November 12, 2010

Fifty-Goal Seasons never Strike Lightning Players Twice unless Their Name Is Stamkos

So, Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier is now out, which would kind of matter if the book on him hasn’t been for the past two years.

I believe it’s entitled Great Unfulfilled Expectations, an unheralded instant classic that chronicles the main character’s constant run-ins with two primary antagonists: the villainous injury bug, which time and again has slowed and killed any forward momentum mustered in his career, as well as his own past success, which continues to haunt him just as his overbearing 11-year, $85-million contract does management and the team’s fan base.

Brilliant stuff, really, subject to rave reviews. Granted those rave reviews have been written by division rivals and lower-tier players grateful for the inflationary side-effects his nonsense deal has had on their salaries, but any feedback must be good feedback when you’re talking about a player becoming increasingly irrelevant in the landscape of the game today, who’s now been reduced to playing second fiddle to fellow-center and fellow-former-number-one-draft-pick Steven Stamkos, who at the tender age of 19 was able to do what it took Lecavalier eight seasons to accomplish, and that is to score 50 goals in one season.

Admittedly, not too many players get the chance to count themselves among the true elite of the sport who have reached that milestone, and Lecavalier does deserve props for that one season back in 2006-2007, but his point and goal totals have dropped significantly since then, from 108 (52), to 92 (40), to 67 (29), followed by a slight uptick to 70 (24) last season.

I get that Lecavalier is currently the team’s captain and he brings certain “intangibles” to the table, but more and more those intangibles look like him handicapping his team financially for the next decade, thereby preventing them from ever repeating as Stanley Cup champions, which, by the way, they won without him as captain. He had been stripped of it for being too immature.

Of course, it’s hard to make the argument that the Lightning would be more competitive without Lecavalier on the roster, because they still have over $11 million in cap space with him, but as a small-market team the Lightning can ill-afford to throw money away to the first person that comes along, especially with the next person, Stamkos, due for a big raise when he becomes a restricted free agent this summer.

"I think I just tweaked something stretching... damn. Coach said NOT to over-exert myself."
So, with Lecavalier now out of the line-up after breaking his hand on the most innocuous of plays against the Washington Capitals, it now perhaps opens the door for more ice time to be given to some of the more deserving players on the Lightning’s roster, at least for the next three-to-four weeks, at which point he is set to return and brainwash the coaching staff into thinking he is actually more valuable than say Dominic Moore, another centre on the team that represents one-seventh of Lecavalier’s salary-cap hit.

Moore, who has played four less games due to a groin injury, has just two fewer points. Not only that, but he gets less ice time than Lecavalier. So much so that, when adding up his ice time into 60-minute shifts, he averages 3.60 points per full game. Lecavalier averages 2.07. Even one of the team’s reserve centres in Blair Jones, with just two points, averages 3.56 points per full game, having played just 33:42 this year.

Obviously, putting Jones ahead of Lecavalier on the team’s depth chart is ludicrious, but it is food for thought along with the fact that the league’s leading scorer in Stamkos averages 5.41 points, meaning Vinny has quite a ways to go to catch up to his young understudy, who stopped following in his shoes about the time Barry Melrose stopped coaching the Lightning. Funny how that worked out, isn’t it?

Inevitably, the comparisons between the two have to stop, because it’s like comparing apples and oranges... a zesty orange filled to the brim with vitamin C to keep you healthy, and a rotten apple rife with worms and brown spots after taking one too many tumbles over the years.

Lecavalier isn’t really guilty of much. As of the end of the last season, he has the most points of anyone taken in the 1998 draft, so he came very much as advertised as the best player available that year. Of course, when the team’s owner at the time, Art Williams, declared he would be the Michael Jordan of hockey it raised expectations up to a certain point. For God’s sakes, Lecavalier hasn’t even been the Scottie Pippen of hockey, but the same last name sure does fit.

No comments:

Post a Comment