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This Week's Question: Addition of Valtteri Filppula
The Lightning made a big move in free agency with the addition of former Detroit Red Wing center Valtteri Filppula. We asked the round table of bloggers what facet of Filppula's game will provide the most impact. The following is their responses:
It's probably easy to look at Filppula's offensive prowess as his primary asset, but in my opinion it's his character and work ethic that will have the biggest impact on the Lightning in 2013-14. On a young team like the Lightning, it's so important to have the right people surrounding 'the kids'.
Filppula is renowned for having a never-give-up attitude and for being a tireless worker. Having that influence around so many young players as they learn to become full-time National Hockey League professionals can only have a positive impact on the entire team moving forward into the future. Set to join an already impressive leadership group, Filppula will fit right in; simply put, this was a smart signing for so many reasons. Once you add in his two-way game as a bonus, it really looks like the Lightning picked up a gem on the opening day of free agency. Welcome to the organization, Valtteri!
It was interesting that in both interviews Lightning GM Steve Yzerman did with Lightning beat writers, he prioritized how Filppula helps with the team's "identity." He even used the word twice when talking to the Tampa Tribune. Jon Cooper said he wants opponents to see the Lightning coming up on their schedule and take notice. He wants to be a fast and hard team to play against. Yzerman has made it clear since his first draft that "compete level" is a key ingredient for a Lightning player. Filppula does not take shifts off and adds energy to the lineup. Energy is contagious in hockey and if one guy picks up his effort level his linemates will follow. When veteran scorers showcase the team's identity, it spreads even quicker. When everyone is on the same page, wins turn into playoff runs.
It's important to remember that Filppula isn't being brought in to replace Vincent Lecavalier, he's being brought in to center the second line. Those are two very different things and realistic expectations only apply to one of them. As the second line center, I believe Filppula's tendency to be hard-working and defensively responsible qualify him and will serve him in filling that role. If he regains the offensive prowess he displayed two seasons ago, he will be more than adequate in that position.
I see Filppula's versatility as the most asset the Lightning will benefit most from next season. Filppula's skill-set is multi-faceted: a strong skater who provides responsible, two-way play at even-strength, he has enough scoring touch and playmaking ability to be a regular on a power play unit, as he was during the last handful of seasons with Detroit. Filppula skated as part of a scoring line for the Red Wings when not used in a checking role. What Filppula, a well-rounded forward who can play at center or on the wing, ultimately means for Tampa Bay is more options for head coach Jon Cooper in managing his lineup according to opponent and game state.