|ESPN.com: NHL Preview 2005||[Print without images]|
The lag time brought on by the lockout will eliminate some of the factors that traditionally plague defending champions, such as fatigue and the immediate threat of complacency. But the lockout might introduce other bugaboos, such as bad habits picked up through prolonged inactivity or during play in lesser leagues around the world.
GM Jay Feaster tried to work with the agents of all his top players -- Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis and Nikolai Khabibulin -- in hopes of locking them all in to long-term deals, but he couldn't get the agents to come together. Still, Feaster has managed to return almost his entire team intact, no small feat given the salary-cap restrictions. So the gang's all here, more or less.
Offense: Up front, Cory Stillman, who had 80 points but was a nonfactor during the playoffs with just two goals in 21 playoff games, is gone. In his place, Vaclav Prospal, who returns after a one-year hiatus in Anaheim. He had 79 points the previous season in Tampa. Having Lecavalier, the MVP of last year's World Cup of Hockey, and defending league scoring champ and MVP St. Louis locked into long-term deals is also key to eliminating distractions.
Defense: It remains a largely no-name group, although Dan Boyle is an emerging offensive star on the back end, earning an invitation to Canada's Olympic orientation camp. Having Darryl Sydor for the entire season will be a boon, and he'll eat up the minutes lost when Jassen Cullimore bolted to Chicago.
Goaltending: The most notable exception to Feaster's offseason efforts is the departure of Khabibulin, who chased the money to Chicago, where he is now -- incredibly -- the game's highest-paid goaltender.
The goaltending duties will fall to John Grahame, who at one point appeared ready to take over the starter's role during the 2003-04 season. A bit of a loose cannon, Grahame finished with respectable numbers -- 2.06 GAA, .913 save percentage in 29 games -- but will have to prove to coach John Tortorella and to his teammates that he's serious about assuming the starting role. If Grahame can't do that, Sean Burke has shown that he still has game -- he's 38 -- although the Lightning must hope they won't have to find out just how much game.
|Tampa Bay Lightning|
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|Comings & Goings|
C Vaclav Prospal; RW Rob DiMaio; G Sean Burke; D Todd Rohloff.
G Nikolai Khabibulin; G Jamie Storr; C Cory Stillman; D Brad Lukowich; LW Ben Clymer; D Jassen Cullimore; RW Andre Roy; D Stan Neckar.
|When we last saw them|
St. Louis made a name for himself in 2003-04. He finished with 38 goals and 56 assists in 82 games.
The Lightning are going to miss him and his 28-19-7 record from the 2003-04 season.
“I've paid my dues and it's my turn now and I want to take advantage of it.”
— John Grahame on taking over the No. 1 goalie spot