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TropicalFruitGirl26

Tampa Bay Defense, 2014-15 Season

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Well, with some of the dust settling down from the early free agency signing frenzy, I thought I would reflect a little bit on what the Bolts did to improve the team, but focusing mainly on the defensive corps.
 
It has been an area (along with goaltending) that had been a sore spot on the team for quite a while.
And until those things got fixed, it was one of the reasons why I felt the team cannot be considered a true Stanley Cup contender.
 
Well, the goaltending issues have been resolved with Ben Bishop, as the team unquestionably feels he is their number one, and now the team has signed solid, experienced veteran Evgeni Nabokov to back him up, which in turn allows some of the prospect goalies like the two 'Skis' , Kristers Gudlevskis (21 yrs old) and Andrei Vasilevski (19 yrs old) to continue to develop at the lower levels.
 
Which leaves the defense.
Personally, I like the direction the defense has taken.
Long gone are the days of having guys like Bruno Gervais, Brett Clark, a washed up Pavel Kubina (sorry, Kubes..you were always a favorite, but your time had come), and Matt Gilroy patrol and log heavy minutes for the team.
 
The group that is in place now, actually looks quite decent, with some players, like Victor Hedman and Radko Gudas, still with plenty of room to continue growing.
 
I realize there is still the long summer ahead and many things can shift and change, but as of this posting, this is what the Bolts top 6 D-men look like, in no particular order. 
I also included how old the player is or will be when the season gets underway or shortly after it gets underway, and his approximate size:
 
Victor Hedman (23, 6'6 225)
Radko Gudas (24, 6' 205)
Eric Brewer (35, 6'3 220)
Matt Carle (30, 6' 205)
Jason Garrison (30, 6'2 220)
Anton Stralman (28, 6' 195)
 
Not a bad group at all.
Far from perfect, and IMO, still not quite Stanley Cup ready (for various reasons), but a respectable group nonetheless, and one where I feel confident the team can compete night in, night out, and don't have to score 5 or 6 goals a game just to get a win.
 
Bolts also have farm grown Mark Barberio (24, 6'1 190) and Czech born University of Nebraska-Omaha product, Andrej Sustr (24, 6'8 225) as possible 7th d-man / depth d-men guys. 
Both Barberio and Sustr were given one year deals and that tells me, given their ages, that those are “prove it” contracts and the Bolts will make some decision regarding those two young d-men as the season wears on.
 
Also, journeyman AHL’er JP Cote (32, 6’2 210, Syracuse, AHL) could see some time with the big club if injuries necessitate that. He has seen fill-in time on the Bolts before
 
Finally, in the minors/juniors pipeline, Tampa Bay has:
 
Dylan Blujus (20, 6’3 200, North Bay, OHL / Syracuse, AHL)
Slater Koekkoek (20, 6’2 190, Windsor, OHL)
Artem Sergeev (21, 6’2 205, Syracuse, AHL)
Jake Dotchin (20, 6’3 205, Barrie, OHL / Syracuse, AHL)
Nikita Nesterov (21, 6’ 190, Syracuse, AHL)
 
And of course, we can't leave out the newly drafted D-men from this year:
 
Anthoney DeAngelo (19, 5'10 175, Sarnia, OHL)
Dominik Masin (19, 6'2 195, Czech Jr League)
Jonathan MacLeod (18, 6'2, 200, USHL)
Ben Thomas (18, 6'1 195, Calgary, WHL)
 
 
Will have more on the pros and cons of the current crop of Bolts D-men in posts to come.
Meanwhile, any commentary on any of these players or the defense as a whole are more than welcome.  :)
 

 

Edited by TropicalFruitGirl26

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@TropicalFruitGirl26

I disagree with you that this is not a Stanley Cup defense. It is not a defense that will lead the team to a Cup, such as what they have in Chicago and Los Angeles. But with Hedman finally justifying the patience the Bolts have shown, he may not be Doughty or Keith, but look in the East at the top teams,

Pittsburgh D led by Letang

Bruins D led by aging Chara

Canadiens D led by Subban

Rangers D led by McDonough

 

All solid players, Boston has the best depth in the bunch, but Tampa is right behind.

