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Bolts Building the Blue Line

by Peter Pupello / Tampa Bay Lightning

The additions made to the Syracuse Crunch blue line this summer hardly have anything to do with improving an area of weakness, Lightning assistant general manager Julien BriseBois says.

Rather, he admits, it's quite the opposite.

"Defense was probably our strongest position last year," BriseBois said. "Simply, we wanted to remain strong."

The idea is to stockpile young defensemen to not only yield a return on its own blue line, but also to create a deep talent pool from which the big club can draw.

For that, the current club is not far off.

Prior to switching AHL affiliation, Tampa Bay's farm team in Norfolk finished the 2011-12 regular season ranked third among all 30 teams with just 180 goals allowed, an accomplishment for which the defense was in part responsible. Furthermore, the Calder Cup-winning Admirals also ranked second in the league for fewest shots against to go along with a combined team defensive plus/minus rating of plus-131.

Lightning assistant general manager Julien BriseBois building defensive depth with the likes of Matt Taormina
For as calculated as BriseBois' strategy is, however, it is just as much one that suddenly became born of necessity.

"There is always turnover at the AHL level," BriseBois added. "There are new rookies coming in, players who earn veteran status for the first time, and then there are those who leave for other opportunities with different organizations."

With that said, the current offseason has already marked the departures of defensemen Scott Jackson, Mike Kostka and Jeff Dimmen. But while on the surface, the exodus of those three in particular may appear to have left several holes along the blue line, it also provides those coming in with an opportunity.

Among those who will earn the chance to step up and fill the void are Matt Taormina, a puck moving defenseman who also brings NHL experience, as well as Dmitry Korobov and Jared Nightingale.

According to BriseBois, Korobov adds size, while Nightingale, signed to an AHL contract, provides some grit, as well as character to an already strong core.

"The defensive position is one where you can never be too strong or too deep," BriseBois added.

And as the team showed this past season, to which the saying goes, it also wins championships.

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