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“After what happened last year finishing 30th, not winning isn’t an option,” Lawton said. “Our club needs to win, and we understand that and realize that. It is very easy to say, but you’ve got to back it up with actions. We believe that we backed it up with actions, but we’ve still got a long, long way to go to achieve our goals.”

With brash new owners, a recognizable coach in Barry Melrose and a fantasy hockey roster, the Lightning’s success or failure will pique the interest of many this season.

“Lots of people have tried and failed, and we’re aware of that. Those are the facts. We have a tall order to try and achieve,” Lawton said. “Whether it was an embarrassment finishing last in the league, or it is a first-time job like myself, first-time owners like our ownership group, coaches that have been gone so long they are treated as first-time guys, players that wanted new scenery - there is an environment for success being created here.

“It is an experiment and the results will play out in front of everybody. It is the greatest live TV going.”

The Penguins serve as both a model for the Caps and a cautionary tale for the Lightning. Like the Caps, the Penguins built a core of young stars through the draft and they reaped the benefits last season.

But there was also a point where they tried to change course with negative results. After winning the Sidney Crosby lottery in 2005, Pittsburgh decided to make a run for the Cup after the lockout. They signed Sergei Gonchar, Ziggy Palffy, John LeClair and Jocelyn Thibault to play with Crosby and a 40-year-old Mario Lemieux.

A bad start to the season only worsened, and by year’s end Lemieux and Palffy retired, LeClair was exiled and Mark Recchi was traded. The Penguins finished tied for the least points in the NHL.

“There were a number of reasons,” Recchi said. “I think we had different elements, and I don’t think we were as deep as this team is or Philadelphia was [last season].”

The Flyers ascended from 30th in 2006-07 to Eastern Conference finalists last year. The way general manager Paul Holmgren built his roster resembled Lawton’s methods - from adding the starting goaltender at the previous trade deadline (Martin Biron in 2007 for the Flyers, Mike Smith in 2008 for the Lightning) to creative trades before July 1.

“It is still a combination for everybody,” Lawton said. “Obviously Philadelphia took a big step forward last year, but what people don’t realize is not more than two years previously, they had playing in the AHL was [R.J.] Umberger, [Joni] Pitkanen, [Antero] Nittymaki, [Jeff] Carter, [Mike] Richards - all guys who came through the draft with the exception of Umberger who was a free agent signing.”

The Penguins and Flyers learned this offseason the new economic system could make it tougher for teams to keep those young, talented cores together for several seasons.

“The business has changed a lot,” McPhee said. “We used a model that has been used for many years, but it may not be able to be used as much in the future. We’ll see.”