Lightning may have struck gold, Panthers have promise, more
Tampa Bay general manager
Lawton shored up the goaltending by adding former Flyer
It was the sort of dramatic lineup revamp that you'd expect from a team coming off a season in which it won just 24 games and left its fans to daydream about the first overall draft pick before the Christmas break. But in the end, Lawton appeared to run out of fingers before he plugged all the leaks. And for all the changes he made, he failed to address what could be a gaping hole behind
With the All-Star winger riding shotgun for promising sophomore
The best bet at this point?
Don't laugh. Despite a well-earned reputation as the league's loosest cannon, Downie might be up to the challenge.
A former first-round pick, Downie was seen as the next
But rather than learn to pick his spots, Downie seems to have spent his entire career seeking new ways to make people forget that he can actually play the game. There was
Despite the evidence of some seriously loose wiring, there's still a belief that Downie can be an impact player in the NHL...under the right circumstances.
"He's a guy who probably is as frustrating to watch as he is to play against," an Eastern Conference scout told SI.com last February. "You remember him at the  World Juniors? He only scored two goals, but he ended up on [the All-Tournament Team]. You noticed him on every shift. [
"But there's all that baggage. Who knows if he'll ever get his head screwed on straight?"
Part of the problem, the scout thought, was a self-esteem issue born of a difficult childhood. Downie was only seven years old when his father died and he had a hearing disability in one ear. "He's had to deal with a lot," said the scout. "Even when things are going well, you can still see that frustration just below the surface."
The challenge for the Lightning, and coach
That's the player Tampa wants to see. They don't expect him to score 30 goals. They just want him to do what he does best. When he's focused, Downie is a puck-seeking missile, fearless in the greasy areas and adept at creating opportunities for his linemates with an aggressive forecheck. So maybe it just comes down to needing a certain style of leadership. Tocchet, who knows a bit about battling to find his place in the league, may be ideally suited to help Downie take one step back from anarchy and finally realize his potential.
Giving him the additional responsibilities that come with skating on the top line -- instead of reinforcing old behaviors by planting him in a shift-disturbing depth role -- may turn out to be the smartest step taken in Downie's rehabilitation. It's early yet, but he looks comfortable skating with the big guns in camp. Might turn out that Lawton didn't have such a big hole on the right side after all.
That the Panthers finally bit on free agent defender
Cap hit aside, the ex-Hurricane is a savvy acquisition for a team that's working on a defensive renovation almost as extensive as that of their cross-state rivals. Having lost
Seidenberg's arrival gives Florida a sixth defender with considerable NHL experience. He'll replace some of Skrastins' physicality and bring a reliable presence to the penalty kill. As long as he's not asked to do too much -- injuries forced him uncomfortably into a top pairing role at times in Carolina -- he can be highly effective.
Truthfully, the same can be said of the entire Panthers blueline. It lacks someone who fits the ideal top pairing mold, but it looks to have six players who are second-unit caliber. If coach
It's hard to accept that the Canadiens actually believed for a moment that
Shortly after Gainey resigned from his GM post in Texas, the Stars were faced with naming a new captain in the wake of
It wasn't long before Modano was revealed to be the classic square peg, and while he relished the position, there was no denying he was miscast in the role. After the team failed to respond to his quiet leadership in a crushing first-round playoff loss to Colorado in 2006, the letter was stripped away and given to
Markov may have been a similarly obvious choice by virtue of his standing as the Canadiens' best player, but he would have been equally wrong for the part. He's never been one to gladly face the voracious Montreal media for the postgame interview -- a requirement of the captain in that town. Nor does he possess the charisma and force of personality of
So good on the Habs for making it an option for Markov rather than an obligation...even if it leaves them with no obvious successor to