Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The NHL's Most Intriguing Teams- Part 2 of 10; The Tampa Bay Lightning

Hey remember that NHL preview I was going to do?  Yeah, about that…the season starts in 4 days and I have done one of the promised 10 teams.  Let’s just copy and paste an intro in here and get right to it.  Time is short.
September is barely upon us, but it is never too early to start looking towards the NHL season. For the preview this year, a single column would feel incomplete, and to go through all 30 teams could get a bit tedious (Today, the New York Islanders. They sucked last year. They are going to suck again. Tomorrow the Carolina Hurricanes). Instead, let’s narrow it down. For the 2010 NHL preview, we will take a look at 10 teams that could be interesting in the coming season, working in reverse order of how they did last year.

That should do.

Intriguing Teams of 2010

9. The Tampa Bay Lightning

With Steven Stamkos haven taken the forefront from fellow top overall selection Vinnie Lecavalier in Tampa, can the Lightning compete in 2010-2011?

The hater in me wants to tear this team apart.  They don’t have much in the way of a D core.  Mats Ohlund is like 35 years old and wasn’t exactly a superstar in his prime. Viktor Hedman looks more like the Niklas Lidstrom of getting his freaking head taken off than the actual next Nick Lidstrom that he was billed as coming into their league.  You can’t even tell me who their third most notable defenseman is (it is Pavel Kubina, but that is boring.  I mean really boring.  Kubina isn’t a bad player, shit…I would take him in San Jose in a second, but I defy you to say one interesting thing about him.  Also they have no one else). 
At forward, they are top heavy, and that is probably putting it lightly.  They have about two, maybe two and a half lines that could play on more than 15 teams in the NHL.  The problem is, that as many problems as there are with actually thinking that this team could contend, and there are a ton, you can’t help but look at them and think…
I mean that top six…
It is good…
Really good.
Here it is, in case you don’t know:

St. Louis

There are not 5 teams in the league that wouldn’t trade their top six forwards for that.  Not a chance.  So can they carry the Bolts to the playoffs?
The simple answer is actually, very, disappointingly simple.  Probably not.  They just don’t have the depth.  But they will still be an interesting team to watch. 
Lecavalier and Stankos are the two guys that I will be looking out for this season. The reasons on Stamkos are simple and predictable.  He is clearly a budding superstar, who could go either way .  Last year, he stepped up big time in his sophomore year, and going into year three of his NHL career, the question becomes whether 2009-2010 was Stamkos’s ceiling, or if he will be the elite scorer in the league in the coming years.
Lecavalier is at a different crossroads.  Just a few years removed from being one of the top players in the game, and still within his prime window at 30, Lecavalier will have to show that he is still an elite player.  The skill set is still there, but the production has slipped the past couple of years.  I, for one, see Lecavalier bouncing back to elite status, and he will need to for this Lightning team to contend in 2010-2011.
Even with huge years from their three franchise players (the two above and St. Louis), even the playoffs seem like a stretch.  There just isn’t that much there beyond the marquee names, and eventually that will show.  You never know, though, if a super talented top end can be enough for the Lightning to surprise people this year.

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