To this point this summer, General Manager Brian Lawton and his staff have drawn rave reviews from both fans and pundits for their savvy roster moves. They have retooled the defense corps, added checking forward Stephane Veilleux and picked up a capable backup goaltender in Antero Niittymaki. Now, in another great move, Lawton has brought on Rick Wilson as the team’s new associate coach.
This hire makes sense on so many levels. First, Wilson complements the rest of the coaching staff. He brings 20 years of NHL coaching experience to the Bolts and a proven track record of success, especially working with defense (which will be his primary role with the Lightning). During his 16-year run with Dallas, the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999 and finished in the top three for fewest goals allowed in the 2007-08, 2006-07, 2003-04 and 2002-03 seasons. But just as important as his credentials is how his wealth of experience will give the Lightning a very well-rounded staff.
The Lightning feel that Wilson will fit in well with his new colleagues. Head coach Rick Tocchet, assistant Wes Walz and goaltending coach Cap Raeder have an excellent working relationship; Wilson and Raeder are close, having served together on the LA Kings’ coaching staff in the late 80s and early 90s. Chemistry, therefore, should be quite strong between the coaches.
Finally, Wilson seems to be the perfect fit for Tampa Bay. The Lightning’s new defense corps has a mix of veterans and youngsters (including their first pick in June’s draft, Victor Hedman
). As I mentioned in last week’s column, the Lightning need the pieces of this new-look blueline to come together quickly at the start of the season. With his track record, Wilson is the perfect choice to help make that happen – and to groom the D throughout the year.
Here are a few more questions from this week’s mailbag …Hi Dave,
I must say I really enjoy listening to your live broadcasts. Your ability to keep it enthusiastic and exciting without relying on 'gimmicks' is refreshing and well received. Keep it up!
I do have one question. It is obvious the offense support the GM wished for was not their first priority this offseason. However, he claims it is still a priority. I would like to think the defensive help the team has acquired this offseason should allow our forwards to be more aggressive in the offensive zone. This should translate into a more potent and effective offensive threat.
Last year, they were tentative and quick to retreat due to our porous defense. What do you think? Is the acquisition of another forward really necessary?
Thanks for the comments and kind words. You make some very astute points about how a revamped defense will help the offensive attack. A potent offensive attack often starts with the defense’s ability to move the puck quickly and effectively up ice. Skilled forwards like to get the puck in stride so they can use their speed to their advantage. Furthermore, as you mentioned, if everyone on the ice is clicking on the same page, then the forwards likely will be less tentative on the attack.
Still, Lawton has stated that he’d like to add another “top-six” forward. If the Lightning keep together Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos
, who worked so well together on the same line in the second half of last year and at the World Championships, then the team will need to find a player who can be on Vinny Lecavalier’s right wing (since Marty will be on Stamkos’ line). So to answer your question, I’d agree with Lawton that the team would be well served to add another skilled forward, but only at a salary that fits in with the team’s overall plan.Dave: Will Mike Smith be available at IceFest for autographs this year? I was wondering because I was going to fly from North Carolina to Tampa just to get a jersey autographed by him since he is my favorite player in the NHL.
Aaron JohnsonYadkinville N.C.
Glad to hear that Mike is your favorite player. He’s not only a great player, but one of the most personable people you’ll ever meet. The Lightning have not yet announced the roster of players who will be attending IceFest (which takes place just before the start of camp – the date is still TBA), but I understand that he is expected to be in attendance. Keep following www.tampabaylightning.com for more information on the event and which players will be there.Dave:
Can you explain the Prospal buyout? Does he become a free agent if he accepts? Why not just trade him and get something in return if you don't want to pay for him anymore?
Mike Lancaster in Montana
Once bought out, Prospal does become a free agent. Even if he signs with another team, the Lightning are still obligated to pay him 2/3 of his overall salary (spread out over twice the length of what remains on his contract – in other words, Prospal has three years remaining on his deal, so the Lightning will pay him 1/3 of his annual salary each of the next six years). While the team is on the hook for a longer period of time, in the short-term, the buyout gives the Lightning immediate savings (over $2 million this year) and therefore more flexibility to potentially make more free agent moves. That’s a big reason why the team felt that this was its best course of action. 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.