There’s no mistaking how good the Tampa Bay Lightning offense can be. Featuring two of the NHL‘s best players in Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, they can usually hang around with even the best teams for awhile.
In order to be a true contender, however, you must have more than one line as a threat. Whether through injury or general unproductivity, that’s something the Lightning lacked during 2013.
A couple years removed from being a key component in the Lightning’s surprising run to Game 7 of the 2011 Eastern Conference finals, Ryan Malone continued spiraling downward. He appeared in 24 games all season, tallying eight points. That came on the heels of a subpar 48 point season that had many questioning whether his time with Tampa Bay was nearing its end.
When GM Steve Yzerman chose to use just one of the new compliance buyouts on franchise mainstay Vincent Lecavalier this summer, Malone got another opportunity. One he better take advantage of considering the team sacrificed their captain, one of their faces and a fan favorite in the process.
Not to mention his contract. Set to earn $4.5 million through 2015, along with a no trade clause, Malone must prove his worth to the Lightning. They have plenty of talented forwards chomping at the bit down in AHL Syracuse, so it’s safe to say if he doesn’t perform up to expectations there will be no saving him come next summer.
Can he handle the pressure associated with a make or break season? That’s the biggest question facing Malone and the Lightning heading into 2013-14′.