Everything you need to know as Lightning preseason wraps up (Lightning Links)

Ben Bishop tries to recover during a scrimmage at 2014 Tampa Bay Lightning Fan Fest. Photo by Charles Schelle

Ben Bishop tries to recover during a scrimmage at 2014 Tampa Bay Lightning Fan Fest. Photo by Charles Schelle

The pre-season finale is upon the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday as they renew acquaintances with the Florida Panthers in Amalie Arena.

For what was supposed to be a straight-forward pre-season, dozens of story lines unfolded, especially with Jonathan Drouin’s injury changing the focus of the coverage as everyone guesses which forward will get the opportunity to stick around. And what other forwards will be shuffled into other slots to make room for the best lines. I haven’t seen this much pre-season line shuffling in a long time and for a team that made the playoff the year before.

You probably know that the Lightning won 3-0 against the Panthers in Sunrise on Thursday with Evgeni Nabokov earning the shutout (and Stamkos mixing it up, too). So here’s everything else you need to know to get you caught up on the Lightning’s preseason as well as the preseason of our Bygone Bolts.

Vinik Vision

Everything is turning up Vinik this week, so much so that I had to devote an entire subheading for him.

Bygone Bolts

Sunshine State ECHL

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Jonathan Drouin’s potential competition for Calder (Lightning Links)

As much as Jon Cooper doesn’t want us to, fans and media have high expectations for the team. And as much so for prospect Jonathan Drouin.

Google Jonathan Drouin Calder Trophy and you’ll see all the endless chatter about his chances. I’ll only add to that, but there is some stiff competition for Drouin from players not in the last two draft classes.

Sure, people are going to see how Sam Reinhart, Aaron Ekblad could be shoe-ins, but then you have these guys, too:

Evgeny Kuznetsov

If there’s someone who has more expectations to perform in his first NHL season than Drouin, it’s this 22-year-old Russian. The Washington Capitals watched in anguish as the star spent six years playing in Russia while he could have been playing with Ovechkin, Backstrom and at one time, Semin and Fedorov. The 6-foot-3 winger is pegged to have the skill of Backstrom and a knack for clutch moments. He’s won the KHL championship and won three golds and two silver in international play. However, there is a concern about his injuries. Picked 26th overall 2010.

Jori Lehtera

Here’s another KHLer that seems like it’s just not fair. The Finnish 26-year-old won Olympic bronze in Sochi this year and has put up nearly a point per game in the short KHL seasons. He did play seven games with the Blues AHL affiliate in 2009 showing just how long the organization has been waiting for him to settle in St. Louis. Some sites have him pegged in a fourth-line role under coach Ken Hitchcock, but he’ll likely rise. Picked 65th overall in 2008.

Darnell Nurse

Nephew of Donavon McNabb and son of a retired CFLer, the guy has superior athletic genes. Now that he’s done with junior hockey and won a gold for Canada in the World Junior Championships, it’s time for him to see if he can make the next step. The Oilers have a stronger defensive corps than they had recently, but he could outplay guys competing for the sixth spot, including former Bolt Keith Aulie. Picked 7th overall in 2013.

College players like Kevin Hayes, Johnny Gaudreau and a few others ought to make the race interesting, too.

We’re only 38 days until the first pre-season NHL game for the Bolts to at least satisfy some sort of craving for the rookie race to begin.

LIGHTNING LINKS

Ben Bishop’s truth about injuries (Lightning Links)

It’s clear that even if Ben Bishop was able to make it to the playoffs, the Lightning still wouldn’t have had a chance.

Ben Bishop is continuing his rehab this summer of his right wrist and left elbow and SUN Sports’ Paul Kennedy caught up with him after he took shots for the first time. During the season we’ve seen Bishop sporting a hard cast and drop sticks with his blocker. And when you have screws inserted, that’s pretty serious.

If all of that didn’t convince you that Bishop’s body wasn’t going to survive a playoff round let alone a playoff game, he told Kennedy in his own words:

BISHOP: Begin with this — I had to change the way I played the game. It was injured and taped earlier in the season and then really hurt against Toronto about a month later. From that point on I was wearing a hard cast every night. We (training staff) messed around with it a little bit, but I couldn’t bend the wrist (blocker and stick side). So if I had to cut off the angle with my blocker, that was a problem. Using my stick to bring the puck back to me was different.

KENNEDY: We’re talking about inches in rebounds and fractions of seconds of reaction time by both teams between a save and a goal. This is all happening in the blink of an eye.

