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TropicalFruitGirl26

Tampa Bay's 2019-20 Campaign: Cup or Bust

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With the embarrassing shellacking by the Blue Jackets now firmly behind them (but hardly forgotten), the Bolts embark on the new old quest of capturing the Cup and bringing Lord Stanley to the bright beaches of West Central Florida once again.

Armed with new faces, a newfound grit in some of the newer players, more maturity for the younger core, and the knowledge of what can happen if they aren't properly prepared to face a red hot team, this team should be more focused on winning a title rather than setting regular season records.

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, their true judgement will begin around May.....because no matter how good a season they have, it will be hard to top what they did last year over the course of 82 games...and the ONLY way to truly top that season, is to win it all and wipe away the disgusting taste of a 4-game sweep.

Truly a Cup or Bust year for the Bolts.
And even though they are built for long term success, that mantra may follow them around until they finally do raise Lord Stanley's prize.

 

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Just a quick rundown of key players swapped out and brought in on the 19-20 version of the team....
 

OUT:
---Ryan Callahan...gritty winger whose playing career is basically over after succumbing to degenerative back disease. He was traded to the Ottawa Senators for G-Mike Condon and a 2020 6th round pick, in a paper transaction to clear cap space.

---Adam Erne....another gritty type winger, young up n comer, probably has a ceiling of 2nd or 3rd line winger, but a guy who always brings energy, physicality, and is transforming into the type of agitator player many teams love to have on their team, but hate to play against. Traded to the Red Wings for a 2020 4th round pick.

 

---JT Miller....a kinda do everything type top 9 center/winger who despite his many talents, found himself often the odd man out in the TB lineup. His salary of 5+M didn't justify keeping a guy who really never found a "spot" on the team. He was traded to Vancouver for minor league G- Marke Mazanec, a 2019 pick (G-Hugo Alnefelt) and a 2020 conditional 1st round pick.

 

---Anton Stralman….solid, steady but aging blue liner was a UFA not offered a contract. He now plays for the Florida Panthers.

---Dan Girardi.... another aging, solid blueliner whose speed took a nosedive the last couple seasons. Also a UFA and as of this time, does not have an NHL team.

 

---Louis Domingue....technically still with the club, but now buried in the minors, as the Bolts don't have a spot for him at the NHL level, and rumor is, they are hoping to trade him and get whatever they can for him. Decent netminder, but still with enough holes in his overall game that leaves him as an NHL back up at best.

 

 

IN:
---Curtis McElhinney.  Split time last season with Petr Mrazak on the Carolina Hurricanes. A 35+ yr old veteran whose sole purpose on the team is to provide starter Andrei Vasilevskiy with rest while the team can still feel confident that they have a guy back there who will stop pucks. Curtis fully understands this is Vasy's team and he embraces his back up role.

 

---Kevin Shattenkirk. Bought out by the NY Rangers after a disappointing season that was no where near worth his cap hit of 6.65M. He signed a low rate 1.75M one year deal to build his value back up...and help the Bolts with his PP skillset in the process.

---Pat Maroon. Big tough, but sometimes maligned winger due to perceived "coasting" in games. He nonetheless is a Stanley Cup champion having played a sizeable role in the Blues' capturing of their first Cup ever. He says he wants to win another and he too signed a one year contract with the Bolts, at a $900K cap hit.

 

---Luke Witkowski. Mean, rugged 4th liner/bottom pair defense swingman, who was originally developed by the Bolts, then traded away, and now re-acquired on a two year, $700K AAV contract.

 

---Luke Schenn. Another tough defenseman (notice a theme here?), who also signed a 700K deal, but for only one year. Currently in AHL Syracuse, but he IS an NHL defenseman, albeit bottom pair caliber, who no doubt will see playtime as soon as the inevitable injury happens as is the case over the course of an 82-game season.

 

---Carter Verhaeghe. 24 yr old center/winger who had been toiling away in the minors for a few seasons for the Islanders then the Lightning, now being given a chance to see what he can do with the big boys of the NHL. He had a career best 82 points for TB's AHL Syracuse Crunch over 76 games last season.

 

Other players currently not on the big club roster but could get some serious looks at the NHL level at some point this season...

---Callan Foote (D), big bodied, 20 yrs old, TB's 1st round selection (14th overall) in the 2017 draft.
Had 10 G, 31 points and was a +16 in 76 games for the AHL Crunch last year.

