Monday, September 15, 2008

NHL Season Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning

Once again this year I'll be previewing each of the teams in the Southeast Division over at FanHouse. We're counting down from worst to first in each Conference based on last year's standings, which means the Lightning are up first.

I also thought it'd be fun (and moderately embarrassing) to look at a hit and a miss for each team from last year's preview, so...

Who's On The Hook: It'd be easy to say Feaster (especially considering some of his more notable failures coupled with MacLean undoubtedly looking over his shoulder) or Tortorella (given the way the players seem to be tuning him out more and more each year), but I'm going to go with Richards. Whether or not his linemates are legitimate NHL scoring threats on their own, $7.8 million is "make everyone around you a legitimate NHL scoring threat" money. It's a cool million more than Lecavalier makes and two Michel Ouellets more than St. Louis makes. Richards needs to elevate the second line to a point where teams actually have to pay some attention to it, otherwise, the Bolts are toast.
Both Feaster and Richards, of course, are long gone in Tampa Basement.

The penalty kill should be better and the netminding can't be worse, so I'm going to predict that Tortorella coaxes another playoff berth out of this squad -- and we're all left wondering just how the hell he did it.
Or they'll finish DFL in the entire League.

So what do you expect from this year's Lightning? Go on record with your predictions - the bolder the better - in the comments.


b.orr4 said...

I'll admit,I've been critical of the Bolts ownership. The way they treated Dan Boyle was disgraceful and hiring Melrose was pure Hollywood, but if I were a fan I'd be delighted with how quickly they've rebuilt this team. Despite what Koulos says, they don't have the best top six forwards in the league (or the SE for that matter), but they're pretty damn good. They're going to score a lot of goals, but then again they're going to give up a hell of a lot as well. Mike Smith is an unknown and, unfortunately, Olie is. And they're defense is just slightly better than Caps post-lockout. The Lightning will improve over last year, but they won't win the division or even come in second. 85points and third place.

Tyler said...

Given the weakness of the SE, the Caps *should* compete for the best record in the East. Winning the top seed would probably take a 10+-point improvement. Doable.


1) The Lightning for good and bad reasons will be one of the more exciting teams to watch this year.
2) Can't see them getting shut out many times, nor can we see them shutting out the opposition either. Can foresee quite a few 'shoot outs' (the old fashioned kind- not the new NHL variety)with the Bolts playing 6-4, 7-5, 8-6 etc games regularly.
3) They should be better than last year, and their playoff aspirations will go with their ability to win more of those shootouts than they lose. Can also see them pulling another deal before the season starts to bolster their D.

this space for rent said...

@tyler: Given the weakness of the SE, the Caps *should* compete for the best record in the East. Winning the top seed would probably take a 10+-point improvement. Doable.

Agreed. Why bother with comparing yourself to the basement? I think this team can aim higher than a SE division championship.

Ogre said...

Prediction on the Lightning - Unless Stamkos is incredible, they'll compete for DFL with the Thrashers. Leaguewide.

MacVechkin, fka JR said...

Congrats to the Lightning. From DFL to barely mediocre for the foreseeable future.

Mike said...

The Lightning will have a lot of offense, I believe, but they will have very little defense. I think that the times have passed Mullet by, and he will struggle as their coach. Lightning will finish 3rd or 4th in the division, but miss the playoffs.

exwhaler said...

I wouldn't even give them that. They'll be dead last in the division, and they'll be competing with the Islanders and Maple Leafs for the worst in the East.

Others have said it before...the offense is win-now, while the defense is in complete rebuild mode. It is a talented blueline, but one that's extremely young and inexperienced. If the Lightning had a good coach or solid goaltender, I'd give them the benefit of the doubt, but they have neither. Smith is still unproven after last year's shaky performance, Kolzig has slown down after years of backstopping a young defense, and Melrose has never been considered a good NHL coach in the short time he has been at this level.

Faux is right; they will be one of the more entertaining teams to watch this year. Train wrecks usually are.

oo7 said...

Tampa's success will depend on two things:
1) Did Melrose learn anything about coaching while doing duty for espn? If not, watch a team fizzle and take all season to gel, except for when they play division games.

2) Can this rag tag fugitive fleet help keep the puck out of the net? The goaltending, if Kolzig is in net, will be porous. (Watch for Kolzig to bow out early and ride the pine with that trade mark attitude.) Will St Louis and Lecav have to shoulder the load until they get tired of Melrose's out of touch style and Olie's constant tirades? Neither sniper could be happy about Olie; they just lost at least 15 pts a piece for the season.