Stevie Y continues to make the smart move

NHLHS writer Anthony Curatolo breaks down the off-season to date for the Tampa Bay Lightning.  A team that could create a lot of fireworks in the Southeast Division with the “new” look implemented by new GM Steve Yzerman.

To the average hockey fan, the 2010 off-season has been one of confusion, discomfort and overall disgust. Many teams attempted to make their clubs better but failed.

For some teams failing is putting it a bit overboard as if you look around the league there are still a few clubs in transition – rebuilding from within.

One team that does not fall into this mess are the Southeast Divison Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Bolts, one of the biggest winners this off-season, started at the top – the NHL level – and continued through the ranks.  Player movement, organizational brass changes and a positive vibe from the new look team has helped create quite the stir from sunny Florida.

It started with Steve Yzerman getting the call to be the clubs new general manager.  From there, Yzerman brought in a new head coach, a few new faces and has helped build an excitement among the fanbase as well as the roster for the Bolts.

Guy Boucher, the one time AHL head coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs was brought in due to his style to create a more aggressive play from the team.

The first order of business after appointing a new head coach was securing a one-two punch, if you will, between the pipes in the sunshine state. Yzerman, even with the man on radar to man the posts having his rights owned by another team until July 1st, had his target.

Dan Ellis was brought in to compete along with Mike Smith for the starting goaltender position after it was known that Antero Niittymaki would no longer be a part of the plan. If Ellis plays anything this season like Craig Anderson performed for Colorado last season, the Bolts are in a very solid position in net.

If all else fails, down the line, the trade that sent Kari Ramo to the Canadiens for Cedric Desjardens will prove to be one of Yzerman’s smartest moves as this team moves forward.  But for now, we will not talk about that what if’s and the potential of the youngsters. Just note that this was a very solid move for the organization.

From there we witnessed the signing of Pavel Kubina, the sending off of both Andrej Meszaros and Matt Walker and the acquisition of Simon Gagne.

Two big names to jump on board with an already solid cast of players in Tampa.

Gagne brings a veteran presence who plays an aggressive two way style. He has proven to be a 30 goal scorer when healthy on a constant basis.

Kubina comes back “home” and will provide an upgrade over both players from the blue line that Tampa shipped out.  Not only will Kubina help patrol the blue line and chip in offensively, but he will be ideal in further development of young, promising d-man Victor Hedman.

Brett Clark, another solid defensive signing by the organization, adds yet another veteran presence to the defensive group in Tampa. Something they have lacked for a few years now – solid players, not just depth players.

Dominic Moore, signed as a free agent out of Montreal, will provide solid two way play as either the third or fourth line center for the club. He has been a solid player throughout most of his career, chipping in the occasional goal offensively while being a presence in both the faceoff circle and in his own end of the ice.

To think all of these are simple additions to an already star studded lineup with Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Ryan Malone as well as other rising stars for the club.

Other minor signings to help out on the depth chart have taken place through the course of the summer as well as the Bolts inked Mike Vernace, Mathieu Roy, Sean Bergenheim, Vladimir Mihalik, Chris Durno, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and just yesterday they also added Randy Jones who spent last season with the Los Angeles Kings.

The Lightning have come to terms with all their restricted free agents that they kept in their plans and the season is ready to begin from a roster standpoint.

Will Yzermans new product help create fireworks from one of the most proactive divisions in all of the NHL in 2010-11?  Only time will tell but this writer feels that the improvements made by the club will absolutely help they compete for a playoff spot as April comes rolling around in the 2011 calendar year.

Anthony Curatolo
NHLHS writer
Twitter: @HockeyGuy_AC