Tom Jones at the St. Petersburg Times wrote a piece today with regards to five questions facing the Lightning going into scrimmages.... I thought most of them were predictable (Goalie, #6 Defensiveman, 20 players on the roster, biggest worry (and I addressed this yesterday penciling in injuries) and are they in the position to play for the Cup again]... So here are another set of questions for the Lightning going into scrimmages today in Brandon and with the season looming:
New Rules and the Effect on the Bolts
Everyone says the new rules are going to benefit the Lightning and other teams employing an open system of play... Seeing that there are many teams setting up to be Lightning imitators, how are the Lightning going to be affected by this? Will refs actually call the rules all season or go lax like normal after several games? Are Lightning players going to get lazy on Defense with the two-line pass now in play?
Does Dave still have it?
Almost sacrilege to think about but after the two day testing of Camp "Torturella" in Brandon, Dave Andreychuk must be more aware if he is going to be good to go this season or not. Dave did just sign the two-year deal and had been working out during the work stoppage a bit... But there still is a good deal more rust for Dave to shake off compared to younger players on the roster. The team Captain is looked upon to be strong, and the team is in need of Dave at full strength and raring to go.
Affy Affy, Joy Joy?
He moved up from the 4th line to the 3rd during the season and spent time on the top lines at times during the playoffs in 2003-04... Is Dmitry Afanasenkov in position to break out this year with the Lightning? Or will he continue to be oh-so-close, missing the scoring touch that led to his drafting by the Lightning in the first place?
Can Vaclav Prospal get back to past form?
A year away from the Bolts and a year off from NHL action both factor in with Vinny Prospal.... If negatively, the team is in trouble. Prospal had a disappointing season in Anaheim in 2003-04 even though he notched 54 points (19 goals, 35 assists)... He was sent back to Tampa as part of cost cutting by the Ducks. Is the chemistry still there? Is his touch still there?
Will recovering Brad Richards and Ruslan Fedotenko be affected by their previous Injuries?
For the sake of the season, I sure as hell hope not!
Will the Lightning find an heir to serve between the Pipes?
Everyone can say that the battle is between John Grahame and Sean Burke for the #1 goaltending position in Tampa and that issue was addressed by Tom Jones in the paper (as noted already) but that isn't what this question really focuses on.... The Lightning have been around for nearing 13 years now and they have yet to develop (and keep) a goaltending prospect / talent of their own. Will Gerald Coleman, Jonathan Boutin or Morgan Cey show the organization that the future goaltending in Tampa is not a question mark? Will Brian Eklund wow all and step up? Or will all four of these aforementioned netminders go the way of prospects such as Zak Bierk, Evgeny Konstantinov, Derek Wilkinson and Dieter Kochan and amount to nothing more than a name that once passed through the organization?