Make us your home page

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

(View our Privacy Policy)

Top item on docket for Jeff Vinik as Tampa Bay Lightning owner will be Vinny Lecavalier

Jeff Vinik will take over a team whose biggest superstar is struggling this season.

Jeff Vinik will take over a team whose biggest superstar is struggling this season.

It starts with Vinny. For a new Lightning owner, it always does.

He has seen them all, Vinny Lecavalier. He could tell you about the cheap ones and the mouthy ones, about the ones who patted his back and the ones who pounded their chests, about the ones who said nothing and the ones who said things you couldn't trust.

Soon, Lecavalier will provide us with the first clues about Jeff Vinik, owner-in-waiting.

Eventually, perhaps other things will matter more when Lightning fans judge Vinik. Perhaps he will finally bring stability to the franchise. Perhaps he will finally make the rest of the league think of the Lightning as a smart, calculating franchise. Perhaps he will be hungry enough, passionate enough, wealthy enough to make the Lightning essential once again. Perhaps he'll even hang around for a few seasons.

For now, however, there is Vinny.

Do you think Vinik can get to him?

Soon, the Lightning will be his. Perhaps by the team's next game (on March 2), the deal will be complete. (The transaction might have been completed by now, but word is NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has misplaced his rubber stamp again, and owners say they won't buy him a new one until at least March.)

Still, this feels as if it is all but done. Before long, Vinik will close the deal on the schizophrenia of a team and the apathy of the fans, on the underachieving players and the overpaid ones, on a defense that can allow four goals in the time it takes you to sneeze and on an offense that seems to think the net is currently starring in the final season of Lost.

Your probable reaction?

"Golly gee, Jeff. It's about time."

That's the thing about ownership changes with the Lightning. They always sound like such a swell idea, don't they? The new guy always sounds better than the old one, and the promise of good times to come beats the ugliness of a losing streak. (Of course, this is also known as "The Madonna Theory.")

Say this for Vinik. The standards are fairly low. Has any group of fans anywhere seen a longer line of dysfunctional owners than Lightning fans? There was Takashi Okubo, perhaps the only owner in pro sports to be accused of being fictional. There was Audio Art Williams, who decided he didn't like hockey after about three minutes but who would talk to his team for an hour at a time. Of course, there are the current owners, Cowboy Oren and Cowboy Len, who were so passionate they spent all of Oren's money. (They would have spent Len's, too, but he didn't have any. I mean, the guy could use his wallet as a bookmark.)

You know who was the best owner the Lightning has ever had? It was the late Bill Davidson, who had the deed when the Lightning won the Stanley Cup. Davidson wasn't the most passionate hockey man, but when you win a Cup, no one cares if you know how many periods are in a game.

Here's what those owners had in common. They all looked to Lecavalier for hope. Every one of them. He was drafted by Kokusai Green, and Williams proclaimed him to be the next Michael Jordan, and Davidson was the owner who wouldn't trade him, and Koules and Barrie gave him a staggering contract.

Now, there is Vinik.

Once again, an owner has to sort out the Vinny Conundrum.

For Lecavalier, this season has been an unanswered riddle. Put bluntly, his production doesn't measure up to his paycheck. No one pays a player, any player, $10 million a season to be the fourth-highest goal scorer on his team.

So the question must be asked: Can Vinny be saved, or should Vinny be moved?

First things first. I don't think anything will happen short term. Trying to trade a player as popular as Lecavalier would be a lousy way for any new owner to say hello. To a lot of fans, that would sound more like goodbye.

But would Vinik be out of line for evaluating Vinny as the season progresses? Of course not. And when one out of every five dollars a team spends on payroll goes to one player, it has to keep a close watch on him. Frankly, Lecavalier is being paid to be a star, and he hasn't been. (It should be repeated that Lecavalier has a no-trade clause.)

Why has Lecavalier backslid? Who knows? One theory is that Lecavalier isn't playing well because he doesn't trust the current ownership. If so, that would be disappointing, because most competitors don't get their fire from the guy in the owner's box. But if I'm Vinik, I have a heart-to-heart with Lecavalier on the first day I own the team. I tell him I think he is capable of more.

Over time, Vinik has a lot of questions to answer. He has to decide what to do with his general manager, with his head coach, with his marketing plan, with his budget, with his blueprint.

First, there is Vinny.

For a new owner, that's where hope begins.

Top item on docket for Jeff Vinik as Tampa Bay Lightning owner will be Vinny Lecavalier 02/15/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 15, 2010 11:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Friday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb hates to hear how he "battled through" or "grinded out" a start rather than just dominated, but that's kind of what he did Friday, allowing nine hits and a walk and being charged with two wild pitches but only three runs in earning his 12th win.

  2. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was curious how he would feel — and perform — in Friday's exhibition against Nashville, his first game since mid-November knee surgery.

    The Lightning’s Alex Killorn, left, makes his preseason debut and has an assist in a 3-1 win against the Predators at Amalie Arena.
  3. Rays journal: Rays tie franchise home run record

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — A major flaw in the Rays offense this season — and thus a major reason for their inconsistent play and losing record — has been too much reliance on the home run.

    Wilson Ramos points after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Ww's Odessabeach makes run at Husker Magic stakes final


    ST. PETERSBURG — When Hurricane Irma blew through Florida earlier this month, Ww's Odessabeach remained in her comfort zone.

  5. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs this season while improving his defense and baserunning but wants to improve on his .236 batting average.