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Ask Burnsie: What was most surprising about 2016-17 season?

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns answers your pressing Twitter questions about the Bolts and more

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

TampaBayLightning.com beat writer Bryan Burns will answer readers' most intriguing questions in a regular mailbag feature. Be sure to tweet questions to @bburnsnhl and include the hashtag #AskBurnsie to have your question answered in a future mailbag. If your question wasn't answered today, resubmit it in the future and we'll attempt to get it in for another edition. Have fun with your questions too; the more off-beat the query the better.

Tweet from @fatems_19: @BBurnsNHL @TBLightning #AskBurnie Most surprising event of the #Bolts season?

I would have to say the emergence of Jake Dotchin as a top pair defenseman.

I'll be honest: I didn't know much about Dotchin even though I'd seen him in three training camps. For me, he was just another name among the 60 or 70 players who start camp with the Bolts. Nothing stood out about his game, and when I would look at the organizational depth on the blue line, his wasn't a name I expected to make a contribution at the NHL level anytime soon (or at all for that matter).

When he was recalled from AHL Syracuse on January 17 and then again for good on January 30, I thought the organization was simply trying to see whether it wanted to keep Dotchin around beyond this season.

I'd say that answer is an emphatic "Yes" after the rookie campaign the 23-year-old just put up.

Video: DAL@TBL: Dotchin, Point combine for slick goal in 3rd

In 35 games with the Lightning, Dotchin was plus-10 and recorded 11 assists, tied for third most among Bolts' defensemen and more than Jason Garrison and Braydon Coburn, who played at least twice as many games as the youngster. But more than that, he filled an immediate need for a right-handed shot on the blue line, and his ability to partner with Norris Trophy candidate Victor Hedman on the top pair allowed Anton Stralman to move down to the second pair and more evenly distribute the wealth among the defensive pairings.

Dotchin showed tremendous calm even when going one-on-one against some of the world's best hockey players. He very rarely made a mistake. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, he has good size. He skates well. He can effectively move the puck. And he displayed a pretty good shot from the blue line and an ability to routinely put the puck on net to create scoring chances. About the only thing Dotchin didn't do was score himself, but with the offensive skill he showed over the last half of the season, his first NHL goal will come soon enough.

I can't wait to see what Dotchin has in store for a follow-up to his breakout season.

Also, the Lightning missing the playoffs, that was a surprise too.

Tweet from @Mike_OHalloran: @BBurnsNHL #AskBurnsie Thoughts on the use of interns in the office? ..... P.S. West Virginia football record this season?

I'm all for having interns around the office as long as they continue to fetch my coffee every morning and use the correct amount of sweetener (Double cream, double sugar; right, Mikey?).

I kid. Mikey is currently working in Lightning Vision and has been killing it as an intern for our digital video manager Gabe Marte as well as proving himself wise beyond his years at team trivia and a serviceable beach volleyball partner.

As for WVU's football fortunes this season, I'm all in on Florida transfer Will Grier at quarterback. Kid looked like an absolute stud in the spring game. Mark me down for 10-2 for the Mountaineers in 2017 with a decent chance to make the Big 12 Championship Game. I see losses at Oklahoma (will we ever beat those guys?) and either at TCU or at Kansas State.

Side note: Asking anything about West Virginia football or basketball or just West Virginia in general is a good way to ensure your question will get answered 100 percent of the time.

Tweet from @Burns91Liam: @BBurnsNHL What's your favorite song right now?

I'm really feeling that new Childish Gambino - Redbone. Had no idea Childish Gambino and Donald Glover were one in the same until googling earlier this week (I'm a little late on these things; apparently, I don't "stay woke").

Can't wait to dive into the whole album.

Sweet last name by the way, @Burns91Liam.

You have to feel for Joel Vermin. Over the last couple weeks of the season, I've never seen a player recalled and re-assigned as many times as the Swiss forward. Heck, there was one day when he was moved three times. I'm responsible for producing the Lightning game notes before every contest -- game notes highlight all the storylines revolving around the team and are distributed to the media - and even I got tired of typing his name under the "Transactions" heading.

Imagine how Vermin felt.

Now whether Vermin actually shipped off back and forth to Syracuse all those times is another story.

Another player you have to feel for is Erik Condra. The veteran forward was signed by the Lightning during the 2015 summer free agency period and, after playing 54 games for the Bolts in 2015-16, was beaten out for a roster spot in training camp prior to the start of 2016-17 (presumably by Brayden Point) and was sent to Syracuse at the start of the year. He was recalled whenever injuries beset the Lightning forward group, but he played in just 13 games for the Bolts and didn't record a point.

Still, he handled the demotion with class. He had a heck of a season with the Crunch, notching 15-33-48, fourth-most points on the Crunch, in 55 games and was named captain near the end of the Crunch's regular season when previous Crunch captain Luke Witkowski was retained by the Bolts for the remainder of the season.

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