Welcome to Koules’ Korner, where Lightning Owner, Governor & CEO Oren Koules will drop in to address the happenings at 401 Channelside Drive for Lightning fans.
If you have a question about the Lightning for Oren, just click here to submit it. He’ll do his best to answer as many as possible.
Question from Jeff Duncan
Melrose was fired after 16 games and going 5-7-4. So far through half as many games, Tocchet is 1-3-4. How long of a leash does Tocchet have? I am looking forward to us getting back to the top and it just seems like we are going the other way. Thanks for being the type of owner who would even field questions like this. Go Bolts!
Oren Koules: As we’ve said before, Rick’s our interim coach and we expect him to lead the team in the right direction. The players are playing very hard for him, and while we don’t have a specific timetable, we’ll continue to evaluate the progression of the team.
Question from Wayne Roberts
Since Rick Tocchet is an "Interim Coach" any chance of picking up Peter Laviolette?
OK: Like I said above, Rick Tocchet is our guy and we have confidence he’ll have the team headed the right way.
Question from Chris Cook
I like the way Rick Tocchet has been coaching the team, and if the team could score more goals we would be having a much better season. Can we expect a little more stability on the roster to see what we have? It seems like we have been making minor tweaks and trades just to make some noise. Goaltending has kept us in most every game. Smith has been fantastic! But I think it has been a BIG distraction to the team wondering who’s coming and who's going.
OK: We will always continue to try to make our team better. We made a lot of moves initially with the goal of building a long-term contender out of a last-place team. We’ve had to respond to the ones that haven’t worked, and improvement over the short and long term remains our goal.
Question from Allen Kramer
Jamie Heward - Should he be the seventh defenseman for the Bolts helping the young D-corps in the NHL, or are his services better suited to an extremely inexperienced group in Norfolk?
OK: Jamie’s a veteran and an extremely intelligent player, and right now we love the experience he brings to our defense. No matter whether he’s here or in Norfolk, he’s a strong asset for this organization.
Question from Lino DiPaolo
When is Jeff Halpern going to be back in the line up and why don't you put Prospal back on Vinny's line?
OK: Jeff Halpern has been working very hard in practice and is expected to be back in the lineup this Thursday night against Colorado. As for the line combinations, that’s totally a coach’s decision and our coaches have been experimenting with different combinations to bring more balance to the forward lines in the hopes of producing more secondary scoring. Halpern’s return should help that issue as well.
Question from Jami Haywood
Mr. Koules; hello and how are you. As a new season ticket holder with your AHL affiliate, the Admirals, and someone who just started watching last year, I was curious how much light you can see at the end of the tunnel for both the Bolts and the Admirals? Obviously we have some great players. Do you think there is a piece/player missing in the puzzle? Since (goaltending) has been great from Smith how do feel about the rest of the net staff, specifically Ramo? Also, how much importance do you, as an owner, place on both clubs’ success?
OK: Obviously, success in the short term and long term for both clubs is our focus. Both the Lightning and the Admirals have had tough starts but are continuing to get better, and there is very much a light at the end of the tunnel. For example, two of our young prospects, Dana Tyrell and Dustin Tokarski, were named to the Canadian World Junior team yesterday. It will get better for both teams.
Question from Lynn Fives
Attendance seems to be an on again off again issue in some peoples eyes. Are there any…ideas of how to get the seats close to the ice filled with excited fans? I have heard some pretty good ideas out there but not sure if they are possible.
OK: We’re fortunate to have incredibly loyal fans here in Tampa Bay and we appreciate that. The support they’ve given us has been fantastic, and it will only continue to grow as the team shows improvement.
Question from Kathleen Scott
My husband and I are longtime Lightning fans and five-year season ticket holders. Do you have any thoughts about the Lightning fans being outnumbered in the stands by visiting fans? Their money is just as good as anyone's, we understand, but what about a promotion like when the fans wore Rays gear and got rewarded? Maybe something like wear Lightning gear in order to receive the door prizes that are sometimes given out? Just a thought.
OK: We appreciate our fans being proud of the jersey and we do many special promotions throughout the season for our loyal season ticket holders. As an example, they enjoyed a Christmas party last night in our building with Rick Tocchet, Vinny Lecavalier, Mike Smith, Ryan Malone, Andrej Meszaros, Ryan Craig and several other players.
Question from Charles Bridges
Are we going to see any improvements or upgrades to the Forum anytime soon? I'm a season ticket holder and I think the flooring needs to be painted or put some nice carpeting down and a fresh coat of paint would help also.
