Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday Evening Meissnervations

I thought I'd get to things early this week, because of all the BIG news....


The 2009-2010 season for the Tampa Bay Lightning is over. That's the bad news. The good news is, that it ended on a three-game win streak.

The first win came last Thursday. Marty St. Louis scored at even strength, Teddy Purcell and Steven Stamkos scored power play goals and Purcell scored the shootout winner, to nudge the Bolts to a 4-3 win at Ottawa. Mike Smith made 35 saves.

On Saturday, before an announced "crowd" of 17,050, Steven Stamkos scored two power play goals, his 49th and 50th goals of the season, to lead Tampa Bay past Florida 4-3 in another shootout. Marty St. Louis also scored in regulation and Stamkos scored the shootout winner (pictured above) against former Des Moines Buccaneer goaltender Scott Clemmensen. Antero Niittymaki had 29 saves for the Lightning.

Then, on Sunday, Alex Tanguay and Vinny Lecavalier scored first period goals, then Stamkos scored an empty-netter late, to power Tampa Bay past the stinkin' Panthers 3-1 in Sunrise. Smith made 30 saves.

The Lightning finish the season at 34-36-12 for 80 points, finishing 4th in the Southeast Division and missing the final playoff spot in the East by 8 points, the third straight season the team has missed the playoffs. Steven Stamkos finished the season with 51 goals, tied with Pittsburgh's Sydney Crosby for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy, emblamatic of the league's leading goal scored. Stamkos is the third youngest player in NHL history to score 50 or more goals in one season.

The biggest news of all, which surprised few people, came earlier today, with the announcement that the last two high profile hires of the former ownership group, OK Hockey, Head Coach Rick Tocchet and General Manager Brian Lawton, were relieved of their duties, effective immediately.

The following is from the team's official website,

The Tampa Bay Lightning have relieved General Manager Brian Lawton and Head Coach Rick Tocchet of their duties, effective today, Chairman Jeff Vinik announced this morning. The search for a new General Manager will begin immediately. Assistant General Manager Tom Kurvers will assume responsibility for Lightning hockey operations until a new General Manager is hired.

After the new General Manager is hired, he will select the new Head Coach. “Now that the 2009-10 Tampa Bay Lightning season has concluded, we have decided to replace Brian and Rick,” said Vinik upon making the announcement. “Our hockey operations department needs a fresh start in order to help us fulfill our goal of being a world-class organization. I’d like to thank both Brian and Rick for their dedication and service to the Lightning.

“Our search for a Chief Executive Officer is well underway and we are in the process of interviewing candidates. After the new CEO is hired, he will hire our new General Manager in time to prepare for the draft and free agency periods.”

Lawton was hired by the Lightning in June, 2008 and then named General Manager on October 22, 2008. As General Manager, he was responsible for all aspects of hockey operations, including the coaching and scouting staff, player procurement and development and minor league affiliations and operations.

Tocchet was hired on July 9, 2008 as the team’s Associate Coach. He was elevated to the position of interim head coach just 16 games into the 2009-10 season and named head coach on May 11, 2009. Tocchet was 19-33-14 in 2008-09 and his Lightning team went 34-36-12 this past season.

Team Owner Jeff Vinik released the following statement:

Effective immediately, I have decided to replace both Brian Lawton as General Manager and Rick Tocchet as Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. I believe that the hockey side of the TBL organization needs a "fresh start" in order to help us fulfill our goal of being a world-class organization. On behalf of the whole Lightning organization, I thank Brian and Rick for their service to the Lightning and wish them well in their future endeavors.

As you know, our search for a new CEO is well underway. I'm happy to announce that we have received quite a few resumes. We are in the process of interviewing a number of very highly qualified candidates.

Starting today, we will begin our search for a new GM. The new CEO will hire the new GM. It will then be the responsibility of the new GM to hire the new Head Coach. We plan to have this exciting hiring process all wrapped up prior to the NHL Draft.

Although we all are disappointed in the way our 2009-10 season finished, I am very excited about our future. We will all continue to build on the team’s tremendous foundation with the goal of bringing back the enthusiasm and success that the Tampa Bay Lightning and its great fans have enjoyed in the past.

Thank you for your continued support.

I look forward to “bringing it back” with you.

