The Bolts' blueprint
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Yet, Feaster turned a deaf ear to all of those situations. He emphatically stated Lecavalier would remain the centerpiece of the franchise. He preached patience in the case of Fedotenko, telling anybody that would listen that the move would pay off handsomely. He also backed Kubina and Khabibulin at every turn.
"Oh, I don't know where the organization was going at a point in time," said Tortorella. "And, I don't see that in criticism of anybody else before Jay came in. I just think Jay has managed it. He has, I think when you calm things down and you try to keep it at a flat line-type level, and not knee jerk on everything, I think it brings a little bit of calmness to the organization.
"I think that's been very important. Having said that, our players have matured. We have got some good people in this organization and some of the leadership we brought in as far as veterans have done a great job for us. But the young core, the Vinnys, the Richies, Martin St. Louis coming in here, Fredrik Modin and players like that, they have matured and there's no success within an organization if your players do not play because they are the ones that decide where this organization goes as far as the winning and losing. Jay put his staple on it then I think the players have taken over from there."
Ah, the players.
They always carry the ultimate responsibility for winning and losing. In Tampa Bay's case, it was a disparate group that found a way to claw its way into hockey immortality.
"You look at this team and it's all free-agent picks, waiver-wire pickups and guys that have been traded for a ninth-round pick or something like that," said defenseman Brad Lukowich, who was traded to Tampa from Dallas in 2002. "For this team to be in this position, I think that is a great testament to us."
Lukowich, a gifted storyteller, was a tad melodramatic in his description of the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning as the team boasts an impressive array of talent.
Lecavalier, as mentioned, was the No. 1 pick in the 1998 Draft. Brad Richards, the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner, was a third-round pick that same year. Fredrik Modin was an established player with Toronto before arriving here. Stillman was good enough to garner a second-round pick for the Blues.
Captain Dave Andreychuk is a Hall of Fame-caliber performer. Khabibulin was an all-star goalie for the Coyotes before landing in Tampa. St. Louis, the MVP of the League this year, blossomed with the Lightning after being afforded a chance to log serious minutes three seasons ago after an up-and-down stint with the Calgary Flames to start his pro career after an accolade-filled tenure at the college level.
But, as on any championship team, other players stepped above and beyond their perceived roles to push that talented core over the edge.
Those players -- guys like Chris Dingman, Jassen Cullimore, Perrin, Martin Cibak, Nolan Pratt and the like -- are the guys that Feaster helped identify, acquire and then put in positions to contribute to the master plan.
Now, after an unexpected Stanley Cup, the franchise's first 100-point season and Eastern Conference championship and back-to-back Southeastern Division crowns, the Lightning will be under the gun to duplicate their success in a long-term fashion.
It is a challenge that Feaster, Tortorella and the Lightning players are ready to embrace.
"I think we have the talent to be a good team for a long time if we can keep it together," said Cullimore.
Especially if the Lightning patiently stick with the plan laid in motion by Feaster upon his ascension to the top spot in Tampa Bay's front office.