Friday is the first round of the draft and Tampa Bay does not have a first-round pick. It does not have a first-round pick for the fourth time since Palace Sports & Entertainment bought the franchise in 1999. Normally I would say that is a big deal but the Lightning's focus this season is going to be on obtaining NHL-ready players; forwards first and perhaps some defense. Jay Feaster said he almost certainly will not trade up from the No. 47 pick (Tampa Bay's first of six in the seven-round event). In fact, Feaster seems to have set the tone for what is supposed to be a weak draft by trading a second-round draft picks either this year or 2008 (at the Panthers option) for Chris Gratton. So look for more deals and fewer picks this year.
That leads to this. If you saw the Times on Sunday, you know how poorly the team has drafted since 1999. Consider that only two players out of 47 picked between 1999 and 2002 (it takes about five years to evaluate a draft class) are still with the team -- Ryan Craig and Paul Ranger.
So, to sum up: five first-round picks traded since 1999, including the No. 1 overall in 1999 by then-GM Rick Dudley in the deal for Dan Cloutier. Only one of the five trades is an unqualified success (Feaster's No. 4 in 2002 for Ruslan Fedotenko and two second-round picks, one of which he turned into Brad Lukowich). One shows a lot of promise, Feaster's No. 16 this year for defenseman Shane O'Brien.
Looking at the big picture: Wasn't it too bad the Lightning did not have any push from AHL Springfield to take the jobs of Fedotenko and Vinny Prospal? Consider the above stats and that Feaster said the past four seasons have been spent stocking up on goaltenders and defensemen, and you understand the lack of talent on the front lines. In fact, the player in the organization creating the most buzz right now is Chris Lawrence, who scored 47 goals last year but as a junior and without any pro experience. Feaster said rebuilding the foundation is a priority but with the plan this year to get NHL-ready players the fix won't be quick.
Still, as head scout Jake Goertzen said: "We have some work to do.''