BISHOP: To be honest with you, there were probably five to 10 goals I would have saved with a good wrist that ended up in the net. I can think of two right now off the top of my head. Easily 5 to 10. I wasn’t going to say anything, or complain. I just kept doing my best given the circumstances.

Then the elbow dropped, well, dislocated, and all of that work to cope with the wrist injury became another story.

Bishop’s injury shows the double standard when it comes to injuries in pro sports that at times pays off when a player’s emotion fuels him. When a guy has an injury that keeps him out like Steven Stamkos, the mantra is they won’t let him come back until he’s 100 percent. Well, he came back at less than 100 percent and even admitted that. It was close enough for the structure of the injury, but he had a lot to do, even during this offseason, to regain strength. In Bishop’s case, he could still skate and move but for a goalie, if he has to make that much of an adjustment just to still play, he shouldn’t be in.

Players are heralded playing with injuries, especially come playoff time, but scorned when rushed back from one if they sat out too long. Can a goalie at 80 percent health be better than the one at 100 percent health next to him? The gamble worked for the Lightning because Anders Lindback wasn’t even available during a course of  Bishop’s wrist injury, on injured reserve himself until getting recalled from a conditioning stint on March 3, 2013. Instead, Olympic wunderkind Kristers Gudlevskis sat as back-up with Cooper hesitating to start him. Then finally everything went to shit in April when Bishop was out and he had to recall Gudlevskis and give him a start in case he had to play in the playoffs, which he did. And it didn’t matter because of the five players in front of him on the ice.

LIGHTNING LINKS

Speaking of Lindback, he was spotted in his old Lightning gear and jersey during the annual Brynas black-and-white exhibition game…where this Swedish clip translates to “Lindback’s nightmare period” where he lets in five goals in less than 20 minutes. I know it’s an exhibition match, but dude can’t catch a break. Sport Bladet

The ECHL and CHL could merge while the AHL wants to pick up some of the Western Conference teams, according to reports. Puck Daddy takes a look at what all of this could mean, even splitting up the AHL. Harrison Mooney | Puck Daddy

(My two cents: If each NHL team will have one full, non-shared ECHL team, keep in mind that the Hurricanes’ Peter Karmanos owns both the Florida Everblades and Germain Arena.)

Jon Cooper dumps a bucket of ice on him to raise awareness to fight ALS, or Lou Gherig’s Disease. The Ice Bucket Challenge, as it’s called, ends with Cooper challenging Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke, director of player development Stacy Roest and Crunch coach Rod Zettler. Former Sabres coach Ron Rolston and former Bolt J.P. Cote challenged Cooper. YouTube

For more, check out Mashable’s explanation of the history of the Ice Bucket Challenge and how it’s used to raise money for ALS research. Bonus: It includes a bucket challenge photo of former Bolt Ryan Shannon.

Sports Illustrated opines whether we’ve seen the last of Sami Salo and Ryan Malone in the NHL along with other free agents. Answers are most likely and most definitely. Allan Muir | SI

A Florida resident wants to watch New York Islanders games only and doesn’t want to pay for GameCenter Live or Center Ice and a two-year court battle continues. Also of interest, apparently New York City providers carry Florida sports stations but blacks out Lightning games.  Rick Westhead | TSN

Yes, the Lightning use Fancy Stats, but they’re not telling you how. Joe Smith | Tampa Bay Times

Tampa Bay Lightning offseason potpourri

Tampa Bay Lightning - ImgurMy foot is feeling better enough to play hockey again, yet that was last night, so I’ve lagged a little on the posts. I’m glad you care about my foot health.

While I was away from the blog, some nuggets continued to be scattered to get us through the offseason. This being Aug. 2, we have now entered the slowest part of the offseason. Beat reporters in many places took vacations in mid-July while others might be working assignments for other sports to kill the time. Tampa Bay offers enough distractions, even during the season, that it should be a little better to alleviate the lack of hockey.

I’ll thrown in some extra commentary to help kill time with links because I’m always thinking of you, loyal reader.

