© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2003
Ever since I moved back to Tampa Bay, I have been a season ticket holder for the Lightning. I have been frustrated at times, and excited at times. For years, it did not matter what the Bolts record was because we knew they would be playing golf come April.
Well, times may be different now, but only if there are some needed changes made. The Lightning's offensive scoring is playoff caliber. It is the continual defensive lapses that have haunted them during December, January and now February, and will continue into March and April. The Lightning had an opportunity to acquire quality defensemen in the past month, only to have the carpet yanked right out from under them. Boris Mironov would have been a great fit in this organization, but he was traded for a fourth round pick. Did the Lightning not have any better of a pick? Rumors continued to swirl about Roman Hamrlik, but the Bolts were unwilling to give up Pavel Kubina or Frederick Modin. Has anybody seen Modin play this year? He has lost a step or two and is considered lazy by most hockey experts. If that is the trade bait, let him go. The team will not miss a beat without either one of these guys.
If this team does not make a move (and very soon) to shore up its defense, they will be lucky if they end the season with 80 points and the become the eighth team in the playoffs. They can not continue to make turnovers in the defensive zone. It is killing them.
-- Pete Budzinski, Clearwater
The rotator cuff injury to defensemen Jassen Cullimore has proven to be devastating. The Lightning has steadily gone downhill since his injury, and management has done nothing to correct the problem. With Cullimore in the lineup the team had a winning percentage of .545 (12 wins in 22 games), and without him their winning percentage has dropped to a dismal .313 (10 wins in 32 games). With time running out, a winning percentage of .313 is not going to help their push for the playoffs.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see what this team is lacking. We need a top line defensemen that can hit and get the puck out of its zone. Kubina, who received a substantial increase in salary and was being counted on to pick up his game, has been nothing less then a disappointment. So what is Jay Feaster waiting on? The right deal? The right deal may never come, and in the meantime, this team continues to have its ups and downs in an effort to make the playoffs. It's not going to happen.
The players on this team have to start policing players that do not contribute and work hard at both ends of the ice. The forwards cannot relinquish their responsibilities to the defensewhen the puck is turned over. They have to get back and help the defense get the puck out of their zone. This has to be a total team effort if they want to make the playoffs.
Winning builds confidence and every player should be made accountable for his effort, or lack of effort. There can be no more excuses by the players, coaches or management. They have to get it done, or they will see their season ticket base rapidly erode.
-- Manny Andrade, Clearwater
In last Sunday's Rants and Raves, you made reference to "ugly disturbances after recent collegiate national titles around the Ohio State and Maryland campuses." Being a Buckeye fan, I assure you there were no noteworthy disturbances after we claimed our first title in 34 years. The disturbances of note occurred after the Michigan game. Certainly these riots and burning of cars were dispicable, but the city of Columbus, the campus police, and the fans of The Ohio State University should be proud of the way the championship was celebrated.
After the Michigan game, the steps to ensure this type of idiocy would not happen again were implemented and carried out. This should be commended, not incorrectly used as a tool to reinforce the ignorance of fans who riot after winning championships.
If anything, Columbus should be commended for correcting the problem, not remain in the group of those still be ridiculed for their moronic actions.
-- Mike Bowers, Seffner