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Overrated Lightning, hard-headed Flames and Mason Raymond

Despite non-stop calls from pundits that they need to rebuild, the Calgary Flames made a push in free agency to improve their chances at the playoffs. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Despite non-stop calls from pundits that they need to rebuild, the Calgary Flames made a push in free agency to improve their chances at the playoffs. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

I wanted to attempt something different in this column space and will try it out at times over the summer. We’ll break it into three sections: offense, defense and goaltending. Offense is to be critical, defense is to back up something up and goaltending is a question or idea for you to discuss or debate, which I would love to read about on Twitter (@THNRoryBoylen). Let me know what you think of the style.

OFFENSE

I’m tired of hearing about how great the management and coaching is in Tampa Bay.

I’m not about to argue GM Steve Yzerman and coach Guy Boucher aren’t capable of doing those jobs well, but ever since both arrived in 2010 they’ve been called a super-team. Sure, they caught magic and made it to the conference final in 2011, but they fell way back in 2012.

Tampa’s struggles had to do with its terrible goaltending, but how does a team with Steven Stamkos, Martin St-Louis, Teddy Purcell and even a diminished Vincent Lecavalier rank 25th on the power play and 28th in shots per game? And remember this? How does a team with players such as these not have a forecheck?

The team also made the call to keep 2010 sixth overall pick Brett Connolly on the roster as a 19-year-old, burn a year off his entry level contract, have him average less ice time than Ryan Shannon and even dismiss him to junior for the World Junior Championship over Christmas.

Significant work needed to be done on the blueline and that was answered by throwing a combined $9.25 million per year at Matt Carle and Sami Salo. Is that the cure? With as much cap space as they have tied up on defense now, it better be or the team could be in trouble (unless Mattias Ohlund is forced to retire).

And while goaltender Anders Lindback is an intriguing talent, all young netminders have a dense fog over their development line. Until they’re proven consistent, they’re completely unpredictable. Tampa’s top prospect in THN’s Future Watch, Carter Ashton, was dealt to the Maple Leafs and Lindback cost the team a couple second-rounders and a third (though that one seems worth the gamble). Yes, Yzerman won gold as the architect of Team Canada, but…do I really need to explain the difference?

I’m not saying the two aren’t the right men for the job, just that they should have to show us their team is more than a flash in the pan before being lauded as anything close to genius. Next season will go a long way towards that.

DEFENSE

It’s time to do the unthinkable and defend Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster. While I did so back in January after the Mike Cammalleri-Rene Bourque trade, even I thought the team would be more focused on the future than anything else this off-season.

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Silly me.

The Flames continue to kick dirt in the faces of critical onlookers and something about that gives me glee. Maybe it’s their refusal to submit, maybe it’s their blindness to reality – either way, there’s something commendable about a team trying its darnedest to give its fans playoff hockey rather than throwing its arms up in the air and trying to lose.

For all the critics taking aim at cap-circumventing contracts that cheat the system, it’s amazing to hear how many people think the righteous thing for Calgary to do is trade away its fan favorites for futures just to be as awful as possible. A rebuild is will be thrust upon the Flames eventually, so they will become a bottom-feeder, anyway. They may as well make the most of what they have right now and push for the playoffs (and extra revenue) while they can.

That said, the over-the-top signings of Dennis Wideman and Jiri Hudler did make me chuckle a little bit. I just don’t know if the humor I found was in the absurdity of the contracts themselves or the brash bird being flashed by the team. We’ll call it a little from Column A, a little from Column B.

GOALTENDING

Mason Raymond scored 25 goals and 53 points as a 24-year-old two years ago and early on I pegged him as a player who would become a key part of Vancouver’s offense. But in the two seasons since, he’s struggled has posted only 25 goals and 59 points in 125 games.

I still think he can get back to the player it looked like he was becoming. What kind of player do you think Raymond will be in his career? And do you see a bounce-back season in him?

Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web editor. His column appears regularly only on THN.com.

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