 

LIGHTNING LINKS

  • Up top is a GIF list posted to Reddit via Imgur. Somebody went to the trouble to do GIF transitions of every home and away jersey for each NHL team, defunct and current. Maybe he’ll do one of every third jersey in NHL history. (s/t to the Lightning for sharing)  Imgur
  • While we’re on an Imgur kick, here are NHL jerseys in 8-bit form.
  • Jay Feaster continued to garner attention with his new role and his view on the Martin St. Louis trade with this interview from The Fischler Report. (Though I don’t know what part you’d qualify this as an exclusive considering he’s been answering these questions for a week or so in his new role. That he was alone in the room with you?)  Despite my snark, this is a really good read. Jake Becker | The Fischler Report
  • Puck Daddy’s Harrison Mooney aggregated the piece and focused on Feaster’s comments of when/what would it take for John Tortorella to return to an NHL bench. Harrison Mooney | Puck Daddy
  • Feaster also gives another PSA of his role with the Lightning for the team’s website. Tampa Bay Lightning
  • Anthony DeAngelo revisits draft day and a couple other tidbits about himself with the team. Tampa Bay Lightning
  • So, how does DeAngelo stack up when all Lightning prospects are ranked, regardless of position? Bolts Prospects has the complete list. Pete Choquette | Bolts Prospects
  • Crunch beat reporter Lindsay Kramer picks out a couple from that list who could see time in Syracuse. Lindsay Kramer | The Post-Standard
  • One prospect likely coming to North America is Czech prospect and 36th overall pick in this year’s draft, Dominik Masin. His agent says he’s close to committing with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL. Mike Davies | Peterborough Examiner
  • If you believe this Reddit research, the Lightning has the ninth most affordable season ticket price, albeit way, way upper bowl, at $792. The Florida Panthers check in at No. 1 for $516. Reddit
  • This is pretty cool in the self-promotion department: A photo I took last year of Andrei Vasilevskiy ended up on one of the top sports news sites of Russia, Sports.ru. They’re so inventive. I appreciate they linked to my blog for the photo credit to drive traffic. If I had taken a better photo, I’d ask for some rubles.  Anyway, the story is a round-up of Russian pro hockey prospects and how their summer camps are going. Sport.ru
  • Vaughn-DesjardinsFor the gear nuts in all of us, here is the new set-up for Cédrick Desjardins, former Syracuse Crunch goaltender who made a few appearances for the Lightning over the years. Click through to see his matching glove and blocker on Vaughn’s Facebook. It’s nice of them to say they’re for the Rangers, but we all know he’s heading to the Hartford WolfPack. Also, if you remember minor leaguer Bobby Goepfert, a former Florida Everblade, Vaughn also posted his set for his German league team. Vaughn Custom Equipment | Facebook 
  • Owner Jeff Vinik just began work on a new mansion on Sarasota’s St. Armands Key. Get this: he bought a mansion last year for $4.25 million and razed it, then bought another one next door for $3.5 million to knock it down, only to build a new 9,200-square-foot home on both lots for $3.5 million. That’s more than $12 million for a mansion that is an hour away from one of his Tampa compounds. Dude has some cash. Drew Harwell | Tampa Bay Times
  • Finally, you can watch reruns of a new “Inside The Lightning: Offseason Special” on SunSports throughout August to get your fix. Fox Sports

Purcell pandering to Edmonton fans not all that hard (Lightning Links)

Teddy Purcell

Teddy Purcell’s back is turned toward Tampa now as he will start soon in Edmonton.

Lightning news and non-news went through a quick spurt the past couple days, and hey, we all need to produce copy in the middle of summer.

Three bygone Bolts, Teddy Purcell, Keith Aulie and Benoit Pouliot, met with the Edmonton media to give their warm hellos before it reaches 100 below freezing by September.

I saw that either a Lightning fan or a blogger (both I suppose as one) tweeted how Purcell didn’t make Lightning look all that good. Well, just like my Edmonton weather hyperbole, it’s a good throwaway one-liner to make, with some truth to it.

Here’s what Purcell had to say about the surprise trade and the fans, as told by the Edmonton Sun:

“This is a little bit different, it’s not like this down in Tampa,” Purcell said of the media coverage. “It’s going to be fun for us to come in and embrace it and come and help these guys as best we can.

“We had dinner (Monday) with the management and the coaches and they said to have fun with it and embrace it. They said how good the fans are, how patient they’ve been and how they’ve been waiting for the team to get back in the playoffs and be successful again. It’s going to be really exciting, it’s going to be a lot of pressure, but as an athlete, you want to embrace that pressure.”

The media coverage? There’s no comparison whether by volume or quality. Tampa is fortunate to still be a two-paper town, which means two beat writers and a sports columnist from each paper pitching in every now and then. TV stops by when they can and even what seems like a crowded press conference in Tampa is small unless the Canadian media decides to rush down and cover Steven Stamkos returning, only to be in town coincidentally for the Martin St. Louis trade.

For the fans, it’s not a fair comparison. Even with all the losing, the Oilers are still a team that lives on its heritage of its five Stanley Cups. Given its run of eight (!!) consecutive years of missing the playoffs and still finding a pretty good crowd in a 40-year-old arena, that’s pretty good. In the Lightning’s brief existence, the longest the franchise went without making the playoffs was for six seasons, from 1996 to 2002.