 

  What the Lightning have is tons of skilled young forwards led by Stamkos and kids who can score galore. Throw Bishop in the net, and the defense does not have to be faultless, they just have to play to their capabilities and the Lightning are in the Eastern conference mix. Garrison with his heavy shot from the point was a perfect add, truthfully I think Strallman gets a bit more credit because his Rangers had a nice run and they overpaid for him based off of that but he is not bad just not as good as some are making him out to be. Gudas is plain nasty, love his game. Carle can still move the puck and Brewer is nice, boring and steady. You need guys like that on your bottom pair.

  I never felt that Barberio got a fair shake, but Yzerman has proven himself to be a true judge of talent, look at the kids in the lineup, his decision to give Drouin another year in Juniors was controversial but correct so if he feels Barberio is a minor leaguer and spare part in spite of solid AHL numbers who am I to argue? I would love to see him on the bottom pair/second power play for the Wings if you guys don't want him :) .....

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Victor Hedman (23, 6'6 225) Top pairing defenseman. I dislike his hesitation and decision making some times. If he can correct that, he will be up there with the Elite Dmen in the league. In the Sharks, I would value him around how I value Burns.
 
Radko Gudas (24, 6' 205) I see his ceiling as a Doug Murray(A few years back) type.
 
Eric Brewer (35, 6'3 220) not as valuable as he once was, but a Solid 6th Dman
 
Matt Carle (30, 6' 205) 3/4 Dman.
Jason Garrison (30, 6'2 220) Kinda don't like what i saw from him, but could be the Nucks. right now,  see him as a 5th/6th Dman
Anton Stralman (28, 6' 195) More valuable than his numbers project. Solid Vlasic type Dman(Not as good as Vlasic). Valuable getting the puck moving in the right direction and good defensively
 

Finally, in the minors/juniors pipeline, Tampa Bay has:
 
Dylan Blujus (20, 6’3 200, North Bay, OHL / Syracuse, AHL)
Slater Koekkoek (20, 6’2 190, Windsor, OHL) Does not strike me as a 1st round pick he was. But has potential to be a 3/4
Artem Sergeev (21, 6’2 205, Syracuse, AHL)
Jake Dotchin (20, 6’3 205, Barrie, OHL / Syracuse, AHL)
Nikita Nesterov (21, 6’ 190, Syracuse, AHL) BOOM or Bust
 
And of course, we can't leave out the newly drafted D-men from this year:
 
Anthoney DeAngelo (19, 5'10 175, Sarnia, OHL) I like the attitude. Call me crazy. I think he will be looked back on as a guy who should have been drafted higher.
 
Dominik Masin (19, 6'2 195, Czech Jr League)
Jonathan MacLeod (18, 6'2, 200, USHL)
Ben Thomas (18, 6'1 195, Calgary, WHL)
 
 
Will have more on the pros and cons of the current crop of Bolts D-men in posts to come.
Meanwhile, any commentary on any of these players or the defense as a whole are more than welcome.  :)
 

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Victor Hedman (23, 6'6 225)
Radko Gudas (24, 6' 205)
Eric Brewer (35, 6'3 220)
Matt Carle (30, 6' 205)
Jason Garrison (30, 6'2 220)
Anton Stralman (28, 6' 195)

 

They key to this core is you have several guys which have different skillset which is good. These past four team that played in the conference finals proved you don't have to have 4 or 5 6-4 230 lb Dmen.

 

But which is key is that you have 6 guys who can skate which you have, so with some luck some with health and good goaltending once you get to the playoffs it's possible.

 

It s a good solid blueline like what has already been stated before i chimed in.

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@TropicalFruitGirl26  I think Hedman continues his upwards trend. After a few years in the 20's pts wise, he took off and put up 55 last year. I don't think he is done. I see a solid 70 pts out of this guy. He does not turn 24 until Decemeber...this kid is finally living up to projections. He's looking more and more confident. Geez, if this kid was a Flyer, he would have been ripped silly and traded 10x's over...lol.