Jeff Vinik, Chairman


The Tampa Bay Rays have started the season 4-3, winning 2 of 3 against Baltimore, then dropping 2 of 3 to the Yankees. The two losses to New York featured a near-no hitter thrown by C.C. Sabathia(Kelly Shoppach singled in the 8th) on Saturday, and another failure by the bullpen on Sunday. Tampa Bay opened a three-game set at Baltimore with a 5-1 win Monday night. They then travel to Boston for four games beginning Friday, then play three games at the White Sox starting Tuesday. The Rays return home on Friday, April 23rd against Toronto, which begins a 9-game home stand.

Toronto leads the AL East at 5-1, Minnesota tops the Central at 6-2 and Oakland paces the West at 5-2. In the senior circuit, Philadelphia's MLB best 6-1 leads, St. Louis at 5-2 is atop the Central and San Francisco leads the West with a 5-1 mark.


In the Western Hockey League playoffs, Portland is still alive, trailing the Vancouver Giants 3-2 in the Western semis. Game 6 is Tuesday night in Portland, game 7 is Wednesday, also in Portland. The winner gets the Tri-City Americans for the Western Crown. The Amerks knocked out Kelowna in 5 games. In the East, Memorial Cup host Brandon bnested Saskatoon 4-2, and now faces Calgary for the East title, after the Hitmen outlasted Medicine Hat, also in 6 games.

In the Ontario Hockey League, the defending Memorial Cup Champion Windsor Spitfires are in the Western Final, after dispatching Plymouth in 4 games. They'll Kitchener, who beat LOndon in game 7 of their series Monday night. In the East, Barrie eliminated Brampton in 4 straight. They'll meet Mississauga-St. Michaels, who knocked off Ottawa in game 7 Monday night.

In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Saint John meets Victoriaville and Drummondville plays Moncton in the semi-finals. The 2010 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament will be held in Brandon, Manitoba May 14th through the 23rd.

In the USHL Clark Cup West playoffs, Omaha eliminated Tri-City in 3 straight, and Fargo sent Sioux Falls packing in similar fashion. In the East, Green Bay eliminated Waterloo in 3 straight, while Cedar Rapids is tied 2-2 with the defending Clark Cup Champions from Indiana. The deciding game 5 is Wednesday night in Cedar Rapids.


Boston College won the NCAA Division 1 men's hockey championship Saturday, with a 5-0 win over Wisconsin. BC scored four times in the third period to break open a close game. The title game, played at Ford Field in Detroit(Home of the NFL's Detroit Lions) drew a U.S. Hockey record indoor crowd of 37,592.

A Pier Oliver-Cotnoir goal with only 31 seconds to play in the second overtime pushed Norwich past St. Norbert 2-1 in the men's D-3 title game in Lake Placid on March 20th.

Minnesota-Duluth Freshman Jessica Wong scored in the third overtime to lead the Bulldogs past Cornell 3-2 for the D-1 women's title back on March 21st. UMD is the 10th straight team from the WCHA to win the D-1 women's title.

Amherst beat Norwich 7-2 for the women's D-3 crown on March 20th.



Team Venom Energy race strategist Kyle Moyer was “looking for a yellow” to aid race leader Marco Andretti. It came, but too late to help the Andretti Autosport driver from seeing the dual checkers for the second time in his IZOD IndyCar Series career.

Instead, the No. 26 car had to pit for a 3.3-second splash of 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol on Lap 82 of 90, relinquishing the lead to Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves.

That’s all it took in a race full of fuel strategy and excitement – with all 25 cars running at the finish for the first time in IZOD IndyCar Series history, only two brief full-course cautions breaking up the lap dashes and a crowd double that of any event previously held at Barber Motorsports Park (53,555; three-day total of 84,126) cheering on every lap.

“The inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama far exceeded our expectations,” said Gene Hallman, president and CEO of event promoter ZOOM Motorsports.

Castroneves, winning his first road/street course race since Infineon in August 2008, had a similar assessment. He stopped the No. 3 Team Penske car on the cool-down lap and thanked spectators for attending the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama by climbing the safety fence in Turn 9.

“I had to work that in,” said Castroneves, who was joined in Victory Circle by his 3½-month-old daughter. “The people here have been great all week.”

Castroneves, who extended his series record with a victory to 10 consecutive seasons, won by 0.5703 of a second over Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, who started fifth. Teammate Dario Franchitti, the reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion, moved up four positions to finish third (his third consecutive top 10 to start the season).

