The reigning Stanley Cup champions, in the first game of the 2005-06 season are supposed to take on diviison rival Carolina to begin their title defense and reign in the new NHL...
Carolina? You want to open Tampa Bay's season against Carolina? WIth no offense to the Hurricanes and certainly not pissing on the concept that the league is trying to push division play, the Lightning versus the 'Canes to start the season is about as exciting and broadcast worthy as a root canal performed without novocane. You want to lure the fans back and you offer them a matchup like this?
The Southeast is no powerhouse, one can cite, and Tampa Bay would be matched up with any one of the mediocre teams in the SE.... The thing is, the fans - who Bettman and the players are all saying deserve better, are getting the worst of the worst when it comes to division rivals. Washington is not a strong rivalry but they are ahead of the 'Canes. Atlanta is up and coming and was the only true thorn in the Lightning's side in 2003-04.
And then there is the Panthers in Miami. The team that Lightning fans love to hate (though the reasoning behind this is just pure spite. We've never had a true rivalry with the Panthers as they have been lousy while we have been good, and vice versa). The Kitties are always a draw and raising the Stanley Cup banner in front of them would be sweet to do.
But no, it's Carolina, and I remain put off by it.