Will The Tampa Bay Lightning Make The Playoffs In 2010-11?
Highlighted by free agent signings Teddy Purcell (F), Chris Durno (F), Marc Pouliot (F), Brett Clark (D), Pavol Kubina (D) and Dan Ellis (G), Yzerman has slowly put together the makings of a playoff contender in Tampa.
Other notable moves include trading for veteran forward Simon Gagne and assembling a much improved coaching staff that now includes Guy Boucher (head coach), Rick Wilson (associate coach), Martin Raymond (assistant coach) and Dan Lacroix (assistant coach).
While there is no “Gucci” name amongst Tampa’s coaching staff, Yzerman believes his coaching staff will bring a new direction to the hockey club and supply the team with plenty of innovative coaching, something Boucher is known for.
The guidance of Yzerman, a new coaching staff, the addition of several key players and a roster that already includes the likes of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Steve Downie, reigning goal-scoring champion Steven Stamkos, Mattias Ohlund and Victor Hedman, makes Tampa one of the favorites to compete for a playoff spot and, with a little luck, perhaps even compete for the Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay finished the 2009-10 season with a paltry 34-36-12 (80 points) record, finishing 12th in the Eastern Conference, 25th overall.
The Lightning’s 80 points was not enough to get them into the playoffs, as they came up eight points shy, behind the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers, both teams finishing with 88 points which secured the eighth and seventh playoff spots, respectively.
Despite Steven Stamkos 51 goals last season the Lightning struggled offensively, finishing 23rd overall in offense with an average of 2.60 goals scored per game.
Comparatively, the Lightning were one of the NHL’s worst defensive teams, finishing 27th overall in keeping the puck out of the net, finishing with a 3.08 goals against per game.
As poor as the Lightning’s 2009-10 season went, there is plenty to be optimistic about for the upcoming season.
Free agent goaltender Dan Ellis has the ability to drastically improve his numbers. A duo of Ellis and Mike Smith, while not imposing, should be very solid.
The additions of Clark on defense will help out dramatically in the shot blocking department where Clark finished second overall last season (238) while Kubina’s return to Tampa should give the Bolts a shot in the arm in the puck moving department.
The addition of Simon Gagne gives the Lightning some more depth at forward. His veteran savvy and leadership qualities should endure him to the coaching staff and teammates alike, while his offensive contributions will be welcomed with open arms.
On defense Victor Hedman should see a great improvement on his rookie season, while veterans Ohlund and Kubina should help to anchor what is shaping up to be a decent defense.
No question, the Lightning would be wise to seek out another addition or two on defense, but the overall picture is good enough to get the job done in the East.
More importantly, the Lightning’s ownership woes look to be a thing of the past with Jeff Vinik looking to make the Lightning a winning franchise both now and for the future.
Vinik, who became the owner of the Lightning in March, 2010, is on record as saying, “I pledge to our fans that I will work my hardest as the caretaker of this franchise to build it into a world class organization, both on and off the ice”.
This summers coaching and player additions will go a long way in securing a better future for a franchise that has had plenty of trouble both creating and solidifying a viable fan base.
It appears as if all the pieces are in place for the Lightning to have a very successful 2010-11 season. Now all they have to do is go out and prove they are worthy of making the playoffs.
Until next time,