With the off-season for the Lightning in full-swing, it can be tough for bloggers like myself to pick up on storylines to write about. Still, the last couple of days have brought fans a couple of key tidbits to pick up on. First of all, there are conflicting reports coming out of Sweden regarding Mattias Ohlund and his desire to retire. Secondly, the Tampa Tribune is reporting that Steve Yzerman will definitely be making a pitch for Ryan Suter, currently with the Nashville Predators, when he reaches free agency. Overall, neither of these stories should come with much of a ‘shock’ factor for Lightning fans but they are news worthy nonetheless.
Having watched Mattias Ohlund since his days with the Canucks, I can tell you that there are lots of similarities between the big swede and Ryan Suter. Suter is arguably a better version of Mattias Ohlund. Both are big bodies who can play at both ends of the ice with mobility (although Ohlund seems to have lost that with his knees being in the state they are). This comparison probably resonates with a few Canucks fans that got to see Ohlund play during his heyday. Ohlund is the definition of a true professional; he is community minded, a great leader and one of the nicest people in the game. In Vancouver, he was often overshadowed by the offensive flare of Ed Jovanovski but that didn’t take away from what Ohlund did night in and night out. Simply put, he was then-coach Marc Crawford’s go-to guy. When the Lightning signed him to a massive contract, one that doesn’t look too good in hindsight, it was thought that he would bring those same qualities to the Bolts. Unfortunately, the game and age started to catch up to Ohlund. He wasn’t fast enough to keep up with some of the speedy players patrolling the eastern conference. I’m sure it was a tough pill to swallow for the big Swede as he is certainly one of the proudest guys in the league.
Ohlund’s injury issues in Tampa Bay have been well documented. Since arriving here, his knees have been giving him the utmost trouble. Culminating this past season, Ohlund’s issues have caused him to miss a lot of time. There have been surgeries, rehabilitation and still, even still, nothing is for certain. He was quoted by a Swedish reporter as saying “I’m not certain I can come back and play hockey at all.” Those are big words that should not be taken lightly. Still his desire to come back and play is apparent: “Doctors can’t guarantee it, but my objective is to come back and play again.” Having not really been given much time with the Lightning organization, Ohlund still has a lot to offer, and to prove. Ask Vancouver’s Alex Edler what it was like to be mentored by Ohlund. Well, with time, it’s my hope that relationship can be formed between Ohlund and Hedman here in Tampa Bay. Only time will tell, I suppose.
Here’s where things get interesting. It’s been reported by the Tribune that the Lightning are going to make a play for Nashville’s Ryan Suter when he reaches the free agent market on July 1st. Many people are going to laugh this off and assume that the Lightning don’t have a chance here but hear me out. Most reports have Suter signing in Detroit, or Chicago. Well, in the case of the Blackhawks, where does he fit in? They already have Keith, Seabrook and a couple other really nice D-men. Suter is an undisputed number one guy who has thrived in Nashville playing in all situations. Does Chicago really seem like the right fit? No. Then there’s the Detroit Red Wings. From the outside, the fit looks to be there but let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s say Lidstrom decides to hang up his skates and retire. There’s no doubt that will be a VERY sad day in Hockey Town. Lidstrom is the ultimate professional and, in my opinion, the second greatest D-man of all time behind Bobby Orr. Lidstrom’s successes as a player, as a leader and as a person have all been well documented. Whether you cheer for the Wings or not, it’s going to be a sad day when he retires. So, getting back on track here. If Lidstrom retires and Suter decides to sign in Detroit, think of the pressure. Suter would be replacing one of the best D-men to EVER play the game of hockey. In a hockey crazed market, that may not be the best situation. Plus, take a look at the Red Wings as a whole without Lidstrom. Are they trending upwards or downwards?
Here’s where the Tampa Bay Lightning enter the picture. Let’s say Steve Yzerman offers Suter a 9 year, $60million contract. That’s an absolutely huge deal for any team, but especially the once financially strapped Tampa Bay Lightning. Suter would come into a team trending upwards, with young superstars and a bucket load of potential. Imagine a defense with Suter, Hedman, Brewer, Lee, Aulie and someone like Mike Commodore or even Gudas from the farm. That, to me, is the perfect situation. In the course of one year, the Lightning’s defense would be transformed from the worst in the league, to one of the best. That’s a young group that will thrive under Guy Boucher. Sign Suter, sign Josh Harding and all of a sudden this team looks very capable of winning another Stanley Cup. Is this a pipedream? Absolutely, but it’s still fun to think about.
Anyways, thanks for reading and have a great day.