New General Manager Steve Yzerman has made all the right moves since taking the top job in Tampa. The Lightning made the playoffs for the first time in four seasons, and came within a 1-0 loss in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals of playing for the Stanley Cup. What whould NHL bettors expect from this club in the 2011-2012 season?
Now the expectations are nothing short
of a Southeastern Division title, and the Stanley Cup finals.
franchise is led by two star forwards who helped it win the Stanley Cup in
2003-04: 36-year old right wing Martin St. Louis, and 31-year old team captain
Vincent Lecavalier. While most players St. Louis' age would be on the downside,
the 5'8" dervish St. Louis has never been most players.
Last year he led
the team in regular season and playoff points, with 99 and 19 respectively. He
also picked up his second straight Lady Byng trophy. Later, he had his teeth
rearranged by Zbynek Michalek's high-stick in the first round of the playoffs,
to the tune of a double root canal, and didn't miss a game.
may be even more important to the team. At 6'4", 208 lbs, he is a fierce
forechecker and a two-way presence in front of the net. He had a down year last
year, missing 17 games and scoring the fewest regular season points (54) since
his 2001-02 campaign. However, once the playoffs started, he really asserted
himself with a +6 plus/minus, and 19 points that were second only to St. Louis'
Stamkos' newfound financial security
NHL GM wants one, and Steve Yzerman has one: a legitimate superstar player in
his early 20s. And now Steven Stamkos will be a Bolt for the next five years,
at the relative bargain of $37 million. Not bad for a 45-goal scorer who hasn't
missed a game in two years. If there is an area for the explosive Stamkos to
improve, it is playoff performance. His production was rather ordinary, with 13
points and a -5 plus/minus rating in 18 games. Since Stamkos and his contract
are far from ordinary, the fans will expect more from him this year.
all due respect to Cedrick Desjardins, who started and won two games for Tampa
Bay last year, the bulk of the goaltending work was done by three men: Dan
Ellis, Mike Smith, and Dwayne Roloson. Ellis and Smith were solidly mediocre;
both won just a few more games then they lost in nets despite not being able to
muster a .900 save percentage.
Smith allowed 2.90 goals per game, Ellis 2.93.
Roloson assumed the starting role after Yzerman acquired him midseason,
starting 34 games and putting up markedly better numbers than Smith and Ellis:
2.56 goals against average, .912 save percentage and four shutouts.
valuable as Roloson was to Tampa last year, he is officially ancient at 41
years old. He is the oldest active NHL player now that Mark Recchi hung his
skates up, and the last active player born in the 1960s. He signed a one-year
deal to remain with the Lightning this offseason, and it's doubtful he'll play
much beyond that, if at all.
Mike Smith departed for Phoenix via free agency, but
Yzerman picked up a serviceable stopgap this offseason in Mathieu Garon, who
posted .903 and .901 save percentages the last two years, getting regular work
between the pipes for the Columbus Blue Jackets. If Roloson shows his age this
year, Garon will be the key to a deep Stanley Cup playoff run, or a first-round
on the dots
of Tampa's top two centers, Lecavalier and Stamkos, were particularly effective
in winning face-offs last year. Lecavalier was a 50/50 face-off man, while
Stamkos won 46.5 percent of his face-offs. A losing face-off percentage makes
Stamkos a liability on offensive zone face-offs, an infuriating shortcoming for
a player who needs to be on the ice when play starts in the opponents' end.
career-high face-off percentage is 53.2, and he has won fewer than half of his
face-offs in eight out of 12 years in the league. At this point he can't really
be expected to exceed those numbers by much, even in the best possible
scenario. Stamkos, however, is still a developing talent and needs to push his
face-off figure above 50 percent for the first time in his career if he ever
wants to be as valuable to his team as, say, Jonathon Toews is to his.
is a team whose time is now, before St. Louis and Roloson decline and retire.
Although several free agents (most notably, Sean Bergenheim and Simon Gagne)
were not retained, the top six forwards are frighteningly good, and there are
highly touted young prospects such as Brett Connolly and Carter Ashton coming
up to fill in the ranks.
The Lightning are good on the power play and on the
kill, and could be an elite team in 2011-12 if they can improve on the
face-off, and shave their 2.85 goals against per game down to the 2.4 range.
16/1 NHL odds to win the Cup, the Lightning are a good value NHL futures bet.