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Tampa Bay Lightning year in review


yave1964
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  PRESEASON OUTLOOK

A lost season as the team and the coach went different ways watched the team take a step back after 2 steps forward. Vinnie left, not certain where they were at.

 

FINAL RECORD 46-27-9 101 points 3rd in the East

 

STRANGE STAT OF THE YEAR

Ondrej Palat had 18 goals at home and 5 goals on the road.

 

HIGH POINT OF THE SEASON

Pretty much the whole season. They established themselves as a surprise contender along with the Avalanche in the West and never let up all year. They won their final four games of the regular season to peak going into the post season and finish with 101 points.

 

LOW POINT OF THE SEASON

Regular season would be November 11th when Steve Stamkos slid awkwardly into the net in a game against the Bruins. Everyone thought that Cinderella's coach would turn back into a pumpkin but the kids stepped up. The real low point was a 4 game sweep against the Canadiens to end their season before any other club.

 

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Ben Bishop established himself as a stud and Vezina finalist (37-14-7 2.23 GAA) who lifted the team onto his back early in the year. The kids established themselves, Tyler Johnson (24-26-50) was nominated for the Calder trophy as the leagues top rookie as was team leader in scoring Ondrej Palat (23-36-59). Victor Hedman finally established himself as the player the team was hoping he would be (13-42-55) Val Filpulla was one of the league best free agent signees and led the team in goals scored and was the leader of the team while Stamkos was out. Matt Carle was a puck mover they needed and Radko Gudas established himself as a nasty player with a snarl on the blueline.  Stamkos did manage 25 goals in half a year and Killorn was an under the radar offensive player.

 

WHAT WENT WRONG

  Anders Lindback (.891 save pct) was horrible and the team became exposed when Bishop went down for the postseason. Martin St. Louis asked for a trade after a dispute with GM Yzerman severed their relationship. Ryan Callahan who came over in the deal was okay but nothing special. The 4 game sweep against Tampa ruined what was otherwise an all together well balanced season.

 

MVP

I am going to go on a limb and say Victor Hedman. The blue liner finally rewarded the organizations faith in him by establishing himself as one of the top offensive d-men in the game.

 

UFAs

Callahan

Salo

 

OFFSEASON OUTLOOK

Very bright. They still have Jonathan Drouin waiting in the wings, they have two of the three finalists for rookie of the year, They exceeded expectations but it does not have the look of a fluke.

 

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This particular round up on the Bolts is very spot on.

 

Everything from the perceived non-contender status during the pre-season, to the establishment of Bishop and Hedman, the competitive nature of the team throughout the year, and the emergence of rookies Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat as solid NHL players already...with nothing but high ceiling still to go.

 

I'd also like to add as some high points:

Coach Jon Cooper.

 

I'll be honest, I thought a rookie coach (NHL rookie coach...the man has AHL coaching XP) mixed with a young team and some rookie players would be a recipe for serious growing pains, but as it turns out, Coach Cooper had the team's ear all year long, they buy into what he is selling, and he doesn't get too high or too low after wins and losses, and is quite aware of the capabilities of his players and uses them in appropriate situations.

Of course, much of that is helped by the fact that he coached many of those same players when they played in the AHL, but still, he did just as fine a job dealing with vets such as Filppula, St. Louis, Brewer, Carle..etc.

 

Enough for a Jack Adams? Not too sure, but there is no question that Jon Cooper was the RIGHT coach for this team at this point in time, and looks to be the right guy heading forward.

 

Another high point I would say is the organization as a whole, starting from the last two seasons and continuing on through this season, has seemed to have established a pretty good development system where players can come up from the minors and fit right into the big club (i.e. they seem much better prepared), much better than in the past.

 

I can remember years ago, when TB Lightning farmhands, both young players and journeymen, would come up to the NHL club and then have to re-learn an entirely different 'system' and approach to the game....a hodge podge of skill sets, mental approaches, and player types if you will...and it made it much more difficult to have these guys play as a cohesive unit.

No longer.

 

Now, for the most part, what players do at AHL Syracuse is pretty much what they can expect to do at the NHL level Lightning. Players are being developed properly (finally!) and they are HUGE helps to the NHL team upon arrival...that goes from rookies like Johnson to journeymen like JP Cote and everyone in between.

Kudos this season to the Bolts for finally establishing that type of system that other contending teams have established long ago.

 

As for low points, I would agree, @yave1964 with the points you made, but I'd also like to add, perhaps not so much a 'low point', but rather a couple of disappointments.

One has to be Richard Panik.

