After making the playoffs in the 2010-2011 season, the Tampa Bay Lightning took a big step back in 2011-2012. The Lightning recorded only 84 points and were atrocious on the road.
Steven Stamkos did have the best season of his career though. Stamkos recorded 97 points while playing in all 82 games. In his 4 years with the Lightning, Stamkos has been unbelievable. The former 2008 number one overall pick has recorded 329 points in his career. The bright side of all of this is that Stamkos is only 22 years old. His development was one of the few bright spots for the Lightning in 2011-2012.
All in all, the 2011-2012 season was a big disappointment for the Lightning. But with a couple of key moves on defense and the possibility of having a shortened 2012-2013 season, the Lightning could be a surprise in 2012-2013.
The Lightning were able to sign former Philadelphia Flyers‘ defensman Matt Carle to a deal. Carle returns to Tampa Bay a place where he had success early in his career. The Lightning also acquired goaltender, Anders Lindback, from the Nashville Predators in a trade. Lindback was a back up to Pekka Rinne in Nashville. In 16 games he recorded a 5-8-0 record, 2.42 GAA, and a .912 save percentage. This acquisition gives the Lightning depth in net.
Along with Carle, Tampa Bay brought in two other solid defensemen. They signed a young player from the KHL in Dmitry Korobov and also Sami Salo, a veteran who played with the Ottawa Senators and Vancouver Canucks.
The Lightning did not lose any major players this off season, but they did lose two players who played meaningful minutes for them last season.
Dwayne Roloson left the Lightning in the off season after spending two seasons in Tampa Bay. In those years Roloson had a 31-28 record. Roloson was let go because he is 42 years old and the Lightning were trying to get younger, especially with the youth of many goaltenders around the league.
After playing only 50 games for the Lightning last season defenseman, Bruno Gervais, left for free agency and signed with the Flyers. Gervais has played 381 games in his career and has recorded only 86 points. Though losing Gervais was not a major loss, the loss of a defensemen is always a key loss for a team.
It is a bit ironic that the biggest role player for the Lightning is their smallest player. Martin St. Louis is a 5’8″ winger who has always played a key part on the offensive attack of the Lightning. St. Louis has been a mainstay for the Lightning. In 11 years with Tampa Bay, St. Louis has recorded 832 points and has also won a Stanley Cup. For the Lightning to be successful, St. Louis needs to keep up his consistent play, even at the age of 37.
Every season there are teams that get a spark from an underrated or unknown player from their system. This year, the Lightning have a player who is not underrated and he is one of the well known players of the league. The past two seasons Vincent Lecavalier has played a combined 129 games. Though he has recorded 103 points in those games, Lecavalier’s presence in the lineup has surely been missed. This season has all the makings for a vintage breakout season for Lecavalier. In a possible shortened season, Lecavalier’s health should not be a problem.
When you have offensive stars such as Stamkos and St. Louis, you have a team that can put up a lot of numbers. The problem will the play of the defense. Depending on the length of the NHL lockout, the Lightning have chance to succeed. If the season is shortened to about 50 games, then the Lightning are built for a successful season. Their division is not strong. If the Lightning can win 3 more games than they did a year ago, then they can easily make the playoffs with at least 90 points. Once a team makes the playoffs, well, anything can happen. Look for the Lightning’s offense to keep them in the playoff hunt all season.
The Rant Sports 30 in 30 will examine one NHL team per day. Tomorrow: the Boston Bruins