OK: I absolutely agree. The concourses are heavily traveled and take a lot of wear and tear. Right now we’re looking at a lot of different options, and that’s an issue that will be addressed over the summer.
Question from Jay Szwast
Thank you for the direct line and open mind. The only thing worse than seeing the team lose is paying nine dollars for a beer. I understand the desire to make concession profits, but is there any way we can at least spend nine dollars on Yuengling, a beer that is crafted right here in Tampa and thought of as one of the finest in the nation? Seven or eight seasons ago it was sold at one concession. It would be nice to have a “taste of the bay area” concession. Some things are worth nine dollars, the mega-brewery lines that you are offering at the arena are not. Please support local jobs and offer your fans another choice.
OK: We try hard to provide our fans with as many different types of concession options as possible and have been very proactive in partnering with local vendors such as Outback, Westshore Pizza, Five Guys, etc. In checking with our concessionaire, SportService, and as you note in your question, we have made Yuengling available in the arena in the past. I am told the demand just wasn’t there for us to keep offering it in arena. We constantly review our offerings and generally make some changes and/or additions in the summer for the next season. So count this email as your vote for us to bring back Yuengling.
Question from Mitchell Margolis
Hey Mr. Koules, I just wanted to say I’m a huge fan of the Lightning. I go to every game and just love hockey. I just wanted to understand a little bit about the process of your job with the Lightning. For example, what are the daily routines of an NHL Owner?
OK: Pray a lot.
Question from Rebecca Valentine
I am a senior at Wiregrass Ranch High School and we have to do senior projects to graduate. I have chosen to do mine on the impact of special types of games (winter classic, Europe games, vs. international teams) have had on the NHL. In my research I have found player and coach opinions but nothing from owners. I was wondering what you think of the Winter Classic and European games, and whether they help the sport and the individual teams. Thank You
OK: I think the Winter Classic, as shown by the ratings last year, is a great success for the league and grabs a lot of attention in a highly-competitive sports market. The European games are more of a long-term play which I’m sure will ultimately bear fruit in expanding the NHL brand.
Question from Wade Crocker
As an owner, what can you say to players to try to lighten up the atmosphere in the locker room, and how nerve wrecking have all these one-goal games been for you? As a fan, I can tell you I literally turn off my TV or leave my seat at home games when it heads into OT because it can almost give you a heart attack.
OK: We know the players are working hard and we’re confident that will translate into the breaks going our way. I’m all for one-goal wins.
Question from Paul Kalamas
Are you happy with the way hockey has progressed, or regressed, in the manner of selling itself, losing ESPN, trying to increase scoring, etc? Please answer in a way that will ensure that you get a call from Gary Bettman in no less than 3 hours.
OK: Finding new and creative ways to market the game isn’t an easy job and everyone involved, league and teams, has a lot of hard work to do. We have a great product but we need to constantly strive to be better.
Question from Victoria Patino
Hi Oren, I am the girl who asked for a job during the town hall meeting. Nothing has really come out of it yet. Will there be any new jobs at the Forum in the New Year?
OK: We will always post any current job openings or internship opportunities on Tampabaylightning.com and Sptimesforum.com, so I encourage you to check back often.
Question from Tommy Seeker
First off let me say that I love the fact that Tampa Bay has a sports owner who is as active as you are, it is great to know that you are not like other owners who are along the lines of "Public Shy" to say the least.
The Biggest and most concerning question I have as a young fan is, with the current economy going to hell and threats from our city’s MLB team, the Rays, of relocating, will the Lightning ever consider the dreaded thought of leaving us?
Thank you so much for your time,
OK: Absolutely not. As I’ve said from the start the Lightning have a great fan base which we are continually looking to build. One of the main reasons I was interested in the Lightning in the first place was the fantastic overall support provided by Tampa Bay sports fans.
Question from Travis Aldrin
What do you see as the main factor that keeps the team from winning those close overtime games? Mike Smith has been amazing during regulation, but seems to struggle 1-on-1 in a shootout. Jussi Jokinen was brought in as a shootout specialist and hasn't had any measure of success. It's really hard on fans that watch and see how much talent this team has but can't articulate it to our friends because the record doesn't match the talent.
OK: To me shootouts are a little bit like a coin flip. I think it’s important that we start concentrating on wins in regulation time so we don’t have to leave it to chance.
Not a question, just a comment. I can tell how badly you guys want to win and I admire that commitment. Keep hanging tough. You'll turn it around.
OK: Thanks Chris, I appreciate it.