We got together with Raw Charge's John Fontana and Cassie McClellan to swap some questions. Check out John's answers below!
1. Seriously, what is up with the Southeast this year? The Lightning are only a game in hand back of the division leading Hurricanes, with 17 points in 15 games. What do things in that division look like from your perspective?
In comparison to the Northeast Division? We’re the Southleast, proper! It feels like a continuation of the 2011-12 season to be honest, and don’t focus on the Panthers winning the division. Focus on the fact no one seemed to really want to win the division, and how it was up for grabs until late-late-late in the season. That describes most of the division so far this season – streaky or outright weak play.
As it stands at the moment, the Hurricanes (or, to make Sarah all warm and fuzzy inside, the Whalercanes) are the team to beat – less streaky than the Lightning have been. The Lightning have been outright bipolar (6-1-0 to start the season, 0-5-1 the next immediate six games, and now winners of their past two contests). Everyone else has been in full also-ran status. Could the also-ran status thing change for the former-Thrashers, Panthers and Capitals? Oh, sure, there is much time left on this season… But for the moment, the horse race in the division is a trot between the Hurricanes and the Bolts, and the Canes are winning.
2. Benoit Pouliot. Let's discuss this guy, wow. 13 points in 15 games, only 4 PIMs, sixth overall in scoring for the Lightning. Is he everything you guys thought you were getting? What's the general consensus on him from Bolts fans? (Can we have him back, please?)
Funny you should ask, we just ran a story on him yesterday… Well, we did as well as just about everyone else. He’s on a pace to have the best season (points wise) of his career. I’m not even precisely sure what we expected we were getting after we traded for him (with the Bruins) last summer. The team talked about him playing wing on top lines, the media keyed in on him playing scoring wing for Vincent Lecavalier, but most of the season thus far he had been playing on the third line.
He’s worked into the top line mix, though… He’ll bounce around all three top lines and contribute on any of them with play in the slot. While Lightning fans are impressed, I think he’s still a bit under the radar in terms of being an offensive threat on the Lightning. Fans focus on Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Lecavalier, Teddy Purcell, Cory Conacher… Benoit Pouliot is just starting to find his name listed in the fan lexicon.
3. What was the deal with trading Dustin Tokarski? Wasn't he one of the Bolts' top goalie prospects? Did he not JUST lead the Admirals to a Calder Cup? Do they have other goalie prospects in the system that made it ok to dump Tokarski?
The whole thing with Dustin Tokarski is complicated. It's been said that Tokarski's stock was falling, so the Lightning was right to trade him while he was still tradeable. The fact that the Syracuse Crunch, the Bolts AHL affiliate, was sliding in the standings probably helped determine that a significant change was needed sooner rather than later. Of course, it helps that Cedrick Desjardins, who came back the other way from Montreal, was coached by Guy Boucher at Rimouski (QMJHL) and Hamilton (AHL), and was previously a part of the Lightning organization two seasons ago. The whole deal ultimately boils down to the fact that the Lightning drafted goalie Andrei Vasilevksiy 19th overall this past summer, and the team feels that he's their future starter. Until Vasilevskiy is ready to go at the NHL level, it's probably fair to say that everyone else ahead of him in the depth chart can probably be considered place holders.