible that I will have the last chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. If it is a great option in a team that will fight for the title, then why not?"
One thing that's clear based on that quote is that, should he come back to this side of the pond, Radulov will be looking to win the Stanley Cup; he wants to compete.  So, it's probably not unreasonable to suggest that the Maple Leafs *might* not be the best fit for him.  They are, of course, at least a couple years away from being able to do any damage in the postseason.

If that's indeed the case, it's worth pondering where a guy like Radulov might fit in today's NHL.  He wants to win a title.  He'll likely want some money.  And, because of all the perceived risk involved, he likely won't be able to demand a long-term contract.  Call me crazy, but a Stamkos-less Tampa Bay Lightning squad might be a fit.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Quick Thoughts on Slater Koekkoek's Role... or Lack Thereof

Anton Stralman's injury (a fractured left fibula) could not have come at a worse time for the Tampa Bay Lightning.  With the postseason right around the corner, Tampa is without its number-two defenceman, a guy who is arguably the most underrated rearguard in the National Hockey League today.  It's not a good situation.

GM Steve Yzerman responded by calling up Slater Koekkoek, his team's 10th overall pick from the 2012 draft.  Koekkoek, by all accounts, has performed well in Syracuse by utilizing his swift stride and puck moving abilities.  Yzerman undoubtedly viewed him as a player who could/would step in and help to fill the void left by Stralman's massive presence.

Unfortunately the coach had other things in mind:

Saturday, 26 March 2016

The Fight for First in the Atlantic is a Battle of Process vs. Percentages

A lot has been made of tonight's matchup at Amalie Arena between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.  After all, who would have predicted that two teams from Florida would be battling for first place in the Atlantic Division at this point in the season?  It's a pretty cool story.  People are rightly intrigued by the fact that both squads from the 'Sunshine State' have 91 points through 74 games this year, while relying on a bevy of young talent.  It's an exciting time to be a hockey fan in the state, to be sure.

But, as much as people like to draw parallels between the Lightning and Panthers due to the fact that they both play in supposedly 'non-traditional' markets and are having on-ice success with youngsters leading the way, there's a pretty distinct contrast between the two teams specific to the 2015-16 campaign.  It comes down to a pretty simple idea: One of these two teams has had a lot of its success this year attributable to the process, while the other owes a heap of credit to percentages.

Consider that the Panthers are currently ranked 20th overall in the NHL's race for the Corsi championship.  With a five-on-five CF% of 48.2%, the Panthers find themselves just in front of Columbus and Calgary but behind the likes of Edmonton and almost every team bound for the Stanley Cup playoffs.  Obviously Corsi isn't everything, but analysis has repeatedly shown that possession matters.  Remember when the Colorado Avalanche were the flavor of the month despite rocking brutal possession stats?  They fell back down to earth.  How about the Maple Leafs?  They crashed, too.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Singing for an Unsung Hero: An Analysis of Vladislav Namestnikov's Performance in 2015-16

Since starting my new job in the accounting field, I haven't had the opportunity to sit back and watch Tampa Bay Lightning games like I used to when I was writing at HockeyBuzz and finishing my degree.  Living out West means that Tampa games are often midway through the second period by the time I get home and find my way to the couch.

So, nights like last Tuesday night feel kind of special.  I got home and was able to watch the Lightning play a very solid game against a quality opponent, the Detroit Red Wings.  The result was a 6-2 win for the home team, which sent countless "fans" in red straight to the washroom where they could switch back to their blue-colored gear.  Victory tasted especially sweet, if I may say so.

One of the things that stuck out as I watched Tuesday's game was the play of Vladislav Namestnikov.  I've written at length already about his impact on the Lightning this season here and here, so it didn't exactly surprise me when I found myself sitting back and thinking that the Bolts might have a real building block in the form of #90.  What it did do, however, is get me interested in quantifying some of his very real success now that we basically have a season's worth of data to analyze.  The results, as you'll see below, were more impressive than I ever could have predicted.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Coburn Extension Leaves More Questions than Answers

The Tampa Bay Lightning announced earlier today that they have re-signed defenseman Braydon Coburn to a three-year contract extension worth an average of $3.7MM per year.  Coburn, who turns 31 tomorrow, has played in 64 regular season games and 26 playoff games for Tampa since being acquired prior to last year's trade deadline.

My reaction to this announcement is admittedly not a positive one.  Don't get me wrong: Coburn hasn't been a brutal player for the Lightning like, say, Eric Brewer was during the latter days of his tenure.  Perhaps the highlight of his Lightning career to date was when he scored the game-winner in the team's pivotal Game Seven matchup with the Detroit Red Wings, which then helped to propel the team forward to the Stanley Cup Final.  I liked that moment just as much as any Lightning fan, but this decision to extend him for another three seasons?  It has me incredibly confused.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Reader Question: Will Drouin be moved by the deadline or will Yzerman wait until the draft?

