Tampa Bay Lightning 2013 Season Preview: Defense
Newcomers: Matt Taormina, Sami Salo, Matt Carle
Departures:Bruno Gervais, Mike Commodore
Injured: Mattias Ohlund
AHL: Keith Aulie, Mark Barberio, Radko Gudas
The Tampa Bay Lightning opened camp with a Fan Fest today, allowing fans an opportunity to get a first-hand look at the new additions made this past summer while also celebrating 20 NHL seasons. The team returns much of last seasons squad defensively and adds two players who should be able to help shore up their play on the point.
Victor Hedman will need to continue evolving his game this season, playing physically at times while also chipping in offensively. He will probably be paired with the newcomer Carle, who had 38 points and a plus-4 rating with the Philadelphia Flyers last season. Carle seems to be more of a stay-at-home guy defensively, something that would allow Hedman to join the rush up ice.
Another newbie, Salo, will be counted on for some big minutes–especially on the power play– and will likely be paired with Brian Lee. In 69 games with the Vancouver Canucks last season Salo had nine goals, seven of which came with the man advantage. The Lightning will also want more out of Lee this season, as he had no goals and was a minus-6 after coming over from the Ottawa Senators around last seasons trade deadline. If he can find a way to contribute offensively while improving defensively this duo could be a force to reckon with.
Eric Brewer struggled mightily last season, mainly due to Mattias Ohlund‘s knee surgery which forced him to take on a bigger role playing alongside Hedman, but was great following his 2011 trade from the St. Louis Blues. He would likely be joined by the finally healthy Marc-Andre Bergeron to begin the season, though it’s possible things could change. If these guys can form some chemistry together, with Brewer staying at home while Bergeron contributes a bit offensively, this team could be poised to do great things.
The fourth pairing is still up in the air, though it’s almost guaranteed Brendan Mikkelson will be a part of it. He will be paired with one of four players–Keith Aulie, Matt Taormina, Mark Barberio and Radko Gudas–who were recently brought up from the AHL‘s Syracuse Crunch. My guess is that Taormina will win the job because of his great defensive and decent offensive numbers in the AHL. He’s also the only Crunch player with a short-handed goal.
With a more potent offense and an upgrade in goaltending, the success of this year’s Lightning team may depend on the defenses overall performance. If they can stay healthy and play smart, this team could be celebrating more than just their 20th anniversary once things are said and done.