Castroneves’ victory also denied teammate Will Power of a series-record third consecutive victory to start the 17-race season. Power, the pole sitter who had to pit for the final time on Lap 63 (dropping him to seventh), advanced to finish fourth. Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe was sixth and Justin Wilson advanced four spots to seventh. Tony Kanaan in eighth was followed by front-row starter Mike Conway and Alex Tagliani (moved up 11 positions).

“It is great having Helio win, which makes it three wins to start the season for Team Penske,” said Power, who led the first 12 laps. “In the strategy meeting before the race we talked about it and we knew that a caution in the early part of the race would not be to our favor. We made the best of it though. The No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car was fast today.”

Power retains the championship points lead, though his margin was cut from 45 to 32 over Castroneves (104). Franchitti is third (94) as the series heads to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 18. “I think we’ll be strong there,” said Power, who started from the pole on the temporary street circuit in ’09.

Castroneves tied Franchitti and Tommy Milton on the all-time open-wheel racing victory list with 23. He led three different times through the initial 61 laps on the 2.38-mile, 17-course and was 0.4170 of a second behind Andretti with 10 laps left. The fast pace forced Andretti to pit on Lap 82 (his last was on Lap 57). As racing luck would have it, a full-course yellow was called on Lap 86 when the No. 78 car of rookie Simona De Silvestro spun in Turn 5.

The race to the finish resumed two laps later.

“We have to be happy to put the Venom car into the top five, especially after our finishes on road courses last year,” said Andretti, who led a field-high 58 laps. “I think maybe we could have stretched out each of our stints a bit longer and gained on fuel one lap at a time. Helio just went longer than us each time and that was the difference at the end. He was able to go that much farther and we fell short. Now we just have to keep marching forward.

“Overall, I think this shows we're on the right track."

Castroneves’ final pit stop for tires and fuel came on Lap 61.

“He was driving like remind me like his father, Michael Andretti,” Castroneves said. “Hell of a job. Then, when I was behind him, I was just saving fuel and trying to make sure that I could reach the number that they were asking me to do. We were able to actually go a little farther than that. It was a great situation.

“When we pitted after Scott and Dario, Marco was able to do an incredible job and back again in the lead. So I felt like I had a better car than Marco, but, unfortunately, I just couldn't pass him. And I was just patient and waiting for an opportunity, and well, I guess we were able to be smart enough to save a lot of fuel.

“Towards the end, we just had a yellow flag. I didn't ask for that, especially when you have Scott Dixon and those guys behind you. So I just decided to make sure do not give any opportunities for those guys, and that's what I did.”

Dixon, who started fifth, posted his best finish of the season.

“It was a good day for Team Target all in all with both cars in the top three,” he said. “We could have been better off if we would have got around Helio. It was hard to have the team telling me to save fuel and try to manage the fuel gauge, but still push. This track is all about track position. We didn’t have the fastest cars, but we made use of what we had. Standing at the podium in second and third is pretty impressive. We are looking forward to Long Beach.”

The IZOD Indy Car Grand Prix of Long Beach runs Sunday, April 18th. The race can be seen on Versus at 3:30pm EDT. Live streaming in several different categories will be available at


Ryan Newman won the Subway Fresh Fit 600 NASCAR race in Phoenix Saturday, beating Jeff Gordon by 0.130. Jimmie Johnson, Mark Martin and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top 5. Joey Logano finished tenth. The Samsung Mobile 500 runs next Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Radio coverage begins at 2:00pm EDT on PRN, TV on FOX at 3:00pm EDT.


Jimmy is really developing a great personality. The video shows him dancing to the music at this past Saturday's Lightning game. He really is a fun little guy!

Kim is doing a fantastic job as wife and mother. And, if you need help in your office, she's available. If you hire her, you'll be quite pleased. BTW: Her birthday is next Tuesday. A job would be the best of all presents!

Before Saturday's game between the Lightning and the "Stinkin'" Panthers, I zipped in to buy tickets, while Kim parked the car. Unbeknownst to me, while I was waiting for her and Jimmy to get to the Forum and I was talking to my friend Mike Barnes on the phone, she snapped the coolest picture she has ever taken of me.

That is such a cool picture! If I ever go missing, I want this splashed on every milk carton in the land! Nice job Dear!


That's it for now. Have a great week everyone!

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My CRC Connections

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