The 5 Most Promising Signs for Tampa Bay Lightning's Future
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s young group of core players has received some deserved attention this year, which points to a promising future. The Lightning’s big move at the trade deadline made them younger and opened the door to the possibility of sustained success.
Tampa Bay has dressed 10 rookies this year, led by Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson. Considering other big pieces like Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos are under 25 years old, the Bolts have the potential to have some successful years in the future.
Predicting a franchise’s success is tough to do. Building a dynasty is even more difficult, as evidenced by the Detroit Red Wings’ consecutive postseason streak. Bolts fans should be optimistic about their future thanks to these positive signs.
Franchise goaltenders are rare in the NHL. Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils may be one of the last of his kind. Tampa Bay has a solid No. 1 goaltender in Ben Bishop and has solid prospects in the crease.
Bishop has—for the most part—stood up to every test of his first full-time NHL season. His numbers are outstanding. At just 27, his best years could be ahead of him.
If he stumbles, prospects like Kristers Gudlevskis and Andrey Vasilevskiy will be ready to cut their teeth on the NHL ice.
Levels of Greatness
The core group of young players on the Lightning that includes Radko Gudas, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and J.T. Brown have been playing together for years. Even if it isn’t at the highest level, the chemistry this group has developed and greatness it has achieved is invaluable.
This group won a championship in the American Hockey League and has taken that momentum to the NHL—along with their head coach, Jon Cooper. Winning is contagious, and this young group has found success on every level so far.
Some of the Lightning’s biggest leaders on the ice are locked down under contract for the next few years. Steven Stamkos is under contract until 2015-16. Valtteri Filppula’s deal runs through 2017-18 and Victor Hedman through 2016-17.
The sting of the loss of Martin St. Louis is subsiding, but he did leave a leadership void. The Bolts promoted Stamkos to captain and made Eric Brewer an associate captain, but leadership is more than the letter on the sweater.
The youth of Tampa Bay needs a strong group of leadership, and hopefully the leadership under contract sticks around for a few years. If they do, the Bolts could be a perennial postseason team.
The Bolts’ young team has found some solid success this season. A year after finishing near the bottom of the standings, a similar squad is fighting for supremacy in the Eastern Conference.
Lightning rookies have produced over 150 points this year, including two players nearing the 50-point mark. Stamkos is young and one of the best players in the league. Hedman is growing into one of the best offensive defensemen.
On the active roster, the Bolts have just three players over 30—with injured Mattias Ohlund making it four. Every win grows the team’s confidence and makes them more dangerous for years to come.
Pulling the Right Strings
Coach Jon Cooper is in his first full season behind the Lightning bench, but he has already found success. He is a player’s coach and seems to pull all of the right strings to get his team to perform.
Bolts fans may be cautious after the quick start from previous coach Guy Boucher, but Cooper seems to have a different aura. He has full confidence in his players and allows them to play their own game.
Cooper has the AHL championship under his belt as well. He is a winning coach at that level and is winning in the NHL.
With a solid ownership group, a good front office and talent behind and on the bench, the Bolts’ future looks bright.