 

  I know Stevie tends to draft best player available, but wow, has he drafted a lot of d-men with high picks of late. I know Slater has the wheels and smarts to be a NHL player, but I guess we will find out this fall whether the back to back season ending injuries were freaks of nature or a disturbing trend.

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I actually rather like the Tampa Bay defense. The acquisition of Garrison was a cheap and solid move, and Stralman was one of my favourite free agents available on the D side of things (look at that, a Leaf draftee we traded for peanuts and turned into something good. Wow, that's NEVER happened before :unsure[1]: )

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@Commander Clueless  I agree, Garrison looks like a capable stop-gap while the kids develop, and I've always like Stralman....very underrated blast from the point.

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Hey, guys, thanks for everyone's input so far on this topic.

As promised, I am back with some further observations/points, and I see from the responses to this post, most feel the defense is pretty good.

 

As I stated in my opening post, I DO like the direction it is going and I find it to be, on paper at least, MUCH improved over what the Bolts had last season.

 

Is the defense Stanley Cup ready or not?

That is the big question for me.

 

At this point in time, I will stay say "no", but that comes because I feel the defense, as a whole, still has to prove they not only are solid 1-6, but that they can actually work together as a group.

Great to have the individual seasons some of these guys had either on the Bolts or on other teams for those brought in from elsewhere, but they now have to do it together, in Tampa Bay, in conjunction with what should be, a very fast, high scoring forwards group.

 

Also, I think clearly defined roles for many of these guys will be key.

As an example, I will give Eric Brewer.

 

@yave1964 stated he is "boring, steady"....yes, quite true. I will add on top of that, he can be quite the checker and body mover in front of his own net....if he would only do it with consistency.

There were many times over the last couple seasons where, for some unknown reason, Brewer thought he was Erik Karlsson, and could be seen leaving his point position and try to stick handle his way to the front of the net...only to make an errant pass, lose the puck, and off goes the opposition towards his own net....using the hole created by Brewer leaving his post.

 

Brewer has shown a bit of an ability to puck handle and pinch in, and if he keeps it to a minimum and does it at the right times, it can be effective.

But he is at his best playing the stay-at-home type, making smart decisions on how to exit the zone, making life miserable for incoming forwards and cleaning out the porch for Ben Bishop.

If he can do that regularly, he will be fine.

He is 35, on the last year of his contract, so if the Bolts don't win with him on the team, I just wonder if they would bring him back for another go.

 

Matt Carle, Jason Garrison.

Very nice defensemen...Carle though, his game suffers at times from being too soft.

Too many times I see him trying to stick check when perhaps taking the body would be more effective.

Also, for a guy who is a pretty good skater, he sometimes is made to look quite silly by a forward in one on one situations.

 

I do acknowledge Carle's positives: he does QB a PP pretty well with his crisp passing, skating ability, and can even work down low with the forwards a bit. Also, his shot may not be the most earth shattering, but it does tend to be accurate....something forwards like Stamkos, Johnson, and Filppula love to see come in as they attempt redirects.

Just would really like to see more of a physical presence from him at the blue line as skaters come in.

 

Jason Garrison, I can only go by what others have said about him: Big shot, good skater, and can bring a bit of physicality to his game.

Have not watched very much of him at all the last few seasons, so my expectations for him are that he will help the defense, but cautiously optimistic on how he can do so.

 

Gudas, Stralman...these guys I expect will take their defensive responsibilities quite seriously at all times with their shot blocking, checking, and disruption of developing plays for the other team. Neither of these guys fancies themselves the next Ray Bourque, so the odds of them pinching in at the wrong times are less than some of the others.

Stralman though, has to prove that last year was not a fluke. Some feel he is overpaid based on last season, and that very well may be.

I'd like to see him prove the naysayers wrong and come out with a season that equals, if not surpasses, last year with the Rangers.

His shot blocking should be invaluable on the PK.

 

I will this on Stralman:

The Bolts were in on getting either he or Niskanen. I am glad the Bolts got Stralman instead.

Because if both guys had career years and both have to prove they can do it again, I rather like Stralman's lower price tag, less tenure, BUT, higher actual defensive capability over Niskanen......taking nothing away from Niskanen, but I like the 'safer' FA signing Stralman represents over the former Pitts blueliner.

