The Lightning are now past the quarter mark of their relatively young season. With some new faces and other changes, it was important to give the team time to gel before giving them a “report card” or sorts. In this blog, I’ll take a look at forwards, defense, goaltending while giving an honest and blunt opinion on the team moving forward.
Top end talent hasn’t been an issue for this group for a few years. With names like Stamkos, St. Louis, Lecavalier and Malone, there hasn’t been much doubt in this team’s ability to get goals from the top six. Those four guys have been playing reasonably well with some ups and downs along the way. At least they are putting up points at reasonable paces right now. Would we like to see more from all of them? Absolutely. There is room to push those totals a little higher. That being said, after those four, who does this team have? Brett Connolly has been a nice surprise for the team; but, after him it’s pretty obvious that depth is going to be a huge issue for this team going forward. Dominic Moore is the 5th highest scoring forward on the squad with a whopping 6 points. Essentially, that means that a top 6 forward is scoring one point every four games. This is simply not good enough.
Let’s compare that with the Canucks, another offensive power house. The 5th highest scoring forward on the team has 11 points. That’s with and injured Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond as well. The bottom six forwards on the Canucks are generating just as much as some “top six” guys here in Tampa. That’s just wrong.
Obviously, moving forward this team is going to need a little bit more from everyone. They can’t win relying on Stamkos to score 60 goals per season. Teams will shut him down and realize that there isn’t another threat coming.
The defense has been pretty ugly this season and one of the reasons that this team sits in 10th place. It’s becoming increasingly apparent that Mattias Ohlund is one of the most important players on that blue line. He may not have the speed or offensive punch that he once did, but he can still keep pucks out of the Lightning net. Right now, that’s what this team needs. With him on the shelf, the Lightning have had to rely more on Eric Brewer, Pavel Kubina and Victor Hedman.
Out of that aforementioned group, Kubina has played as we would expect while Hedman and Brewer have struggled. When Brewer was brought in last season, Steve Yzerman looked like a genius. His play was so good as this team made its way down the stretch and into the playoffs. Why haven’t we seen that player this season? I honestly don’t have the answer.
As for Hedman, he needs to get back on that development track. I understand that he is only in his third NHL season, but it’s pretty safe to say that fans, coaches and management were expecting more at this point. The future could still be bright for Hedman, but the future of the Lightning is now.
Of course, we can’t blame the defense for all the shortcomings in the goals against category. So, we will take a look at goaltending.
Would it be wrong to say that Dwayne Roloson should have retired at the end of last season’s run? Now, I like Rollie just as much as the next guy. He singlehandedly saved this team’s goaltending situation when he was brought it. That being said, I don’t think anybody expected him to be the goaltender of the future.
Roloson’s stats this year are downright dreadful. The team doesn’t look confident when they play in front of him, nor do they look inspired by his play as they did last season. There were games that he outright stole for the team on a regular basis after he joined the Lightning. We just haven’t seen that this year.
Had Roloson retired, he could have ended on a good note. He played really well down the stretch and had one of the more impressive playoff runs that was seen last season. In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the right decision to keep playing.
Right now, Mathieu Garon is pretty much playing himself into the number one job. He hasn’t been spectacular but he has been solid nonetheless. Can this team rely on Garon to take them to that next level? Don’t count on it. He has been a career back up since joining the league. The Lightning are in need of a young goaltender that can carry this team into the future. Look for Steve Yzerman to trade for one of the young star goalies in the league (Schneider, Bernier?).
So what is the overall message to take from this blog? Depth is an issue with this hockey club as it moves forward. Depth in all positions is being tested right now and it is breaking down. Opposing teams are realizing how to defeat this team and it’s not pretty. Let’s hope that Steve Yzerman can address this issue fairly quickly as it would be heartbreaking to see this team miss the playoffs after last season’s success.
Thanks for reading.
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