NHL: Around the League in 30 Days, Day Six– Tampa Bay Lightning

Brad LeClair@beerad87Correspondent ISeptember 6, 2010

Steve Yzerman, the Lightning's new GM has brought a new found anticipation for hockey to the Tampa Bay Area.
Steve Yzerman, the Lightning's new GM has brought a new found anticipation for hockey to the Tampa Bay Area.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Day Six: Tampa Bay Lightning 

2010 Record: 34-36-12 (80 Points) finished fourth in the Southeast Division

Roster Changes

2010-2011 Notable Arrivals: Pavel Kubina (ATL), Simon Gagne (PHI), Dominic Moore (MTL), Dan Ellis (NSH), Randy Jones (LA), Brett Clark (COL), Marc-Andre Pouliot (EDM), Sean Bergenheim (NYI)

2010-2011 Notable Departures: Antero Niittymaki (SJ), Andrej Meszaros (PHI), Alex Tanguay (CGY), Matt Walker (PHI), Todd Fedoruk (FA), Stephane Veilleux (FA), Kurtis Foster (EDM), Mark Parrish (Bought Out–FA), Matt Lashoff (TOR)

Lightning Report Card

Forwards: Lightning fever has hit the west coast of Florida, as the Tampa Bay Lightning have a new found optimism under general manager Steve Yzerman. He’s already started the retooling phase with the Lightning by adding to an already talented core group of forwards.

Yzerman, realizing the Flyers were in cap trouble, traded for forward Simon Gagne and in the process replaced the departed Alex Tanguay, who never amounted to much in a Lightning uniform.

Returning veterans Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone will give the Lightning one of the best top-six forward combinations with Gagne added to the fold.. Lecavalier will look to improve on a less than stellar 2009-2010 campaign which saw him only score 24 goals and assist on 46 for only 70 points in 82 games. St. Louis and Malone will just look to continue doing what they’re doing; both of whom had well above average years last year.

The Lightning’s offensive prowess though can be attributed to two young studs on their roster, Steven Stamkos and Steve Downie. Stamkos scored 51 goals and essentially ran the Lightning powerplay last year, showing what made him a first-overall selection in 2008. Downie, who was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers, eventually found a home in Tampa Bay. He has the potential to put up 20 goals and 200 penalty minutes a year.

Top Fantasy Forwards in 2010-11: C Steven Stamkos (52G/45A/97Pts/+4), RW Martin St. Louis (24G/69A/93Pts/+10), C Vincent Lecavalier (28G/52A/80Pts/-3) LW Simon Gagne (25G/30A/55Pts/+8), RW Steve Downie (21G/21A/42Pts/210PIM)

Overall Grade:  B+

Defence: Last year, the Lightning had one of the worst overall defences in the league. They did not score enough and they did not keep the puck out of their net. Rookie defenceman Victor Hedman in 2009-2010 was a flop and never really adjusted to the NHL. Newcomer Mattias Ohlund didn’t score a goal the entire season after being a pretty steady performer for the Canucks the previous 11 seasons.

Yzerman saw a need and addressed it almost immediately by bring in former Lightning stalwart Pavel Kubina, shotblocker extraordinaire Brett Clark and added Randy Jones for some quality depth. They have yet to sign restricted free agent Paul Ranger.

Going into the next season, the least you can expect out of the defence is some marked improvement out of everyone. Victor Hedman will be the defender who will need to make significant strides next season.

Top Fantasy Defenders in 2010-11: Pavel Kubina (14G/31A/45Pts/-3), Victor Hedman (8G/26A/34Pts/-1), Mattias Ohlund (3G/26A/29Pts/-4)

Overall Grade: B

Goaltending:  The Lightning goaltending was not as bad as it seemed. The tandem of Mike Smith and Antero Niittymaki saw plenty of pucks last year and making a lot of saves in the process.

With Niitymaki now in San Jose, the Lightning added goalie Dan Ellis from the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators. The Habs acquired his rights from the Predators along with Dustin Boyd for Sergei Kostitsyn, but failed to sign him to a contract. He opted to sign in Tampa Bay and the Lightning couldn’t be happier.

Ellis should see about 50 starts this season, and will eventually evolve into their number one goalie come season’s end. Still, questions remain as to whether Dan Ellis has the experience to be a number one goalie and guide the team to the promise land.

