To say that Lightning fan's general attitude towards Captain Vincent Lecavalier is on-again, off-again would probably land me in the running for understatement of the year. To say that he remains the most important player on the team will gather a hearty "HEAR HEAR!!!" from many, and an even heartier "WTF is this guy on?" from probably just as many.
By all accounts, Vinny has never really been given an honest-to-goodness fair shake in Tampa. He was irresponsibly labeled the 'Michael Jordan of hockey' by former owner Art Williams, prematurely thrust into captaincy by then-coach Steve Ludzik, and then missed the beginning of the 2001-02 season because of contract negotiations. Shortly after posting career seasons, he went through several injuries (none of which were his 'fault') limiting not only his availability, but his production as well.
And then there's the whopper of a contract that those loveable silly hearts known as OK Hockey threw his way.
And, despite his constant contributions to the community, consistently solid numbers, and the obvious gaping hole in leadership that shows up amongst the team when he does miss time, he's constantly the subject of trade rumors (despite just playing his 1000th game as a member of the Lightning) and unhappy conjecture amongst fans, especially during the off season.
Until this past summer. With his brilliant performance in the 2010-11 playoffs, and at long last a clean bill of health,
we all Vinny enjoyed a quiet summer, free of unwarranted trade mumblings, and ill wishes from fans. Which leads us to our Question of the Week this week:
For the first time in years, there was no preseason chatter about the status (health and otherwise) of captain Vinny Lecavalier. With some of the pressure finally off, he may be poised to return to glory. What are your expectations for Lecavalier this season?
Staff answers after the fold, and as always yours in the comments!
Dani Toth/Benched Whale:
I expect that he's going to use the words "uh" and "um" a combined 30,564 times this season during his player interviews.
What do I expect of Vincent Lecavalier this season? It's hard to say what to expect from Vinny this season. I do hope he continues to evolve into a solid 2 way center. He's no longer a goal scoring machine (nor does he need to be), but his 2 way play has improved. I do still think he is very capable of 30-40 goals this year. I expect him to continue to improve on faceoffs (he was already a good face off man anyway) and I think that will continue.
He may no longer be the "go to" guy for scoring, but I'm hoping to see the rest of his career evolve as his childhood idol (and current GM) Steve Yzerman did. An all around leader for the team that can be counted on for some dazzling goals on occasion and good defensive play. I would like to see Vinny continue to use his size in front of the net to create more opportunities for himself and his teammates. Not as a crease crasher or anything, but in front of the net and goalie on power plays.
In addition to this being the first summer in quite some time that there were no significant "Vinny to (insert team name here)" rumors, this was also the first summer in several years that Vinny was not recuperating from some sort of significant surgery. The clean bill of health should give him the opportunity to get off to a fast start and that (hopefully) will lead to a good season.
I expect Vinny to play pretty well in the first half - perhaps even well enough to make it to the All-Star Game in Ottawa - and then have an outstanding second half. He probably won't get 50+ goals, but I think he'll score at least a solid 35 goals this season and reach around 75 points (minimum) this year. Assuming he can get through the season uninjured, of course. He hasn't had the best track record for that in the past three seasons.
Stats-wise, I have no idea. After last year, when he scored more goals (but had fewer assists and points) in 65 games than he did the year before when he played a whole season, I guess 30 goals, 50 assists would be a reasonable expectation. That would qualify as a good season, as it's right around his average. healthy or not, I don't know if he'll ever flirt with 100 points again; he's only reached that mark once and that was five years ago. I don't think he needs to put those kind of numbers up for this season to be a success for him and the team.
I expect him to remain under-appreciated. That's really about it.
In case you missed it, check out last week's Question of the Week, What do you fear for this season?