A State of the Union more than a Tampa Bay Lightning at Colorado Avalanche preview

While some notes are late in the piece about opposition, this one's a movie reference lead in with the state of Lightning player drama prominent in the media...

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado | When: 9 PM EST
Radio: 970 AM WFLA | Television: NBC Sports Network | Twitter: Live Stream
Opponent Coverage: Mile High Hockey

Ever seen "Dave"? Not a hockey movie and it's pretty old by now, having come out in 1993. You want proof of how old it is? Ving Rhames is in it as a secret service agent and he had hair for the role, which wasn't employed in his high-visibility roles - as Marcellus Wallace in "Pulp Fiction" and as Luther Stickwell in the first "Mission: Impossible" flick. Anyway, the whole State of the Union address tonight has me thinking of this flick that painted politics as less polar-divided but just as corrupt as politics in general at this point.

(It gets to hockey and the Lightning, I promise. Just hang on a minute.)

I don't want to spoil "Dave" if you haven't seen it and have any intention to do so, but as a generalized way of talking about the climax of the movie, it's about how things can be twisted for gain and how some can best use the power in their hands by giving it up for the greater good.

There's a greater good for the Tampa Bay Lightning - long term, short term - by way of the player development angle that's known as Tampacuse and the Yzerplan. That whole process is out and out drivel to the likes of a player-agent such as Allan Walsh, who has a client to look out for and a profit margin to bolster for himself. That contract politics of sport plays out on a regular basis in hockey or in baseball, basketball and football, often getting twisted and warped with thanks to the wordings and behind-the-scenes shenanigans of people in play in the situation. The competitiveness of a pro sports team or state of the roster isn't very important in these instances but the power and payout of the moment is. That has had too much of a factor over the Lightning this season in two situations - one done professionally (privately) and the other done politically (publicly). Those situations are the contract negotiations with Steven Stamkos and frustrations of Jonathan Drouin.

It's the more public one, the one berthed in a prominent position last week with the stated trade request for Jonathan Drouin, that's held too much sway and opinionated relevance. In a team sport where individual effort is only truly pushed with thanks to the broader efforts of the lineup, a "raw deal" accusation has supposedly been thrust upon a kid who hasn't stepped forward in his own maturation as a player. The demotion to the Syracuse Crunch, which has been played as the killer reason Drouin should get out, was a playing-time roster move on top of a earn-it urging from management; players better fit lower line roles while Drouin's failed to show (in a productive fashion) he should be playing top-line minutes with top-6 forwards. The "raw deal" is logistics and due process... Last time I checked a player has to earn a spot to get the spot - not just be handed it. Reputation born from being an early first-round draft choice is less a lineup factor than living up to expectations of those who actually run a team.

Kudos to Walsh for playing politics in the cold and impersonal way to sell the masses on his clients wants. I'm sure the Canadian Parliament could use someone like him in power but the profits just wouldn't be there compared to twisting things just right to win a client what they want and eventually a sum of money in their next contract (which he will get a percentage of).

As far as the situation with Stamkos goes, it has dragged out since the end of 2014-15, but by "dragged out' I don't mean a media storm between chief players (Stamkos, Steve Yzerman, agent Don Meehan and Newport Sports Agency) but by us: The fans, bloggers, media types. We keep waiting on results and keep speculating with the lack of them. We can't gauge how close or far apart things are, or how close. While we can see a lack of sacrifice as part of the driving forces regarding a new contract, we're also seeing a few disrespects play out from the media to coincide want-driven accolades.

In the end, that situation will have to be settled by respect and sacrifice by both sides. As captain of the team, a larger influence is something we (fans) want to see with how much sacrifice is made by Stamkos and his camp in order to stick around; a move for the greater good of the Tampa Bay Lightning. That's not how the business plays out, usually. We'll only get a better picture of how things went after a contract is signed - in Tampa Bay or with another NHL team.

The US State of the Union address isn't the sole factor in why I make the movie reference; the national TV spotlight is going to result in an amplification of the situation.

As for the game tonight - parity is on display with this one as the Lightning has a single point more than the Avalanche in one less game played. They're 5-3-2 in their past 10 games, a single-point better than the Lightning5-41 effort in that time span. The Avs are also doing a damn fine job lighting the lamp - they have 125 goals to their name this season, two more than their opponents (123). It's going to be curious to see if that 2.91 goals-per-game average is going to hold up against the Bolts; the Lightning held opponents to an average of 2.43 a game... Do a little rounding and go into the game with a 3-2 win expectation for Tampa Bay.

While it's Stamkos versus Kucherov for the scoring lead for the Lightning (Kucherov currently holds it with 33 points), the Avalanche have a tie for their scoring lead. Matt Duchene has 21 goals and 16 assists this season while Nathan MacKinnon has 15 goals and 22 assists.

Other Coverage

In the Jonathan Drouin affair, I side with . . .

Jonathan drouin / Allan Walsh94
Jon Cooper / Steve Yzerman572
Neither / Both -- Both groups are at fault / have bones to pick195
Bob McKenzie, Lyle Richardson and others covering rumors!42