tampabay.com

Impressive callups are losses' silver lining

By TOM JONES
Published January 2, 2006


UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Sometimes things have to go wrong for everything to turn out right. For the Lightning, what appeared a stroke of misfortune has turned into a good break.

When the Lightning lost forwards Eric Perrin and Shane Willis in the offseason, it thought it might be losing two key depth players. They were bubble players with experience who could start in the minors then jump into the NHL lineup in an emergency.

Both decided to take their games to Europe and the Lightning, suddenly, seemed short on players to call up. But it turns out the Lightning has been just fine, calling up two players who have stuck: Evegeny Artyukhin and Ryan Craig . In addition, Nick Tarnasky and Darren Reid are two other forwards called up who have shown promise.

"We're very pleased with that," coach John Tortorella said. "That's the way it works. You give people opportunities and they try to make the best of it."

Tortorella believes the upside is this season's group of call-ups has the potential to be future NHL regulars as opposed to, say, Willis, whose career pretty much had leveled off. Meantime, Tortorella was disappointed to see Perrin, who played 12 playoff games in 2003-04, leave.

"Eric Perrin kind of (ticked) me off a little bit," Tortorella said. "We gave him an opportunity and he just jumped ship for more money, I believe. But that's the nature of athletes, I guess."

Perrin and Willis really had no choice. The only way for the Lightning to keep them was to pay them less than $75,000 to play in the minors. If it had paid them more, those players would have to clear waivers each time they were called up or sent down. Both went to Switzerland for more money.

"We gave him a good opportunity and I thought he gave us some good time," Tortorella said of Perrin. "I don't want to grind him. I just think players are still too much of businessmen. Eric Perrin, Nik Khabibulin , this guy, that guy, it doesn't matter, players eventually become businessmen and it drives me nuts as the coach of a team."

Even if he has the opportunity to bring Perrin back, Tortorella said he would prefer not to sign him.

"I know people have to look out for themselves and their livelihood and there is business in this, but we're interested in people who want to be here," Tortorella said. "We're in to other youth. We're in to other players."

HAIR-SAY: This seems like no big deal, but, in a way, it is.

Captain Dave Andreychuk and goalie John Grahame got haircuts over the weekend. Having hair like Telly Savalas or Crystal Gayle has absolutely nothing to do with winning faceoffs, scoring goals or stopping a puck. But it's important to Tortorella, who has been a tad irritated all season about the shaggy look of some of his players, especially Andreychuk and Grahame.

Silly as it might seem, the haircuts send a good message to the rest of the team and, especially, Tortorella.

THE DISH: Cutting ties with tough guy Chris Dingman freed up some money that the Lightning might need to make a trade later in the season. If that happens it's hard to argue with the move. The Lightning, however, is kidding itself if it thinks Dingman was given a fair shot. He was scratched more often than not and barely played when he did dress. He played better than he was given credit for and the leash Tortorella had on him was so short that it makes you wonder if Tortorella simply didn't like Dingman as a hockey player even though Dingman was good enough to play in all 23 of the Lightning's playoff games during the 2003-04 Cup run.