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Tampa Bay Lightning must increase its defensive depth

If the Lightning ever decides to trade Vinny Lecavalier, a key could be the quality of defensemen it gets in return. Regardless of how the soap opera plays out, Tampa Bay must be committed to rebuilding a blue line thin throughout the organization.

How thin? Consider the team is wary of calling up Mike Lundin from AHL Norfolk because he could be lost through recall waivers.

And consider the Lightning apparently has decided its best option on defense, until people get healthy, is forward David Koci. Okay, so Koci is a former defenseman, converted by the Blackhawks, and it is a way to keep the enforcer in the lineup. But he has played better than Vladimir Mihalik, who has been up and down from the minors.

The point is, after so many years of terrible drafting, the cupboard, generally, is bare in Norfolk. The big team, too, lacks a shutdown presence and since the Dan Boyle trade has struggled with its transition game.

That is why you hear names such as bruising Mike Komisarek as someone the Lightning might be interested in if trade talks with the Canadiens about Vinny ever got serious.

It is why Tampa Bay apparently has had interest in Maple Leafs defenseman Ian White.

And it is why, in a perverse way, you can lament the team's recent upturn because finishing last in the league likely would mean drafting 6-foot-7 Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman No. 1.

Nothing against the current group of blue-liners. They give their all, and against the Flyers on Thursday, the team proved that when the forwards help play as a five-man unit, good squads can be shut down. But there is no margin for error a seasoned defensive presence can provide.

Tampa Bay also needs more offense from its back line. Eight goals entering Saturday just doesn't cut it. White, by himself, entered Saturday with six.

It's simple, really. To move forward, the Lightning has to look back, to the defense.

Tampa Bay Lightning must increase its defensive depth 01/17/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 19, 2009 11:51am]
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