Skip to main content

Bluelines: Do the Lightning Stand a Chance?

Stan Fischler looks ahead to Game 5, what the Tampa Bay Lightning need to do to win the Stanley Cup, what's next for the Florida Panthers, Barry Trotz and so much more.


1. How many gallons are left in the Tampa tank?

2. Not enough for another overtime.

3. Andrei Vasilevskiy must have the game of his life.

4. Either the Bolts well-shadow Kadri, or they're out!

5. No team will reach the Isles' 19-straight series wins.



Forget all the "Backs To The Wall" bromides about the Lightning's chances tonight in Denver.

The Avalanche is the wall.

Colorado has Killer Kadri and Tampa Bay -- if Jon Cooper is lucky -- will have Brayden Point.

But the point is that Point is too little too late even if he takes the ice in mint condition; which could not possibly be the case.

Coach Cooper has played down the attrition factor pulling hard against his doughty, dauntless core of Champions.

The Hedmans, the Kucherovs and mostly the goalie -- Andrei Vasilevskiy has seen too much rubber over too long a time. Enough is enough.

There is, however, an asterisk (*) that comes with the above X-Ray and that is this: As long as the term champions is legally attached to the name Lightning, they cannot and should not be given a TKO.

The tough part is that tonight a confident challenger will be working very hard to change the Bolts label to "Former Champions!"



Logically, there's no way Andrew Brunette should have been gassed as Panthers coach. No way.

The unexpected Joel Quenneville exit left Andy with the challenge of all challenges. He seamlessly moved behind the bench and orchestrated a first-place finish. He did so well, was a Jack Adams finalist.

But he made one fatal mistake. Brunette couldn't coax a playoff win over the rival defending champion Lightning and here's where logic takes a powder.

Brunette's other weaknesses are that he isn't Vinnie Viola nor Bill Zito. The owner and manager call the shots. It's Vin's money and Bill's brains. Ergo: Goodbye good man that Andy was and is.

As for Paul since his Hartford days. He's a solid hockey man and perhaps he can surpass his predecessor's accomplishments.I

But if not, who's left in the Used Coaches Lot?



Our man in Sunrise, Alan Greenberg, offers this on the Cats' shakeup:

"I'm very surprised at the hiring of Maurice and not letting Brunette continue," says Big Al. "I didn't think they needed a recycled name coach after Brunette's success. Now the system changes from what Q installed."

"Maurce has the experience but, save for one season, no real record of success. If Sunrise was a major market city, Zito would be getting pummeled by the media -- which is exactly what will happen here if the team regresses."



More than three weeks ago the estimable Athletic correspondent, Pierre LeBrun, wrote the following: "Barry Trotz holds all the cards in what is a rather deep free agent coaching market this summer."

That was on June 2 and here we are on June 24. The mysterious mentor -- Have you seen or heard about or from Trotzy? --supposedly has talked to Philly, Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and Winnipeg. What gives?

The Knights, Flyers and Stars have stopped waiting and Florida made its brilliant merry-go-round move.

Perhaps Monsieur LeBrun soon will find Bashful Barry and we'll know what's what. Right now all we know is what?



From distance, it would appear that managing a hockey team is a cushy job that anybody -- look at Kyle Dubas -- would love to do with his eyes wide open -- or closed for that matter.

This intriguing question piqued the interest of four-time hockey author Matthew Blittner. Writing for the New York Extra sports section, Blittner interviewed some of the best managers in the business, past and present.

The following are some of Blittner's findings in a three-part series.

One of the first to be interviewed by Matthew was Hall of FamerJim Devellano, architect of both the Islanders and Red Wings dynasty.

Here are a few of Jimmy's gems:

"Enormity Of Job: "Being a general manager is a bigger job than people believe it is. Most people don't know the full extent of what's involved. Being a g.m. is like being in charge of a fairly big company; like taking charge of budgets. That's not only for the major league player payroll which can reach as high as $70-$80 million but also the AHL farm team where you have another 20, 21 players who need to be signed.

"All of a sudden you're dealing with 50 players and you're in charge of all those people. Plus, coaches in the NHL and AHL."

Primary Challenge: "Your responsibility is to develop good teams preferably at the NHL level and, if possible, at the AHL as well. So, it's vital to pick the right coach and two separate scouting staffs and run an Entry Draft department with at least ten people responsible.

That doesn't even count the ten scouts who'll be part of the Entry Draft. You have to do their contracts as well. And that doesn't even involve the Pro Scouting department."

