Can Lightning Strike Twice? MADDUX BUSINESS REPORT

By Bob Andelman
Maddux Business Report
Cover Story
October 2007

Put yourself in Jay Feaster’s shoes.

Year in and year out, your team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, is a playoff contender. That would be good enough in most cities, but this franchise actually won the Stanley Cup in 2004, forever changing expectations.

Since then, the Lightning has been good – but not great. There have been moments of brilliance on the ice, but a fair number of times, the team’s play in key games has made grown men ball like little babies.

It all comes back to the office of the general manager, Jay Feaster.

When Lightning players look for a few more talented teammates, they look to Feaster. When head coach John Tortorella is desperate for a speedier, more athletic star that can score more goals, he turns to Feaster. When the team owner wants to know why his team isn’t winning more games, he puts the pressure on Feaster.

And when the out-of-town owner sells the team without warning – as happened in early August, after this interview was conducted – the media, the fans and everyone else turns to Feaster for answers he can’t provide. In fact, he declined to answers additional questions at deadline because he didn’t know anymore about the new owners, Absolute Hockey, and the team’s future – or his own – than you do.

On the other hand, maybe you don’t want to be in Jay Feaster’s shoes after all.

MADDUX BUSINESS REPORT: Jay, no pressure, but how’s your team gonna look this year?

JAY FEASTER: We’re excited about the things that we’ve done this off-season. We’ve already locked up the big key main free agents that would be out there on the market if we hadn’t taken the steps to keep them in Tampa. We have four of the very best players in the National Hockey League that skate on our ice at the St. Pete Times Forum, as it is every game, in Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis, and Danny Boyle. So we start from the fact we have a very good core to build around, and it really is a matter of trying to fit in the pieces.

MR: With St. Louis, Lecavalier, Richards, and Boyle, the Lightning has something that maybe some other teams in town don’t have at the moment, and that is real star-power.

FEASTER: There’s no question. When I first arrived in Tampa as an assistant general manager in 1998, if we had said to the fan base at that time, “We’re gonna win more than 40 games every year for four straight years, we’re gonna make the playoffs every year for four straight years, some years we’ll go out in the first round, some years we may win a round, sometime in that time frame, we might even challenge for a Stanley Cup,” people would have said, “Where do I sign up?”

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Copyright 2007 Will Eisner: A Spirited Life by Bob Andelman