Last mission to repair the Hubble telescope Hubble space telescope discoveries have enriched our understanding of the cosmos. In this special report, you will see facts about the Hubble space telescope, discoveries it has made and what the last mission's goals are.
For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
How did the Lightning get in this goalie mess?
If goalie Johan Holmqvist is injured early, if he struggles again, the Lightning will turn to rookie Karri Ramo rather than Denis, a player who started for the team only two weeks ago. How does that happen? What went wrong?
By GARY SHELTON
Published April 14, 2007
[Times photo: Dirk Shadd]
Lightning starting goalie Johan Holmqvist in the net during practice Friday at Floyd Hall Arena in Little Falls, N.J.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - As job descriptions go, his is rather simple. All you have to do is stop everything.
He has to stop the Devils, and he has to stop the doubts. He has to stop the criticism and the questions and the danger that looms ahead. He has to stand between his team and disaster, and he has to block trouble with his chest.
Just that, and Johan Holmqvist would have put in a good day's work.
It's a hard day to be Holmqvist, the Lightning goaltender. The reviews of his first playoff game have been harsh, and now, he faces his second. Either things are about to get a lot better, or they are about to get a lot worse.
As you look for Holmqvist's fingerprints on Thursday's 5-3 loss to New Jersey, however, there is another question worth pondering:
How did it get to this?
How did the Lightning, a team that pursued a goaltender so furiously last offseason, find its fortunes resting in the hands of a man that so few had heard of a few months ago?
In the interest of being fair, it is not just Holmqvist who is in net tonight. It is an entire organization. You might as well dangle snapshots in the net webbing of all those who missed wildly in an attempt to upgrade from the failed John Grahame experiment of a year ago.
Tonight, and for the rest of the series, Holmqvist is trying to protect them, too.
This wasn't the plan, remember?
Holmqvist was supposed to be an upgrade as a backup goalie, one of those guys who goes in when the schedule gets heavy, one of those guys who pleases everyone if he can win a dozen games or so along the journey. Frankly, he was supposed to be Bruce Gradkowski.
Instead, Holmqvist was better than expected.
Instead, Marc Denis was worse.
Even now, especially now, you cannot get away from it. Much of the reason the Lightning is in Holmqvist's hands is because of Holmqvist, who was more athletic, more resilient, tougher mentally than his team had any reason to believe. And much of the reason is that Denis wasn't.
For the Lightning, this was the wildest miss of the offseason. After last year's headaches trying to figure out what Grahame was going to do from one shift to another, general manager Jay Feaster vowed to upgrade at goaltender. It wanted greatness (it chased after Roberto Luongo until being told no by both Florida and Vancouver), but given the firepower on the roster, it was willing to accept consistency.
Supposedly, Denis was going to be the answer. The Lightning said as much when it traded 30-goal scorer Fredrik Modin for the rights to Denis, and said it louder when it presented Denis with an $8.6-million contract over three years.
And the results? They were awful. They were Alvin Harper bad. They were Wilson Alvarez bad. They were last-in-the-league-in-save-percentage bad. They were third-on-the-depth-chart bad.
For Denis, that is the ultimate description of how terrible his first season with the Lightning was. Going into this series with the Devils, the team doesn't even consider him a safety net. If Holmqvist is injured early, if he struggles again, the Lightning will turn to rookie Karri Ramo rather than Denis, a player who started for the team only two weeks ago.
What went wrong? Some suspect Denis was one of those players who flourished only because his Columbus team was bad and the expectations were low. Another theory is that he was a bad fit for the Lightning. Another is that despite working hard, despite having a good attitude, Denis just isn't good enough. It would have been nice for the talent evaluators of the Lightning to have figured it out.
In other words, this was a ghastly mistake by everyone who gave Denis a thumbs-up before the deal. Denis has two years left on his contract at $2.86-million per.
What happens with him in the future is anyone's guess. Does he play well enough to change the minds of his coaching staff? Would anyone trade for him? Is he destined to be a high-price minor-leaguer? A two-thirds-of-the-contract buyout? Who knows? (Feaster would not comment for this story.) For now, Denis is like everyone else, waiting to watch Holmqvist play.
Here's the thing to remember: The Denis failure would be a huge deal, a massive deal, if Holmqvist hadn't been more than the Lightning had a right to expect. You would be talking about it right now. Because of Holmqvist, you are talking about the Lightning in the playoffs and because of the playoffs, the criticism has been milder.
Understand, then, why the those around the Lightning seem ready to believe that Holmqvist can bail them out again when the teams play tonight. He has done it before.
Yeah, he was nervous against the Devils in his playoff debut. Yeah, he got back on his heels a bit too often. Still, no one questions that Holmqvist will be better.
After all, he is no longer his team's best chance.