Predicting If Tampa Bay Lightning's Top Stars Will Improve or Decline in 2014
If there is one thing the Tampa Bay Lightning have a surplus of, it’s star players. Those stars’ production will be crucial to the team’s success in 2014. Will players like Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Matt Carle improve or decline next season?
The Bolts’ disappointing season was only compacted by the individual performances of players like Stamkos and reigning Art Ross Trophy winner St. Louis. Tampa Bay’s potent offense will need to duplicate similar success in 2014.
Based on career trends, overall production and general player development, here is a prediction for each Lightning star to improve or decline in 2014.
Martin St. Louis
Martin St. Louis made history in 2013 by becoming the oldest player to ever win the Art Ross Trophy. He put up 60 points in 48 games. He had 17 points in the last month of the season and an impressive seven points in the final three games to distance himself from teammate Steven Stamkos and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby.
The 60 points this season was a 1.25 points-per-game clip. He hasn’t reached that pace since his last Art Ross winning performance in 2006-07 (102 points in 82 games).
It’s tough to say that St. Louis will decline, but there isn’t really any way to put on a better performance in 2014.
Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos finished second in the league in points last season (57). After a 60-goal campaign last year, expectations were high.
Stamkos had a good year with 29 goals and 28 assists, but his career trends suggest a big season in 2014. If they can be considered “down” years, the Lightning sniper alternates between up and down years.
2008-09: 46 points (down)
2009-10: 95 (up)
2010-11: 91 (down)
2011-12: 97 (up)
2012-13: 57 (shortened season, down)
2013-14: Trend points to up.
Vincent Lecavalier is a huge financial commitment for the Tampa Bay Lightning. He has the team’s highest salary-cap hit ($7.727 million) through 2020.
The team captain had 32 points in 39 games and hasn’t played a full season since 2009-10. He has over 1,000 career games but has seen his production decline in each of his last three seasons.
With improvements around him, expect Lecavalier to put up better numbers in 2014.
Teddy Purcell is a budding star for the Lightning. He was third on the team in points last year with 36—a significant drop from St. Louis and Stamkos.
Purcell had 65 points in 81 games in 2011-12 and 36 points in 48 games this year. His production has been similar each year—around 0.8 points per game.
He enters his seventh season in the NHL but may be competing for time with players like Richard Panik, Alex Killorn or even a player like Jonathan Drouin.
Victor Hedman is arguably the brightest young player on the Tampa Bay roster. Hedman has improved his game in every facet since his rookie season in 2009.
Hedman has improved the physical aspect of his game as well as shot blocking and positioning. His brief stint in Russia during the lockout provided him with a great opportunity to further his game, which he applied this season.
If he can continue to improve his offensive game without sacrificing defense, Hedman could have a breakout season in 2014.
Matt Carle’s first season with the Lightning went pretty well. He finished with a plus-one rating and 22 points in 48 games.
The production of a defenseman is often related to overall team performance, especially as a top-pair blueliner. Carle’s positive rating is impressive given the Lightning’s track record on defense.
The 48-game season started to take its toll on Carle. He logged 30 shifts or more in nine of the 13 games in April. Unless the Bolts improve the defense around Carle this offseason, an 82-game campaign will make it tough to duplicate his success from 2013.