Friday, October 15, 2010

Season Preview Part III Let's Wrap This Up

To celebrate the Lightning's 3-0 start we'll wrap up the season preview with the third and final installment.

For Parts I and II go here:

Part One

Part Two

You Got Your Hug Now Go Earn Your Paycheck

Let’s make no mistake. I am a huge Vincent Lecavalier fan. I’ve made that clear on several occasions. I think he is by far the most talented player on the team, and in his aloof way the bell weather of the team. That’s not to say he isn’t without his faults. By no means should a captain ever have the term “aloof” attached to his name, not even by amateur bloggers with grammar issues.

If he was your girlfriend your friends would definitely refer to him as “high maintenance”. He is prone to confidence problems and can come off as disinterested during games in which he isn’t effective. His detractors claim that he quits on the team when things aren’t going well or that he doesn’t deserve the “C” on his shoulder because he’s not a leader.

What we should remember is that fans aren’t in the locker room. We aren’t on the bus rides or plane rides. Despite having unparalleled direct access to players through Twitter, Facebook, blogs and never satisfied traditional media we still don’t know what’s going on inside the locker room.

Coaches, GM’s and owners have come and gone, but the center from Ile Bizzard is still in the black and blue. And he’s still captain. If there was ever a chance to sweep the slate clean and appoint a new captain for the team it’s when you bring in a new GM, owner and coach. Yet Vinny still wears the “C”.

Why? Well, why not? If the players had a problem with it they would have addressed it by now. Perhaps, behind closed doors, Lecavalier is more of a leader than he lets on. Perhaps his bland quotes to the media and quiet persona mask an extremely driven man who has earned the respect of his players. Think of all of the players that have cycled through the Lightning organization during his tenure. How many of them have said bad things about him? I couldn’t find any quotes.

Now with all of that being said (the writers equivalent of “with all due respect”) Vincent has to perform on the ice. He is the highest paid player in the league. Let that sink in for a second. It’s not Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin or Marty Brodeur - it’s Vincent Lecavalier. He of the back to back underachieving seasons.

For $10 million the Lightning are going to need him to step up in the scoring department. Seventy points is not acceptable for that type of money. Does he have to score 50 goals? Not necessarily. However, if he doesn’t put the puck in the net he better be helping his linemates do it.

In the past the Lightning have struggled to fill two lines. Moving wingers from one line to another always weakened the other. This year it shouldn’t be the case. All six members have the ability to score 25+ goals. Shuffling them back and forth won’t allow other teams to focus on one line; and that means Vincent should be happy.

I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the big name player brought in during the off-season is a French Canadian. It might seem like a little thing, but it could be important to Lecavalier. Having someone else in the locker room that he can communicate in his native language might relax him. It’s speculation, but if it helps then it shows Mr. Yzerman has an astute read on his mercurial center.

The GM has done an excellent job of silencing the “trade vinny” rumors that have floated like a cloud of toxic gas around Channelside Drive for the last few years. For some reason hearing Mr. Yzerman declare that Lecavalier is not on the block is much more reassuring then listening to those-that-must-not-be-named say it last year.

It will be critical for him to get off to a good start. Last season he struggled out of the gate a bit and it ate at his confidence. Enough so that he even admitted to the press that he was gripping the stick a little too tight. Normally, you can’t read anything from his comments to the press (if you can even find them in an article) so for him to admit he was pressing shows how much it bothered him.

The organization has done what it can to make sure he is in the right place. Now it’s on his shoulders to reward their loyalty by righting his career and reestablishing himself as an offensive force.

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