Tampa Bay Lightning look to expand hockey great Phil Esposito's role

espo.jpgNow, I don’t live in Canada so I might not be fully qualified to lead this discussion but that being said, there are two championship hockey bumper stickers. In one corner is the much-loved “My other car is a Zamboni.” Its opposition is the classic Boston Bruins sticker that read, “Jesus saves, but Espo scores on the rebound.”

If I were to give a front office gold star to any one organization this summer, it would go to the Tampa Bay Lightning and their shiny new GM Steve Yzerman. They keep making refreshingly competent decisions as they rapidly rebuild the moribund franchise – and while details are a bit scarce – reports indicate that they’ll try to give beloved hockey figure Phil Esposito a more prominent role with the team.

TampaBay.com’s Damian Cristodero has more.

There were no specifics given by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, just an acknowledgment Lightning founder Phil Esposito might be in line for an expanded role with the organization. And while Vinik said the final decision will be up to new CEO Tod Leiweke, Vinik sounded as if Esposito could be an asset on the community and marketing side of the organization.

“We want him involved with this team,” Vinik said this week. “We want him out in the community. We want him involved with us. He’s a great ideas person.”

Expanding Esposito’s role from his long-time gig as an analyst on radio broadcasts of Lightning home games, a job for which he has said he never has signed a contract, makes sense for an organization ready to embrace its past and make a better effort to market the team both in the St. Pete Times Forum and Tampa Bay area.

Forgive me for gushing about the job Tampa Bay is doing right now, but they keep making shrewd moves. Embracing hockey icons is a sign that an organization is savvy to public relations and the game’s rich history. Just look at the difference with the Chicago Blackhawks; in the same time that the team went from the hockey basement to its upper ranks, they also honored old greats such as Bobby Orr and Stan Mikita.

Good on Yzerman & Co. for another subtle yet smart move in an impressive initial summer.

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    Hey, Tortorella called the Penguins whiners again

    John Tortorella

    Don’t forget, the Blue Jackets – Penguins rivalry isn’t just about the bitterness between Sidney Crosby and Brandon Dubinsky; John Tortorella can fuel the fire, too.

    Torts must not have been happy about the one-game suspension that Dubinsky received for cross-checking Crosby, as he channeled his vintage self in essentially calling the Penguins a bunch of whiners.

    You can see from this glorious Sportsnet video, Tortorella said: “Pittsburgh whines enough for the whole league.”

    (He also said the Blue Jackets weren’t going to whine by … whining. Good stuff.)

    As Puck Daddy notes, this isn’t the first time Torts claimed that the Penguins are whiners.

    Both the Blue Jackets and Penguins lost their games on Saturday, but clearly some eyes and ears were still focused on their last confrontation.

    In case you’re wondering, the two teams next face off in Pittsburgh on Dec. 21.


    Scary moment: Carlo Colaiacovo hospitalized with ‘dented trachea’


    Buffalo Sabres defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo has experienced plenty of bad injury luck in his winding career, but Saturday presented one of his worst scares.

    As you can see from the video above, Colaiacovo received a scary cross-check from Viktor Arvidsson of the Nashville Predators, who received a major penalty and game misconduct.

    Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma said that Colaiacovo was hospitalized with a “dented trachea” yet is OK, the Buffalo News’ John Vogl reports.

    Frightening stuff from an eventual 4-1 Sabres win.

    PHT will keep an eye out for additional updates regarding Colaiacovo’s health (and a possible suspension for Arvidsson).

    Comeback Kings: Gaborik pulls L.A. past Kane, Blackhawks

    Jake Muzzin, Scott Darling

    Patrick Kane set an American scoring record, and added another assist to make it more impressive, but the Los Angeles Kings just wouldn’t be denied.

    In the end, Marian Gaborik‘s big night meant more than Kane’s; he scored the tying and then overtime game-winner, both assisted by Anze Kopitar, for a rousing 4-3 overtime Kings win.

    Gaborik’s first goal:

    And here’s video of the OT-GWG:

    Noticing a theme tonight? Yeah, it’s been an evening in which it’s dangerous to assume a lead would stand.

    With that, the Kings stick to the No. 1 spot in the Pacific Division, but Chicago shouldn’t feel all bad. The Blackhawks were able to piece together a decent run during their dreaded “circus trip.”

    Patrick Kane’s streak hits 19 games, setting a new American record


    When it comes to point streaks for U.S.-born NHL players, Patrick Kane now stands alone.

    With a power-play goal early in Saturday’s Blackhawks – Kings game, Kane extended his streak to 19 games, breaking a tie with Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk (who finished with at least a point in 18 straight).

    As of this writing, Kane has 11 goals and 19 assists during this 19-game streak. He also leads the NHL in scoring.

    Bobby Hull’s 21-game point streak stands as the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall team record, by the way.