The ramifications of Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Shane O'Brien's hair-trigger benching by Coach Barry Melrose have come to pass: He and recently demoted winger Michel Ouellet were traded to the Vancouver Canucks for defenseman Lukas Krajicek and minor league winger Juraj Simek.
With a cap hit of $1.25 million, Ouellet was a spare part Tampa was eager to deal. O'Brien has a $950,000 hit, and Krajicek's is $1.1 million.
After giving up four goals on 80 shots in two losses to the New York Rangers, have we seen our first panic move from the Lightning?
Matt Carle, Jamie Heward, Mike Lundin, Andrej Meszaros, Vladmir Mihalik and Janne Niskala were the starting defensemen in the second game of the season. Adding a veteran like Krajicek upgrades one of the team's pairings. He's a veteran at 25, and can give the team more than the 18 minutes and change he's averaged with the Vancouver Canucks. He's a pro.
That said, this trade, more than anything, defines what a Melrose/Koules/Barrie defense is going to look like. O'Brien was the team's tough guy on defense; Krajicek has been accused in the past of not playing up to the physical promise of his size. (In that sense, he's a bit like Mihalik, though not the 6-7 sleeping giant Vlad is).
We all know lightning isn't thunder; and the Tampa Bay Lightning's defense isn't going to rumble through anyone; especially without O'Brien and a guy like Alex Picard, who was traded to Ottawa.
Can a team that doesn't have a legit physical presence on defense compete in the Southeast Division, where every other team has its physical offensive forces (yes, even Florida)?
The real question is whether Melrose's system is effective enough to overcome that physical deficiency, and if the Lightning are willing to put in the effort to play a total team defense.
Because after two games, the effort clearly isn't there outside of the Gratton line.