Espo back on radio, says defense is fine
Lightning founder Phil Esposito said he wasn't sure he would be back as an analyst on WDAE's broadcast of Tampa Bay games (he says he never has worked with a contract) until a recent talk with owner Oren Koules, who invited Esposito back for another season with play-by-play man Dave Mishkin.
"It keeps me close to the game," Esposito said of his Lightning broadcast gig. "It keeps me looking at the teams and it helps me with the radio show I do on XM. And it keeps me involved with the Tampa Bay Lightning, which I always wanted to do."
As for Tampa Bay's chances next season, Esposito said the defense is the key, and despite the blue line being relatively young and inexperienced, he said there is plenty of potential.
"I like Matt Carle," Esposito said of the 23-year-old defeseman the Lightning got from the Sharks in the Dan Boyle deal. "Paul Ranger is going to be a heck of a lot better, and I think Shane O'Brien is going to be better. He was playing a game (last season) that he was not familiar with and trying to do things that were not his style. He was trying to be more offensive than he really is."
It's a good point. O'Brien did seem stuck in some strange Twilight Zone last season. Playing in a system in which the defense was told to push into the offensive zone, O'Brien said it was just what he was looking for, and he was pushed by the coaching staff to develop his offensive instincts. O'Brien has those instincts but it seemed to get to the point where he was stuck in the middle of trying to create offense while trying to play responsible defense. Both suffered and O'Brien was benched for the season's final five games.
"Sometimes when that happens, a player gets himself where he loses confidence in his abilities and gets himself really screwed up," Esposito said. "I sometimes think that's when coaching staffs make a huge mistake trying to make a player do something he's not capable of doing. I think Ranger is capable, (Filip) Kuba. I like Alex Picard a lot and this kid they got (Andrew Hutchinson). He's a right-handed shot, which is very important.
"Quite frankly, after meeting Koules, I was really impressed with the way they're doing things over there. I know the team is going to be a hell of a lot better. Early on it's going to be tough, but I think everything is really looking good."