Tampa Bay Lightning 2013-14 Season Preview – Featuring The Photography Of Susan Ferlita
The Tampa Bay Lightning are now members of the Atlantic Division, with new rivals and of course some old ones. Today we preview the 2013-14 Tampa Bay Lightning courtesy of our Alexis Boucher, Jason Haas and Susan Ferlita.
2013: 18-26-4. 14th in East.
CURRENT SALARIES: $63,990,477 (see full breakdown at capgeek.com)
ARRIVALS: Valtteri Filppula.
FORWARDS: With the new defensive philosophy in place, the Bolts will need their forwards to buy in and be responsible. Will the two top NHL point producers, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos buy in? There is no one better to convince them than GM Steve Yzerman who, as a 65 goal scorer, changed his game at the request of coach Scotty Bowman which resulted in the Red Wings winning three Stanley Cups.
The Bolts need to find more offensive production away from St. Louis (17 goals, 60 points in 48 games) and Stamkos (29 goals, 59 points in 48 games). Teddy Purcell, Alex Killorn and newcomer Valtteri Filppula could be the players that fulfill that role. Purcell (11 goals, 36 points in 48 games) and Filppula (9 goals, 17 points in 41 games) playing together would provide some firepower. Killorn (7 goals, 19 points in 38 games) looks like he is primed for a breakout season after a solid rookie campaign last year.
After rushing his very first draft pick, Brett Connolly, to the NHL, GM Steve Yzerman let him work on his game at Syracuse last season. Connolly responded with 31 goals and 63 points in 71 games, his best pro season. The move seems to have worked as Connolly has been a force in the preseason games and looks NHL ready.
Number three overall pick, Jonathan Drouin has shown flashes of brilliance but may not be ready to play in the NHL this season. With the history of rushing Connolly, it is entirely possible that the Lightning will bring Drouin along slowly.
Nate Thompson will never be a scorer, but is a valuable component, especially in a more defensive focused scheme. He is a solid penalty killer, won over half of his faceoffs and led the Lightning forwards in hits last season.
Veteran Ryan Malone is hoping to exorcise the injury demons, but he has missed games already this preseason.
DEFENSEMEN: Some fans may be disappointed to see that Tampa Bay’s much maligned defensive squad hasn’t changed a whole lot heading into the 2013-14 season. Despite popular opinion, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Jon Cooper’s system requires that every member of the team chip in defensively. With the forwards helping out, the dedensemen won’t be hung out to dry as much as they have in the past. With less pressure to carry so much responsibility, hopefully they can flourish.
Victor Hedmanhas steadily progressed over the last few seasons as he matures into his position. He is seeing increased time on the power play and is a steady scoring presence. He is set to have a monster season and everyone will start to notice.
Radko Gudas is just what the Lightning needs to compete for the playoffs. He brings the missing physicality to the Bolts blueline. “The Beard” had a staggering 87 hits in 22 games last season. Before his call-up, Tampa Bay gave up 3.12 goals per game. In 22 games after his call-up, the Lightning lowered that mark to 3.00. “The Beard” is here to stay.
Tampa Bay’s top six defensemen are all hitters and positive +/- players: Eric Brewer (88 hits,+3), Keith Aulie (91 hits,+1), Radko Gudas (87 hits,+3), Sami Salo (40 hits,+5), Matt Carle (32 hits,+1) and Victor Hedman (56 hits,+1). Prospect Mark Barberio is almost certain to make the jump to the NHL and Andrej Sustr will have the opportunity to earn an NHL promotion this season.
The defense is physical and isn’t afraid to hit. A new system with shared defensive responsibility among all five players on the ice will hopefully dispel some of the stigma around Tampa’s blueliners.
GOALIES: The Lightning enter the 2013-2014 season with perhaps the best goaltending duo in recent memory with Anders Lindback and Ben Bishop. Though both are unproven at the NHL level, they have shown flashes of skill and promise and their large frames (6’ 6”+) make them tough to beat. Neither had spectacular numbers last season with the Lightning (2.9+ goals against average), but the hope is that a full training camp under Jon Cooper and a team committed to defense will bring those numbers down.
Things get murky if one of them is injured for any length of time. The Lightning does not have a solid number three goaltender waiting in the wings. Cedrick Desjardins would likely get the call, but has never been able to stick in the NHL. Riku Helenius has yet to prove (in North America) that he was worth a number fifteen overall pick. The best number three option for the Lightning may be Jaroslav Janus, who is in the KHL. However, it would be tough to get him back to North America at all, let alone in the middle of the season.
AN EARLY TEST: The Lightning plays seven of its first ten games at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, but the the season starts with road trips to the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins, Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and Buffalo Sabres. Following the road trip the Bolts come home and play Florida, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Minnesots, Boston, Chicago and Buffalo.
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