 

---Alexander Volkov (LW, RW) 6'1, 195 pound, 22 yr old drafted in the 2nd round in 2017.
Since coming over from the Russian junior leagues two seasons ago, he has posted back to back AHL seasons with 45 and 48 points over 75 and 74 games respectively. He also posted a +19 his first season, a +26 his second season and has shown remarkable consistency, even if he is nothing flashy or spectacular, and also seems to have a bit of a mean streak as he has been known to check with intensity while he scores goals and doesn't seem afraid to rack up penalty minutes while he goes about his business.


 

Edited by TropicalFruitGirl26

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The Penguins model for winning cups, shared with the Hawks in their prime is simple: Spend all your money on keeping the superstars happy and fill in the gaps with smart drafting and astute signings of free agents who fell through the cracks. Maroon and Shattenkirk absolutely are a brilliant example of the later, kids such as Verhaege, Foote, Alex Barre-Boulet (undersized Tyler Johnson type) Raddysh, Katchouk all will NHL players on the cheap. 

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2 hours ago, yave1964 said:

The Penguins model for winning cups, shared with the Hawks in their prime is simple: Spend all your money on keeping the superstars happy and fill in the gaps with smart drafting and astute signings of free agents who fell through the cracks. Maroon and Shattenkirk absolutely are a brilliant example of the later, kids such as Verhaege, Foote, Alex Barre-Boulet (undersized Tyler Johnson type) Raddysh, Katchouk all will NHL players on the cheap. 

 

For sure..
Although, I rather like the Red Wings model of 20 years or so of continuous contention....and about a fistful of Cups to go along with it! ;)

 

Seemingly layer after layer of Wings' players coming up as older pieces were phased out, but never missing a beat.

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With respect to some good or up n coming teams that Bolts already played this early season, tonight begins a stretch of games that, IMO, will really show what the Lightning have in that locker room.

The defending Eastern Champion Boston Bruins are up and the Bolts visit them in their own building.

After that, the Lightning come home after a road heavy start to their season and see Colorado, Pittsburgh, and Nashville.

So counting the Bruins tonight, that is two potential Eastern Conference finals previews and two potential Stanley Cup finals preview.
Sure, that is looking WAY ahead, but as a fan, I can do that.
TB players can't....they gotta focus on the teams at hand, but I certainly can and will.

Cup or Bust...….

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Yikes.
Bolts fall 6-2 to the red hot Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night.

A three goal in three minute outburst by Colorado highlighted an issue the defending Atlantic Champions have had since the season started:  Porous defense.

TB has sorta been trading wins and losses so far this season and has them at around the .500 mark at 4-3-1.
I'd like to think the Bolts' defensive problems will sort themselves out as the season wears on, but right now, they are looking pretty mediocre in that department and right now, not even getting the scoring they COULD be getting as well.

Tempers flared in the game vs the Avs and one could see the frustration in the TB players as two fights broke out...something the Bolts outside of Cedric Paquette or Luke Witkowski don't normally engage in..... Eric Cernak and Victor Hedman both dropped the gloves against Colorado's Casey Calvert on two separate occasions in the game.

After a fantastic character building win over the Boston Bruins the other night, the Lightning follow it up with a game against Colorado that could make most people wonder why the Bolts are such a big deal.
Seriously.

Pittsburgh comes to town next, and while the Pens have their own problems, they still have every bit the skill in their lineup to play right with the Lightning.
If the stars on both sides show up, this could be a fantastic and very entertaining game.

For the Lightning, another chance to prove they deserve to BE a big deal in the NHL and right their ship.

Some secondary scoring for the Lightning would help quite a bit as would some more solid play overall from the defense.

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Bolts meet the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena tonight and the team looks to shake off the "good game, bad game" pattern they've established in the early going.

To the end of finding consistency in their overall game, the Lightning are making some interesting changes to their lineup in hopes it sparks certain players and re-establishes the 4 line attack the team has been known for the last few seasons.

First, Tyler Johnson looks like he will get a crack at being the #1C, centering a line of Stamkos at wing, and newly promoted Mathieu Joseph on the other wing. Both Stamkos and especially Johnson have been a bit sleepy starting out, while Joseph has played pretty well in a bottom six role, and being rewarded by playing top minutes.

Jon Cooper is STILL trying to find "Stamkos' wing" (I still think Stammer is a better center than wing, but I can see why the coach would like to get Johnson going), ever since Marty St. Louis was traded. MSL and Stamkos were magic together and though for awhile it looked like Nikita Kucherov may be the best compliment for Stamkos on the same line, turns out, they play better on separate lines (Kucherov seems to play really well with Brayden Point, and that is who he will be playing with to start against the Pens), and that further helps to spread the wealth, so to speak, on elite scoring between the top two lines.