Hockey I.Q. "To better your hockey club you have to know every player in the NHL and AHL. You can only imagine how many people it takes to do that., That's another ten people on staff you have to hire. You're up to 70 employees and haven't hired your trainers yet -- equipment managers, fitness people and nutritionists. The press and public don't see all this. They picture general managers making trades, sitting up in a box, watching the games , getting mad if wel lose and happy if we win. Firing coaches, hiring coaches; that's all they see." (NEXT ISSUE, WHAT IT'S LIKE MANAGING IN JUNIORS.)



Ever since the great invention of the NHL 105 years ago, teams have tried to find

"alternate" ways of winning games. Former NHL defenseman Larry (The Rock) Zeidel told me he played stirring John Phillip Sousa marches before leaving for the rink.

Nowadays, every NHL team as an orchestrator to play inspiring rock music prior to ice time. But do they choose the best possible catalyst tune. And, by the way, which are the best?

For that I consulted a double-smart musicologist for the answer. Dan Reagan not only has been a hockey TV producer-director for decades but also a "Rock Maven," (And I don't use the terms lightly.)

Reagan's latest books on the subject are urgent reading for one and all in the crowd who like hockey and music. They are "Classic Rock Songs Revealed. Volumes 1 and 2."

At great expense, I persuaded Dauntless Dan to produce three of the best rock tunes to send NHL teams on to victory. Here they are:

1. Born To Be Wild by Steppenwolf: "I've heard disc jockeys warn people to watch their speedometers when driving to this song. If it inspires drivers to drive fast, it should inspire players -- like the Avalanche -- to skate fast."

2. Runnin' Down A Dream by Tom Petty: "It has a distinct guitar riff that begins the song that makes you want to play your guitar, move your body or just carnk the volume."

3. Takin' Care of Business by BTO: That's the bottom line when playing any sport. Go out there and take care of business, and win the darn game! Right?



Believe it or not, in 1965, Rangers president Bill Jennings learned that I was taking a press trip to then Czechoslovakia. When I pointed out that I'd be in Bratislava, the biggest city in Slovakia, he asked me to find out about young Slovakia star, Vaclav Nedomansky. "We could use him on the Rangers," whispered Bill

Sure enough, when I landed in Bratislava, my guide took me to the Bratislava's hockey team's summer hockey practice. After the workout, I met Big Ned who looked like a Slavic Bobby Hull. Through an interpreter, we chatted and, in my best cloak and dagger form, told him that the Rangers would love him to emigrate.

Ned smiled and quietly reminded me that there still was an Iron Curtain and it was thick. Nix to the Rangers! As it happened, the Iron Curtain eventually crashed and Nedomansky did play in the NHL and WHA as well. But by that time he was over the hill from the mountain of a man I saw on the soccer field that day in Bratislava.

Times really have changed since then and what better proof than the upcoming entry draft and the fact that a Slovakian center could be picked in the top three. For Juraj Slavkovaky, some think he could be plucked ahead of the favorite, Shane Wright. Either way, Big Ned would be proud.



Stuck with Cap problems and stung over their abject playoff failure, Florida's general staff would give any rival g.m. if he'd take Bobrovsky off their hands. But as the Emperor of Panthers hockey coverage, Al Greenberg, reports giving Bob the boot won't be easy.

"Moving Bob may be wishful thinking," Greenberg explains. "He has four years remaining in 10M salary and full no movement. They'd have to retain a big chunk and then take a major gamble that Spencer Knight is ready. After a salary for a replacement how much would they actually gain? Little.

"These huge contracts never age well. Dale Tallon brought him in with major hoopla and now they're stuck. The Panthers have major Cap problems and unless Bill Zito can do magic they already have shot their load.

"Huberdeau's renewal is up next and ditto for Weegar. Where's the money gonna come from to retain them unless there's a huge bump in the ceiling. Zito also is dealing with a big one year bump in Keith Yandle's buyout."



In our previous issue, reader Noam Kogen claimed that the Rangers were overrated and cited points of evidence. Kogen's assessment of he Blueshirts not only got a thumbs-down from author Sean McCaffrey but an angry rebuttal to boot.

Author of "The New York Rangers Rink of Honor," McCaffrey takes issue with -- among other things Kogen's noting how the New Jersey Devils ousted the Rangers in the 2012 playoffs.

"Kogen's 2012 reference was spot-on," writes McCaffrey, "but his explanation was not. Simply put, -- just like the team from ten yeas ago, the Rangers gassed out against a well-rested team."

