Just a few years ago, if a player pulled out of an All-Star Game because of illness or an injury, the NHL would have yanked out its telephone list to find a replacement.
The last team on that list? Probably the Lightning.
But when Ottawa's Wade Redden came down with a flu bug last week, the first call for a replacement went to Tampa Bay for defenseman Pavel Kubina.
"I think it shows the respect that our organization gets now," Lightning general manager Jay Feaster said. "Two years ago, no one even thought of the Lightning."
Actually, it probably was worse than that. People did know the Lightning two years ago because it was the most popular punch line to a league-wide joke.
The Lightning had bizarre owners, a revolving door in the locker room and a horrible record. The organization did not experience apathy from the rest of the league. It was sympathy. All the while, people in hockey circles would make fun of the franchise.
"That's true," Feaster said. "But not anymore. I think we are getting respect and that shows when a guy like Kuby gets the first call and when ( Martin) St. Louis is voted to start by the fans."
"Winning," St. Louis said. "You win and you get respect in this league. I think it started to change last year when we had three guys (St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Nikolai Khabibulin) in the All-Star Game, and that's what happens when you win. People start to notice you."
Wayne Gretzky is a better hockey executive than a movie critic, but he had high praise after watching a special screening of Miracle, the Disney movie about Herb Brooks and the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.
"Spectacular," Gretzky said.
He does know a little about movies considering he's married to actor Janet Jones.
"It's a really wonderful movie, a feel-good story about hockey," Gretzky said. "But it's more than hockey. It's about reaching for goals and the dreams you have in life. It's really emotional. Obviously, I'm a hockey fan, and the hockey scenes are better than any movie I've ever seen. I'd put it right up there with Hoosiers."
Five Questions with the Rangers'Jaromir Jagr:
Q: Are you happy you were traded to the Rangers?
A: It was a relief because there were so many rumors going around about my being traded. I'm glad to be there now and that all that is behind me. I'm happy to be in New York, and now I just want for us to make the playoffs.
Q: What went wrong in Washington?
A: Tough to say. Things just didn't work out, but I try not to look back. I'm just looking forward now.
Q: Are the Capitals committed to winning?
A: I think (owner) Ted Leonsis is doing everything he can, but the people just don't go to the games. You can't blame Leonsis for wanting a return on his investment. He's trying, but there's not much more he can do.
Q: Does Washington still have a good team?
A: I think so. We always had a good team, but for whatever reason, we just didn't win.
Q: You'll be playing with your old Washington linemate Robert Lang in the All-Star Game. Is he in this game because of you?
A: Yeah, sure. More like the other way around. But it will be nice to play with him again, for sure.
Around the league
Speaking of scoring, look for that to be discussed at the GM meetings this week in Henderson, Nev. "It's going to be a dominant topic," Wild GM Doug Risebrough said. ... Team USA is months away from choosing its roster for this summer's World Cup of Hockey, but USA general manager Larry Pleau mentioned Lightning goalie John Grahame as a possibility in goal, along with Coyote Brian Boucher. Pleau added that he, assistant GM Don Waddell and coach Ron Wilson will pay particular attention to how U.S.-born goalies play in the postseason. ... As part of its All-Star Game coverage, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune polled the league's general managers to determine which players had the best skills. The winners were Red Wing Steve Yzerman (leader), Devil Martin Brodeur (goalie), Jacques Lemaire (coach), Canadien Yanic Perreault (faceoff), Avalanche Joe Sakic (wrist shot), Ranger Alex Kovalev (stick-handling), Oiler Georges Laraque (fighter) and Blue Al MacInnis (slap shot). Brodeur was voted the game's best clutch performer.
Two players, standing 10 feet apart, were asked Saturday about the best way to improve scoring. The answers?
Washington's Lang: "Make the goalie equipment smaller."
Florida goalie Roberto Luongo: "Whatever you do, don't make the goalie equipment smaller."