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Lightning does things by thirds

When a ship sinks, the captain is the only officer expected to go down with it.

But with the Lightning all but capsized while off to its worst start, the captain was just one of many to go down on Doomsday Sunday.

Captain Paul Ysebaert lost his "C" and assistant captain Brian Bradley lost his "A" the day Terry Crisp was fired as coach and assistant Dave MacQueen was let go.

In their places, Roman Hamrlik and Dino Ciccarelli got an "A" as part of changes made more by design than coincidence on what may be the darkest day in franchise history.

"It's nothing against Brian or Paul, but I think it's just that they wanted to start off fresh," said wing Rob Zamuner, who retained his "A" and is one of a trio of assistants on a club with no captain. "Brian and Paul are still leaders, but it's a brand new start for everybody."

On a 2-8-2 team that sits as far south in the Eastern Conference standings as you can get, the three assistant captains, along with interim coach Rick Paterson, are expected to guide the Lightning in a new direction.

"It wasn't meant to reflect bad on Ysebaert or Bradley, but it's just a situation where it's a new beginning and you can take some pressure off those guys and give some others a chance to step up," Paterson said, adding that he made the choices with assistant coach Chris Reichart and general manager Phil Esposito. "We picked the right people, we feel."

Esposito, an advocate of shared responsibility, believes it is better to have three assistants rather than the time-honored tradition of one captain and two assistants. He said now was as good a time as any for a change: "I just felt it would be better to do some things differently."

In the three assistant captains it chose, the Lightning gets a bit of everything.

Zamuner leads by example, his work ethic unmatched.

Ciccarelli, the veteran, usually says what he thinks and now has the right to say it to others.

And by bestowing an "A" on Hamrlik, the No.

1 overall pick in the Lightning's first draft in 1992, a profound statement was made.

"I think they're trying to give a little more responsibility to Roman," Zamuner said, "put him in a leadership role."

Paterson, who goes behind the bench as interim coach for the second time when Tampa Bay plays Ottawa tonight at the Ice Palace, confirmed that is the case.

"We all know Roman's a great player," he said. "His teammates know how important he is. So why not give him a letter and make him aware of it?"

Hamrlik and Crisp started together, both Lightning originals. Hamrlik butted heads with Crisp often in seasons past but seemed to have a good relationship with him this season. However, Hamrlik is the one still standing.

And it is up to Hamrlik, in his sixth season but just 23 years old, to show that maybe someday his "A" should be a "C."

"They told me right after Crispy was gone," Hamrlik of getting an "A." "Phil came through and tells me we're not going to have one captain, but three assistants and I'm one of them. I was surprised, but happy, too. I always wanted to be an "A' or "C,' but I know it's a big responsibility. You have to have the guys trust you and believe in what you do."

Righting the ship is the first step toward making that happen.