Wednesday, September 10, 2008

NHL Four-cast: Tampa Bay Lighting

1 - Why is this team worth watching? Apparently this Steve Stamkos kid has a guaranteed roster spot and he has some sweeeeeet moves. Then there are mighty midget Marty St. Louis and Vinny04, who have been reunited with Vinny Prospal to make one of the best lines in the league. Oh yeah, and they added former Crosby errand boy Ryan Malone, aging pitbull Gary Roberts and the classy Olaf Kolzig, who I still can't believe Washington wouldn't re-sign. And keep an eye on the monstrous Evgeny Artyukhin (6'4, 254), who has a wide variety of weapons in his arsenal.

2 - Are they better or worse than last year? They were woeful last season. I mean like, really, really woeful. Could they be any worse? Not really, although the Islanders managed to do it so I guess the Bolts could have ... but they didn't. With new owners in town they went on a drunken spending spree and rebuilt their roster. And they did a decent job of it too. They will be in the hunt for a playoff spot and should play some exciting, defenseless hockey under Barry Melrose. Most pundits are jumping all over the fact that they didn't replace Dan Boyle but they did get Andrew Hutchinson from the Rangers and he had an incredible season in the AHL. He should work well to compliment and kick young Matt Carle into gear, just as Kolzig will mentor Mike Smith and Gary Roberts will show Stamkos what it is to be a professional.

3 - Who should YOU draft in fantasy? The MVP line are all top flight and Prospal may even fall to the mid-rounds of your draft. It's hard to imagine that neither Radim Vrbata nor Malone will be able to repeat their solid stat lines from last season but if Melrose does indeed go for all offense, all the time, who knows. Mark Recchi will be good for power play points, as he always has been, but don't expect too much. All of their plus/minus will suck. Well, maybe not all - Michel Ouellet somehow was a +11 last season, even though the Bolts blew. He also had 36 points in 64 games so if he stays healthy and is placed alongside Stamkos, watch out - he will be a good late round pick in deep drafts. Stay away from their goaltenders and, unlike the Tampa Bay owners, don't spend too much on Andrej Meszaros - at least until he proves himself. Meszaros received a ton of ice time in good situations with Ottawa and managed just 36 points. You can turn to Paul Ranger instead and he should provide a cheap 35, 40 points if he stays healthy.

4 -Why aren't more owners like Oren Koules and Len Barrie? Because all of the other owners are old white guys with no sense of humour. They like hockey so they bought a team. They like winning so they spent some of their money to do it. They have strong opinions and have no problem voicing them. And, most importantly, they are fans of the game and - at least for now - respect the other fans ... let's just hope it lasts ...

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