For a Tampa Bay Lightning team which boasted two of the NHL‘s top point scorers in Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, finding disappointments wasn’t supposed to be this easy. But it was, at least in 2013. Pretty much everywhere you looked someone failed to meet expectations.
While some of those disappointments were related to struggles producing consistently in an ever-changing lineup, others were mainly due to injury. A player like Teddy Purcell, who experienced a setback last year, fits into the first category.
In two full seasons (2010-11 and 2011-12) with the Lightning after being traded from the Los Angeles Kings, Purcell made quite an impact. He played alongside St. Louis and Stamkos, finishing with no less than 50 points, and was responsible defensively, evidenced in his plus ratings. He ranked among the club’s top four in points both years.
The playoffs are where he really shined though. He was one of the Lightning’s better performers during the ’10-’11 Stanley Cup playoffs, finishing with 17 points. That total included six goals, one being a game winner.
This season, he had difficulty finding any of the same success. He did finish with 11 goals and 36 points, good for third on the team, but failed to produce consistently. Much of that was probably due to former coach Guy Boucher‘s tendency to create lines based on matchups, as he spent tons of time bouncing around. After Jon Cooper took over behind the bench he was reunited with Stamkos and St. Louis on the top line, and his production resembled that of the prior couple years, with 10 points in 14 games to close things out.
Of course, it’s hard to get on a player who receives little help defensively and in goal. Purcell’s struggles likely won’t affect his contract status. He’s signed through 2015-16, and depending on the direction this team’s headed, could earn another extension before all is said and done. Having him around, regardless of this mini-slump, will only help the Lightning stay competitive in the years to come.
Either way, this disappointing campaign shouldn’t hurt Purcell too much. It was a difficult year, but also a short season full of adversity. Once he found a home, his game picked back up, but by then, the Lightning’s playoff hopes were slim to none. He’ll head into next season with hopes of building upon this year’s late success. If he spends less time bouncing from line-to-line, that’s certainly possible.