Saturday, November 8, 2008

Welcome To the Swap Meet

Never before have the cries of “Get Your Programs! Can’t Tell The Players Without a Program!” rung quite so true in the hallowed halls of the Ice Palace. Just twelve games into the season and the revolving door hasn’t stopped spinning yet.

On Friday it was Matt Carle’s turn to become an ex-member of the Lightning. Traded along with a draft pick to Philadelphia for Steve Eminger and Steve Downie Carle’s career with the Lightning was spectacular only it’s briefness. The centerpiece of the off-season Dan Boyle salary dump, Carle was supposed to be the heir apparent in terms of free wheeling, offense sparking blue liner, and at 24 a much younger option.

Through 12 games Carle had spent almost 22 minutes per game patrolling the ice, but had registered only one goal and one assist. Neither one of those marks on the score sheet came with the man advantage and that more than anything made him expendable to the new regime.
With Carle leaving there has been almost a 100% overhaul of the blueline. Only Andrej Meszaros remains from the squad that started the season in Prague. It has yet to be determined if that is a good thing or not. The defense was a question mark going into the season and remains so now a month into it.

Speaking of the new regime it’s hard to see where they’re going with this team. It’s still early to claim that there isn’t a plan. After all, a full season hasn’t passed, but it’s starting to look that way. Moving Shane O’Brien who had failed to impress under the former regime or Dan Koci an enforcer with a whopping 41 seconds of playing is one thing. Moving a 24 defenseman who was supposed to be a cornerstone of the new look Lightning is something totally different.

This was their guy, not a Feaster guy or a Tortorella guy or even an Art Williams guy. He “fit with our plan of trying to get to younger and better”, Brian Lawton uttered those words just after completing the deal for Carle. So dealing him away must mean they want to get older and worse. Trying to justify dealing him away Lawton said that Eminger and Carle are “very comparable in a lot of ways”. Apparently points isn’t one of those comparable ways. In 61 more games Eminger has 11 less goals and 20 less points.

The regime has been branded “cowboys” by the ex coach and rumors of an owner diagramming plays during an intermission haven’t been put to bed yet. Moves like this tend to show a lack of faith in the players, the staff, the scouts and even in ownership. If a key piece of the defense can be moved for an underachieving 3rd line defenseman and cap space than who is safe? Will the next two game losing streak cost Jussi Jokinen his spot on the team? Maybe a free fall into last place will result in Vincent getting moved to Montreal. That should free up plenty of space for new acquisitions. In the end, they have to play the cards that have been dealt. Constant change for the sake of change is no way to go through a season.

There could, however, be a much simpler explanation for the recent moves. The new regime could be planning a reunion. Maybe they were big fans of the 2003-04 Washington Capitals. Olaf Kolzig, Jeff Halpern, Matt Pettinger and Eminger all skated for that squad. If the next transaction notice is the Bolts signing Kip Miller or Ivan Ciernik we’ll all know what the plan is.

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