Offseason Review: Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning came away runners-up in the last NHL campaign, and that certainly appears to be no fluke.  In fact, they appear to be well situated to be either near or at the top for the near future.  Even after the Blackhawks dispatched them in an epic Stanley Cup final, the league was already swirling with conversation about how strong the team from Tampa Bay looked to be in years to come.  The Lightning is right to put caution to the wind, however, because success this year carries with it no guarantee of it in the next.  They will certainly use the offseason to look for ways that they can get even stronger and shore up any perceived weak components in their lineup.

Graphic via tbo

Ben Bishop appears to be solidly back in the lineup.  Even though his play has been a bit unsettling at times, he has demonstrated some of the best puck handling skills in the league.  He will return next season, and for that the Lightning faithful are most pleased.  In reality, however, Bishop may not be in the same role that he enjoyed previously.  Time will tell if he can hold up under a slew of recent injuries that he has bounced back from.

The Lightning are also doing well with securing young talent that mature quickly, but to the despise of other clubs around the league. Consider 20-year old Andrei Vasilevskiy as an example.  He is widely regarded as one of the their top prospects, and made two appearances during the finals, despite his young age. He is big, nimble, and aggressive.  He also has solid technique on the ice, is teachable, and is endeared to the Tampa Bay fans already.  He appears well on his way to helping the Lightning contend for years to come. While he may not see much ice time in the majors this coming season, although that is a possibility, he will be learning and continuing to grow ready to demonstrate his skills when the time comes.

The beauty of Tampa Bay lies in how well rounded the club truly is.  As good as they are on offense, they have equal skills on defense.  Last offseason saw them spend big on Anton Stralman, and that has paid off enormous dividends already.  He will be back, along with Jason Garrison, Matt Carle, and Baydon Colbrun.  Each of them are just now learning to play well together and should continue to develop into a back end of the ice that is quite formidable. They also have some young players are defense in the minors that are just coming into their own, so they have reserves should the starters start to falter.

In summary, Tampa Bay was the highest scoring team in the NHL last season, and they will certainly be eligible to make another run at that honor this next season. They have leadership and they have pose.  The rest of the offseason will likely see them continue to look for that one move or two that will put them over the top and position them at another run at the Stanley Cup during the 2015/2016 season.

Graphic via rantsports


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