Tampa Bay Lightning:
Last season – 6th in the Eastern Conference
GM – Steve Yzerman
Amazingly enough Stevie Yzerman has managed to keep the band together. This team is very much a contender for the Stanley Cup this year, and this comes to down to great work and very capable cap-management by Yzerman. He stood firm with Stamkos, and it paid off. He stood firm with Drouin, and Drouin came back with his tails in between his legs. It shows the trend of Yzerman not allowing himself to be dominated by the players.
Head Coach – Jon Cooper
There were rumblings that Cooper and captain Steven Stamkos did not get along at certain points, with Stamkos often being put at the wing. With Stamkos returning, it is safe to say those rumors can be put to rest. Cooper has done a solid job the last four years with the Lightning. They were eliminated in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last year, a play-off they had to do without Stamkos. Cooper has all his stars returning, they are healthy, and he has coached several of them starting in the AHL.
37th overall pick 2016 (Libor Hajek, D)
Matt Carle (buy out, D), Anthony DeAngelo (D)
The biggest offseason moves for the Lightning, was Yzerman being able to re-sign Stamkos, Hedman, Kucherov, Killorn and Vasilevsky to substantial contracts. In addition to that, signing Namestnikov were of importance. Outside that, Yzerman haven’t had the wiggle room to do much else, but even with the cap restrains still managed to re-sign Kucherov right before the season started. A bridge-deal, but a deal nevertheless. The team definitely did not get weaker during the off-season.
Goaltending – 10/10
Ben Bishop is an elite goaltender, Vasilevskiy a very capable back-up to begin the season. There are no issues in Tampa when it comes to their goaltending, even if some will rightly suggest that Vasilevskiy still has something to prove. They might very well trade Bishop at one point considering he is UFA after this year, but right now this part of the team is very strong. In fact, I would argue they have the best duo in the league.
Defense – 8/10
You could always make a case for Victor Hedman himself pulling this off to an 9, but the depth isn’t there. The drop-off is too big from potential Norris-candidate Hedman and Anton Stralman to the next pairing. However, the Swedish duo will play big minutes and hopefully for the Lightning the pairings behind them will step up.
Hedman – Stralman
Garrison – Sustr
Coburn – Nesterov
Forwards – 9/10
The first two lines are just excellent. They have a franchise-player in Steven Stamkos, and there is just so much creativity and speed on Lightning’s offensive unit. Even the third and fourth lines have decent players, and they are not in any way there just to make up the numbers. If you have someone like Filppula anchoring your third line, you know you are doing something right. They will miss Ryan Callahan at the beginning of the season, but when he comes in later in the year it should prove to be a nice boost for the team.
Killorn – Stamkos – Drouin
Palat – T. Johnson – Kucherov
Namestnikov – Filppula – Point
J.T. Brown – B. Boyle – Paquette
Team Composition – 8/10
The defense drags this rating down. This is a strange thing to say considering they have their franchise defenseman in Victor Hedman, but the depth just isn’t there on defense. However, what they lack defensively they do make up for in offensive talent. When you factor in the best goaltending duo in NHL, you are left with an excellent team. This team is poised to go deep in the play-offs.
Leadership presence – 9/10
Stamkos, Hedman, Bishop, Filppula and Ryan Callahan. All excellent in the locker-room. You also have alternate captain Brian Boyle with his years of experience in the league. All in all, you can’t fault Lightning for their leadership.
Skill Value – 10/10
With players like Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov you cannot say the Lightning is lacking skill-players. When you add on Palat and Drouin, you are looking at one of the most exciting teams to watch in the league. Even with a slightly “iffy” defence, this team is poised to make a serious run at the cup.