Let’s head back to the mailbag this week and answer more questions from fans:
Good Afternoon Dave. With all the changes the Lightning are making, when would you think you will see a impact on the ice with the team performing with more consistency? We know it does take time for players to get used to each other. Plus, do you see anybody else we drafted being on the opening day roster besides Victor Hedmen? Thanks Bill Buchalski
Bill: The team’s hope is that the transition to acclimate the new guys will be a smooth and quick one. That’s not a reach when you’re talking about veteran guys like Mattias Ohlund, Stephane Veilleux, Matt Walker and Kurtis Foster. These are men who have played with a variety of different teammates over the years and have gone through such transitions before. (It’s true that Ohlund and Veilleux had spent their entire careers in only one organization, but they’d had to adjust to many new teammates in Vancouver and Minnesota over the years). Having written that, I think training camp will be very important for the Lightning. Head coach Rick Tocchet has mandated that every player must come to camp in tip-top shape and that the team will get down to business on the very first day. The club has a relatively busy start to camp, playing seven games in 12 days, but after the final preseason game in Atlanta on September 27, the Bolts have a full week of practice before the season opener back in Atlanta on October 3. That week will be critical. As I referenced in last week’s column, the Lightning want to get off to a quick start because they play seven of their first 11 games at home. As a whole, though, the process of coming together as a team is a season-long venture – and that’s true for every club, no matter how many new faces it has.
As for your second question, it’s rare to see players make the jump to the NHL in their draft year. It’s usually only the top picks like Vinny Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, etc. Hedman also fits that bill and he is projected to be on the opening day roster. But for the vast majority of the draft class, these teenagers typically benefit from another season or two at the amateur level. Still, until we see the Lightning’s training camp invite list, we won’t know for sure. For example, it’s possible that Carter Ashton, who the Lightning grabbed with the 29th pick, comes to camp and shows the Lightning brass that he’s NHL-ready.
Dave: Are you coming up with the team for our game up here in Everett? It would be great to meet you! We used to live in Orlando and have followed the Bolts since we attended Game 1 on October, 7 1992.
Will Somsak, Everett, Washington
Will: Glad to hear from you! Since I’ve been with the team (2002), we’ve broadcast every preseason game on radio – with only two exceptions. Last year, due to technical concerns, we elected not to carry the two preseason games in Berlin and Bratislava. So I fully expect that we’ll be broadcasting all seven preseason games on the Lightning Radio Network, including the four “neutral site” games in Regina, SK; Everett, WA; Loveland, CO and Winnipeg, MB.
Dave, could you let me know what Lightning free agents have landed a new home and where? Thanks! Brett Leblanc, Port Hope, Ontario
Brett: As far as the players who spent more than just a game or two with the Lightning last year, only Cory Murphy has signed with a new NHL club. He inked a deal with the New Jersey Devils. Then there’s Karri Ramo, who, as mentioned in last week’s column, will play in Europe this year – the Lightning still hold his NHL rights, though.
I'm a Bolts fan from Brazil since the 03-04 season (sadly, the last one televised for my country) when I was very impressed mainly by Martin St. Louis performance on the ice. Unfortunately, we don't have ice hockey here in Brazil and since 2004 not even on the TV. ESPN used to televise but they stopped after the lockout. All information I get is from the internet mainly the Bolts' web site and your blog. Tough life, don't you think?
I want to know if there is any chance the Lightning could sign free agent forward Petr Sykora. I think he could be a great addition to the team as a secondary scorer. Thank you and Go Bolts! Rafael Amarante, Brazil
Rafael: On behalf of the entire organization, I thank you for continuing to follow the Lightning! As to your specific question, I mentioned this in an earlier post – I am not privy to private conversations between General Manager Brian Lawton and his staff. ? So I don’t know how interested the team might be in Sykora. This is what we do know, however. Lawton has gone on record stating that he’d like to add another top-six forward. Additionally, the Lightning have signed several players this year to one-year deals, such as Foster, Veilleux and Antero Niittimaki. The feeling seems to be that these men signed a salary-friendly contract this year in hopes of parlaying a big season into a bigger contract next year. Sykora, who struggled to get ice-time with the Stanley Cup Champion Penguins during the playoffs, could fit that same bill. Lightning beat reporters Damian Cristodero of the St. Petersburg Times and Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune both have blogged entries speculating that Alex Tanguay might also fall into that category as well. Certainly, both Sykora and Tanguay are terrific players (and potentially would look especially good on Vinny Lecavalier’s right wing), but the question is would either one accept a deal that works in the Lightning’s overall salary plan. Time will tell.
I appreciate all the questions and it’s great to see that the Lightning’s fan base extends well beyond the Bay area. As always, if you have any questions for me, I’d be glad to answer them. Please submit them to: firstname.lastname@example.org.