Sometimes, you see a story unfold before your eyes and you pass judgement on it. "This is amateur"; "This is strange"; "This is a different kind of delay that I would not have expected. Very odd"
This was January 8th, 2010. Tampa Bay at New Jersey. With 9:12 left in the second period, some of the lights failed at the Prudential Center in Newark and play was suspended. It was a notable quirk in the Lightning season last year that was not tied to front office and ownership woes.
A notable quirk, one for the books in fact.
But that was then, and this is now. The difference in a year's time? The Tampa Bay Lightning franchise and the New Jersey Devils franchise are suddenly trending in vastly different directions. It's only now, half-way through the Lightning season, that we get to remark about it in a game-day preview.
Things weren't all rosy for the Devils last season either, but they were still a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.
But a funny thing happened on a way to the 2010-11 NHL season. Maybe it was a miscalculation, maybe it was hubris? Maybe it was greed? Whatever, the $100 million mistake seems to be the fact the Devils brought in (via trade) Ilya Kovalchuk, and signed him this off-season for waaaaaaaay too much more than he deserves or is earning (Note: No athlete deserves that kind o money. Be it Kovalchuk, Vincent Lecavalier, Carl Crawford, Alex Rodriguez, Peyton Manning, etc).
The signing, along with other miscalculations and contract issues, handcuffed the Devils, drained their talent pool and... Oh hell, I should just say the obvious: New Jersey fell down, went boom.
Last in the National Hockey League, 22 points earned in 41 games this season, 10 points behind the 29th ranked NHL team (New York Islanders)... It's a grand, grand mess at The Rock which Jacques Lemaire is (temporarily) in charge of overseeing. He was brought in just before Christmas as an interim replacement for fired John MacLean (great timing, Lou...real classy). The Devils have one win in eight games since Lemaire took over.
There's been no official word who will start in net for the Lightning tonight, but given what happened earlier this week when the Lightning played back-to-back affairs, I would think that Dan Ellis will be given the start.
Here's hoping the Lightning do not decide to play down to their opponent's level. They've pulled that off several times this season already, and it's not the pedigree of a serious contender. Lightning head coach Guy Boucher has complained about these antics in recent weeks.