He has shown flashes of being the type of player that brings a good combination of offense, defensive play, a good checking game, and even the ability to play with an edge without really crossing the line.

 

Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to be able to do it consistently, and on many occasions, has looked like a totally different player from game to game when he has played.  Sometimes aggressive, sometimes overly so...sometimes not aggressive enough...sometimes has an offensive awareness, other times looking like he is lost out there.

That has led to him being a healthy scratch on many occasions and even got him sent back down to the AHL.

 

I know Panik is still a young player, but when guys he came up through the ranks with have gone on or at least started to establish themselves, he begins to look woefully behind the curve.

He is a guy who has produced so much at the AHL level but has yet to fully adjust, for whatever reason, to the NHL level of play.

Here is hoping by next season, he finally "gets it" and is a much bigger part of the TB Lightning and play a heavy minutes role, as what he has shown on the ice when he DOES put things all together, is quite impressive.

 

One other 'disappointment' IMO, is one Brett Connolly.

Here is a player who was talked about for a couple seasons as a guy who could play a pretty good power forward game, with a good offensive skillset AND even a bit of snarly type play,  and was expected to be a top six forward for the Lightning sooner than later.

After performing so well in Major Junior hockey, the AHL, and the World Juniors a couple years ago, he has thus far, been quite below average when he has gotten his chance to show what he can do at the NHL level.

 

He too is young (about 21), so there is time, but he, like Panik, have looked so 'out of sorts' at the NHL level that it has lead some fans (myself included) to wonder if those guys would make better trade chips to teams that would want to put in the time to figure them out and the Bolts get nice returns for them.

Connolly and Panik are 1st and 2nd round draft picks respectively, so no surprise that alot has been expected from them....and they could very well still pan out.

But for the here and now, I'd label them disappointing.

 

Not too sure what direction the Bolts want to go in the off season.

Keeping Ryan Callahan would be nice, however, I also understand his contract would be quite hefty, he DOES have a bit of injury history, due to the intense style he plays, and although he is a good skater, there has to be some concern going forward whether he can maintain the speed needed to play the up-tempo style that this mostly young, fast TB Lightning team plays.

 

Also, bigger paydays are coming up for some of those young players and the Bolts, I am sure, want to keep as much cap room flexibility in order to pay and keep their players.

It was, after all, one of the reasons the Bolts bought out Vinnie Lecavalier...to clear cap room for upcoming contracts of good young players and possibly sign a significant vet free agent along the way as well.

 

Examples of expiring entry level contracts on young players, making them RFA's (according to capgeek):

Tyler Johnson

Alex Killorn

Ondrej Palat

Andrej Sustr

and yes, Richard Panik

 

Other RFA's include Mark Barberio and Keith Aulie on defense, JT Brown on the forward lines, and Anders Lindback in goal.

 

Throw in star players like Steve Stamkos (two years left), Victor Hedman (three years left) and Ben Bishop (two years left), and one can see why the Bolts would like to maintain as much cap space and flexibility as possible in order to be able to keep as many of those players as they can.

This means making smart signings and/or re-signings THIS offseason.

 

Does Callahan fit into that mix without anchoring down the Bolts financially going forward?

That is what the FO will need to figure out.

 

Again, nice capsule on the Bolts yave, and I too believe the Lightning will return for another run at the playoffs next year....hopefully having learned some hard lessons from the heartbreaking sweep they suffered this season.

Edited by TropicalFruitGirl26
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@TropicalFruitGirl26

 

Yzerman came from Detroit, Detroit grows their players that way, Toledo and Grand Rapids play the same style as Detroit and when they come to the NHL they are ready to step right in. Yzerman brought that down to Tampa. Nill will bring it to Dallas. McLean to Ottawa, Todd McLellan in San Jose. It is the Detroit way, everyone on the same page at all times.

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@yave1964

The rest of the Atlantic division, and realistically, the rest of the conference, better look out for this team to be a force in the east for the years to come. You really hit the nail on the head when talking about their talented youth movement. I mean they have an embarrassment of young riches at their disposal; Palat, Stamkos, Johnson, and they have Drouin who WILL PLAY NEXT YEAR waiting for his chance. Not to mention that they finally have what every contending team has and that's solid goaltending in Ben Bishop. Even their goaltending depth is scary with huge backups in Lindback and, eventually, the Latvian Monster (I didn't want to butcher his name). Even though their exit from the playoffs wasn't ideal, they are going to be a dominating force in the league very soon and I wouldn't be surprised to see them challenge the likes of Boston and Pittsburgh for top spots in the conference within the next 3 seasons.

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