5-on-5: Five Ways The Lightning Will Be Better in 2014-2015
5-on-5 is a segment that looks quickly into things such as players, games and streaks.
The Tampa Bay Lightning took the NHL by surprise this past season and charged their way up into a playoff berth and a second place finish in the Atlantic Division.
Yes, they got to the playoffs but they also got swept by the Montreal Canadiens, meaning they still have some work to do if they want to hold up Lord Stanley’s chalice.
Here are five ways the team will be better than their 2013-2014 counterpart.
Seeing Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson receive nominations for the Calder Trophy is nice but it would be even better if they improve upon their seasons. Although that may not happen, having a solid season from them along with J.T. Brown, Alex Killorn and Radko Gudas, the team will only get better. The youth have their first full season completed and now the former rookies know what to expect in a full NHL season and a postseason as well.
Steve Yzerman made some big moves this offseason and addressed some needs defensively. He brought in Jason Garrison on the eve of the NHL Draft and got Anton Stralman in free agency. He also let 38-year old defenseman Sami Salo walk. Stralmanis a definite upgrade over Gudas and Salo with all due respect. He will probably be used to help fix Matt Carle, who had a rough season last year. Garrison is also a good move as he can help on special teams and quarterback the power play. These moves allow Gudas to play in a more comfortable role in the defense and eat up minutes that would normally go to Salo, Gudas and Eric Brewer and keep down the liability factor.
Ben Bishop may have played above his head last year but keep in mind, that some of his decline was after he suffered a wrist injury and he was still able to post 37 wins for the Bolts. He also was unavailable for the postseason too. Now his injury was from a collision before the Olympic break and well if he can avoid that, he should be good to go. Will he post the same numbers that he had last season? Maybe, maybe not but he should at least be able to offer solid depth. Along with Bishop is Evgeni Nabokov.Nabokov will help give spot relief for the team, which should prevent Bishop from being overused as he was last season. Not saying that Nabokov will take over the starting job but he should be able to spot start well.
When the young players came up it left a bit of a vacuum when it came to veteran experience in the locker room and that vacuum needed to be filled. Yzerman went ahead and addressed it by adding a few players to the mix. One is Ryan Callahan, who does bring a lot of leadership experience. Callahan has been injured in the past and hasn’t completed a full season but he does bring a lot of intangibles to the Lightning and gives them a bit of a different look from their “highly-skilled lacking size” forwards that they usually have. Another one is Brian Boyle. Boyle wasn’t brought in to replace Nate Thompson but just to take up a roster spot for it. He is a great penalty kill guy and has the size that Yzerman was searching for during free agency.
Unafraid of the consequences
Many can agree that Steve Yzerman makes moves as a GM with purpose. Sometimes those moves will look poorly on him such as the Guy Boucher hiring, Dwayne Roloson-Matheiu Garon goalie tandem. Others such as the Martin St. Louis trade, VincentLecavalier buyout and trading Teddy Purcell, Nate Thompson, B.J. Crombeen and SamGagner may cause the fans anguish but were really good moves. The point is, Yzermanisn’t afraid of the consequences of some of his moves. He will do what he feels is best for the team and that can make a GM dangerous.
Look no further than the Calgary Flames, GM Jay Feaster had his hands tied because he knew he needed a rebuild and was unable to trade Jarome Iginla for the best deal and ownership still wanted him to compete. Yzerman doesn’t face a situation like that and it means that there is no red tape when it comes to his decision-making.
All-in-all, the Lightning have a lot of good positive things to feel about this season and the next but ultimately it still comes down to their performance on the ice.