Seasons greetings to one and all! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Yule tidings to you...
And happy Festivus... Lets not forget Festivus ("for the rest of us").
Yes, that's right, it's December 23rd. Festivus. The Festivus pole is up, and dinner has been ingested.
Now comes the Airing of Grievances (to be followed by the Feats of Strength and Festivus Miracles). And of course, right now, Lightning fans have a few grievances they desire to air - and have been airing, off and on, for the duration of the season.
If you go by the mainstream media article by Tom Jones at the St. Pete (soon to be Tampa Bay) Times, everything and anything with the Lightning is wrong right now. It's neatly packaged in a list of five things that need to be fixed, but basically it touches on everything sans coaching.
Oh, but it's not like people aren't blaming coaching. Bolts By the Bay has an article up touching on the subject - the fat that there are those out there in Bolts Nation that put the blame on Guy Boucher. We've already seen the national media (hello, Versus, you're a grievance all unto itself) attack the 1-3-1 system, and we've seen arguments that the bolts need to be more "head on" in their defensive style. But is Guy Boucher the problem? Hardly.
Our old friend, Nolan Whyte, makes a more thorough and thoughtful attempt to air a grievance that, once again, has followed the Bolts throughout the season. Goaltending. Goaltending, and the perchance for the Lightning organization to invest in a stopgap goalie of the moment and not a talent for the duration:
This team needs to stop bringing in characters that are clearly just temporary measures and pay the price to get a serious big game goalie. Yzerman inherited Mike Smith, but signed Ellis, Garon, and resigned an aging Roloson. He is clearly not trying to buy the best of the best.
Acquiring Roloson by trade with the Islanders was shrewd, but it's likely Roloson has now emptied his NHL tank.
Perhaps Yzerman is waiting for the prospects to gradually emerge and take over. Jaroslav Janus, Dustin Tokarski, maybe there is a real NHL contender hanging around. And maybe, many years from now, they'll be ready to carry this team to glory.
But by applying bandaids like Ellis, Roloson, and Garon instead of acquiring a stud via trade or free agency, you limit the meanwhile teams to also-ran status.
One of the major grievances the Lightning have - the team, the fans, alike - is everyone getting hurt right now. Fans were thrilled Wednesday night to see Martin St, Louis play (and contribute!)... But losing Ryan Shannon for 2-4 weeks in the process? Already playing without Matt Gilroy, Mattias Ohlund Nate Thompson? That's not a positive thought.
Thompson and Gilroy both participated in the morning skate at Pepsi Center today, but both had the red, no-contact jersey on. Perhaps they will be back for the post-Christmas bash at Times Palace against the Flyers on December 26th? Perhaps not.
JT Wyman finds his way into the lineup tonight, by way of the Ryan Shannon injury. Wyman has only played 3 NHL games in his career - with the Montreal Canadiens - but this is a bigger opportunity for him than at first glance. Wyman may be seen as simply AHL filler for an injured NHL player, but he's stepping into the role of an under-performing NHL player. Shannon's 7 points in 25 games does not make him irreplaceable, though some will argue about the raw deal that Shannon has had, being scratched in the musical-chairs-forward role.
There's no reason to think JT Wyman will prove to be the answer, but the kid's about to get his opportunity to find out what the question is.
Mathieu Garon will get the start in net for the Lightning, and the chance to redeem himself for the poor performance in San Jose on Wednesday night.
The Avalanche are looking for their eighth straight win at home. It's a feat, Mile High Hockey said in their preview, that no other Avalanche team has accomplished in their 15 years in Denver. Oh, the franchise has accomplished that feat (hello, Quebec Nordiques!) but not the Avs themselves.