Downie's second-chance campaign continues against his former team tonight
Steve Downie, a 21-year-old RW was traded for and promoted because of his intriguing potential to add grit and gumption to a Lightning squad that has lacked it. A 2005 first-round draft pick of the Flyers acquired by the Lightning on Nov. 7 in the Matt Carle deal, he also brings a history of on-ice behavioral issues and suspensions that have marked his young career. Lightning GM Brian Lawton has said that “it’s what he does from here forward as to how he’ll be judged.” Certainly anyone deserves a fresh start, but Downie’s transgressions aren’t exactly ancient history.
● Playing for the Flyers, he was suspended 20 games – one of the longest sanctions in NHL history – after leaving his feet to plaster Ottawa’s Dean McAmmond with a blow to the head in a 2007 preseason game.
- As captain of his Windsor juniors team in the Ontario Hockey League in 2005, he cross-checked in the mouth a rookie teammate who had refused to participate in a hazing ritual, fought him when the rookie returned to the ice, was suspended five games and ordered to undertake anger management.
- In November, playing for the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Norfolk, he was suspended three games for hitting Worcester’s Kyle McLaren from behind.
It will be interesting to see how the Lightning channels his aggression to the kind of play it wants.
Downie showed his two-way potential in the second period on Friday, though, blocking an Erik Reitz pass with his skate and hustling in for a breakaway that G Niklas Backstrom snuffed. Downie, frustrated, cross-checked the dislodged net, which was darkly humorous considering his past. He logged his first NHL fight with the Lightning against Colorado.
“He needs to bring energy and enthusiasm to our lineup,”
Lawton said. “That’s what I thought he did tonight. He did a good job.”
Interim head coach Rick Tocchet said with good coaching and better conditioning he could be an asset. He’s liked what he’s seen so far and both the Lightning and Downie seem to be embracing the clean slate he’s been afforded with TampaBay.