Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hold off judging Lightning for now

TAMPA — Let's see if I have this straight:

In the span of a week, the Lightning acquired a bunch of scorers, one goaltender and a first-round draft pick in 2009. And all it cost them was a ton of money and quite a bit of scorn.

Personally, I can live with that.

For no matter how loud the outcry over Dan Boyle's departure, the Lightning's new ownership is at least making a move. No one knows for certain if it's forward or backward, but it's better than the constant tweaking that had translated into three playoff victories in the past three years.

Once, stability was our savior in Tampa Bay. It helped a wayward franchise settle down and become a Stanley Cup champion. Lately, stability has been a hindrance. It has kept the Lightning from realizing the glory was gone and a new direction was needed.

Is Tampa Bay a lesser hockey team today because Boyle has been traded to San Jose? Absolutely. But is the Lightning a better team than a couple of weeks ago after the acquisitions of Steve Stamkos, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Vinny Prospal, Radim Vrbata and Olaf Kolzig? You bet.

The point is this is still a work in progress. It looked great when they were spending money Monday, and it looked shaky when they were shedding salary Friday, and I assume it will be somewhere in the middle come October.

Because Friday's trade of Boyle and Brad Lukowich cannot be the end of Tampa Bay's dealings. The roster has too many spare forwards and not enough quality defenders. If this roster remains intact for the rest of the summer, new owner Oren Koules will literally have no defense.

Having said that, I understand the desire to deal Boyle. I couldn't swear it was a good deal for the Lightning, but at least you can see the rationale behind it.

As a 32-year-old defenseman, Boyle's six-year, $40-million contract was eventually going to become an anchor. So maybe new defenseman Matt Carle will not be as good as Boyle in 2008-09, but he might be by 2010-11. And he's going to cost a heck of a lot less.

Boyle's trade has given the Lightning flexibility. Just as the trade of Brad Richards did a few months ago. This had become a top-heavy franchise with too much money devoted to four players. Now the salary structure has been spread around, and the results will be all over the front lines.

Prospal is back to play alongside Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis. Malone and Vrbata immediately give Stamkos proven linemates. And, among them, Roberts, Jeff Halpern, Ryan Craig, Nick Tarnasky and, perhaps, Evgeny Artyukhin give the Lightning legitimate depth on the third and fourth lines.

So the offense looks better. And the goaltending, with Mike Smith and Kolzig, has been upgraded. That leaves the defense, which was weak last season and weaker still today. Again, as long as Koules has a plan to upgrade the blue line, it's hard to argue with the remaking of the roster.

I will, however, take issue with the way this deal was handled. Just last week, Koules blew off a question about Boyle trade rumors, saying he'd answer anything important. Was that an outright lie? Perhaps not technically.

But Koules purposefully gave the impression he was not interested in trading Boyle. Now maybe he gets a pass because he's new at this hockey executive gig, but being deceitful with your fan base is one of the few inexcusable sins of ownership. In a sense, it's more distasteful than any potential trade.

At any rate, this has been the most eventful couple of weeks this franchise has ever seen in the offseason. Stamkos is the biggest draft pick since Lecavalier, Malone and Vrbata are the biggest acquisitions since Nikolai Khabibulin, and Boyle's departure is the most painful since, well, Richards a couple of months ago.

Look, nothing comes for free. The Lightning had to endure a miserable season to get Stamkos in the draft. Koules had to commit $72-million in salaries to bring in a fistful of free agents. And Tampa Bay fans have to say goodbye to Boyle, and one of the final links to the Stanley Cup, in order to make other necessary moves.

So no matter how you feel today — exhilarated or angry — just remember nothing is guaranteed. Koules may think these moves will turn the Lightning into a winner, but he doesn't know for sure. You may think trading Boyle will be a disaster, but that's no guarantee, either.

The only way to grade these moves is over time.

And that's what's going to make this season worth watching.

John Romano can be reached at romano@sptimes.com.

Hold off judging Lightning for now 07/04/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 8, 2008 5:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. If Tony Dungy sticks around, he'll broadcast the 2021 Tampa Super Bowl for NBC

    Bucs

    Lost in the Super Tuesday news of the Super Bowl coming back to Tampa was this nugget:

    Pictured, from left, Dan Patrick, co-Host, Tony Dungy, studio analyst, Aaron Rodgers. [Ben Cohen/NBC]
  2. Tragedy, tenacity helped shape Ridgewood valedictorian Johannah Cummines

    Volleyball Preps

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Even if her daily routine didn't permit calories to melt off, Johannah Cummines would deserve to pick anything on the menu.

    Ridgewood High senior Johannah Cummines and mom Chenell. Cummines is headed to Florida Atlantic, where she will play beach volleyball. (Photo courtesy of Johannah Cummines)
  3. Bucs Roberto Aguayo kicks off 2017 on the wrong foot

    Blogs

    The goal posts still seem to be moving for Roberto Aguayo.

    The Bucs woebegone place-kicker, who is in a battle with veteran Nick Folk, went 1-for-4 in field goal tries from 35-40 yards Tuesday on a set of narrow uprights, the first day of full squad Organized Team Activities.

    If that weren’t …

    Roberto Aguayo went 1-for-4 in field goal tries from 35-40 yards Tuesday on a set of narrow uprights.
  4. Rays morning after: Are cold bats a sign of things to come?

    Blogs

    How does an offense that has ranked among the most productive in the league for seven weeks go so cold?

    Steven Souza Jr. extended his weeks-long skid to 8-for-67.
  5. Calvary Christian takes strong lineup, defense to state baseball tournament

    Baseballpreps

    CLEARWATER — No matter what happens in Friday's Class 4A state semifinal against Delray Beach American Heritage, Calvary Christian has already had a historic season. The unbeaten Warriors have won 28 games and qualified for the school's first state baseball tournament.

    The addition of Nolan Hudi to the rotation made a difference, said Calvary Christian coach Greg Olsen. “It was huge.”