Next, Cedric Paquette looks like he may be ready to go. He had been sidelined with an UBI since pre-season and hasn't seen regular season game time yet.
If he does return tonight, it means he centers the 4th line alongside Patrick Maroon and Luke Witkowski....a bruising, yet potentially productive line as well.

Sadly, Paquette's return means Carter Verhaeghe who had been centering the 4th will be returned to AHL Syracuse.
Verhaeghe hasn't played badly in the role, and he may warrant another callup at some point, but Paquette is still a notch or two above him in terms of skill, familiarity with the team style, and definitely more experience at the NHL level.

Hopefully these changes will make a difference offensively, however, the REAL culprit in Lightning not doing so well has been defensive coverage and transitioning from defense to the offense.
Changes there don't include personnel changes, but rather, pairing changes.

Braydon Coburn and Mikhail Sergachev will reunite on the 3rd pairing (Serge had been playing alongside Hedman on the top pairing) and Kevin Shattenkirk will be given a bit more reign as he will be paired with the always defensively responsible Ryan McDonagh on the 2nd pairing.

Meanwhile, on the top pairing, no surprise Victor Hedman is there and his new partner, and getting his first real shot at being a 2D will be Eric Cernak.
This should compliment Victor's offensive skill with a more stay at home approach, and should allow the #1 defenseman more latitude to be creative.
Cernak himself, in addition to his physical playstyle, also features a pretty good point shot and good skating ability for a man of his size.

 

Bolts....Pens....
If all goes well, should be dandy of a match up and maybe this is the game that finally gets the Lightning playing like the team that is expecting to make another Cup run this year.

Go Bolts!

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Another big nugget of news with regards to Jon Cooper's lineup changes:

Nikita Kucherov will be on the 3rd line tonight.
Yep. Kuch on the 3rd.
I don't believe he has played third line since when he first came up.

Why? Could be for a number of reasons.... Kuch hasn't been his usual beastly self. He has been ok, but oftentimes, away from the puck, seems a bit lost.
He will be on the same line as Alex Killorn (wing) and Anthony Cirelli (C), two very good, hard working but also skilled guys...and perhaps the coach is hoping some of the blue collar stuff rubs off on Kucherov.

By the same token, particularly with young Anthony Cirelli...look, that young center has done everything the Lightning ask of him, but he is mostly stuck in the bottom six due to having Point, Stamkos and/or Johnson ahead of him on the center depth chart.

Perhaps putting the reigning scoring champion on his line is also a way to reward Cirelli.
"Here ya go young man...Kuch needs a bit of a boost in the workman department, you get an elite scoring winger to play with....go get some production done!"

Unlike most teams, playing the 3rd line in Tampa Bay isn't necessarily a straight up demotion.
Coach Cooper, for the most part, spreads the ice time out pretty evenly.
Sure, the top six will always log more time, but its not like the 3rd line, or even the 4th, only get like 7-8 minutes of ice time per game like you may find on others.

Team is deep enough to where the coach understands he will have guys in the bottom six that likely would be top six players elsewhere (such as the aforementioned Anthony Cirelli), so he has to manage the ice time accordingly.

At any rate, I am sure Kucherov would love to remain in the top six, but best thing he can do right now, is do what is asked of him playing on Line 3 and while helping himself there, he also has an opportunity to "pay forward" and help bolster linemates Cirelli and Killorn.

Very interested in seeing how Kuch handles this...

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      The Penguins model for winning cups, shared with the Hawks in their prime is simple: Spend all your money on keeping the superstars happy and fill in the gaps with smart drafting and astute signings of free agents who fell through the cracks. Maroon and Shattenkirk absolutely are a brilliant example of the later, kids such as Verhaege, Foote, Alex Barre-Boulet (undersized Tyler Johnson type) Raddysh, Katchouk all will NHL players on the cheap. 
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      Another big nugget of news with regards to Jon Cooper's lineup changes: Nikita Kucherov will be on the 3rd line tonight. Yep. Kuch on the 3rd. I don't believe he has played third line since when he first came up. Why? Could be for a number of reasons.... Kuch hasn't been his usual beastly self. He has been ok, but oftentimes, away from the puck, seems a bit lost. He will be on the same line as Alex Killorn (wing) and Anthony Cirelli (C), two very good, hard working but also skilled g

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