January 27th was the anniversary of an important day in Tampa Bay Lightning history. It might not be a day discussed in depth over the team’s 20th season celebration, but the impact of this moment can’t be understated. What happened? The Lightning acquired veteran defenseman Darryl Sydor from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Former GM Jay Feaster has said that that trade was the key to Tampa’s championship season. Fast forward to 2013 and blueliners are making an impression again. This time it’s Sami Salo and Matt Carle.
Defensive woes are noting new for the Bolts. Heck, the 2008-09 season saw 22 blueliners wear a Lightning sweater. Luckily the signings of Salo and Carle combined with the maturation of young players have added some much needed nuance to the D corps. Next time you’re at a game, watch Salo & Carle. They isn’t flashy but the little details are what is so important. A poke check here, skillfully driving an opponent off the puck. He provides a measured, patient approach to the game.
This presence seems to be resonating with Victor Hedman in particular. Victor really started to come into his own under the tutelage of Mattias Ohlund and continued to improve after his time spent in the KHL during the lockout. The benefits of being paired with another long time NHLer is definitely coming through so far this year.
“When you look at Heddy,” Coach Guy Boucher said, “he needed an older guy to give him a chance to go on offense without having to worry what’s going to happen back (on defense.)” (Quote Source: Tampa Bay Times)
Matt Carle isn’t exactly a slouch either. He and Salo have brought a lot of puck movement and composure. They give the offense room to do what they do best. Eric Brewer is flourishing, most likely due to the act that he isn’t having to shoulder so much ice time. Brewer already has 3 goals on the season and can sustain the tempo of the game a lot longer as well.
This week’s road trip will be a big test of what this team is made of. The way things have been going so far, we may be looking back on these defensive signings with fondness in the years to come as well.