We’re less than 31 days away from the beginning of the 2017/18 season. Today we continue to dive into the 31 NHL teams in alphabetical order, take a look at their previous standings and upcoming season predictions, as well as their key additions and subtractions. Today we turn our attention to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
2016/17 record: 42-30-10
2017/18 prediction: Eastern Conference Final
Most of Steve Yzerman‘s work was done at the deadline. Shipping off key pieces such as Brian Boyle, Ben Bishop, Valtteri Filppula, and for a nano second Mark Streit. The biggest move though Yzerman saved for the summer, and it could define his tenure as general manager. That move was sending talented (but problematic winger) Jonathan Drouin to division rival Montreal Canadians for defensemen Mikhail Sergachev. This move helped Yzerman perform magic of avoiding having to deal with the potential cap issues of signing Drouin to an extension but Drouin could be a thorn in the Bolts side for years to come.
After the fire sale at the deadline the Lightning went on to miss the playoffs by one point. Could they have made a run like they have in previous years? Unlikely, but in missing out on the playoffs the Lightning gained something they haven’t had in a few years: a full summer. No player wants to be golfing while other teams are playing but the Bolts’ two long runs (losing to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 and losing in game 7 to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016) left more players with nagging injuries.
With a proven and potent (when healthy) forward group the question, and what the Bolts season will hinge on, is their defense. With Jason Garrison going to the Vegas Golden Knights, Dan Girardi was brought in to help add to the teams depth. The two main question marks will be Slater Koekkoek and Mikhail Sergachev. While Koekkoek has been with Tampa Bay, he has had shoulder injuries which hurt the talented puck movers draft stock. After spending most of the season last year in the AHL he signed a 1 year “prove it” deal over the summer. Sergachev on the other hand was acquired for a talented winger who was performing in the NHL. There will be every chance given for him to make the team, since he is not yet AHL eligible. If Sergachev does not make the team, it means that the Lightning would lose Drouin’s ability from this years team and not have brought in a piece to help them contend this year.
All this being said, this team will return to the light, especially with the all-star game being held in Tampa this season. Expectations are high and Lightning can’t strike twice with a string of bad luck with injuries… Can it?
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