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Nashville Predators are development example for Tampa Bay Lightning

Terry Crisp loves when the Predators bring up a kid from the minors. It seems to add a spark, said the former Lightning coach, who for many years has handled Nashville's radio commentary.

"You can see the tempo pick up."

Crisp said it is no surprise that since the organization peppered its lineup with seven callups from AHL Milwaukee, a process that began in mid to late October, it was on an 18-6-2 streak entering Saturday's game with the Flames.

Why bring this up? Because the Predators are a good example of what the Lightning hopes to become, an organization that develops minor-league players who can push veterans.

"They're hungry," Crisp said of the callups. "They want to come. They want to play. They want to stay here. Sometimes the guys who have been here, they get stale. They get complacent."

Tampa Bay is slowly starting to get that push. Paul Szczechura, 24, called up Nov. 12 from AHL Norfolk, has become a mainstay, and Blair Jones, 23, called up three times since Dec. 3, might finally stick around. Steve Downie, 22, who was up and down last season from Norfolk, also has carved out a role.

Still, the process is hit and miss because the Lightning historically has drafted so poorly. Consider that the team has just six players it drafted before 2008: Szczechura, Jones, James Wright, Vinny Lecavalier, Matt Smaby and Paul Ranger.

When the Predators beat Tampa Bay 7-4 on Tuesday, they had 11 players they drafted before 2008. Of the seven spot callups that have helped turn around the season, five were drafted.

"You're at a total disadvantage" by drafting poorly, Crisp said. "As we all know, you just can't go around making trades like you used to, so I like when kids come up and push.

"We were stagnant for a while. We weren't moving anywhere. Then (coach Barry) Trotz brought them up, and he puts them in the lineup. Suddenly, they're out there, getting ice time and taking other guy's ice time, boom, (the veterans) get the message."

One the Lightning should heed.

Nashville Predators are development example for Tampa Bay Lightning 12/19/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 19, 2009 7:28pm]
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