Have faith in Yzerman's Lightning plan
Funny how this is working out. The Lightning keeps trading valuable parts, and the team keeps winning. As much as general manager Steve Yzerman looks to the future, his team won't give up on the present. In the past week, the Lightning has shipped off veterans Dominic Moore, Pavel Kubina and Steve Downie for draft picks and prospects. In that span, the Lightning has won three in a row to pull within five points of a playoff spot. So is Yzerman making a mistake? Has he given up too soon? Should he have waited a little longer to close the door on this season? Absolutely not.
Here are five reasons Yzerman is doing the right thing.
1. The Lightning isn't going anywhere.
True, the Lightning is five points out of a playoff spot this morning. But even if it was to sneak into the playoffs, do you really think it would do any damage? Do you really think it could hang with the Rangers or Bruins in a seven-game series? Or the Flyers or Penguins? There's a reason the Lightning is still five points out of the playoff pack. It is not that good! Despite a recent revival, the Lightning entered Wednesday's games 30th -- that's last in the league -- in goals against average, 29th in power play and 25th in penalty killing, and it is just awful on the road. If a team can't stop its opponent from scoring, and has lousy special teams and trouble winning on the road, it has no prayer in the playoffs.
2. The draft picks are worth more than the players.
Dominic Moore is a solid third-line player. But if you can trade a third-liner who is 31 years old and had four goals and was minus-10 for a second-round pick, don't you make that trade in an second? Pavel Kubina is a dependable defenseman. But if you can trade a No. 5 defenseman who turns 35 in April for a second-round pick, don't you make that trade in a second? Steve Downie is a gritty player and has decent skills. But if you can trade a second-line forward with discipline issues who has become a target for referees for a first-round pick, don't you make that trade in a second?
3. The time to trade is now.
The trade deadline is Monday. So why didn't Yzerman wait until the last minute to see where the Lightning stood before making his moves? Why didn't he sit tight and make his moves in the summer? The answer: The offers he accepted likely weren't going to be there in a few days and definitely weren't going to be there in the summer. The Flyers wanted a depth defenseman like Kubina right now. The Sharks needed a third-line center like Moore right now. If Yzerman had hemmed and hawed, the Flyers and Sharks would have sought out other teams to fill their immediate needs.
4. The moves give the Lightning flexibility.
It's never a bad idea to clear salary cap space while collecting draft picks. If the Lightning wants to move up in the draft this summer, it has the picks to maneuver. If it wants to acquire a good player (goalie? top defenseman?) in a trade, it has the picks to swap and the cap room to take on a high salary. Or it can use the draft choices to select as many as six players in the first two rounds. Come this summer, those draft picks will be way more valuable than Moore, Kubina and Downie.
5. It's all part of the master plan.
Do you want a team that scrambles every year just to make the playoffs, only to get bounced after a round or two? Or would you rather have a team that gets good, stays good and competes for the Stanley Cup every season? As it was constructed a week ago with a leaky defense, shoddy goaltending and not enough secondary scoring, the Lightning was that mediocre first team. There's no guarantee the Lightning will ever become that team that’s always in the running, but collecting draft picks, clearing salary and building around young players is how a team gives itself a chance to become a consistent winner. That's why Yzerman should not be finished, especially with Vinny Lecavalier out at least three weeks with a hand fracture. If someone calls about Ryan Malone, Yzerman should pick up. If someone asks about Adam Hall, he should listen. If someone makes an offer for Nate Thompson or Dwayne Roloson or Brett Clark, he should consider it. These moves aren't about the mediocre present but a potentially great future.