 

Gudas? Yep. Plain ol nasty.

His puck handling in his own zone could use some work, as can his reading of the incoming forwards, but that is to be expected from a still young defenseman learning his craft at the NHL level, while playing cop on the ice.

 

Victor Hedman, of course, is the star of the defensive group, and I too expect him to continue to get better. He represents the kind of d-man who can do just about everything for you:

Check, skate, pass, pinch in, outlet pucks, stand up forwards at the blue and help run a PP.

 

As for Barberio and Sustr, these guys were given one year deals to show the FO that they deserver to stay on.

Again, a guy like Eric Brewer is on the last year of his contract at age 35. If either of those two can show they can be solid and dependable defensively, then they stay on, the other is likely not retained.

I think, though I can't be 100%, that the Bolts would prefer it to be Andrej Sustr....all 6'8 225 of him.

Barberio represents a nice, speedy, offensively gifted type....but needs lots of work on his decision making in his zone and his actual defensive play.

 

On a team with perhaps enough solid defensive defensemen, Mark Barberio may find a home.

He may still find one yet with the Bolts, but like many other things with this team, it will remain to be seen.

 

Again guys, it's not that I DON'T like the Bolts defense, I simply wonder whether this group, this year, is Stanley Cup ready.

I don't think so, but I'd happily be proven wrong.

Playoff ready? Yes, they should be that....but as we all know, being playoff ready and Stanley Cup ready are two entirely different things.

 

Please, by all means, keep the commentary coming in. I appreciate the interactivity.

I have more myself, but trying to break it up into post segments (ok, ok, LARGE ones) so as not to lose my audience.... ;)

Edited by TropicalFruitGirl26

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@TropicalFruitGirl26  The way I see it, Stevie has put himself in a pretty good situation. As the season evolves, he's now in the spot where he can tweak the defense to his liking, but he has done the hard work already, constructing the core. It's possible Slater's speed and smarts will give him a 5-10 game call up, giving the org a bit better idea of what they have going forward.

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@TropicalFruitGirl26  The way I see it, Stevie has put himself in a pretty good situation. As the season evolves, he's now in the spot where he can tweak the defense to his liking, but he has done the hard work already, constructing the core. It's possible Slater's speed and smarts will give him a 5-10 game call up, giving the org a bit better idea of what they have going forward.

 

Yes, I agree with this.

 

Just today the Bolts added 26 yr old Matt Corrente to the Bolts on a two way deal.

Granted, Corrente thus far hasn't amounted to much more than a regular AHL D-man, and part time D-man in the NHL (for the NJ Devils), but to your point, this signing represents more depth and since we all know injuries can and will happen, Yzerman has some pieces either as 7th D-men or at the AHL level that he can use should he need them.

 

In the case of Corrente, he represents a very physical style of play, not unlike Radko Gudas, albeit with perhaps less discipline and maybe not as good skating ability.

 

But you are right:

The roster can be shaped and shifted in any number of ways from the defense on out to whatever is needed at the time.

Also, if Yzerman finds he has 'too many' of one player, he can always trade with a team that needs what the Bolts have and get someone else of value in return.

 

Chances are pretty good also that Koekkoek will get a real good look in training camp with designs on giving him some NHL time at some point.

Edited by TropicalFruitGirl26

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Giving this thread a **bump**

 

Last post here was before the season began, and well, the Bolt defense, while playing pretty well as it gelled and matured, has undergone some changes....BUUUUTT has shown some deficiencies in the face of some of the tougher teams in the league.

 

No longer on the blue line for the Bolts are big veteran Eric Brewer (traded to Anaheim), Radko Gudas was lost to injury for the season, and Matt Carle has been out for some time with an oblique problem....though he is expected to be back before the season is out. Mid March, going by some of Coach Jon Cooper's comments.

Jason Garrison also lost a bit of time due to injury, but is back playing with the Bolts....booming shot and all.

 

Seeing more ice time or called up from Syracuse are:

 

Mark Barberio--- With Carle's injury, Barberio has pretty much taken his place after starting the year as one of the "7th" defensemen. Actually, I believe Barberio's and Carle's skillsets are pretty similar...with all the good and bad that go with it...except Barberio is MUCH more cost effective.

