The Tampa Bay Lightning prepare for the upcoming season with optimism and a long road ahead.
The preseason is less than two months away, but storylines are already surrounding the Tampa Bay Lightning’s stars. The Bolts weren’t very active this offseason, which kept the majority of the star power in the lineup.
Tampa Bay starts its 2013-14 preseason schedule against St. Louis on September 18. That will be the first opportunity to see what the Lightning will look like with a full training camp under coach Jon Cooper.
Excitement is high for the upcoming season—the 10th anniversary of the Lightning’s Stanley Cup—and here are the biggest storylines surrounding the Bolts’ biggest stars.
Steven Stamkos already has a decorated career but he is missing one big piece of hardware.
Is he the best player in the league?
Steven Stamkos is one of the best players in the league. TSN ranked him No. 4 heading into the 2012-13 campaign behind only Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Claude Giroux. Will Stamkos ever be the best player in the league?
At just 23, Stamkos has won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy twice, including a 60-goal season in 2011-12. He is already one of the most prolific scorers in the game, but he is missing one very important piece of hardware—the Hart Memorial Trophy.
While the Hart is technically an individual award, winning it would mean great things for Stamkos and for the Lightning.
Martin St. Louis could be in for one heck of a season next year with the Olympics and playoffs on the radar.
Will the Olympics slow him down?
Martin St. Louis is a legend. The 38-year-old winger is coming off of an Art Ross Trophy-winning season and is looking to continue leading the franchise into a new division. As will be the case every season until he retires, the biggest storyline around St. Louis is how well he performs at his age.
After a 25-point drop in production from 2011 to 2012, St. Louis could have been written off and blame it on age. He didn’t and bounced back for a great season last year.
Sure, he benefited from the shortened season, but it is still the NHL. He showed up every game and did his job. He just did it more effectively than anyone else in the league.
The trick this season will be the Olympic break. If he is on Team Canada, will the extra games affect the final stretch of his NHL season? He, like everyone else, is going from a shortened season to a potentially extended season.
Victor Hedman will play a big role on the blue line for the Bolts in 2013-14.
Is Victor Hedman poised for a breakout year?
Victor Hedman was on track for a career year coming out of the lockout last year. He said that he worked extensively on his offensive game while playing in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. That work led to a career-best points-per-game average of .45 last season.
Hedman—second overall pick in 2009—made great strides last season on both ends of the ice. He finished the season plus-one—a difficult feat for anyone on the Lightning’s blue line last season.
Averaging more than 22 minutes per game, Hedman will be a big part of the Lightning’s defense next season. He had just two points on the power play last season, but if he gets more production there, he could be headed to a breakout year.
This year isn’t a bad time either, as he enters the second year of his five-year, $20 million deal.
The Lightning expect Matt Carle to be a top-pair defenseman. His second season with the Bolts is a great time to exceed expectations.
Will Matt Carle live up to his contract?
Matt Carle was one of the big offseason acquisitions in 2012. He signed a six-year, $33 million deal that garnered a lot of attention. He put up 22 points last season and will be called upon to improve on that total.
Carle’s in-zone efforts will be even more scrutinized. As a top-pair defenseman, the Lightning need him to be able to move the puck effectively out of their zone. Effective puck movement will be even more crucial against teams like Boston, Toronto and Detroit.
He signed a hefty contract to come to Tampa Bay, now he needs to earn it.