5 Burning Questions for Tampa Bay Lightning's 2013-14 Season

Eric SteitzAnalyst IIISeptember 22, 2013

5 Burning Questions for Tampa Bay Lightning's 2013-14 Season

0 of 5

    The Tampa Bay Lightning look to make a new mark on the Atlantic Division this season.
    The Tampa Bay Lightning look to make a new mark on the Atlantic Division this season.Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images

    In just two weeks, the Tampa Bay Lighting will start their quest for the 2013-14 season. Every new season brings optimism and questions, and the Lightning have a few burning questions for themselves.

    Tampa Bay’s struggles in goal and on defense have been apparent for the past few seasons. Finishing in the bottom five of the league in each of the past two seasons (26th and 30th), the Bolts look to change their reputation in a new division. 

    With the season opener slated for Oct. 3 against the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay will need to find answers to these five burning questions for the 2013-14 season.

Will Jonathan Drouin Play More Than Nine Games?

1 of 5

    Jonathan Drouin hasn't had a great start to the preseason, but he has done enough to stick around.
    Jonathan Drouin hasn't had a great start to the preseason, but he has done enough to stick around.Jeff Griffith-USA TODAY Sports

    The Lightning’s 2013 first-round draft pick, Jonathan Drouin, has had a tough start to his NHL career. In his first preseason with the club, Drouin has yet to register a point—though he has only played in two games.

    Drouin is one of a group of players still fighting for roster spots. He survived the first wave of demotions partially due to a slick shootout winner against the Florida Panthers.

    Most signs point to Drouin being a part of the Lightning’s big club on opening day. The biggest question is, how long will he stay?

Will the Team Be Physical Enough to Make a Mark?

2 of 5

    Radko Gudas has a physical side of his game. The Lightning will need to bring it on a nightly basis.
    Radko Gudas has a physical side of his game. The Lightning will need to bring it on a nightly basis.Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

    The Atlantic Division has some extremely physical teams. Toronto finished last season with almost 200 more hits than any other team in the league. Ottawa and Boston also finished in the top 10.

    Tampa Bay will look to be a combination of size, skill and physical play this season. The latter could be a big reason why a few players even make the team. Players with big(ger) bodies like Ryan Malone, Ondrej Palat and Richard Panik could be utilized in all sorts of roles.

    Playing against teams like Detroit, Montreal and Boston every night will force the Lightning to stand their ground. Will they be able to make a mark?

What Will a Jon Cooper Team Look Like?

3 of 5

    Jon Cooper begins his first complete season behind the Lightning bench in 2013-14.
    Jon Cooper begins his first complete season behind the Lightning bench in 2013-14.Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    This is the first real opportunity coach Jon Cooper has had to establish his system and his philosophies with the Lightning. Taking over late last season, Cooper didn’t have much time to implement his changes. With a full training camp and preseason slate, 2013-14 will bring a new identity to the team.

    It’s tough to tell what exactly a team will look in the regular season with all of the shuffling and condensed schedule of games in the preseason, but it does give us an idea. So far, the Bolts have shown a creativity in the offensive end and have been a little bit sharper coming out of the zone.

    There are still issues to be worked out and way too many goals against, but that could be partly due to a lack of chemistry. What the team will look like under Cooper should be an interesting season-long question. 

Is Steven Stamkos Ready to Win the Hart Trophy?

4 of 5

    The NHL is full of top-level talent. Is Steven Stamkos ready to take his game to the Hart Trophy level?
    The NHL is full of top-level talent. Is Steven Stamkos ready to take his game to the Hart Trophy level?Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Steven Stamkos could be given the captaincy on Oct. 1 when the team holds the event. Regardless of the “C”, Stamkos needs to take his game to the next level. With so many young players vying for spots, it will be up to him to provide scoring early in the season.

    He hasn’t broken the 100-point mark in a season—yet—but he will, and 2013-14 would be a great time to do it. In the shortened campaign, Stamkos averaged well over a point per game, and a similar pace would put him on a new level.

    Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Chicago’s Patrick Kane are healthy, and so is a renewed Alex Ovechkin in Washington. Is Stamkos ready to join the ranks of the elite Hart Trophy winners?

Can the Lightning Be Consistent Enough to Make the Playoffs?

5 of 5

    The Lightning are looking to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2011.
    The Lightning are looking to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2011.Jeff Griffith-USA TODAY Sports

    If the shortened season taught fans anything, it’s to not get too high with a win and not get too low with a loss. The Bolts started last season off on fire. A return to the postseason was on the minds of everyone in Lightning blue—then the wheels came off. 

    Tampa Bay struggled to find consistency and not only missed the playoffs but also finished 14th in the 15-team Eastern Conference. The new and young faces for the Bolts and the new blood behind the bench brings a sense of excitement to Tampa Bay.

    The Lightning need to find a way to play consistently. As basic as it sounds, just win the week. If the Bolts go .500 or above every week, they will be in good shape come April. The question is, can they be consistent enough to make the postseason?