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State of "our beloved'' Lightning

24

April

Don "Phantom'' Healy had a little something to say about the Lightning. If you have an hour to kill, check it out:

"The State of Our Beloved Lightning Well, this off-season there are many things we wannabe GM's would like to see occur within our beloved Lightning Organization. I'll leave goaltending for last since that's heaviest on everyone's mind, and dust off some other ways to tune our engine. 1. Coaching. I really, really trust John Tortorella as a dynamic, perceptive and receptive to change type, coach. The calm and knowledgeable Craig Ramsey is a perfect foil for Tort's sometimes abrasive tactics. But there is a problem with goalie mentoring. Jeff Reese isn't getting it done. Every puck in the net should be viewed as a personal cold slap under the face-mask and flat out shall not be tolerated. Be it from a sniper's stick or a teammate's skate, there has got to be a diamond hard resolve from the goalie: "Better luck next time suckers, you’re going to need it." Our organization is blessed with above average talent to accomplish this. We need a goalie guru to bring these guys to the top of their craft. Khabibulin was All-World (89% of the time) and made Reese look good. Everyone since has been like Jeff was as a player---a study in mediocrity. Start drilling the shutout state of mind at the AHL level. Prepare these kids for the NHL elite, not splinter pickers or career AHL stewards. 2. Defense. The nuveau-NHL fanatic likes to see the lamp lit and lit often. I like to see diving bodies blocking shots if they can't just skate up and snatch away the puck from the other guy (or knock him on his can.). Who teaches defense? Has Darren Rumble sent any rams to the NHL Mountain, ready to lock horns? What's Larry Robinson or Joe Reekie doing these days? Here's a radical thought: we had good luck once in a deal with Phoenix. Cost us dearly, Mara and Mike Johnson to get Khabibulin. That turned out OK, considering the net minding alternatives in '04. Phoenix revived Cujo's career--maybe they can do it again with Marc Denis. It would be great to fashion a deal of prospects and picks around Denis and Nick Boynton. That Killer 'B' would be great for our 'D'. Try not to look too far past Boynton and Doan though, that Coyote team is a bunch of stiffs. Ask O'Brien, the ex-Duck. Also consider having Boyle replace Taylor, not as ‘C’, but as a third line wing. Danny, I’ll spell it out for you since no one else will: A wing that plays like a defenseman is still a forward. A defenseman who plays like a wing is NO defenseman. Get it? We’d prefer not to flinch watching #22 pinch. We’ve had a stay at home Ace all along; can anyone tell me what was so terrible about having Luke Richardson lace ‘em up and do a dozen shifts per night? One Brendan Witt is worth 5% of a goalie’s stats--think about that. Boyle was worth at least 5%--added to Denis’ misery. Knock it off--now. 3. Practice the dynamic. Did you ever get the feeling the Detroit Red Wings are on the power play when at even strength? That they seem to match up evenly when killing off penalties? Their defense is solid and netminding is superior--even through the swinging door of average goalies in the past. We can practice to get that skillful. Remember Pete Rose taking batting practice at Al Lopez Field from 40 ft and whiffing; only to speed up his reflexes to see the game pitches look as big as beachballs and hit them all over the place. Bart Starr used to stretch the ligaments in his hands trying to palm a basketball, while freezing his tail off on the Green Bay sideline. It made for a better grip on a cold football. Apply that dynamic on the ice to quicken reflexes; make practice pucks smaller, so at gametime the real ones look like sombreros to our goalie and easier to handle by our stickmen. Practice more shorthanded, so the extra teammate in a game is a luxury, not a necessity (4th forward). It's like weight lifting, working through resistance. You tend to get better. I ceaselessly drilled my baseball teams in, "Bases loaded, nobody out. What are you going to do?" We got very goll darn good at turning double plays--at any base. Instead of thinking, "Aw shoot.” the guys got it in their head, "Alright suckers, we got your butts now." 4. The salary cap. The thing about millionaires is they are always crying poor, and they always will. Good, fast skaters can be had for less than we're paying. The coaches should be able to mold 12 Eric Perrins and six Shane O'Briens