by Ron Spence
There have been some comments to the effect that Brad Lukowich could be dispatched to Manitoba – that he’s not an NHL calibre Dman.
Some San Jose fans were glad to get rid of him.
“I don’t think you’re able to rid yourself of Brad Lukowich without packaging him with Ehrhoff,” wrote fan blog Fear the Fin, “and that was probably a selling point for Wilson- my guess is that the Canucks were pushing for Ehrhoff, and DW countered by saying, ‘We’ll make this move only if you take Lukowich.'”
The numbers show that Lukowich was the 6th Dman with the Sharks.
Last season with San Jose – the President’s Trophy winners with a 53-18-11 record – he played in 58 games and was behind Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Rob Blake, Christian Ehrhoff and Doug Murray, with an average ice time of 16.13 minutes per game. He was also +5, the fifth best for Sharks’ Dmen.
During the Sharks’ ill-fated playoffs, he was once again 6th in most D ice time, with an average time of 14.30.
And he was one of only two Sharks to have a positive plus minus – +1 (The Sharks had allowed the Ducks to score 17 goals in 6 games.).
Lukowich, while never a top 4 Dman, has consistently been a number six guy.
He was drafted by the New York Islanders in the 4th round (90th overall) of the 1994 Entry Draft.
He is a good 6th man because he plays within his own game.
Brad Lukowich won a Stanley Cup during his rookie NHL season and averaged 16.18 minutes per game during his 14 game regular campaign. This was behind Derian Hatcher, Sergei Zubov, Richard Matvichuk, Darryl Sydor and Shawn Chambers.
In the post-season, he averaged only 9.60 ice time, also behind Craig Ludwig.
When Lukowich played on the Stanley Cup winning Lightning team – during the 2003-04 season – he averaged 18.45 minutes per game – behind Dan Boyle, Pavel Kubina, Darry Sydor and Jason Cullimore, and just ahead of Cory Sarich.
He also had the 3rd best plus/minus on the team -+29 – and was the top Dman in that category.
Lukowich averaged 15.51 minutes per game during the post season and had the 6th most ice time for a Dman.
In Tampa Bay, the Lightning had thrown the bank at free agent forwards – the summer of 2008 – and had to trade off some of their D.
“…Friday’s trade of Boyle and Brad Lukowich cannot be the end of Tampa Bay’s dealings,” wrote John Romano of the St. Petersburg Times. “The roster has too many spare forwards and not enough quality defenders. If this roster remains intact for the rest of the summer, new owner Oren Koules will literally have no defense.”
Their roster was even thin before they had made the trade with San Jose.
“Carle and Wishart also won’t address the fact that the Lighting blueline was thin before they dealt away Boyle and Lukowich,” wrote Spector of foxsports.com.
Still, Tampa Bay used the excuse that they had given up on Lukowich.
“Getting rid of defenseman Brad Lukowich, dealt with Boyle to San Jose, was a good move as he apparently was not in Tampa Bay’s top seven next season,” wrote Damian Cristodero. “Add his cap hit to Boyle’s and subtract Carle’s and you get a significant savings of $4.796-million.”
San Jose, unlike Tampa Bay, has players in their system who can replace Lukowich – at a cheaper price.
And Vancouver can use him until his inflated contract expires next May – and younger players in their system are ready to graduate to the Big Tent.
One criticism made of Lukowich’s play last season was that he performed quite well for the Sharks’ first 20 games and then his play fell off.
If you look at his injuries, he was out day to day with groin problems on December 6th, missed two games on December 13th, was out again day to day with lower body problems on January 10th, and then for 16 games on February 21st.
His nagging injury would definitely count for some of his faltering play. But, he was obviously healthy by the post-season.