I’d call that pretty patient. I don’t think Lightning fans should ever be like “Hey, wait until we miss the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons! We’ll sell out every night!” Because even one or two seasons with poor attendance will bring Canadian relocation vultures, just as they’re circling the Florida Panthers.

Pouliot wasn’t quoted about fans, but instead, the expectations of playing in a Canadian city.

“I did play in Montreal for two years. Loved it. Loved the pressure,” he told the Edmonton Journal.

What Lightning fans should care to watch with these Tampa-happy Oilers is if Purcell can finally learn to shoot more, as the Journal also discusses:

Purcell said he get yelled at a lot for not firing the puck more often — he recorded 156 shots in 80 games last season — “but there are lots of guys here who can make plays, so I’ll shoot more.”

For the record, Purcell has taken 776 shots in 400 career NHL games — he’s no Taylor Hall, for example, who has fired 797 in 246 games.

That same article also talks with Aulie, who essentially says he’s happy to be there, which is more than most players let alone playoff hungry fans can say.

LIGHTNING LINKS and BYGONE BOLTS

Lightning Links: Morrow says hello; Dandy Declan

As the summer drags on, the tropical rains move in but Lightning news is in bit of a drought.

This is why both beat reporters for the Bolts are on vacation.

As for me, I’ll be glued to my laptop a bit more for the next two weeks as I’m out with a lower-body injury. Basically, always remember to wear shower sandals. After playing Sunday night in Clearwater, I finished up my shower and as I stepped up on the tile ledge, another guy was coming back to use the toilet. I slipped, caught my foot on the edge of this channel where water is flushed through to clean, and sliced my foot. It was a great time to finally visit my doctor I’ve been meaning to see and get that tetanus shot.

Here’s the latest batch of links on players who earn legitimate injuries:

 

 

 

 

 

Lightning Links: Summer is flying by in Tampa Bay

Andrey Vasilevskiy

Andrey Vasilevskiy runs through a drill during the 2014 Lightning Development Camp.

I’ve been latent on rounding up Lightning Links thanks to a holiday, a birthday and general life.

But I wasn’t a total slouch. A long read of Jay Feaster’s new job is up along with a look at rejected third jerseys in Bolts history.

Who knew that the offseason could bring such news? The rookie development camp would do that. I attended Saturday’s edition and stayed for a better part of it from the latter part of the goalie drills to midway through the scrimmages. By that time I’ve seen everything I needed to see and a huge turnout of people at the Brandon Ice Sports Forum made it crowded to see anything, but nonetheless vibrant.

So, here we go

Little Lightning

Big Bolts

Bygone Bolts

 

 

Going back to Cally, Cally, Cally


Fans and media buzzed Wednesday morning with the Tampa Bay Lightning both announced locking Ryan Callahan to a deal and buying out Ryan Malone.

Maybe not so much the second item.

No matter what team was going to sign Callahan, they were probably going to overpay when looking at this stat sheet. He’s not expected to put up 40 goals, 82 games played is a wish but he keeps his nose clean except when going to the net. Something Malone could have learned.

Callahan’s six-year, $34.8 million deal will carry an annual average value of $5.8 million, reported Tampa Tribune’s Erik Erlendsson. Fans balked at the price on Twitter, especially after the Los Angeles Kings said they nailed down Marian Gaborik for a seven-year deal that averages $4.87 million a year. The extra year could skew that average, plus we don’t know the year-to-year structure and any back-diving.

A power forward making bank who’s oft-injured should sound familiar to the Bolts because they just bought that man out. Ryan Malone was signed to a seven-year contract with the Bolts that had an average annual value and cap hit of $4.5 million. The first three years paid Bugsy $6 million (!!!), then $5.5 million, $3 million and ended with $2.5 million for this year and next year.

Obviously the team didn’t get leadership in that package deal. Just a well tanned party boy, it turns out. Really, it’s more horrific seeing that Malone made about the same as Gaborik will in his new deal. It’s all about winning the Cup at the right time to cash in.

What I’m saying is that there is hope that this $5.8 million is worth it if the intangibles can equal out the rest.  He clearly wanted to be here, especially because he didn’t even enter the courting period for other teams to contact him, he told the Tampa Bay Times:

“It was really important,” Callahan said. “To have that security — not for me, but for the family and for the kids. Nobody likes to be uprooted and move in the middle of the season.”

That is saying more than that man who he was traded for. I’ll take that deal any day.

