Posts Tagged ‘Tampa Bay Lightning’

Tampa Bay Lightning: Circus Show or Cup Contender?

July 18, 2008

Everyone is shaking their heads with regards to Tampa Bay’s recent and continuing overhaul – some with approval and others with disapproval. The Lightning will be an interesting team to watch this season. They could either be the traveling circus of the league or a serious contender… only time will tell.

With all of the changes being made in recent weeks – Lecavalier’s lifetime contract, resignation of GM Feaster, the acquisitions of Recchi, Kolzig, Vrbata, Malone, Roberts, and Prospal, the hiring of Barry Melrose – yes that Melrose – as head coach, the loss of top defenseman Boyle to SJ, and a few other tidbits I’ve missed, the question still remains, can you just throw a bunch of newly acquired skilled players on the ice with a guy who hasn’t coached in years and an ownership group all too willing to bypass management to toy with the team line-up and expect to produce a winning team?

The Lightning have a lot to prove this season. To avoid becoming the revolving side show circus of talent that the Rangers were in the past, they will need to make the playoffs. Otherwise, you can expect to see some of these names again next summer – on there way out. On the other hand, this overhaul could work! And if so, the ownership will look like geniuses and Melrose will be able to gloat during his offseason interviews with ESPN.

Even with all of this hype, the Lightning have to be careful. I don’t think Melrose will be a strong coach his first season back behind the bench and I have no doubt that everyone below the ownership group are just puppets at this point. I have a feeling Melrose is just this giddy little kid right now excited about the opportunity to coach again and isn’t really thinking about the chemistry of the players being put onto the ice by management, er, ownership.

In the end though, it gives us one more plot to look forward to during the upcoming 08/09 season. And sports is all about entertainment… and the NHL should be very entertaining this season.

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Blake/Boyle vs. Rivet/Campbell

July 10, 2008

There’s a lot of talk about how the Sharks’ defensive corps has not been improved by the recent trades. As a fan of the team, I thought I would throw my 2 cents out there.

The argument is essentially that we’ve replaced Campbell with Boyle and Rivet with Blake. Therefore, it’s a wash and we’re still in the same boat. Lets start with Rivet vs. Blake.

BLAKE VS. RIVET

Rob Blake

Rob Blake

Rivet is a great defenseman. I personally am sad to see him go as I’m sure most Sharks fans are. I think I speak for most Sharks fans when I say we would have liked to see McLaren moved as he is more of a liability on the ice than Rivet. However, I believe the pick-up of veteran Rob Blake outweighs the loss of Rivet. Blake is tremendous at both ends of the ice. He’s only two years removed from a 51 point season with a +2 in Colorado. He’s unarguably a great veteran leader on and off the ice with championship experience. I believe the last two seasons with LA have probably been somewhat frustrating for Blake as the Kings are merely a sideshow for the NBA Lakers and they do not receive the kind of management support required to build a great team. Even so, he still managed to produce 30+ point seasons. I think Blake playing on a serious cup-contending team (aka SJ) will be rejuvenated and excited about the prospects of winning again. I expect to see another 30+ point season from Blake and a tremendous spike in his +/- when playing with guys like Ehrhoff, Vlasic and Murray as well as in front of Vezina winner, er, finalist Nabokov. I don’t think his age is going to be a huge factor as some have suggested.

On the other hand, Rivet is also a tremendous leader and defenseman. He’s a solid stay-at-home type of guy who gets the job done consistently and quietly. He’s less known for his offensive prowess, but again, stability and consistency come to mind when thinking of him.

It comes down to this: If you were picking players to be on your team (salaries aside) and there were two guys left – Rivet and Blake – who would you choose? I would have to choose Blake. The offensive and leadership upside to Blake is something the Sharks need to get over the second round hump.

And if you’re still concerned about the loss of defensive-minded Rivet, remember that we also picked up defensive-minded Lukowich in the Boyle trade.

BOYLE VS. CAMPBELL

Dan Boyle

Dan Boyle

Lets first get out of the way that the loss of Carle and Wishart by the Sharks did not go unnoticed. Carle will be a great defenseman and showed that during his time with San Jose. Despite a poor outing last season and rumored disputes with Wilson, he is a promising young developing offensive-defenseman and is sure to produce well for Tampa. Wishart is along those same lines – another young promising prospect sure to do well. But you have to give to receive and the Sharks definitely gave up a future with these two talented men in addition to absorbing the contract of Boyle.

Boyle vs. Campbell is a little harder to dissect as both individuals are talented offensive defensemen. However, all emotions and feelings aside, if we just look at the numbers maybe we can develop a conclusion about the tradeoff.

Over the past five (5) seasons, newly acquired Boyle has totaled 233 points in 353 regular season games (0.66 pts/game). Campbell has 184 points in 362 games (0.51 pts/game). Of Boyle’s 233 points, 118 (51%) were on the power play and of Campbell’s 184 points, 73 (40%) were on the power play. Boyle has averaged about 25 minutes/game to Campbell’s 21 minutes/game. For the past 5 seasons, Boyle is a -10 in +/- rating (including the -29 in 37 games with TB last season) to Campbell’s +6 rating. Campbell just signed with Chicago for $7.1 million/yr to Boyle’s $6.667 million/yr.

Although the numbers are close, an edge seems to go to Boyle for offensive productivity. In addition to the above stats, Boyle’s overall shooting percentage and shots-on-goal is higher than Campbell’s, which seems to indicate a little more aggressiveness than his counterpart. Boyle seems to be very productive in the power play department (something the Sharks really need) and doesn’t mind spending time out on the ice, boasting the higher of the average ice times. Like Blake, if paired with one of San Jose’s defensive-minded defenseman and playing in front of Nabokov, I’m not too concerned about Boyle’s +/- rating.

Wash or not, overall I think it was good for Campbell to be closer to his family and a great pick-up by SJ to fill the void on the back-end – and not just for the playoff push this time, but for the entire season. The addition of such a caliber defenseman as Boyle for the entire season is something that has been missing from SJ for awhile.

SUMMARY

Blake and Boyle add a tremendous amount of experience and talent to the Sharks’ line-up. Overall, I believe the defensive group is better than it was prior to the beginning of the trading frenzy on July 1st. The Sharks gave up a little bit of their future to win now (including the losses to acquire Campbell late last season). However, the Sharks have been amazingly successful at drafting and developing talent and I rest assured that they will continue to do so. Therefore, the loss of guys like Carle, Wishart and Bernier are easier to swallow. Come October, the Sharks will have the best line-up of talent, experience, and desire than they have ever had in any previous October. Sharks fans hope they can finally take advantage of that.