Did the Lightning's acquisition of defenseman Darryl Sydor make it a force to be reckoned with in the East? Barry Melrose thinks so.
The ESPN analyst and former Kings coach called the deal that sent underachieving center Alexander Svitov to the Blue Jackets "awesome," and added Tampa Bay, first in the Southeast, has made a "big-time" upgrade as a conference contender.
"They did awesome," Melrose said Wednesday. "He's a winner. He's exactly what the Tampa Bay Lightning needed. . . . To get a No. 1 or 2 defenseman in the NHL today is a great move."
Melrose coached Sydor for three seasons in Los Angeles, including 1992-93 when the Kings lost to the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup final. Melrose said he has seen no reason to change his opinion of the Edmonton native.
"He's a character guy," Melrose said. "He's a leader. He'll do the right things. And defensemen get better with age."
Sydor was more low-key when he showed up at the St. Pete Times Forum.
He knows he is entering what can be an uncomfortable situation and that his presence will cost someone playing time; someone who helped Tampa Bay rise from laughingstock to playoff contender.
"It's tough," said Sydor, who'll wear No. 55. "It's like you're kind of walking on glass or thin ice. You don't want to disrupt things. I'm just going to come in and do my thing."
If Sydor, 31, continues what he has done during a fine 13-year career, the Edmonton native is going to make friends quickly.
Expected to play tonight against the Penguins, he likely will take a turn on the power play on which many of his 420 career points were scored. His passing ability is expected to help Tampa Bay's breakouts. A veteran of three Stanley Cup finals, including 1998-99 when he won with the Stars, Sydor also should add leadership . . . eventually.
"It's not the kind of thing where we say, "Here's the mantle of leadership, let's throw it on your back,' " general manager Jay Feaster said. "It's a process of leadership by the way you play or the well-timed comment in the room or on the bench."
"I've got to lead from example and gain trust because you're coming in to guys who don't know you," said Sydor, who added, "I don't think I'm filling a hole here. I think I'm going to help out.
"To pick him up is a great success for Tampa Bay," he said.