LIGHTNING LINKS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tampa Bay Lightning hope for lucky strike in Vegas (Lightning Links)

Wynn Las Vegas

The NHL Awards will broadcast from the Encore Theater at the Wynn in Las Vegas. Photo by Charles Schelle

The NHL Awards are finally here, set to broadcast at 7 p.m. Tuesday on NBCSN, with the Bolts leading away.

The team has done well for itself getting deserved coverage this past week for each of its nominees: goalie Ben Bishop, coach Jon Cooper plus rookies Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat.

Dan Rosen of NHL.com looked at how the Lightning and Colorado Avalanche are leading the top nominees at the awards, and everyone is all smiles, including Johnson:

“To come to the awards like this, I never really thought it was possible so just to be here is a dream come true,” Johnson said. “It’s even better to have the guys on our team, like it’s a little team reunion so it’s a lot of fun.”

While I’m eager to hear Johnson’s night on the town in Vegas, I’m still waiting to hear more of his Red Light District visit in Amsterdam.

The awards are noted for their awkwardness with selecting Canadian bands nobody heard of, or nobody wants to hear from again or Def Leppard putting the goddamn trophy upside down. There are also celebrity presenters who screw up names. As Puck Daddy’s Greg  Wyshynski opined in 2012, despite bringing in Nickelback and then Jay Mohr for a second time, IMG Productions helped improve the broadcast and the celebrity line-up as the sports mogul also has a long list of actors and models at its disposal. That ought to be a wider net now that IMG was acquired by powerhouse agency William Morris. (Full disclosure: I cover IMG Academy’s business dealings in Bradenton for my employer.)

Here are this year’s celebrities, according to the NHL:

Current and former NHLers P.K. SubbanChris ProngerRich PeverleyDanny DeKeyserMichael Pecaand Luc Robitaille will present alongside notable hockey fans David Boreanaz (“Bones”), Cuba Gooding Jr. (“The Butler”), Retta (“Parks and Recreation”), Eric Stonestreet (“Modern Family”) andDavid Walton (“About a Boy”). Longtime hockey fans Michael J. Fox (“Family Ties”), Susan Sarandon (“Tammy”), James Lipton (“Insider the Actor’s Studio”), Kevin Connolly (“Entourage”) and Whoopi Goldberg (“The View”) also will be featured during the broadcast in pre-taped segments.

So this year, it’s Phillip Phillips singing, who is not an IMG or William Morris client, and George Stroumboulopoulos, who will take over CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, relegating Ron MacLean and Don Cherry to smaller roles as part of Roger’s production. I do admit I miss some of MacLean’s corny jokes at the NHL Awards when he hosted them in the past. They were better hockey jokes than anything the celebrity hosts could write.

As much as it’s about making a good show in Vegas, there is hardware to hand out. Here are more of the Bolts checking in from Vegas and the rest of Lightning Links.

LIGHTNING LINKS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will Andreychuk ever get the call to the Hall of Fame? (Lightning Links)

For being the offseason, the Lightning are sure generating a lot of pixels and print with free agents, surprise free agents, a new schedule, awards and the draft.

In the case of the Hockey Hall of Fame nominees expected to be announced Monday, it is the absence of such mentions that Lightning fans should be paying attention to.

Scott Radley, a columnist for The Hamilton Spectator newspaper in Ontario, wonders if Lightning vice president of fans Dave Andreychuk will ever get the call to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

This would be the sixth year he could miss out and Radley thinks that it should be Mike Modano’s time to wait:

He played 1,499 National Hockey League games. That’s impressive. It’s nearly as many as Andreychuk’s even more-impressive 1,639.

In those games, Modano scored 561 goals. Which are almost comparable to Andreychuk’s 640.

Modano collected 121 goals on the power play. Which is a fantastic career total. Until you put it beside Andreychuk’s record 274.

Modano had a 50-goal season. That makes him elite. That said, Andreychuk had a 53-goal season. Plus two seasons with more than 40 goals, something Modano never did.

Modano’s best year was a wonderful 93-point campaign, one of two 90-plus years he had. Andreychuk also had two seasons above 90. Though for the record, his best was 99.

Modano won a Stanley Cup, though Buffalo Sabres fans might still argue the validity of his Dallas Stars’ 1999 toe-in-the-crease win. Andreychuk won a Stanley Cup, as well. Interestingly, his came while he was serving as team captain and acknowledged inspirational leader of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

When Andreychuk was waived by the Lightning in 2006, he couldn’t bring himself to say he would retire. But at least he knew when it was his time as opposed to Modano overstaying his welcome.

LIGHTNING LINKS