I shouldn't read comments on NHL.com.
The folks there pretending to be Lightning fans probably aren't.
But there is a bit of angst here, too.
Chill folks, things are actually going pretty well.
I think that evaluating the general manager on this specific coaching change is silly.
Steve hired Cooper and Boucher at the same time.
Boucher, and a team known to be in transition had a good run the first year. Actually a great run.
Improbable - heck, the Capitals haven't been the same since!
The virtues of this good fortune were a resonable financial return, and some space
from the fan base for the changes that needed to be made.
Cooper, meanwhile, had arguably the more important job. The cupboard was pretty bare
as the two cowboys had the financial wherewithal for neither scouting nor roster depth.
Drafting is important, and Steve's drafts look to have been above average, though it takes about five years
to be sure.
But it is truly the mark of a good organization to scout and sign free agents who can play, and to
provide a development environment where rough talent can be developed. It really is the case that
a Corey Conacher is "available to everyone". The Lightning appear to me to have the best record in
the league in terms of finding free agents. The farm team has improved. The players in junior and overseas are
generally doing well.
The call-ups generally seem to be able to play in the NHL. The minor league W-L record speaks for itself.
The Day Boucher started it was known the Lightning needed goaltending. An elite goaltender has kept many
coaches in the league far longer than perhaps they deserved, as many flaws can be covered by a few key saves.
I think it is fair to argue that if you have a top 5 goalie, you should be making regular playoff runs.
The obvious value makes goaltending difficult to acquire. So, what steps have been taken in the goaltending department?
Tokarski was a reasonable draft pick, tried, and found wanting. He will probably be an NHL goalie, not an elite one.
I surmise he was moved to clear the North American slot of Vasilesky, who is one of the generally acknowledged top
three junior goalies in the world. Lindback was not expensive, and has talent. At the stage of 50 games or so of NHL experience
he shows well, and seems to have been able to maintain his demeanor through sonme difficulties this year. Janus is a dark horse but playing
well in the KHL, not a bad league.
Absent a blockbuster trade, or a lucky free agency like Khabby & his Phoenix debacle, the organization is doing a reasonable job with
The defence has not played well. Looking at the talent as individuals, I think this is where the coaching issues may be most
telling. Especially with goaltending that could use some protection, the defensive system, either through design or execution, has sucked.
Honestly, if Lindback faced the quality of chances a Fleurey sees, would he be at .920 and 2.5??? There have been an awful lot of
turnovers at at the blue line and guys coming in alone. Things he never saw in Nashville.
So Boucher had a good year. Actually a very good year. His goaltending broke down, and he had a bad year. Steve bought him soime new players and he has had a bad (less than half a regular season) year, so Steve pulled the plug and brought in the other coach hired at
the same time, who has done better than Boucher with the responsibilities assigned to him. He is still eating his own cooking,
no "proven pro from outside" safe choice. Pulling the plug after this many games in a normal year would leave plenty of time for recovery,
but this year it is realistic to look at next.
Finally, the building has been full. There is talent in the system.Fans are treated well by all levels of Lighting management.
I'd think Steve has two more years -- to get to the playoffs and show signs that that can be repeated periennaly -- that's a five year
plan for Mr. Vinik. I see him as having accomplished a lot in his tenure so far, adressing problems promptly as they arise, building
good depth throughout the organization, with no signs of panic. If our playoff drought lasts like Toronto (oh wait, we were in the finals
two years ago), or our goaltending is like Philly (nothing since Hextall, and I love to hate on Philly) then we have a management problem.
But I see solid progress on many fronts, quick attention to problems, a fan-friendly organization. I've had season tickets for
20 years and see no reason not to continue. There are few cities where the fans hae had a better 20 year experience overall than
Tampa, and no more fan-friendly organization nor better value. When its all taken together, I'm Ok with the direction -- and of in three
or four years the mature Admiral/Crunch are the best young team in the NHL and competitive for a decade, we'll wonder what we worried about!