One of my long-time readers, Sean L., asked me the following question: Will Jonathan Drouin be moved by the February 29th trade deadline or will the team wait to pull the trigger on a deal until the draft?  It's an almost impossible question to answer, especially when you consider that Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has a penchant for surprising the fanbase with trades out of left field.  We might wake up tomorrow to news that Drouin has been dealt.  We might go to bed three months from now with Drouin still sitting on the sidelines as Lightning property.  Predicting what Steve Yzerman is going to do is a bit like picking lottery numbers --- in almost every case, it's a pointless exercise!

With that in mind, a more answerable question might be: Should Yzerman trade Drouin before the deadline or wait until the draft?  But, again, it's tough to say.  There are so many variables to consider.  Can the team get fair value (a notoriously subjective thing) for Drouin before deadline?  Are they more likely to get a better return at the draft?  How long does the GM want to have the Drouin file sitting on his desk?  Which side is more likely to blink first?  The list of questions goes on and on.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Stamkos Sticking Around... for Now

Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman announced today that he will not be trading Captain Steven Stamkos before this month’s NHL trade deadline.  A preemptive move that will hopefully quiet the distracting speculation and rumormongering, Yzerman’s announcement was emphatically clear.  From the press release:
"As February 29th approaches, I am stating today that Steven Stamkos will not be traded before the NHL’s trade deadline. I have said repeatedly that it is our hope to reach an agreement with Steven on a new contract at some point, and with 27 games remaining in the season, our entire organization, Steven included, wants to focus on making the playoffs. I will keep the negotiating process strictly between the involved parties and have no further comment on the state of those negotiations."

There’s exactly zero wiggle room there.  Zero.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

J.T. Brown Continues to Give the Lightning Effective Minutes

I wrote earlier in the season that J.T. Brown had been really good for the Tampa Bay Lightning to that point.  It’s time to check in on the speedy forward once again.  The bottom line: He continues to give the Lightning really, really effective bottom-six minutes, and is quickly establishing himself as someone who should definitely be kept around moving forward.

It might seem a little bit crazy to fawn over a third line guy like that, but the reality of the situation is that depth is important.  Take a look at the Pittsburgh Penguins as a perfect example.  A team can have all the star power in the world, but without a strong supporting cast it’s going nowhere.  J.T. Brown is proving himself to be the definition of a strong supporting cast member this season. 

Friday, 15 January 2016

Lightning Might Have Something Special with the Namestnikov/Stamkos Duo

I wrote last weekend about Vladislav Namestnikov's emergence this year and how important it has been for the Tampa Bay Lightning.  It's been important from an on-ice perspective during a year when so many players have struggled, but it's also vitally important from a big-picture perspective.  Consider the following:
It's an interesting thought, and in this blogger's opinion it's right on the money.  The fact of the matter is that trading Drouin means losing a young, promising offensive player.  Having another young, promising offensive player in Namestnikov on the roster makes the thought of that loss more palatable, especially if the return for Drouin is reasonably substantial as expected.  I'm not saying that a Drouin trade is the best thing for Tampa, just that it might be easier to swallow now than it would have been before Namestnikov decided to go full superhero.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Namestnikov's Emergence is Key for Tampa Bay

There hasn’t been much to get excited about in Tampa Bay Lightning-land so far this season.  Aside from the odd happening, things have been fairly bleak for a while now.  With that said, one of the more exciting things to watch this year has been the emergence of Vladislav Namesnikov, the team’s first round pick from the 2011 draft. 

While some observers might point to his 16 points through 41 games this season and suggest that he hasn’t grown since putting up 16 points in 43 games last season, the reality is that he has taken huge strides forward.  The bottom line: Namestnikov is proving that he has what it takes to be a legitimate top-six forward at the National Hockey League level.  And that’s great news for the Lightning, especially when you consider that the team could very well be without Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin by the time the 2016-17 season rolls around.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Drouin's Trade Request Goes Public

News broke yesterday that Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin wants out.  His agent, Allan Walsh, went public with the request:

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Some Thoughts on the Drouin Demotion

Jonathan Drouin was sent down to the Syracuse Crunch today.  And, according to Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune, he wasn't too happy about it:
Erlendsson also had the opportunity to grab quotes about the move from both head coach Jon Cooper and general manager Steve Yzerman.  From his Tribune piece this morning:

"This is specifically to get him some playing time," said Yzerman.
"We have to go get him some games," said Cooper.

The motive here appears to be fairly clear: Yzerman wants him to play.  It sounds like a nice and noble goal on the surface, but does the way in which the team is going about it make a lot of sense?  Not even a little bit.