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What has grounded the Lightning?


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This is not what they expected. at all.


  Tampa as one of the youngest teams in the game last year pushed their way past veteran laden squads in Detroit, Montreal and then the Rangers before falling to the Hawks in the cup final. No shame at all, the team developed new stars such as the triplets (Johnson, Kucherov and Palat), saw Hedman finally take the step forward many had been predicting, smart under the radar signings such as Garrison and Carle solidified the defense, Stamkos continued to build his legend and Bishop was solid in net with two young turks in Vasilevskiy and Gudlevskis waiting in the wings. The future was bright.s-l225.jpgAlmost as bright as this ugly Christmas sweater.


 Coming out of the break they are sitting at 18-15-3 in 6th place in their own division and outside looking in. They have looked flat and ordinary most of the year.


  I cannot blame injuries, to be sure they have had a few but no more than most Tyler Johnson and Palat have missed a dozen games each but frankly were flat both before and after the injuries. Bishop was nicked up but the two kids were effective when they got the chance. Other than that, a game here or there the team has been relatively healthy.

  The hangover from going to the Cup Finals was not supposed to effect them, being a bunch of kids but it clearly has, and as the season progresses and their playoff position becomes more murky they are going to have to face the other uge distraction, what to do with Stamkos.

  The great young goal scorer has said all of the right things but the Leafs are drooling in Toronto and it may be getting to the point where the Bolts need to deal him to a Western conference team capable of signing him if he looks as if he is planning on leaving the Lightning. The Wild seem ideal if they can figure out a way of making the money work, Nashville too and they have a lot of movable pieces that the Bolts may covet. It is looking as if it is becoming almost inevitable that he is gone.s-l225.jpg

  Bishop and the kids in net ahve been solid. Hedman picked up where he left off. Stamkos is brilliant. Kucherov has been very solid. Boyle and Stalman are playing very well.

  Other than that, guys such as Tyler Johnson, Palat, Garrison, Filpulla, Drouin, Killorn and Callahan have all had poor years. The Lightning are currently 22nd in the league in scoring with aton of young talent that most teams would drool over.

  If they write the year off and decide to move Stamkos out it could be the biggest trade in team history. I think the Wild need him the worst but arare in cap hell, the Predators and Blues are the two other destinations i would put money on if I were a betting man. That is if they cannot fix the offense, the sooner the better.


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If they write the year off and decide to move Stamkos out it could be the biggest trade in team history. I think the Wild need him the worst but arare in cap hell, the Predators and Blues are the two other destinations i would put money on if I were a betting man. That is if they cannot fix the offense, the sooner the better.


We have a little over a half of the season left, so it's probably still too early to panic, but my gut says more and more that Stamkos won't be returning. It seems wise to me to try to get what they can out of him. The thought of a Stamkos that returns to top form playing for the Blues should terrify the entire Central Division. Imagine him and Tarasenko both firing on all cylinders. May God have mercy on the souls of the opposing goalies.

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With regards to the original topic question, I think the easy answer here WOULD be the injuries and the short turn around from making it to the Cup Finals and playing 6 games into that.


That all said, I think there are some other things going on....and yea, though no one will publicly admit to it, but the Stamkos dilemma is one of them.....because the team overall, HAS looked ordinary and flat as @yave1964 said.


I've watched this team all year, wincing most of the way, and the players just look out of sorts.


The passing is off, guys aren't on the same page when it comes to zone entry strategy, guys are CONSTANTLY being jumbled around from line to line (that magical chemistry that some Bolts players seemed to instantly generate came through knowing what the other guy was gonna do before he actually did it...and you CAN'T wave a magic wand and make that appear every time you move a guy from one line to the other), and the general confidence level of the team has been fragile at worst, at best, strong, yet subject to doubt amongst the team members if things took a bad turn on the ice suddenly.


I will maintain that not having Johnson, Palat, and Kucherov playing on the same line regularly is part of the problem, but it is by far NOT the only one.


But without that second line doing what it was doing last year, teams can just lock down on Stamkos' top line and MAKE the 3rd or 4th lines (capable lines for sure, but obviously not Stamkos and Johnson line scoring quality) beat them on a nightly basis.


The crazy thing in all this is that the Tampa Bay defense, which is usually an average to slightly above average unit in past seasons, has actually played pretty damned well....including the play of Ben Bishop and Andre Vasilevskiy, his top backup.


The Lightning are 2nd in the entire league in fewest goals given up and Ben Bishop sits with a 2.00 GAA and a .927 save % over the course of 1700+ minutes and 29 games played.


The thing that brings that down is the fact that the Bolts simply aren't scoring enough goals and their PP has been pedestrian at best, disastrous at worst on many nights.

The PK for SURE, has been an unmitigated mess all season.

It currently sits at 78% which is only good for 25th overall in the league.


Good news for Bolts fans, is that the offense looks like it is picking up a bit.

Yea,  I know, small sample size, but over the last several games, win or lose, the Bolts could be seen touching the 4 and 5 goal marks while the PP has at least looked competent on many of those occasions as well.


Also, due to Montreal's continued slide, it has left the Atlantic Division wide open for any number of teams to make runs at the top three guaranteed playoff spots.


I know the Lightning still have the Stamkos issue, and I know they still have guys floating in and out of the lineup, but all that means to me, is that guys like Vladi Namestnikov, Jonathan Marchessault, and Alex Killorn will be asked to carry the mail a bit more offensively while the regular scorers get healthy and get back to doing what they do.


Team is outside looking in for the playoffs right now, but a guaranteed playoff spot or wild card is still certainly within reach for this team.

I'd be more worried about all that if the team were having these issues and NOT getting good goaltending or defense on top of it.....but Bishop is just daring the rest of his team to score for him while he continues to keep pucks out.

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Even though their offense has struggled, the biggest reason by far, and one that can't be underscored enough is the drama going on with Stamkos. Yzerman either needs to commit to trading him now, or say he wants to keep him at all costs. When the captain of the team is in constant trade rumors, everybody is nervous that they could be on their way out. No matter what they say, they're worried about it. I think it has to be affecting their play. Most of the core players like Johnson, Palat, Hedman and Kucherov are young and are looking over their shoulder. It's awful tough to play well like that.

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