Southeastern Division Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning

Acquisitions/Re-signed players
LW Martin St Louis, re-signed for 4 years
RW Simon Gagne, acquired in trade with Flyers
RW Steve Downie, re-signed for 2 years
D Pavel Kubina, signed for 2 years
G Dan Ellis, signed for 2 years
D Randy Jones, signed for 1 year
LW Sean Bergenheim, signed for 1 year
C Dominic Moore, signed for 2 years
D Brett Clark, signed for 2 years

RW Zenon Konopka (New York Islanders)
C Ryan Craig (Pittsburgh Penguins)
D Kurtis Foster (Edmonton Oilers)
G Antero Niittymaki (San Jose Sharks)
RW Alex Tanguay (Calgary Flames)
D Matt Walker (traded to Philadelphia Flyers)
D Andrej Meszaros (traded to Philadelphia Flyers

They go into this season with a new GM, a new coach and a roster that’s vastly improved over last year. GM Steve Yzerman’s first order of business was finding a new coach after Rich Tocchet was relieved of his duties, and he found his man in Guy Boucher. The former AHL coach of the year plays a very fast-paced style of hockey that should fit this team well. Yzerman made a lot of good moves this off-season and it could be what leads Tampa Bay back into the playoffs.

Even though they missed the playoffs for the third year in a row, the Lightning had a very talented team last year and leading the way was Steven Stamkos and his 51 goals. Stamkos shot on the powerplay is simple but other teams just can’t seem to stop it, at least not last year. He’s very close to becoming the face of the franchise. The real face, Martin St. Louis was signed to a four-year extension. Those two along with Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone should combine to score a lot of goals this year.

Also contributing should be Simon Gagne, who was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers. His health is always a concern but he is a former 40-goal scorer and should help out this offense a lot. They will also be looking to get a lot out of Steve Downie after his breakout 2009 season. He has a lot of offensive talent and can agitate, as well. That combination definitely works out well. The Lightning definitely have plenty of scoring depth, that’s for sure. They will be even deeper if Ashton Carter and Brent Connolly manage to make the roster. Dominic Moore,

Tampa Bay’s defensive corps received a major overhaul this off-season. Andrej Meszaros and his $4 milliion cap hit were traded as were Matt Walker and Kurtis Foster. Replacing them will be Pavel Kubina, Brett Clark and Randy Jones. Kubina can work a powerplay well and play a responsible defensive game, and he comes at a slightly cheaper price than Mezsaros. He will be paired with either Mattias Ohlund or Victor Hedman. Ohlund is expecting to rebound after a tough season and Hedman is looking to build on a solid rookie year. Clark and Jones will play the bottom pairing. Paul Ranger and Mathieu Roy will also try to fight their way onto the roster. Whether or not this corps will be an improvement over last year depends on the play of Ohlund and Hedman. Obviously there’s more pressure on Hedman since he was the second overall pick a year ago and is hyped to be a future franchse defenseman. It’s not a bad unit but there’s still some question marks.

Mike Smith and Dan Ellis will be competing with eachother for the starting job this season, but I see it as Ellis’ job to lose. Ellis was a very solid goaltender in Nashville but he was simply outperformed by Pekka Rinne and couldn’t keep the starting job. He wont have to worry about that with Mike Smith unless Smith really steps up his game.

Yzerman is a born winner and there’s no question about that. Can he lead this Lightning team back to the playoffs is the question. They have all of the right pieces to do so and if they can play well under Boucher’s system then I see no reason why they can’t get in this season. The defense is obviously suspect and the fact that Dan Ellis hasn’t been a starting goalie in two years, but they have enough talent to be a playoff team. It’s all a matter of execution.


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