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'Blunder' not the way to assess Tampa Bay Lightning goalie situation

A recent article in the Hockey News stated Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman made a "management blunder" signing goaltender Dwayne Roloson last summer and letting Mike Smith leave via free agency.

And Smith — with a 33-18-9 record, 2.36 goals-against average and .925 save percentage with the Coyotes entering Saturday — certainly has Tampa Bay fans thinking what might have been.

But a blunder? Too harsh.

Rather, it was a confluence of circumstances that pushed Yzerman into what at the time seemed a good decision that ultimately produced a bad result.

First, no one predicted Roloson's game would drop off as it has, especially after he played so well last season. Yes, he is 42 and needed a one-game breather near the end of last season's playoffs, but Tampa Bay without him would not have gone as far.

Second, Smith was bad enough at times last season that he briefly was demoted to AHL Norfolk. And the Lightning did offer him a contract, though you can bet it was for less than the $4 million the Coyotes committed. Keep in mind Mathieu Garon got $2.6 million for two years to be a backup.

Plus, Smith wanted to be a No. 1, something the Coyotes immediately offered.

Finally, the idea Smith would have recreated his Phoenix numbers for Tampa Bay is not a given. There are too many variables.

Knowing the competitor in Smith, his motivation to tweak the Lightning is probably through the roof, an impulse he would not have had with Tampa Bay. He is getting more defensive help, too.

Smith also found a mentor/kindred spirit in Coyotes goaltenders coach Sean Burke, whom Smith credits with helping him, above all else, get the mental part of his game in order.

"He's just such a calming influence," Smith told Yahoo Sports.

The bottom line is that a blunder is a mistake made through stupidity. Yzerman and the Lightning were done in by circumstance.

'Blunder' not the way to assess Tampa Bay Lightning goalie situation 03/24/12 [Last modified: Sunday, March 25, 2012 12:06am]

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