Pulling the Trigger

Everyone knew that the Lightning’s defense would have a hard time keeping up with the rest of the league. After a poor offensive start, the Lightning did a little shake-up by swapping the tougher Shane O’Brien for Lukas Krajicek to get more mobile on defense. It was assumed that Andrej Meszaros, Paul Ranger, and Matt Carle, one of the key pieces in the Dan Boyle deal, would handle the puck-moving duties. However, the three of them have only combined for 9 points and a harmless -1 rating. Meszaros has yet to score this year, and Ranger and Carle both have one each. Tampa’s third-last 27 GF total is embarrassing, especially after the amount of offensive talent the Lightning horded this year – Boyle (9 points in 14 games) and the Sharks, on the other hand, have almost double that total with 50 GF.

While the problem on defense remains, it doesn’t help when your offense can’t get going either. Vinny Lecavalier has a pedestrian 10 points and Martin St. Louis has 9 – even if these two get going there’s still no indication of how well the rest of the team can do. Highly touted Steve Stamkos has started off slow, while Ryan Malone has only 3 points, all of them goals, in 12 games, and Gary Roberts has yet to register a point. Ironically, it’s Jussi Jokinen, who was planned to be dealt over the summer, and the forgotten acquisition Mark Recchi that are the ones chipping in offensively.

So, figuring that their offense requires an extra boost in (only) just 12 games, the Bolts decided to give up on the promising Carle in exchange for a chippy Steve Downie and less-mobile Steve Eminger. Eminger and Carle are both already on their second team this year. First, this is a great trade for the Flyers, because they got rid of a prospect they don’t need and who has a checkered history and a depth defenseman for a young player that could turn out to be really, really good. Carle will immediately take off some pressure off Kimmo Timonen (he’s averaging in the high-20s in ice-time) on the puck-handling duties, while I don’t really see how either Eminger or Downie are supposed to make the Lightning any better.

The Lightning are actually a modest 4-4-4 on the season, and there’s no indication that they’re in for a free fall either, considering the play of Mike Smith and how Stamkos is finally getting some quality ice-time to showcase his abilities. The only reason I can theorize is that Brian Lawton (probably under orders from Len Barrie and Oren Koules) pushed the “panic” button. There’s no upside in giving up on a young player just 12 games in to the season, especially if the players you get in return don’t have half the potential of Carle’s.

Considering how early this trade went down I would not be surprised if the Lightning made even more moves regarding their defense, but judging by their roster moves I can’t help but think the next one will be yet another sideways step. Already we’ve seen three new faces in twelve games which mathematically speaking means that we’ll be seeing 20 different defensemen to wear a Lightning jersey this year. This team needs more time to gel, and every time they acquire a new player it’ll set them back. The Lightning are becoming, if not are, the laughing stock of the league.

Congratulations to Mark Parrish, who successfully makes his comeback to the NHL with a hat trick in a 5-2 win over the Ducks. The former Minnesota forward is the second player this year (the other being, surprise, teammate Fabian Brunnstrom) to make his season debut with a hat trick. The Stars have been one of the worst teams thus far this year and scoring isn’t a problem, but if Marty Turco can’t pick up his play they’re not going anywhere fast, although it should help when Jere Lehtinen and Sergei Zubov come back later next week.

EDIT: Just giving both teams a quick cap space run through and it amazes me how Philly continues to pile on the salaries even they have less a million in cap space. How are they going to fit Carle in? Is Randy Jones headed toward the LTIR? With Carle it’d put the Flyers roughly $2m over the cap.