Looking for some information on the Lightning Bolts? Look no further than right where and the 2013 Tampa Bay Lightning Team Preview with John Fontana of Raw Charge.
John Fontana is the managing general editor of Raw Charge, devoted to the Tampa Bay Lightning for the SB Nation sports network. He has personally been blogging about the Lightning since February 2004, making him one of the longest tenured hockey bloggers out there.
It wasn’t the best season for the Lightning, but they still had plenty of relevant fantasy options, which doesn’t project to change much this season. Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos are the known commodities, who might fly under the radar in Tampa Bay?
With the lack of roster turnover during the off-season, looking straight at under-the-radar options is kind of hazy: People know Teddy Purcell can be a spark-plug (or in the doghouse); Ryan Malone can chip in (when healthy). Tom Pyatt has quietly found a niche with the Lightning. His numbers aren’t huge, though (16 points in 43 games last season).
Who people need to keep an eye on is forward Alex Killorn and other options coming from Tampa’s farm team in Syracuse. Killorn made his NHL debut in 2013 and made a solid contribution on a shaky team ( 7 goals and 12 assists in 38 games); he could be joined by any number of offensive cogs from the Syracuse Crunch, including AHL MVP Tyler Johnson, former 1st round draft pick (2010) Brett Connolly, left wing Richard Panik, and solid two-way forward Ondrej Palat. These guys are all familiar with Lightning coach Jon Cooper’s system – they played under him before and have excelled.
Vincent Lecavalier scored 874 points to go along with 746 penalty minutes in his 1037 games with the Bolts. That is some good fake hockey and Lecavalier was a proven producer with the man advantage, can Valtteri Filppula thrive in a supporting role with the Lightning? And who do you project among their top 6 after Stamkos, St. Louis and Teddy Purcell?
Great fake hockey numbers, underappreciated at times in Tampa with thanks to his way-too-big contract, Vinny’ll be missed… But the Lightning system itself has the players who could step in to make up for the offensive loss of Lecavalier.
I can’t guess how Val is going to click on the Lightning 2nd line with his linemates, or exactly who they’ll be; he might click best with guys off the radar, like the Syracuse kids I just mentioned. That said, coach Cooper’s system shouldn’t stunt him… I just am not sure what to expect.
After Stammer, Marty and Teddy, Filppula will be in the top six, and I expect Alex Killorn there as well. Ryan Malone is often penciled into the top-six, but he could be displaced by the likes of Connolly or Panik. Keep an eye on that.
Jonathan Drouin was the team’s top pick in June and 3rd overall at the entry draft, but is he ready for the NHL? Most have already heard the play-making comparisons to Marty St. Louis, but do you think the Lightning will fast track him to the NHL? If so, what do you project for him in his first season?
Your readers need to know that my opinion on Drouin’s place on the roster seems to be the outlier among both fans and other Lightning bloggers, so when I say this, know that I’m one of very few who seem to think this: I have serious doubts Drouin to make the Lightning. That’s not crapping on his abilities in the slightest; it’s more about system depth and General Manager Steve Yzerman’s habit of taking it slow with prospects. Also, the offense wasn’t exactly the Lightning’s problem last season; they could score goals, but failed to hold leads.
Drouin also broke his foot over the summer and didn’t make the extent of the injury known to the public until the day before rookie training camp in Tampa.
Some fantasy players dream of Drouin on top line wing with Stamkos and St. Louis, but as it stands right now the open slots on the Lightning roster are on the third line. You haven’t heard much about Drouin’s ability to play two-ways, have you? Or to play the agitator role? He’d have to start there to move up to higher lines.
I could be dead wrong, but pending a roster move before the season starts that creates an offensive hole on the roster, I expect Drouin back in Halifax for 2013-14.
Victor Hedman is entering his 5th season in the NHL and coming off of his best offensive season, is there another level for the 23 year old? Can he crack 40 points this year, or even 50? Where do you put Hedman’s ceiling when he is in his prime?
Really good question. Hedman’s time in the KHL during the lockout is credited with an improvement to his game in 2013, and playing on an overwhelmed defense, he still managed 20 points and a plus-1 plus/minus. There are factors in play on the Lightning blue line and with coaching changes that could push Hedman to the next level if he adapts to the changes. I don’t think he’s at the top of his game yet, and it’ll be scary-good when he is.
There are a number of re-treads on the Bolts’ Blue Line and someone has to benefit offensively with so much talent up front. Who do you project to score the most points between Matt Carle, Eric Brewer and Sami Salo? Who should fantasy owners be targeting of the three?
Carle, but I also think there’s a 4th party here that should be marked “Sleeper”/”dark horse”/ “under the radar”: Radko Gudas. Gudas made his NHL debut in 2013 and secured himself a one-way contract for 2013-14. He’s not just a bruising defenseman known for his big hits and racking up PIMs, but also has shown offensive prowess in the AHL (being good for at least 20 points a season). He’s a righty shot to boot.
Another name to keep an eye on is Mark Barberio. He’s an offensive defenseman that’s been gestating in the AHL the past three seasons. He’ll have to displace one of the Lightning’s top-six D to see regular playing time in Tampa, but there’s a chance he makes the club as a 7th defenseman.
You shouldn’t call the Andres Lindback experiment a complete flop, but he didn’t rise to the occasion as a starter either. However, Ben Bishop didn’t fare much better statistically. So, who has the edge this season, or are we looking at a complete timeshare? More importantly though, can the Lightning tidy up defensively enough to aid their goaltenders and make them fantasy relevant?
Expect a timeshare to start in net between the two towering goalies until one netminder or another proves to be the more steady hand.
But on defense, coaching has changed in front of the crease. Rick Bowness, who had been in charge of defense in Vancouver, is now coaching the Lightning blue line… If Bowness can get his defensemen to perform their duties soundly, it should raise the numbers for both Lightning netminders.
For fantasy hockey players – be wary: goaltenders who started the season with the Lightning since 2010 haven’t had a save percentage better than .902 and a GAA under 2.56 (numbers posted by Lindback last season). During your fantasy draft, Tampa Bay goalies should be avoided.
Sleeper – Alex Killorn: Second year NHL’er will have top-six minutes and scoring opportunities; great hockey sense will put him in many situations.
Deep Sleeper – Radko Gudas: I cite him because, if you’re looking at the big names on the Lightning defense, you’ll overlook this guy.
Top Rookie – A lot of Candidates: There’s potential for many to earn this title – Jon Drouin, Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, Gudas, Ondrej Palat among them.
Bust – Ryan Malone: He is aging, brittle, and possibly pushed out.
Fantasy MVP – Toss Up: It’ll likely be a run between center Steven Stamkos and RW Martin St. Louis per usual.
Do you have questions you’d like to see answered about the Tampa Bay Lightning? Ask away in the comments below to make this 2013 Tampa Bay Lightning Team Preview even more complete.