Complete 2013-14 Season Preview for the Tampa Bay Lightning
Fans will hope the preseason wasn’t a fluke. Much like the hot start to the abbreviated season last year, the Lightning went 5-2 in this year’s preseason. The Lightning went undefeated in four “home” games, which is a good sign.
Still, preseason success doesn’t count towards the postseason—an achievement the Lightning haven’t earned since 2011. Head coach Jon Cooper has had a full offseason to make this team his own. Here is a complete look at the 2013-14 season for the Bolts.
Key Roster Changes
The Lightning could have a revolving door for a few spots. With all of the young talent and depth at forward, don’t be surprised to see new faces throughout the season.
This offseason, the Bolts did a nice job of providing Cooper with his own team. Cooper should be able to put the systems and players into place through a few key offseason acquisitions.
Arrivals: Valtteri Filppula (free agent), Jonathan Drouin (draft)
It was a quiet offseason for the Bolts. They will rely on organizational depth and young talent to complete the 82-game season, which includes the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Projected 2013-14 Depth Chart
On Sept. 29, the Lightning announced their final roster cuts. One notable cut was first-round selection Jonathan Drouin. Included in the eight-defensemen roster are Mattias Ohlund (injured) and Brian Lee—who got demoted to the AHL last season. Expect some fluidity in this final 23-man roster.
Ryan Malone-Stamkos-St. Louis
(Keith Aulie, Mark Barberio, Brian Lee, Mattias Ohlund)
Goalies: Ben Bishop, Anders Lindback
With secondary scoring as a focus for the Lightning’s new direction, Alex Killorn can step into a bigger role. Possibly a second-line forward, Killorn got a taste of the NHL last season. He had 19 points in 38 games last season.
He is a minute-eater—averaging nearly 17 minutes per game last year. Though he is young in NHL years, Killorn is a veteran of the game. He finished his NCAA career at Harvard and has gone through the minor-league ranks.
As a versatile two-way player, Killorn could see a significant amount of time as a top-six forward. He has garnered some noteworthy praise in his young career.
Per Mike Morreale of NHL.com, Tampa Bay director of amateur scouting Al Murray said:
"He progressed every year as a player both offensively and defensively. He's got a quick release and a nose for the net offensively, and is a real big body and hard player to play against without the puck. Alex is a player we've been waiting for and are excited about."
Best and Worst Case Scenarios
The Lightning have been a polarizing team since the 2004 Stanley Cup Championship. Tampa Bay has intermittent years of greatness followed by dark spells that include horrible finishes. Last year, they finished 28th in the league and look to bounce back to playoff form.
Best Case: The Atlantic Division is a tough new home for the Lightning. With five playoff teams from last season, it won’t be easy to get to the postseason. There is no denying the Lightning have the talent to make the playoffs—it’s about execution and consistency.
The top three from each division make the playoffs with two wildcard spots. Best-case scenario for the Lightning is that coveted top-three finish. That would mean solid goaltending and average defense.
The offense will be there. It’s up to the rest of Cooper’s system to mesh.
Worst Case: The worst-case scenario for the club this season is a repeat of last year. The Bolts started the year off on top of the standings before hitting some rough ice. By the time all was done, the Lightning found themselves drafting the No. 3 pick—not a good spot.
An up-and-down—or majorly down—season could warm up the seat for general manager Steve Yzerman. There is always that possibility with all of the young players looking to make an impact this year, but Tampa Bay can ill afford that performance against so many powerhouse franchises.
Bolts finish Third in Atlantic
The Atlantic Division is going to be a tough division. Buffalo and Florida could be considered the weakest teams. With Ryan Miller in goal in Buffalo and Tim Thomas in Florida, no one will want to face either squad if the goaltenders get hot.
Tampa Bay will be in a dogfight for the postseason, but if they pull the right strings should be on the positive sign of the cutoff.
Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Victor Hedman, Matt Carle and Ben Bishop will need to play at a high level while the young players get acclimated to the NHL. Cooper will have his hands full, but he has found success at every level.
It’s time to bring that success to the NHL.