By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 3, 2000
1. ARE TWO NO. 1 GOALTENDERS BETTER THAN ONE?
In coach Steve Ludzik's "perfect world," Dan Cloutier and Kevin Weekes will play 41 games each. The two should at least provide plenty of competition, which Cloutier did not have last season.
2. IS THIS REALLY VINNY LECAVALIER'S TEAM?
The 20-year-old captain dislikes when people say that, declaring that one player cannot carry the load. But Lecavalier has superstar potential, which is developing along with his non-confrontational leadership style.
3. WHO FOLLOWS VINNY?
The No. 2-line center spot is up for grabs, and there is a bunch of applicants. Rookie Brad Richards will get a long look. But Brian Holzinger, Ryan Johnson and Wayne Primeau won't go quietly.
4. HOW DOES RICHARDS FIT IN?
The jump from juniors to the NHL is huge. Just ask Lecavalier, Richards' best friend, who took two seasons to really break out. The 20-year-old moves from left wing to his normal center position and maybe a spot with Lecavalier on the power play.
5. ARE ALEXANDER KHARITONOV AND THOMAS ZIEGLER REALLY THAT GOOD?
Kharitonov, 24, a Russian left wing, wowed 'em during the World Championships. Ziegler, 22, a Swiss center, was productive at worlds as well. General manager Rick Dudley has said both have a chance to make the team and show that they have the work ethic he covets. 6. WHICH TODD WARRINER WILL SHOW UP?
Will it be the Warriner who had seven goals and five assists in his final 16 games, or the one who had four goals and eight assists in his first 39 after being acquired from Toronto? He'll start out on the No. 1 line with Lecavalier and right wing Michael Johnson.
7. IS A DEEP DEFENSE STILL VERY THIN?
The average age of the 11 returning defensemen is 24.3, and five defensemen are 22 or younger. That leads to youthful enthusiasm but a lack of experience. The corps improved as last season pro-gressed, but Petr Svoboda, at 34, still has much teaching to do. The competition for seven or eight spots will be fierce, and that can help players grow up quickly.
8. IS THERE ANOTHER DEAL TO BE DONE?
Dudley has said a trade may happen during training camp, and it's no secret the Lightning could use another veteran defenseman. A scoring forward may not be as large a priority as once thought. Said Dudley: "At the moment, we feel pretty good with what we've got. If I can do something that makes sense for our hockey club, I will do it, but I don't feel the way I felt a year ago. I don't have to make a major overhaul anymore."
9. WHAT OF LUDZIK'S SYSTEM?
The coach said he wants his defensemen to stay at home more. Removal of some offensive responsibility should better define the players' roles and give the evolving goaltender situation support.
10. SHOOTING ROCKETS OR BLANKS?
The team added speed with free-agent forward Martin St. Louis. If another big gun is not added, Tampa Bay will need 30 goals from Lecavalier, Fredrik Modin and Michael Johnson, and at least 20 from Warriner. That's a tall order. As for the power play, which ranked 24th with 14 percent efficiency, Ludzik said so much work had to be done last season, it got short-changed. This season, he said, "We're going to work on it every day, even at morning skates (before games)."