After signing a 11-year, $85-million contract extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Lecavalier believed he would be happy in Tampa Bay for the rest of his career.
However, everything changed later during the summer as Barry Melrose became the new head coach of the Lightning after a 13-year hiatus away from an NHL bench.
After yesterday's loss to the Red Wings, the Bolt has played 16 games, posting a 5-7-4 record for 14 points, 4 points out of a playoffs spot. Meanwhile the Lightning offense is dead last in the NHL with a mere 2.02 goals per game. Even the defensive-minded Panthers and Devils scored more goals than Tampa Bay.
Lecavalier only has 6 goals and 11 points in 16 games this season, a projected 56-point season for Vinny, far from the 92-point and 108 point seasons he posted the past 2 years.
I watched a few Lightning games this season and Lecavalier is not putting the second effort this year, he's on the cruise control. He doesn't hit, doesn't go to the net, doesn't forecheck with energy and makes bad decisions with and without the puck.
He only played 16:32 minutes in yesterday's game vs the Stanley Cup champions. Less time than players like Mark Recchi and Radim Vrbata, while Martin St. Louis and Vaclav Prospal played around 23 mins each.
Lecavalier is averaging only 19:31 of ice time this season compared to 22:57 last season under John Tortorella. Lecavalier criticized Melrose earlier this season for not playing his star players enough. Melrose said before the season that he wanted to ease the load on his veteran stars Lecavalier, St. Louis and Prospal.
Lecavalier said he needs to play top minutes to be effective and in his game. When he doesn't play enough, he doesn't find his groove and therefore he is not producing offensively.
Melrose is a very stubborn coach. The Lightning is not winning, not scoring goals, and is not showing a good effort on most nights, especially on the road, and Melrose keeps using the same game plan. He's only playing top rookie Steven Stamkos 11:47 minutes despite a lack of offensive depth. Evgeny Arthukin, Adam Hall and Radim Vrbata are not the solution to improve the offensive production.
After Sunday's game at Carolina, the Lighting will play 4 consecutive games at home against Florida, Nashville, New Jersey and the NY Rangers. If they don't start winning, Brian Lawton could very well show the door to Barry Melrose before things get too ugly in Tampa Bay.