Friday, April 15, 2005

Building a champion

John over at Boltsmag has an excellent recount of how the Tampa Bay Lightning built their championship squad. Among some of the interesting notes:
October 1999 – In a move that Lightning fans rejoice in remembering, Cory Cross was traded (along with a 7th round pick) to the Toronto Maple Leafs in return for a struggling left wing by the name of Fredrik Modin.
How's that for an ouch Leafs fans (and I know there are many of you reading this board)?

January 2001 – Steve Ludzik, who had taken several Detroit Viper IHL teams to the Turner Cup but was not having success at the NHL level, was fired and assistant John Tortorella promoted to the rank of Head Coach... Tortorella is credited with vastly improving Vincent Lecavalier’s game (along with almost running Vinny out of town in 2001-02.)

A great observation in that John recalls the growing pain Tortorella went through. This mention brings to mind a point in time when many pundits expected the hard-nosed coach to lose his spot rather than a move of Lecavalier. It just goes to show that sometimes sticking with your bench boss instead of a cranky superstar can pay dividends down the road.

March 2001 – Rick Dudley sends defensiveman Paul Mara, forward Mike Johnson, Ruslan Zainullin, and a 2nd round draft pick in 2001 Entry Draft for defensiveman Stanislav Neckar and the rights to goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin... Khabibulin had not played in nearly 2 seasons in total and Dudley was taking a definite risk at the time... Finally the Lightning had a backstop on par to once-great Darren Puppa and fans now had the legit belief there was a commitment to winning.
More excellent analysis (and the mention of Puppa's prowess shows just how tuned in with this club John is). As he also points out, Dudley played such a huge part in the building of this contending team. I recall when I was at THN they were doing a story on the Lightning by talking to Dudley about his role with creating the powerhouse. To say he was disapointed that he wasn't there to reap the benefits of his work would be an understatement.

2002 Entry Draft – During his first draft, Jay Feaster earns the ire of Tampa Bay fans with two trades that would later turn into vital pieces of the puzzle for Tampa Bay. Ruslan Fedotenko is traded from Philadelphia to Tampa Bay for the Lightning’s #1 pick that would turn into Joni Pikaten. While Joni has shown that he will be a force in the NHL at the blue line for the Flyers, Ruslan has proved his worth by becoming one of the reasons the Lightning are Stanley cup champions – he could very well have won the Conn Smyth with his performance over the playoffs, scoring 17 goals and silencing his critics.
Hey, I was one of the critics of this deal. Fedotenko is one of the league's real wonders, going undrafted yet progressing from the USHL to the NHL in two years.

January 2004 – The Bolts were still questionable on defense at this point and beginning their true Cup Run. Jay Feaster said goodbye to former first-round draft pick Alexander Svitov trading him to Columbus for Defensiveman Daryl Sydor. Sydor – who was lobbied for by former teammate Brad Lukowich – added strength to the blue line along with vital experience.
Here's a tidbit I didn't know. Imagine that — one former Kamloops Blazers lobbying for another. Speaking of Kamloops, Sydor has a home there (his wife is from the city). In any event, a fantastic trade considering Svitov's value is questionable.

In any event, very nice work John. Pieces like this show how blogs can complement the MSM and do a few things the big publications aren't.

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