Credibility on the line
Sports columnist Gary Shelton at the St. Petersburg Times says in eloquence the point worth remembering (for Lightning fans) with the Lecavalier tradewind/storm that has swept up:
It is as simple as this. Fans trust Vinny Lecavalier a great deal, and they don't trust the new ownership at all..
Around here, Lecavalier is not only the face of a franchise, he is the faith. In the chaos of a season, he is the reason to keep watching.
He is the reason to think things might eventually get good again.
That, in essence, is the point in fan outcry against this supposed trade talk. It's not a foreign subject for Lightning fans to see high quality players sent packing during down years in order to try to improve the roster. Yet in those down years, it was usually a marginal fan favorite sent away for a long term investment (or a short sighted solution) in return.
And OK Hockey has been all about the short-sighted solution sus-far, or so it seems. Lets secure Dan Boyle... Wouldn't it be cooler if we traded him though? Lets bring in Barry Melrose and jazz up management and... oh, wait, he hasn't coached in a decade and look at the monstrosity of incapability he is displaying...
A Lecavalier trade, to me, would be comparable to sending Mario Lemieux packing from the Pittsburgh Penguins instead of Jaromir Jagr in the July 2001 trade... The face of the franchise, the figurehead... hell, the team owner for Christ sake. Mario had saved the franchise when he was drafted. He won Stanley Cups with the Pens, he literally saved hockey in Pittsburgh again by purchasing the Pens...
Some would say Lecavalier joining the Lightning (along with so many other cogs that have come and gone since 2004) accomplished the same in Tampa Bay. A perennial loser became a contender on his watch, and a champion on his watch. A derelict franchise was rebuilt and renewed with thanks to the hope and faith that Vincent brings to roster day in and day out.
Oh, but there is the hockey-trade-cliché that needs to be addressed and Shelton takes care of that in his article before addressing trade talk head on:
Okay, okay. It is true that great players sometimes get traded, even great players who signed a lifetime contract only a few months beforehand. Any minute now, someone is going to remind you that Wayne Gretzky was traded, although they will probably leave out the part that Edmonton has mourned ever since....
Let's agree on this: Before you consider trading Lecavalier, you have to get a haul in return. You have to break the bank. You have to get better for today and for tomorrow. You have to win the trade so convincingly that even the critics swallow hard and say, "Wow.''
In other words, you have to get a sight more than Chris Higgins, Tomas Plekanec, a prospect and draft picks. According to Canadian newspapers, that's the offer.
For the Lightning, the response should be simple: " … And what else?'' And after the offer was improved, I would ask it again. And again. I would tell a team not to call unless its best player — and maybe its best two players — were involved in the deal.
In other words, the Lightning should only consider a trade if it's a home run. And from what we have seen from the offseason, why are we to believe the Lightning front office is capable of hitting one?
The only failure in the philosophy of "...and what else?" above is that quantity can't make up for quality -- but that's the point Gary is trying to convey: offer better, then offer more of the better. Then we'll talk and maybe I'll listen.
But with the track record of Brian Lawton and OK Hockey in deals so far, listening is hindered greatly by Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. So even talk is a dangerous thing. Rash decisions are a mainstay. Bastardizing the franchise has seemed the modus operandi as the general plan is missing.
And trying to justify trading of the face of the franchise for anything less than great outstanding spectacularly awesome in return will be impossible to do.