This could've been THE season for Tampa Bay Lightning
Last season Tampa dominated the regular season, leading the race for President’s Trophy with a hefty 21 points, and finishing the season as one of the best NHL picks against the spread, but crashed out of the playoffs in the first round after a disastrous display against hard-working and gritty Columbus Blue Jackets. The Lightning team was seemingly out of gas and couldn’t match the intensity of much less talented, but more suited to playoff-hockey BJ’s. But it’s not like GM Julien BriseBois and Head Coach Jon Cooper would not learn from their mistakes, nor would they have to worry too much of staying contenders for years to come.
Winning the Stanley Cup is extremely difficult in this day and age of salary cap and competitiveness across the board. St. Louis Blues showed last season, that even by practically missing out on the first half of the season, the Cup is not out of reach: just make the playoffs and sky’s the limit. It’s been 16 years since Tampa has won the Stanley Cup, so it’s not like they can’t hold out for another year.
This season, before being put on hold, Tampa Bay seemed to have learnt their lesson about the regular season heroics – they are eventually useless. After a ridiculous last season, when Nikita Kucherov scored 128 points in regular season with Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point hitting over 90, the key players were tuning down this regular season and their load was remarkably reduced. The solid defensive quartet of Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Braydon Coburn and Kevin Shattenkirk was complimented by Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak, with Luke Schenn and Zach Bogosian providing some grit in the backlines.
The acquisitions at the deadline this year, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow not only fit in the roster perfectly, but came with extremely affordable contracts. With all the star players Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Point, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, in addition to Hedman and McDonagh and the Vezina-contender goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy tied down to a long-term and relatively cost-effective deals, the present and the future looks bright for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning don’t only have some of the top NHL lines currently, but looking into the future look strong.
Remarkably, Tampa also has a plethora of draft picks in their disposal. Despite trading away their 1st rounder for 2020, they still possess five picks in the first four rounds and all their top picks for the next two seasons. With the AHL affiliates Syracuse Crunch constantly both developing players to the NHL level and amassing success in the AHL, the prospect pool is competitive if not star-studded – those stars are already contenders for the Stanley Cup.