A few years back I wrote a column, which, in a nutshell, told the world I was a closet Tampa Bay Lightning fan.
The gist of the story was, while reporters are encouraged not to cheer for teams, hockey had become so boring with the neutral zone trap and the left-wing lock – and every other defensive scheme invented to suck the life out of the game – the Lightning was bucking the trend and putting a greater emphasis on offense.
Well, the Lightning went on to win the Stanley Cup that season and, for a while, it looked like it might start a trend. After all, teams tend to mimic the winning team.
Alas, it has not happened.
The best teams in the NHL still rely more on keeping the puck out of the net, rather than scoring, and despite the great efforts of the NHL to crack down on obstruction, there are nights when the clutching and grabbing reminds me of the pre-lockout days.
And, with that in mind, a quick scan of the NHL’s overall standings shows only one team, the Los Angeles Kings, are worse than my Tampa Bay Lightning. That’s what happens when you allow 24 more goals than you score.
The Lightning has gone from being the NHL’s most exciting team to being one of the most painful teams to watch. The goaltending is shaky most nights and the defense corps is simply too thin to be competitive.
While I have no intention of jumping off the bandwagon, I sincerely hope GM Jay Feaster (whose blog you can read regularly on THN.com) makes a move or two at the trade deadline to set the Bolts up for next season.
And if that means trading either Martin St-Louis or Brad Richards (Vinny Lecavalier should be an untouchable), so be it.
I mean, how much farther can Tampa Bay sink?
Keeping the status quo would be suicide for this organization and it is abundantly clear you can’t pay three players as much as the Lightning pays their Big Three and remain competitive in a salary cap world.
It’s your move Jay.
Mike Brophy, the co-author of the book Walking with Legends, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor on THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and his column, Double OT, appears Wednesday.
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