Cory Cross smiles at thee, Lukas Krajicek
With a plague of injuries, rampant stupidity, and other volatility regarding the Lightning defensive makeup, Lukas Krajicek has found himself to be in the top pairings of the Lightning defensive mix.
Let me remind you of the events that brought Lukas to Tampa Bay to begin with. The Bolts jettisoned forward Michel Oullett and Defensiveman Shane O'Brien and sent them to the Pacific Northwest in exchange for Lukas and throw-in prospect Juraj Simek.
It was part of the re-shaping of the roster in the image of... ok, I'm not sure whose image. OK (Not Really) Hockey was in control of the team and Barry Melrose was (supposedly) calling shots behind the bench. General Manager Brian Lawton may have made the deal himself, but with the track record of too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen regarding the shaping of this team, it's hard to say who ultimately orchestrated this deal.
Before this season, Krajicek's career average of time on ice is a little north of 17 minutes and about 50 games played per season (his season was cut to 39 ganes last season after a shoulder injury). Limited time on ice (as well as playing with goaltender Roberto Luongo) kept his plus minus from bottoming out during his years in Florida and Vancouver as well.
This season, all of that has been turned on it's head. The last ten games alone have seen Krajicek averaging 23 minutes on ice per game and he's averaging -1 per game during that span (-11 for the season).
Which brings me back to the title of this post. Krajicek can be looked at as a victim of circumstance (and of course, this is also his opportunity to shine) much like former Lightning defensiveman Cory Cross found himself a victim of circumstance and thrust into the limelight of Lightning defensive pairings in days gone by where Bolt teams weren't worthy of the IHL or AHL, let alone the NHL.
Cross' stats bottomed out in 1997-98 (-24) and 1998-99 (-25 / 22:38 Average time on ice) as much more was expected of him on a woeful defensive team that lacked solid goaltending with thanks to injuries and cash strapping (Darren Puppa, you are not forgotten)..
Hopefully the similarities between victims-of-circumstance (and being former first round draft picks, as Krajicek and Cross were both late 1st rounders in 2001 and 1992 respectively) end here. Lukas has averaged 13 points a season through his five seasons in the league (and a 14.75 point over the last four seasons alone) while Cross averaged about 11-and-a-half during his first five seasons in the league.
Having Krajicek available to play right now is a gift unto itself, as the Bolts defense is a triage unit at best. When and where long term answers show up is a question that scares me... Because the reputation of Lightning management in finding answers tends to create more questions with the makeup of the team.
But Cory Cross' arena ghost smiles at Lukas Krajicek, and the story of a lower pair d-man who had carry his team's seive-of-a-defense is one that I'd sooner forget.