 

Andrej Sustr--- the other half of the '7th' defenseman, who has been getting more playing time as the year has worn on because he has started to show what he can really do with his large 6'8 frame on the ice.

 

Nikita Nesterov-- AHL callup. Seems to have a pretty solid game to him, though he obviously needs some sharpening to really be an NHL regular. He nonetheless has impressed me a bit with the level of maturity he has shown on the ice....especially since he is just a 21 yr old D-man. Not sure what plans Stevie Y has for him with this club....or if he is viewed more of a nice trade piece to get something else, but in about 2-3 years, it wouldn't surprise me if Nesterov were a regular on someone's blueline, if not the Bolts'.

 

Luke Witkowski-- Another NHL callup. 24 yrs old, 6'2 about 205. Very nasty disposition on the ice, tough on forwards who are 'too cute' skating around looking for the perfect set up play, and basically brought in to try and replicate what Radko Gudas had been doing for the Bolts before injuries put Gudas out.  I like his mentality, like his grit...but I think Witkowski is better served overall playing more regular minutes at the AHL level.

After all, if Witkowski can't really keep up with most of the good NHL forwards, then he really can't be that effective as a shut down NHL d-man, right?

If it weren't for injury, Witkowski probably wouldn't be on the Bolts right now....he definitely needs more seasoning, and it shows on an NHL ice sheet.

 

As for the others?

Anton Stralman and Jason Garrison have been very good for the Lightning. Stralman has become sort of a Swiss Army knife D-man who can be used in just about every situation, and he does so pretty well in all his assigned duties.

Garrison's cannon shot is just what the Bolts PP needs..and while he was out for a short time, it was quite noticeable that he wasn't out there on the PP....this guy's shot can create rebounds off goalies that forwards like Stamkos and Johnson salivate over....plus, I am sure it tests the mettle of defenders seriously considering trying to block that shot of his....

 

Victor Hedman, well, what can be said about him....his play continues to develop, he plays the most important minutes of all the Bolt defensemen, and usually plays against the other team's top lines.

Stevie Y, I am SURE, has to have a plan in place to keep both Stamkos AND Hedman in the fold, as both will require big paydays...and that is coming up soon. No way this Bolts blueline functions well without guys like Stralman, Garrison, and especially, Victor Hedman.

 

Now...with the trade deadline coming up, I have been wondering who Yzerman will look for in the trade market to help make this blue line Stanley Cup ready.

I can appreciate Witkowski's efforts at being a shut down guy, and the Bolts also have journeyman/vet JP Cote in the AHL, but neither of those guys scream "NHL caliber regular" to me ....certainly not SC caliber defenseman.

 

I asked a poster here about Jeff Petry, and though it seems he is a decent enough defenseman, he still is not likely the shut down guy the Bolts need.

 

Perhaps Carolina would deal with TB and make a deal for Andrej Sekera?  Maybe the Bolts look towards Glendale, and can get Keith Yandle?

How about Robyn Regehr from the LA Kings (he will be a UFA at season's end) if the defending SC Champs think they may not make the playoffs, or even if they think they can make it, would rather try to get something for Regehr before he walks as a UFA?

 

The Tampa Bay defense is still, IMO, NOT Stanley Cup ready as a whole, although I am still pleased where they are as opposed to the past couple seasons.

But maybe all it needs is that one defenseman to make it so.

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Feel free to add Braydon Coburn to the mix!!!! (Thanks for taking him off our hands and enjoy the soft play and turnovers!!)

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Coburn won't be top pairing in Tampa, he'll cause some tooth gnashing here when he gets there and plays well. He never sucked...well maybe a little this season, he will play minutes commensurate to his abilities and will be effective as "the other guy" instead of "the guy". I wish him well .

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      @TropicalFruitGirl26  The way I see it, Stevie has put himself in a pretty good situation. As the season evolves, he's now in the spot where he can tweak the defense to his liking, but he has done the hard work already, constructing the core. It's possible Slater's speed and smarts will give him a 5-10 game call up, giving the org a bit better idea of what they have going forward.

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