Lecavalier's lament: 'I thought we were going to have a great year'
Lightning captain Vinny Lecavalier was off to one of his best starts in a while (four goals, 11 points in his first seven games) when his left foot was hit by a slap shot from teammate Sami Salo in the final second of a Feb. 2 game with the Rangers.
Lecavalier played through the injury, which never really healed and limited his mobility. And when on March 12 he skated into Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson, the bone that had been bruised by Salo's shot was fractured, knocking Lecavalier out of nine games.
Lecavalier's season was not bad with 10 goals and 32 points in 39 games while averaging 17:52 of ice time. He also won 54.4 percent of his faceoffs. But the center said the season "was tough," especially considering his hot start.
"I felt really good when I started the year," he added, "but with that shot the ankle was very weak. ... It didn't seem to get better."
Some more thoughts from Lecavalier:
On a disappointing season: Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely disappointing. The way we started the year, I think we were 6-1 at one point after the first seven games. Yeah, after 15, 20 games if you’re outside, with everybody playing each other, it’s tough to get back in, and it just seemed like it snowballed and we couldn’t get close to getting back to that eighth spot.
On another injury plagued season: That was tough. I felt really good when I started the year and, obviously, with that shot, the ankle was very weak. So, yeah, there’s nothing really I can do now, obviously, but I tried to play through it and it didn’t seem to get better. We were playing every second day so it was tough to heal and, obviously, it didn’t. That’s the way it is.
On potential changes to the team: I don’t know. I’m not the man making decisions. I think with (goalie Ben Bishop) coming in here at the deadline, he’s a great goalie and (Anders Lindback) as well. Two big boys, two big bodies. When you have that behind you it definitely changes things and I’m excited for that.
On a main area of concern: It’s easy to blame the goalies. It’s real easy. A lot of teams do it when they don’t do well. But at the end of it it’s the guys playing in front of them and not giving up tic-tac-toes. You can be 6-foot-8, but if it’s tic-tac-toes all night it’s going to be tough for him. I think it will be an addition for us playing better defensively and helping them out. You always hear it starts from the back end with the goalies like that. I think we have two great goalies.
On needing better game and puck management: Definitely. We changed a little bit of our system with (coach Jon Cooper) and I think our puck management has been phenomenal. But sometimes when you can’t manage (the puck) any more and you have to dump it in. You’re allowed to dump it in. But sometimes you make some bad calls or bad turnovers instead of getting it in at the end of a third period or at the end of a second period, whenever, at crucial times when you don’t want to make mistakes. You look at teams we played like Boston. They’re a simple team. You don’t see them make mistakes like that. That’s something we have to learn from.
On if the team is far away from the playoffs: Not at all. It’s disappointing to look at it that way. People are going to look at it that way. I don’t feel like that at all. I’m still, I don’t want to say shocked, especially with the start we had. I thought for sure we were going to have a great year. That’s why it’s that disappointing.
On Marty St. Louis winning the points title: He’s phenomenal. With him, you can’t look at age, just the way he’s built, the way he skates it hasn’t changed since he was 22, probably got even better. I’m not surprised. He’s just smart. He’s got everything, and now he’s got the experience, too, and that adds from the last time he won the (Art Ross) trophy (in 2004). I think he makes this team a lot better the way he plays. He's a great leader and I’m happy for him.
On his no-trade clause: Yeah, I want to be here. I want to play here the rest of my career and I’ve always said that and will keep saying it. I’ve been here for 15 years now. I’m proud to be part of this organization.
On the draft: From what I hear it’s a great draft. Especially now, guys are coming in, they’re 19 years old, some are 18. There's more guys coming in early it seems than 15 years ago when I came in. Guys got in at 23, 24, now they’re all 21. I don’t want to say they’re at their prime but they have a big impact on a team, so if we can pick up a great player it will be good for this franchise.
On the impact of Tampa Bay's minor-league players: Panik, Killorn, Aulie, all the young guys, guys who last year or a couple of years ago were in the minors and now they’re coming in and having an impact on the team. I don’t want to say I was surprised but any time a minor league team wins you know they’re doing something right. You look at teams that had success over and over like Detroit, a Jersey, they have good minor league teams. I think we have that here, so we’re lucky. I don’t want to say lucky, but they’ve made a great job of building that.