More Of The Same To Come In Tampa Bay
“We will be active and aggressive on our blue line once again this summer.â€
To many fans, those words are like music to their ears.
To Tampa Bay Lightning fans, those words sound a bit more like nails on a chalkboard.
So itâ€™s easy to imagine the looks on the faces when general manager Brain Lawton spoke those words recently at a Lighting season ticket holder function.
Itâ€™s even easier to imagine the looks on their faces when they heard the following:
“We have good pieces in place, with Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos; Mike Smith has proven that he’s capable of handling the role of a No. 1 goaltender,” Lawton said, according to the Tampa Tribune. “We are not in a rebuilding mode, that’s not our thinking.
“We are not like Pittsburgh, which went through four, five, even six seasons of losing. We don’t have that luxury. That’s not the situation we are in.”
Time isnâ€™t on the teamâ€™s side. Iâ€™ll buy that, considering attendance has dipped by an average of more than 2,000 fans per game from last season â€“ the worst differential in the league, according to James Mirtle.
But is testing the free agency waters once again the right move?
Last summer, NHL fans watched in amazement as the Lightning threw away talented and useful players, and then threw money at other players — all with seemingly no regard for the economics or dynamics of the league.
The results cannot be argued.
With two games remaining on the season, the Lightning sit in 29th place in the league with 66 points, or just a few over half of the point total of the first place San Jose Sharks.
Clearly, a free agency frenzy isnâ€™t the ideal game plan for the Lightning.
Lawton must be patient and methodical.
“I can assure you I won’t be standing in this spot next year holding this same conversation with you,” he said.
While this quote indicates Lawtonâ€™s desire and expectation for his team to make its mark on the Eastern Conference quickly, it also could be a ironic reminder that another offseason like the one he had a year ago, and ownership group may not be able to wait to make a change at the general manager position.