Wednesday, 1 August 2012

21. The Tampa Bay Lindning

Tampa finished 10th in the East last year: a disappointing 8pts out of a playoff spot. To be honest Steve Yzerman has done a fairly good job of shaping this team with the resources he's had to work with. All said and done 8pts out of a playoff spot isn't so bad for the team that allowed the most goals against (a full 17 more than 29th ranked Toronto). No question that the seemingly ageless Dwayne Roloson finally bit hard and fell flat on his face into retirement (I hope), but a HUGE part of that blame fell to the weak Tampa defense-core (which has been improved with vets Salo, and Carle). 

With the Rolocop powering down that left journeyman Mathieu Garon to man the crease. Firstly, I will say this, he posted a winning record of 23-16-4 (career record is in fact 139-122-26, well done Mat). Secondly, that's too many games featuring Mathieu Garon. His lifetime stat-line at 2.83gaa, and 90.4sv% just isn't good enough to be playing as much as he has. He's actually played 323 games in the greatest league on earth (which surprised me), but he's been unlucky to have played most of those games on bad teams. Ideally Mathieu is a guy who should be in a support role playing about 25 games tops.
The kid is HUGE!!!
During the upcoming season Garon might be once again forced into about half a schedule of work since the Lightning have sunk their hope into young 24-year-old Swede Anders Lindback. The preposterously huge Lindback stands at 6'6" and backstopped 38 games for the Preds in the last 2 seasons. He has a 2.53gaa and a 91.4sv% during that stretch. That isn't bad, and Shea Weber has been quoted as saying something to effect that this guy was stuck behind Rinne and should have been a starter from day 1. High praise. However, such a limited sample size is tough to judge. Rather smartly, Yzerman only locked him in for 2 years at an average cap hit of $1.8mil. If he busts, he busts. If he excels, he'll get a long term deal. It's a no lose contract for Tampa Bay.

One prospect who could perhaps be ready to take some of the brunt of Garon's starts is Dustin Tokarski. Tokarski is in a contract year, and has played 3 strong seasons at Norfolk of the AHL. This past year he was superb with a 32-11-0 record, 2.23gaa, and 91.3sv%. He's only had 7 career NHL starts, so it's tough to estimate how he would fair in a back-up role. In my opinion he should be given a handful of starts this year, but any more than that might be reaching. If one of Garon or Lindback goes down though, he might be the one to get the call.

Riku Helenius has had a TOUGH time adapting to the North American game. He's been kicked around in the lower tiers, playing for teams such as the Augusta Lynx, and the Mississippi Sea Wolves. With Tokarski cutting into the AHL time Helenius took off for his native Finnish league last year. He was a standout in that league posting a 1.64gaa for JYP in 33 games. When looking at those numbers though, you have to realize the Finnish league is not on par with the Swedish league or the AHL, so it's difficult to say if he was any better than when he was in the ECHL.  

Jaroslav Janus, a Slovakian junior standout, was one of the smart young men to enlist in the Canadian junior leagues. In order to acclimate himself he chose to migrate over to the OHL where he signed on with the Erie Otters.. and that was not smart. The Otters are, let's say.. not a powerhouse. So maybe his mentality was to get as many shots as is possible in order to improve his play. 

When mentioning goalies like this I always quote Patrick Roy's junior stats with Granby in the Quebec junior league. One of the greatest greats of all the greats was 58-89 with a 5.33gaa during his junior days.. they didn't even keep track of shots back then so it's hard to know how many he faced. It's just a nice tidbit for those who base a lot on junior numbers.. it really matters how hard a player works after juniors.

In any case, Janus played 34 solid contests for the Admirals last season (his second full professional campaign). He's not yet under contract for the upcoming season so it's hard to say if he's going to stay in the Bolts system or grab a flight to the KHL, or perhaps the Czech Extraliga.

Ferris State graduate Pat Nagle, played his first professional season last year. He played exclusively with the Florida Everblades in the 'E' because of the logjam in Norfolk. His 39 games of work were relatively successful, accumulating a 20-14-3 record, but surely he's in for a lot more seasoning before he gets a crack at an NHL job. 

I have to say that this goaltending outlook seems kind of shaky. 1 potential starter, 1 overworked back-up, 1 top-prospect, 1 failed top-prospect, and 2 average prospects. Put that combination behind last year's worst defense and you have a really REALLY good recipe for disaster. With the two veteran additions on defense and Lindback added to the fold surely the results will be better than last season, right? Well I'm not sold yet, but I think it has to be better. I give the Bolts goalies 5 blockers to the face of a possible 10.

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