And since it's never too soon to look ahead, Sean sees the Rangers at the 2023 Cup winners.



* Of all the coach hirings so far the ones like best like are Peter DeBoer in Dallas and Lane Lambert on the Island.

* They're asking this question in Pittsburgh: Is Tristan Jarry good for the Penguins?

* The answer is "yes," if you don't care if Pitt gets past the first playoff round.

* Jay Woodcroft is hands-down the best coach for Connor McDavid, Inc. The problem is that neiher Jay or Duke McD can play goal.

* Right now Kenny Holland's Oilers don't even own a reasonable facsimile of a starting goalie. Will Marc-Andre Fleury be the answer?

* Fleury still has the goods. With Edmonton's firepower, Fleury will win a heck of a lot more games than he did in Chicago.

* Toronto's never-solved goaltending challenge needs someone better than Laughing Jack Campbell to get the combination.

* Keenan Thompson closed the NHL Awards Show with a nod to multi-winner Auston Matthews and a good closing line:

* "It's nice to see the Maple Leafs win something in June!"

* Whoever suggested David Quinn as the next Red Wings coach gets me seconding the motion. Now if only Steve Yzerman would hire Davie already!

* Can you believe how far Connor McDavid was behind Auston Matthews in the Hart Trophy vote?

* And can you believe how far each ace still is from reaching the Cup Final.



As we all know, there's nothing so supreme and sublime as lugging Lord Stanley's mug around a hockey rink. One of the best ways to understand "The Feeling" is to read the best book on the subject.

"Raising Stanley -- What It Takes To Claim Hockey's Ultimate Prize" was written by Minnesota-based author Ross Bernstein and published by Triumph Books.

It's hockey oral history at its best because Ross interviewed NHL legends and, in their own words -- well -- talked Stanley. This is the first of three excerpts:

Ken Dryden on The True Meaning Of Winning The Cup: "The Stanley Cup is the ultimate punch line to the story, and the story is what makes the punch line work. The story is all about that particular season and of all the hard work, preparation and sacrifice that went into that season. The Cup is the culmination of your goals that you set out in quest of many months before."

John Tonelli on The True meaning Of Winning The Cup: "Ever since I was a little kid, all I could think about was possibly winning a Stanley Cup one day. It was a goal I had set very early in my life, and to achieve it was extremely rewarding. Truly a dream come true."

Frank Mahovlich on Life Lessons: "Respect is the big thing. You have to play with respect, and you have to earn the respect of your teammates. You depend so much on your fellow players, and it really takes a team effort to win a championship."

Mike Richter on Life Lessons: "One of the things that's very apparent is that it rarely happens by accident. To win The Cup you have to go through and 82 game schedule and then play at the highest level for another two and a half months of playoff hockey which is such a grind. It's two and a half months of living like a monk."

Rod Brind'Amour On Winning As A team: "We had a great group of individuals who put the team first. Beyond that, we were really hungry -- especially the older veterans such as myself who had never won it before. There was a sense of urgency and the younger players responded to that. Our guys just wanted it more than everybody else that season."

John MacLean On Winning As A Team: "We were a team that year. We were close and genuinely liked each other. It was a total team effort. Everybody contributed regardless of his role. We were not a team of superstars by any means; just a lot of solid players. But I believe that you have to lose it before you can win it."



WHO SAID IT? "Would you trust him with your collection plate?" (ANSWER BELOW)



The NHL and the players' union agreed that the Team Payroll Range established for the 2022-2 Year -- pursuant to the CBA __ provides for a Lower Limit of $61 million,a Midpoint of $71,7 million and an Upper Limit of $82.5 million.

I get excited about this stuff because whenever the NHLPA and NHL agree on anything, we're farther away from another work stoppage!


ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Terry Crisp, on tough guy Theo Fleury, who once was an altar boy!



The Flames Have Turned Heartbreak Into a Shot at Contention

With the signing of Nazem Kadri, the Calgary Flames took what looked to be a devastating offseason and turned it into a chance to become a contender.

Kent Johnson

World Junior Championships: Semifinal Preview

We're down to four teams left at the World Junior Championship. Tony Ferrari takes a look at the two semifinal matchups and what you need to know.

Drew Doughty

NHL Hot Seat Radar: Los Angeles Kings

The Kings are still a team on the rise, but to truly flourish, they need Doughty to be an anchor on defense and chip in a decent amount of offense.