Top Fantasy Goaltender in 2010-11: Dan Ellis (30 W/20L/4OTL 2.53 GAA, .908 SV%)

Overall Grade: B-

Top 5 Prospect Watch (via hockeysfuture.com)

1. RW Brett Connolly

Age: 18

Drafted: 1st Round (6th overall) by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010 NHL Entry Draft

Current Team: Prince George Cougars (WHL)

Key Attributes: Connolly is a pure offensive talent who can make plays at a high rate of speed. He can score goals as well as set them up. Connolly will have to adjust to the tighter checking, physical nature at the level of the pro game but he is an elite talent capable of dominating games. Connolly’s hip injury was a big source of concern heading into the 2010 draft but a preliminary report indicated that he is recovering and was impressive during the summer prospect camp with the Lightning. He has added size to his frame since his early junior days and is much stronger on the puck in tight areas.

2. RW Carter Ashton

Age: 19

Drafted: 1st Round (29th Overall) by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Current Team:  Regina Pats (WHL)

Key Attributes:  Ashton has developed into a consistent two-way performer and has quietly impressed scouts. Ashton possesses pro size and has demonstrated that he understands and accepts his role. A polished player with regards to the defensive nuances of the game he has added some offense to his game and drives to the net hard. Ashton’s skating technique may need to improve as he advances to higher levels. Ashton is the son of former NHL winger Brent Ashton, who played 998 regular season games in the NHL

3. G Dustin Tokarski

Age:  21

Drafted: 5th round (122nd overall), by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Current Team: Norfolk Admirals (AHL)

Key Attributes: Tokarski is known for his calm demeanor and is a reliable goaltender in pressure situations. Despite concerns about how vulnerable he may be against top level scorers due to his small frame and a perceived tendency to commit to the low shots too early, Tokarski has had an ability to win games and come up big in the clutch throughout his career to this point. He consistently puts up good games and rarely has an off night.

4. C Dana Tyrell


Drafted:  2nd round (47th overall) by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2007 NHL Entry Draft

Previous Team: Norfolk Admirals (AHL)

Key Attributes: Tyrell is a two-way forward with a high level of dedication and a commitment to off-ice conditioning. He does not play a physical or abrasive style but has playmaking ability and is capable of scoring goals – he was especially effective on the power play during his junior days. A bit undersized at the pro level, Tyrell is strong on his skates and has good hockey instincts though he is sometimes inconsistent in his defensive play. Tyrell can play either center or wing.

5. RW Richard Panik

Age: 21

Drafted: 2nd Round (52nd overall) by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2009 NHL Entry Draft

Current Team: Belleville Bulls (OHL)

Key Attributes: Panik is a highly-skilled, offensively-gifted forward with the size and speed needed to be a constant scoring threat. Like many young goal scorers, he has not yet developed his game on the defensive end – and is inconsistent in that area. Panik gained valuable experience playing in his first year in North America last season as well as with Slovakia playing against pros at the World Championships. He is still growing and developing but is a very promising offensive forward.

Fantasy Outlook

Analysts’ Fantasy Stud: C Steven Stamkos

Playing with Martin St. Louis allowed Stamkos to shake off the stigma of a sophomore jinx and he exploded for 51 goals last season. Expect more of the same next season with Stamkos joining St. Louis and Downie on the Lightning’s top line

Analysts’ Player to Avoid: C Vincent Lecavalier

Lecavalier has already been passed on Tampa’s depth chart by Stamkos for top line center and it appears it may be a downward slide for Lecavalier in the coming years. The addition of Simon Gagne will give the Quebec native a linemate to pass to, and Ryan Malone should be parked in front of the goalie, but how much time he receives on the powerplay. With the additions of Gagne and Kubina to an already lethal powerplay, Lecavalier may see second unit minutes on the Lightning.

Analysts’ Sleeper Special: G Dan Ellis

Coming into the season, Dan Ellis never really received any consistent minutes at goalie in Nashville while stuck behind Pekka Rinne. This season however, Ellis comes into the season as the odds on favorite to be the Lightning’s number one goalie. He shouldn’t be considered a number one goalie in many leagues, but he’s probably one of the best options you can get later on in your drafts. Hold for him right now, because next year, he should be a top 125 ranked player in the NHL.

Expectations and Predictions

The Lightning right now appear to be the most improved team on paper heading into the 2010 season. Additions Simon Gagne, Pavel Kubina, Dan Ellis and Brett Clark will all have plenty of pressure to perform up to their capabilities, and if they do, you will see marked improvement for the Lightning. The only questions that remain are can the Lightning’s bottom two lines hold down the fort while the top six rest, and does Dan Ellis have the ability to backstop a team to a playoff berth? As you can tell with our prediction, we do believe in Ellis’ abilities as a number one goalie.

Prediction: 8th in the East.

Overall Team Grade: B


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