|4th in Southeast Division|
|12th in Eastern Conf.|
|GM: Steve Yzerman|
|COACH: Guy Boucher|
|$53,825,000 ($10.0M below cap)|
The Lightning had a hard fall from grace when the lockout hit. A team that had just won the first Stanley Cup in franchise history was derailed by the work stoppage that killed their title defense. Coming out of the lockout, the team found themselves neutered on the ice as their roster succumbed to departures without any real restocking of the cupboards.
But the arrival of new GM Steve Yzerman, the iconic captain of the Red Wings throughout their glory days during the 1990s, brings an injection of hope to the team. So, too, does Steven Stamkos, their 20-year-old wunderkind who shared the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top goalscorer with Sidney Crosby after a 51-goal sophomore season.
A veteran core of players has been supplemented shrewdly with youth and complimentary acquisitions, each seemingly designed to fit within a master plan — something that has been sorely missing since the league returned to play. While the next Cup contender may be a few years off, Tampa is building toward something bigger in the near future and could really make some waves this season in the Southeast…
|10||F||Sean Bergenheim||5′ 11″||200||26|
|9||F||Steve Downie||5′ 11″||191||23|
|12||F||Simon Gagne||6′ 1″||193||30|
|18||F||Adam Hall||6′ 3″||213||30|
|4||F||Vincent Lecavalier||6′ 4″||208||30|
|6||F||Ryan Malone||6′ 4″||219||30|
|19||F||Dominic Moore||6′ 0″||192||30|
|16||F||Teddy Purcell||6′ 2″||201||25|
|21||F||Mattias Ritola||6′ 0″||192||23|
|26||F||Martin St Louis||5′ 8″||176||35|
|91||F||Steven Stamkos||6′ 1″||188||20|
|44||F||Nate Thompson||6′ 0″||210||26|
|42||F||Dana Tyrell||5′ 11″||185||21|
|7||D||Brett Clark||6′ 0″||194||33|
|77||D||Victor Hedman||6′ 6″||229||19|
|8||D||Randy Jones||6′ 2″||210||29|
|13||D||Pavel Kubina||6′ 4″||258||33|
|39||D||Mike Lundin||6′ 2″||191||26|
|5||D||Mattias Ohlund||6′ 4″||229||34|
|32||D||Matt Smaby||6′ 6″||239||25|
|48||D||Michael Vernace||6′ 0″||216||24|
|33||G||Dan Ellis||6′ 1″||191||30|
|41||G||Mike Smith||6′ 4″||215||28|
MOST IMPORTANT COG IN 2010: Vincent Lecavalier (C/captain) — It’s amazing to think that Lecavalier turns 30 this season, but the longtime captain and center of this hockey team heads into his 12th season in the league as a reduced commodity from his heady days when he was putting up points galore en route to the Cup or notching a 108-point season three years later. At 30 he is at a crossroads — do his skills diminish to the point where he’s serving spot duty and playing the role of the veteran hero that still brings in the fans, or does he find a rejuvenating spark with new linemates? If it is the former, Tampa will lack a key component to their offense; if it is the latter, a postseason return isn’t out of the question.
KEY ACQUISITION: Simon Gagne (LW – trade from Philadelphia) — Part of the Flyers squad that advanced to the Stanley Cup finals last season, Gagne was deemed too expensive a piece to keep on the roster as they worked things down under the cap. So in Yzerman astutely stepped, offering up a 4th round pick in next year’s draft as well as Matt Walker to get the top-six forward from the Eastern Conference champs. Gagne will pair with either Lecavalier or Stamkos to form a formidable line capable of scoring on any goalie in the NHL. Could he be the guy to elevate Lecavalier’s play back to an elite level?
KEY DEPARTURE: Andrej Meszaros (D – trade to Philadelphia) — It was a move that had to be made to clear the $4.0 million cap hit off the Lightning books, but giving away the soon-t0-be 25-year-old defenseman for just a second-round pick stung after trading away Filip Kuba, Alexandre Picard and a first-round draft pick to Ottawa for him just two years ago. He swallowed up 20+ minutes of ice time every night, and his ability to neutralize opposing offensive threats isn’t reflected in his recent stats — his rookie campaign five years ago, when he was still with Ottawa, saw him finish third overall in the league in plus-minus, after all. And he was also a key player on the past two Olympic teams for his native Slovakia, falling just shy of a bronze medal this past February when Finland won the third-place match 5-3. There are several other youngsters in the pipeline, but nobody that currently looks as good as Meszar0s.
KEY YOUNGSTER: Steven Stamkos (C/20 years old) — When Stamkos was selected with the first overall pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, he had already been projected for greatness for years. His rookie campaign left a little to be desired, as a cold first half of the season left his numbers down. After spending the offseason with one of the pioneers of hardcore training for hockey, former NHL forward Gary Roberts, Stamkos showed instant improvement in his sophomore year. Rather than a slump, the youngster more than doubled his goal total to share the league lead with Sidney Crosby. Alongside captain Lecavalier, Stamkos comprises one of the best 1-2 center combinations in the entire NHL. Can he continue his progression into one of the top five or ten players in the entire league?
OUTLOOK: The fans in Tampa are hoping that the moves engineered by Steve Yzerman in his first offseason with the squad are the catalyst for returning this team to annual contention in the Southeast Division and the Eastern Conference. The former Red Wing has embraced a mix of youth, veterans from the Cup-winning side and other recruits from recent success stories. It is a team long on individuals who have succeeded previously and short on current chemistry.
So if the team can mesh together quickly and integrate the replacements for their departed cogs as seamlessly as possible, the potential to put up a greater performance than last season is readily available. Does it mean that a return to the playoffs is imminent? The question marks center around goal, where they haven’t felt secure since Nikolai Khabibulin was there to hoist Lord Stanley’s Chalice. Will Dan Ellis or Mike Smith assert himself and take over as a true show-stopping #1 goalie? And, furthermore, can a defense relying on some older vets and inexperienced youth to play major roles provide enough cover to prevent whichever netminder seizes the job from being buried under a barrage of shots?
The Lightning have a feeling like Chicago did three years ago… while they will probably miss out on the postseason in 2010-11, next year might be the year they really spring upon the scene with a deep playoff run. And if the formula holds true, perhaps we’ll see Lecavalier and Stamkos and the rest of the crew hoisting aloft the Cup in 2013. Stranger things have happened – Exhibit A would have to be the turnaround that the Lightning pulled off to win their first NHL championship seven years ago, just three years removed from 50-point seasons…
- 37 wins
- 84 points
- 3rd in Southeast/10th in Eastern Conference
- 2010-11 NHL Previews: Toronto Maple Leafs
- 2010-11 NHL Previews: Index
- 2010-11 NHL Previews: Edmonton Oilers