Forgive Sami Salo if it sounds as if he is getting a bit too far ahead of himself too soon.
The Lightning defenseman, in town this week to meet the media and to take care of some personal matters, has been a member of the organization for a mere 18 days, but that alone hasn’t at all deterred him from setting some pretty lofty goals for both himself and the team as the upcoming 2012-13 season rapidly approaches.
“The only thing I want to do,” Salo said, “is win.”
Chock it up to say that Salo, 37, has some big plans in store.
Signed as a free agent on July 1, the 6-foot-3, 212-pound native of Finland is among several players in a group that also includes forward Benoit Pouliot, defenseman Matt Carle, and goaltender Anders Lindback, each of whom were acquired to help lead the Lightning to a Stanley Cup championship.
Aside from providing reason for the Lightning to be primed for success soon down the road, the transactions engineered by general manager Steve Yzerman also proved in part to be largely responsible for Salo’s decision to come to Tampa Bay, perhaps more so than the climate or even his familiarity with long-time friend and former Vancouver Canucks teammate Mattias Ohlund.
“I was looking for a team that appeared on the verge of winning a Stanley Cup, which obviously is every player’s dream,” Salo said. “It seemed like a good fit for me and my family, as well as a great organization and a great city to live in. In talking with Steve Yzerman, I got the picture that this is a team that has a chance to win.”
As Salo recalled, it wasn’t long ago when the Bolts nearly at least appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals, and who would have faced off against Salo’s Canucks had the Lightning made it that far.
Salo, of course, fell short in his quest as Vancouver fell to the eventual-champion Boston Bruins in seven games, but the memories nonetheless of which team fought the Bruins tooth-and-nail before Boston emerged out of the Eastern Conference have him optimistic about his new opportunity.
The Lightning signed Salo on July 1, 2012.
“They were in the same situation as us in Vancouver, except we were able to move on after the Western Conference Finals,” Salo added. “But it’s pretty much the same group that they have here, and I think this team has a lot of potential. It’s always hard to analyze where teams went wrong in the end, but it’s usually just some minor tweaks that need to be made in order to take that next step.”
It appears that Yzerman has come through on his end, to which Salo is a part.
With the future of Ohlund still unknown, Salo provides the same veteran presence on the ice, and that of an anchor on the blue line, that was simply lacking all of last season in Ohlund’s absence as a result of an injury that caused him to miss all 82 of the team’s regular-season games.
And, in addition to boasting a right-handed shot that could prove useful on the power play, it would not be a stretch to think that Salo could serve as a model to mentor the Bolts’ young defensive core that comprises Keith Aulie, Victor Hedman, Brian Lee and Brendan Mikkelson, each of whom are no older than 25.
Coupled with the addition of Carle on defense, his job in serving as a stalwart behind the Lightning blue line should also further be facilitated by the acquisition of Lindback, whom Salo called “a really good goalie.”
“When he was in Nashville, I had a chance to play against him quite a few times when I was with Vancouver, and he’s very similar to [Pekka] Rinne,” Salo said. “I think he can really help this team.”
With that said, Salo affirmed his belief that the Lightning are now in a strong position to make a serious run for the Stanley Cup.
And as he put it, “at my age, being here at the later part of my career, that’s what you play for.”