Newbies: Benoit Pouliot, B.J. Crombeen, Kyle Wilson
Departures: Tim Wallace, Ryan Shannon, Trevor Smith, Brandon Segal
Injured: J.T. Brown
AHL: Cory Conacher, Brett Connolly, JT Wyman, Mike Angelidis, Pierre-Cedric Labrie
The Tampa Bay Lightning should still boast one of the NHL‘s most dynamic offenses once the season begins Jan 19. The team returns all five of last seasons top scorers, and add three new players more than capable of filling the void left by losing Shannon and Wallace.
Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis will again lead the team, along with anchoring the top line. Ryan Malone will probably get the first crack at joining them on that line, as he’s not afraid of going into the dirty areas to score goals. With points at a premium during this shortened season the Lightning will need a line that can regularly score from all parts of the ice, which these guys can, in order to win games.
Pouliot joins the Lightning, and will likely get a chance on the second line with captain Vincent Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell. For Lecavalier the pressure to improve is on, as he’s coming off a sub-par injury-plagued season. Hopefully adding Pouliot, who’s good both offensively and defensively, will be enough to spark him.
Tom Pyatt and Crombeen are coming off seasons where they struggled. However, with the team re-signing Pyatt for two years last January and trading a couple of fourth round draft picks to the St. Louis Blues for Crombeen, they hope both can produce a bit more this season. Adding Cory Conacher, currently with the AHL‘s Syracuse Crunch, to these two should make this line more of a scoring threat because Conacher’s the reigning AHL MVP from last season.
Coming off knee surgery which cost him much of last season, Dana Tyrell must now prove he can stay healthy. If able to he, along with Nate Thompson and Adam Hall, will likely be the Lightning’s grinder line.
Acquired from the Nashville Predators this past off-season, Wilson looks to be an additional puzzle piece who will probably only be used when others need to play less minutes due to injury or illness.
Brown is currently sidelined and expected to miss six to eight weeks with a broken collarbone sustained during a late December AHL game. If he returns before the end of this season, it’s not a given that he’ll have playing time or even a roster spot. Connolly and Wyman seemed to be guaranteed a spot with the Lightning this season, but could be left in Syracuse if there isn’t one available. Labrie and Angelidis are both having decent seasons and would be called up as an injury replacement if needed.
With the season being so short, wins and goals will be incredibly important. Coach Guy Boucher faces the daunting task of finding the right combinations to get this team clicking on all cylinders. If the top two lines can lead the way, the other forwards will probably follow suit and the Lightning should be in the playoff hunt.