Underscrutinized

There are a number of things with the Lightning that are and were under the microscope this season -- be it there play under the new system, goaltending, or defense... Goaltending was by far and away the most scrutinized aspect for the Bolts... Or Brad Richards looming restricted free agent status (which has been on the mouth of journalists since Martin St. Louis signed his contract before pre-season).

Yet I've wondered time and again about other problems with the team -- problems that the talking-heads weren't talking about while they waited for more offense that didn't come... The current poll on the left sidebar represents four characteristics I thought were dismissed during the regular season:


  • Lack of Challenging incumbents (veterans) during pre-season -- This wasn't a shocker to me. It's John Tortorella's consistent habit during "Camp Torturella": give as much playing time to the guys who are locks for the roster and screw the minor leaguers. The problem with that logic this year is that veterans were complacent and weren't ready to play under the new NHL rules. Three rookies cracked the Lightning roster and stayed there during the course of the season -- and yet you have to wonder why Paul Ranger, Evgeny Artyukhin and Ryan Craig weren't given more of a chance during the pre-season? Add to it the goaltenders in the Lightning system who were in camp initially -- why weren't the rookie goalies given more chances if goaltending was the biggest question mark for the team going into the season -- and you have all the makings of writing off the future of the franchise. Torts learned the hard way this season that you can't do that. More on that in a minute.

  • Craig Ramsey and Special Teams -- this is the most painful selection to write about... Painful because I feel like I am kicking a guy while he's down. Craig Ramsey, as you may recall, battled prostate cancer during the year and missed a few games in January after having surgery that removed his prostate. Rammer's focus -- as with the entire team -- just didn't seem right all season and it showed on special teams. The Lightning finished the 2005-06 season ranked 23rd on the power play and 20th on the penalty kill. Their post-season performances led to the team being ranked 12th and 16th in those two respective categories. I don't know if my blame is misplaced on Ramsey and should be on Tortorella or on the defense -- but horrid is as horrid does. 11 Short handed goals and 11 allowed short handed goals also accompany the above ranking stats.
  • John Tortorella's "nice guy" Act -- This is a continuation of the thought from the first section. John Tortorella is known as a hard ass, he's know for being blunt, being brash, calling out players and alienating them in the media if they are performing a shit job. It's worked too, yet John wasn't John this year. He would shit on his goaltending and then retract the statements a few days later. He gave the benefit of the doubt too often to his veterans -- Dave Andreychuk especially -- hoping everyone would get there head out of their ass and start playing like they are capable.
  • The Andreychuk situation is what underlines Tortorella being very out-of-character this year. Maybe it was justified because he was trying to show the respect that was due to his teams captain? Tortorella gave Andreychuk every opportunity to show that he could play in the new NHL and it (possibly) had an adverse affect on the roster -- by not pulling the trigger earlier.

    The scratched practices for rest, the preferred treatment in training camp... It may have worked in the stretch run of a normal NHL season but last season was anything but normal, with thanks to the work stoppage during the previous year.

  • Lack of physical play -- Until Evgeny Artyukhin landed on the roster, the idea of throwing a check seemed foreign to the Lightning early in the season. Instead of throwing around their bodies, they feared the new rules of the league and used heavy stickwork with defense. It looks rather sad when you see hockey players along the boards poking with their sticks instead of physically trying to take possession of the puck. This is the characteristic that was easiest to see as a problem for the Lightning and you saw no attention given to that fact.

  • So with 23 votes on the poll as of this point, I further define the poll selections and leave it to the readers to voice their thoughts...

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