The Tampa Bay Lightning aren't far from being a playoff team despite a tragic collapse in 2013.
The Tampa Bay Lightning may have missed the postseason the past two years, but they are only a few pieces away from reaching the extra season. With a new coach and established stars, the Lightning only have a few minor additions to make for the 2013-14 season.
Change is coming to the NHL next season in the form of realignment. The new opponents and playoff format have changed the pieces the Lightning will need to be a playoff team next season.
With optimism, the Lightning look forward to the offseason and picking up these pieces to become a playoff team in 2014.
Richard Panik is developing, but will it be fast enough to win with the group the Lightning have now?
The Lightning’s top six have a lot of potential but a lot of pressure. Richard Panik and Alex Killorn are untested in a full NHL season. Teddy Purcell is improving but not a first-line guy, and Martin St. Louis won’t be putting up MVP-like numbers for much longer.
Tampa Bay needs an effective top-six forward quickly. Whether they develop a high producer from younger players or bring one in, the Bolts need a scoring boost. Someone with some one-on-one skill would be a great complement to Steven Stamkos’ line.
Radko Gudas is one of the most physical players on the team, but the Bolts need more physicality to survive the new division.
Tampa Bay needs to bring in a physical presence to inspire a physical brand of hockey in the locker room. There are significant issues when the superstar sniper of the team is sixth on the team in hits and a less-than-healthy Vincent Lecavalier is fifth.
The Bolts join a division with three teams in the top 10 in hits, including league-leading Toronto (1,626). Ottawa (sixth) and Boston (10th) are the other two physical presences in the new division. All three teams made the playoffs in 2013.
Jon Cooper is growing into his NHL shoes, but the Lightning need more experience behind the bench.
Head coach Jon Cooper doesn’t have a lot of NHL experience, but the Lightning have some openings on that coaching staff that could be filled with experience. Tampa Bay made a step in that direction by bringing on Rick Bowness from the Vancouver Canucks.
Tampa Bay’s goaltenders have struggled mightily in the past few seasons, which could lead to different goaltending coach. Maybe recently available Pierre Groulx would be interested in a change of scenery.
Victor Hedman's future is bright for the Bolts. They need him to develop into a steady defenseman.
One of the biggest weaknesses for the Lightning was defense. Countless times there were opportunities to get the puck out of the zone that were missed due to a lack of composure, confidence and decision-making.
Finding a player like that is a difficult task. Players like Zdeno Chara, Ray Bourque and Scott Niedermayer are tough to find. That’s what makes the teams that have a player like that so tough to beat.
It’s a bit of a needle in a haystack, but the Lightning need to find a player like that.
Matt Carle was one of the Bolts' top penalty killers in 2013.
The addition of Rick Bowness to coach the penalty kill will only reach its full potential if the Lightning allow him to create his own units. When the Lightning reached the Eastern Conference Finals (2010-11), they finished eighth in the league on the PK.
The following season, they finished 26th and missed the playoffs. This season, the Bolts finished 19th and missed out on the extra games.
Bowness should be allowed one signing of his choice to help bolster the penalty kill—especially if the Lightning want to average 12 penalty minutes per game.