Last season saw the Tampa Bay Lightning post a 34-36-12 record which was good enough for fourth place in the Southeast Division, and 12th overall in the Eastern Conference. This has led them to selecting with the sixth overall pick in this year's NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles, Calif., June 25-26.
It was a season that saw the Lightning average 15,469 fans per game at the St. Pete Times Forum, which holds up to 19,758 for hockey games.
Over the course of an 82-game schedule the Lightning, under the guidance of general manager Brian Lawton and head coach Rick Tocchet, lost 100-man games to injury.
This would be the third season in a row that the Tampa Bay faithful have not seen playoff action. After being a city of champions earlier in the decade, this is an unacceptable result.
The Lightning won the Stanley Cup at the conclusion of the 2003-04 NHL playoffs. After that, the 2004-05 season was lost to the lockout, and the Lightning have not been the same team on or off the ice since.
The 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons saw them finish second in the Southeast Division, only to be knocked out of the playoffs in the first round both times. This past season and the year prior, were full of off-ice debacles between owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules.
Then this past season, Boston-based investment banker and former Boston Red Sox minority owner, Jeff Vinnik, bought the team and saved the players and fans from Barrie's and Koules' hijinks. Not liking the dysfunction and disarray he saw in the organization, Vinnik fired both Lawton and Tocchet on April 12, 2010.
This move wiped the slate clean, and last month allowed Vinnik to convince Steve Yzerman to sign a five-year GM contract to bring a culture of winning to the team.
Yzerman's first move as GM was to hire a new head coach in former Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL) skipper Guy Boucher to a four-year contract.
Yzerman and Boucher have a long task ahead of them, but both men seem to be on the same page as Vinnik in terms of how to turn this team into a consistent winner for the long term.
I think this quote form Yzerman sums the organizational philosophy perfectly: "The big picture is trying to build the team so that it can be really good in a few years. I don't want to just make the playoffs. … My goal is the bigger picture and really setting this thing up going forward. My goal is to improve the team in the offseason, but I'm not going to do anything that jeopardizes the long-term plan of draft, develop, sign good contracts, and allow, led by Stamkos, these younger players to develop. We're a ways away from being a serious contender."
Although all is not lost, and there are some key pieces already in place on this roster, let us take a closer look.