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New deal, salary cap to test Lightning's work ethic
By TOM JONES
Published September 11, 2005
NHL coaches have many motivational tools at their disposal.
To get their message across, coaches can make players skate laps or sprints. Blowing a gasket - you know, screaming, turning over a garbage can or two, kicking a hole in the wall - can get a player's attention. A one-on-one, heart-to-heart chat behind closed doors often reaches a player.
But there is no better way to motivate a player than threaten his job security. Fear of getting shipped to the minors or being released tends to make players re-evaluate their work ethic and get with the program.
And it's a tool Lightning coach John Tortorella won't have at his disposal this training camp, which begins Monday. Because of the new salary cap and all the rules that go along with the new collective-bargaining agreement, the Lightning's roster, barring an injury, is pretty much set.
The Lightning plans to carry exactly 20 players. It really has no choice. Already close to bumping its head on the salary cap, the Lightning can't afford to go with 21, 22 or the maximum of 23 players and have room for a callup in case of injury later in the season.
Already, 19 jobs are set. The only opening is for a sixth defenseman. So if a Lightning fourth-liner or a fourth or fifth defenseman has an awful training camp, Tortorella can yell, plead and/or punish with work. But he can't demote him.
Tortorella hopes his team has matured enough that carrying 20 players won't be an excuse to get lazy. Cleaning house isn't an issue as it might have been when he took over as coach in 2001.
"You can't be doing the things you were doing four years ago right now," Tortorella said. "You have to show them the respect that they have grown. And they have grown."
And if they need reminding?
"There are always different ways of getting their attention as we get going here," Tortorella said. "I think they understand how they have to conduct themselves. It's making sure that they really dial in."
BURKE'S LONG ROAD: New Lightning goalie Sean Burke has the moving companies on speed dial. After calling nine cities (including Philadelphia twice) his home since breaking into the NHL in 1987-88, you would think Burke has had enough of packing up his goalie's mask and heading to another town.
"The way I look at it, I'm thankful for all the opportunities I've had to play in all the places I've played," Burke said. "I've enjoyed every place. And at this stage of the game, I'm happy to still have the opportunity to play somewhere else."
The one drawback is now his two children are getting to the age where it's hard to take them away from friends and schools and move them to a new city.
Burke said his wife, son Brendan (age 10) and daughter Andie (12) will stay in Phoenix for now.
"They've been in the same school for five years now," Burke said. "I need to get settled first and then maybe they'll come halfway through the year at the (Christmas) break. But, I don't know. It's hard. I will miss them and want them here, but I know how hard it will be on them to move."
SEEING RED: Don't be so sure that eliminating the red line is going to suddenly create all kinds of offense. Tortorella thinks it's a big mistake, that teams can sit back even more to shut down an opponent.
And Wild coach Jacques Lemaire, whom many blame for introducing the neutral-zone trap to the NHL, has sworn for years that removing the red line will make the trap even more smothering.
The always-outspoken Jeremy Roenick laughed when asked if his old coach, Philadelphia's Ken Hitchcock, a defensive-minded specialist, and Lemaire will have problems adjusting.
"I think it's going to be a circus for them," Roenick told Canadian Press. "I know Ken Hitchcock was sitting in his office for the last year and a half trying to come up with a system to defend against the no red line (two-line pass). So look for him to come up with something. I know in Minnesota, Jacques is trying to do the same thing. It's interesting to see what's going to work. We're going to have to work in a lot of systems to try to counteract no red line."
ICE CHIPS: Olli Jokinen, the Panthers top center, remains unsigned and his agent, Todd Diamond, said: "Absolutely nothing is happening." Jokinen, who had 26 goals and 32 assists in 2003-04, could sign a one-year deal and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. ... The Hawks have had a major overhaul since the end of the 2003-04 season, bringing in Nikolai Khabibulin, Jassen Cullimore, Adrian Aucoin, Jaroslav Spacek, Matthew Barnaby, Curtis Brown, Martin Lapointe and Jim Dowd. "There's a buzz in the city," Hawks GM Dale Tallon said. "We're getting a lot of good coverage. Our fans are excited and our ticket sales are up. People are talking about us again, so that's good." The Hawks might have done just enough to make the playoffs for the second time in seven years.