The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

I'm getting set to trek on down to the St. Pete Times Forum to take in Game 2 of the Islanders-Lightning playoff series! It should be fun. Nothing like an afternoon hockey tilt in sunny Tampa Bay.

The start of the playoffs brings a healthy dose of examination of the teams in the postseason dance. The Bolts are no exception, as the once-lowly franchise has been built into the current Eastern Conference powerhouse.

Once misconception about this team is that it's got a "home-grown" roster--that is, the team is the result of the drafting and development of young players within the organization, and therefore a model to admire. Drafting players and bringing them along is perceived to be the "right" way to win, versus the "wrong" way of buying high-priced free agents ala the New York Rangers. It's a pretty thin argument on several levels: Drafting is less a science than it is a roll of the dice; how is it "right" to keep a young player locked into your organization at far below his market value; what the hell is an owner supposed to "buy" other than a winning team and a championship? And so on.

In any case, a look at the Lightning's current roster pretty well dispels the assumption that the team is of the classic home-grown variety. Only three core players--Lecavalier, Richards and Kubina--were drafted by Tampa Bay (the other two, Cibak and Afanasenkov, are good role players but pretty much spare parts). The rest of the roster, including Khabibulin and St. Louis, joined the team in trades or through free agency, having spent their developmental years with other teams. There's not much about this team that's home-grown at all; if anything, it reminds me of the LA Kings in recent years, another team that's seen success through building a team via trades.