Tampa Bay Lightning Season Preview
Here’s what to expect from the Bolts this season…TEAM NAME: Tampa Bay Lightning TEAM PAYROLL: $43.25 million
GENERAL MANAGER: Feaster, named General Manager on February 10, 2002, joined the Lightning on October 20, 1998,
HEAD COACH: John Tortorella became the fifth head coach in Lightning history on January 6, 2001, replacing Steve Ludzik.
The Tampa Bay Lightning is trying to prove to everyone that 2003-04 was not a fluke, and that 2005-06 was. The Bolts are trying to regain their championship form. This group wants to hit the ice flying; a stronger start, finish and middle of the season is how to prove to the fans that last year was the mistake; not the Cup run. Last season they visibly lacked the confidence that they had back in 2003-04. This year the team hopes that a new face in net will spark confidence throughout the rest of the team. GM Jay Feaster said: “We’re deeper, we’re quicker, we’re a better skating team, we’re a tougher team…”
To Take Charge
This year is Brad Richards’ year to shine. Last season, he achieved his fourth 20 goal season, and had a career high 68 assists, which set a new record for the club. He had the most points on the team, and ended up twelfth in the league in points, fifth in assists. He also lead the team in points, during the team’s short playoff run (8). He then started the summer by signing a 5 year, $39 million dollar contract, which makes him the second highest paid player in the league. He’s already been compared to the great Joe Sakic. Another player to take charge this year is the newly selected captain, Tim Taylor. Taylor has played under great captains his entire career (Yzerman, Bourque, Messier, and Andreychuk), and has learned from each of them. During this past year, he was made an alternate after the forced retirement of then captain Dave Andreychuk. Taylor, a veteran of 12 seasons, has a lot of leadership qualities that he brings to the table and was Andreychuk’s right-hand man.
On the Rush
The Lightning has a pretty impressive offensive core, which scored 252 goals last year. Brad Richards has nowhere to go but up, as his point totals have increased each year he’s been in the league. He also lead the team last year in short handed goals (4). Vaclav Prospal, last year was second in point totals. He collected 25 goals, and 55 assists for 80 points in 81 games. In his time with the Bolts, he has gotten no fewer than 55 points a year. Vincent Lecavalier, lead the team last year with 35 goals; 13 on the PP, and a team leading 7 game winners. He was third on the team for assists, with 40 and points, with 75. Feaster expects between 40 and 50 goals from him this year. “…I don’t think we’ve seen Vinny tap the vast reservoir of potential that exists. Can he score 40? Yes. Can he score 50? Yes.” Martin St. Louis, is another offensive threat. St. Louis had a disappointing last year; he was plagued with scoring slumps, but he managed still to light the red light 31 times. He also had 7 game winners. He, not unlike the team as a whole, wants to get back to his 2003-04 form. One final offensive threat is Ruslan Fedotenko. Twenty-four percent of his goals are game winners. He was seventh on the team last year. He had a career year in goals (26) and points (41). The only flaw with the offense is the lack of Fredrik Modin’s 31 goals from last year.
Covering the D-Zone
The number one defenseman on this team is Dan Boyle. Boyle is an offensive defenseman. Last year he had a career year for goals (15), and tied his career high for points (53). He also had 6 PP points. Dan Boyle’s defensive partner, Paul Ranger was quite a surprise last year. After suffering a mild concussion and a broken jaw, he managed to get 18 points in just his rookie campaign. His one regular season goal was a game winner. During the playoffs, he stepped up his production, and got 6 points in 5 games. He had 2 points in each of three games to collect that total. He was the first Lightning rookie or defenseman to record 2 goals in one period of a playoff game. Filip Kuba, is a new addition to the Lightning blueline. Over the past few years, he has consistently gotten around 25-30 points a year. Last year, he managed to get 25 points. In the Bolts’ system he should be able to get close to 35 points a year. The blueline looks a little better than last year.
Guarding the Net
During this offseason, the second priority of the team was to get a new starting goaltender. On June 30, the Bolts sent Fredrik Modin and Fredrik Norrena to the Blue Jackets for goaltender Marc Denis. Overall, he has a goals against average of 2.97, a save percentage of .906, and 15 shutouts over the span of his career. A drawback of his is that he’s never seen postseason action. “Denis has been shown he can carry the load. His wins and losses aren’t spectacular, but his save percentage is respectable, as is his record when he’s gotten some run support.” As for the backup role, there are two candidates this year. The two goalies under contract are Sean Burke and Johan Holmqvist. Sean Burke is a 39 year old, 17 year veteran, who has a .902 save percentage, a 2.95 GAA, and 37 shutouts in 797 games. Johan Holmqvist has played 4 NHL games, and has lost 3 of them. He has spent the last two years of his playing career in Sweden. Last season he had a 1.95 GAA and 3 shutouts. The problem with both Burke, and Holmqvist is that both falter in the postseason. Last season, Holmqvist had a 4.02 GAA and a .866 save percentage. Burke, on the other hand, hasn’t won a playoff series since 1990.
Talking About My Generation
- Karri Ramo – Karri Ramo is a native of Asikkala, Finalnd, who is 6-foot-2, 192 pounds. Last year, he appeared in 24 games for HPK Hameenlinna. He had a 2.16 GAA and a .929 save percentage. He helped the team to the Finnish Elite League Championship. This year he won bronze in the World Juniors competition. His one North American start was at the 2004 Traverse City Prospect Tournament, against the St. Louis Blues and he won with 37 saves to his credit. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2004 draft.
- Stanislav Lascek – This right wing, has the potential to be a top six forward. Since entering the QMJHL he has improved greatly each year. In 2004-05, he had 90 points in 53 games. Last season, he was averaging 2.11 points per game. He played in 64 games, and had 135 points (47, 88), and was +42. In all his time in the QMJHL, he averaged 1.60 points per game. During the playoffs he averaged 1.30 points per game. In the playoffs of ’06, he averaged 1.89 points per game. He was drafted 133rd overall in the fifth round.
Dmitri Afanasenkov – Brad Richards – Martin St. Louis
Ruslan Fedotenko – Vincent Lecavalier –Vaclav Prospal
Ryan Craig – Andreas Karlsson – Rob DiMaio
Nikita Alexeev – Tim Taylor – Eric Perrin
The Bolts look stronger and weaker at the same time than they did last season. They look stronger in net, with a bona-fide number one goalie. This should give the team as a whole the confidence in the man between the pipes that was missing last year. The offense though, has to pick up, especially with the departure of Fredrik Modin. If the offense gets taken care of, the Lightning can contend. They appear to have regained the hunger that was missing last season. “We’re no longer the Stanley Cup champions…I wanted no part of watching that team skate off with our Cup.” Said Feaster, emphasizing that the team is hun
gry. The team will make the playoffs again, but as one of the bottom three seeds.
This team was put together to compete. The team as a whole are hungry for another Cup run. Feaster stated his feelings: “There is no reason this team can’t be Eastern Conference champions, and then you take your chances. Getting back to the big dance would be nice.” If the goaltending pulls through as much as the media and the management believe it will; this team could find itself in another Cup run. However, the reality for goaltending is that the goaltending is either inexperienced or incompetent in the postseason. If this team is to make the playoffs, and go on another run, it will be on the shoulders of the offense. In conclusion, it’s a coin toss; either the goaltending will successfully carry the team, or it will bomb and the season will be done before May.
Quotes are from http://www.sptimes.com/Lightning/