into a dreaded club to play against, or they’re not coaching. Divest the Lightning of their Hummer, Lexus and Mercedes, and re-apply the $20M into (--Honda's and Toyota's) people that do not tune out the coaches. Chemistry is developed through common trials and tribulations. The '04 Cup winning chemistry is now anti-coach alchemy. Take two steps backward and four giant breaths and see the situation with better clarity. Then stomp forward again as a crew. You want to live through the overpaying mistake and keep these guys? Bear in mind nobody works in the same place for 40 years and a gold watch anymore. Yzerman was the last of the breed to spend two decades with the same club. Think of the Big Three as juicy stocks. Keep one, get your highest return on two now, and invest in newer, faster stock. Depreciation begins with the next season while talented kids wait. 5. Captain. This is not a high school popularity contest. The club rallied around Captain Dave Andreychuk for a cause. Not since Ysabaert have we had someone as smart as the coach on ice, with 'follow me' attitude. (I’d follow Dave into any battle, but he isn’t coaching. He should though—at Norfolk.) Neither glamour nor coach's foil (Ramsey's job) do we need in this area. Someone who wears the 'C' on the sweater that evokes extra EFFORT from his 'mates is needed, more than someone to plead for slack from on high. The slack is already there, and evident in our sporadic work ethic. If we don't trade for a Ryan Smyth or Sundin and have an Andreychuk redeux, my vote from our current cast is for St.Louis. Pick your own if you please; mindful that Lecavalier flourished without the burden, Richards had been carcinogenic and failed to ensure his line-mates play at the highest level. Marty would be a great 'C'--- but I fear losing him to either trade, age 30-something speed loss, injury, or a combination of the last two. 6. Now for the curse of Wendell Young. My goodness, we have some slippery ice in our crease! I am no good at assessing or prognosticating goalies; I really thought J.C. Bergeron was going to be our guy for 15 years. I don’t believe we should replicate the Puppa and Khabibulin days. After establishing blueline tenacity for the first time in franchise history, we should be able to put the Zamboni driver in the pads and do OK. Example: if you’re thinking about having Giguere in net, don’t forget to bring in Niedermayer and Pronger too, or you may as well stick with whom we have. Fortunately, we are blessed with three kids with whom I’d go to any battle. Unfortunately, fans like to see scoring, so what [sic] Minnesota does will never be tolerated here. The Tampa Bay method of bastardizing hockey with four forwards, one knock-kneed defenseman and an Elmer Fudd goalie should lead to this: Go ahead and forget defense. Let Boyle rush and QB the other three forwards and just put 2 goalies in our crease. Ramo and Boutin flailing away at pucks from odd man rushes makes as much sense as our current doctrine. Back to reality; somewhere above, is mentioned a viable solution or two. We can win games 7-6, or 3-2; but we are not going to continue the streaky 5-2s in between the 3-2, and 4-1 losses for very long. The losses will become cancerous. That jive is really tough to coach out of a club. Our $7.8M man didn’t make those around him appreciably better as an icon $hould. So he misses Modin, too bad so sad. Number 19 didn’t make #s 15, 17, 20, 24, 29, 34 elevate their respective games the way a Larry Bird, Derek Jeter, or a Joe Sakic could. All that money isn’t buying resolve. It is buying team chemistry cancer. If we don’t radiate soon we’re dead. Perhaps we have it backwards here; when someone sleep-skates on a shift the a ssistant coach should be lighting a fire under the slack fanny. The Big Guy should be watching and assessing what he’s already coached, and mulling any necessary changes to game strategy. (Remember Scotty Bowman?) Perhaps Torts should be the motivator and Ramer the calm strategist. Nah, I like them the way we have them, and gratified they’re with us. But somebody has got to hand out Greyhound Bus tickets, the instant mollycoddled players tune out their coach. Put me down for $5. on mid-December in the office pool of when we jettison Artukin for the final time. Certain others can hit the bricks much sooner. I love this Club. One final thought: I feel lousy for Robbie DiMaio. Get well and enjoy your life, son.

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:37pm]

    

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