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Lightning Now, Thunder Later

Posted By George Kouvalis On Jul 21 2010 @ 11:18 am In Tampa Bay Lightning | No Comments

You won’t hear it yet, maybe not even by November, but you will.  It will be the big BOOM that will hit the NHL by December.  The fact that the vastly improved Tampa Bay Lightning will begin to yet again be relevant in the NHL.

Steve Yzerman has done a very good job, so far on paper, of bringing in the right people aboard to right the ship.  He kept Vinny Lecavalier, still only thirty years young and captain, re-signed Martin St. Louis and made a very quiet but big splash in acquiring Simon Gagne from the Philadelphia Flyers for Matt Walker and a 4th rounder.  Factor this in with three other great signings.  Goaltender Dan Ellis, who has a great shot at the number one job and will provide solid and consistent goaltending when given the chance.  Defencemen Pavel Kubina and Brett Clark signed during free agency to shore up the blue line and teach a young Victor Hedman how play a steady game. Yes there are still pieces missing up front on your third and fourth lines but those spots can be filled with some veterans with playoff experience.  Also, Yzerman still needs to add another veteran puck moving defenceman on the back end.  All of which he has time to do.

Ownership has also stayed hands off the hockey operations end of things.  Remember two years ago when Barry Melrose was coaching this team and taking directions from ownership on how to run it.  Yzerman would never have taken the job in the first place if he weren’t allowed to run his team his way.  A way which has been a winning one in almost every team he has been a part of.  Kudos to the new owners letting the hockey guys do the hockey ops and staying out of most hockey matters.

This team up front with St. Louis, Lecavalier, Gagne, Steve Downie, Ryan Malone, and yes we can’t forget about Steven Stamkos, may have one of the best top two line combinations in the league.  Add the fact that they play in one of the weakest divisions in the NHL, the Southeast Division.  With Carolina and Atlanta in rebuilding mode and Florida just on the brink of competing for a playoff spot the Lightning not only have a chance to make the playoffs, they can even win the division (OK Capital Fans start complaining right about here).  It’s not a love affair for me and the Lightning, don’t get me wrong, but you have to look at this team going forward and think that they are heading in the right direction.  If they stay healthy, and stick to the coaching game plan that rookie head coach Guy Boucher puts in place this could be a very fun and successful team to watch this season.

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