Following a busy offseason, it's time to see what kind of shape the Lightning are in as guys start arriving to the Florida area for training camp.
70 players hit the ice this morning, some with NHL jobs locked in, a few will be getting looks and an opportunity to make the club, others however probably already know that they will be headed back down to their respective teams for either more seasoning.
Around the hockey world there seem to be mixed expectations for the Lightning heading into the 2021-2022 season. 3 of the teams top players (along with a 1st) are gone with nothing to show for it, hence the firing of the previous GM Tyler Hetherington.
Last year Tampa Bay finished 7th in Atlantic division, 20th overall in the league with a record of 42-37-3. At home the team finished with a positive record of 22-17-2, while on the road the Lightning finished .500% on the season.
With the 3 big name losses up front, the Lightning are expected to take a step back in their offensive output. Lighting the lamp for 260 goals last season, was good enough for the 13th highest total in the league. On the season the team finished with a goal differential of 0 as they also gave up a total of 260 goals against which was the 12th highest number in the league given up.
The offseason additions up front are a downgrade from last season, leaving fans and the organization hoping that it does not hurt the development of it's young players.
Among those young players the core of Auston Matthews, Kirby Dach along with MacKenzie Blackwood between the pipes. Last season saw Auston Matthew's lead the league in goals with 49, while also leading the team in points with 97. This upcoming season we will see Pavel Buchnevich, 27 goals and 21 assists along with Andreas Athanasiou, 40 points last year, play much larger roles on the ice.
Lawson Crouse will be another player from last years team expected to take on a much larger role this year. Last season he was able to throw 120 hits in just over 14 minutes of ice-time a game while finding the back of the net 18 times.
Dougie Hamilton is the team's #1 Dman and is expected to see the majority of the ice time on the backend when the Lighting are on the powerplay. Last season Hamilton finished 6th in scoring among Dmen with 48 pts, and was 1st in the league with 153 blocked shots.
Team discipline is a focus here in training camp after the team (could not find the stat) spent a lot of time in the box playing undisciplined hockey. 3 of players finished in the top 15 in penalty minutes last year.
Coach Q, already on the hot-seat in Tampa, will be watched closely to see how he handles this going forward. It was rumored that GM and Team President Wes Mucyk were considering a coaching change this past offseason.
It is expected that the organization will be making Auston Matthews it's Captain sometime this week. Which only makes sense given he is their franchise player. The Assistant Captains are expected to be 2 of either Dach, Cernak or Crouse as the team tries to put some emphasis on it's youth being the most important pieces.
David Gustafsson, Filip Chytil and Grigori Denisenko will all be getting long hard looks this training camp, but the 3 are expected to be sent down to the farm for further development and the chance to get more icetime. Nicolas Robertson will get opportunities (fingers crossed on a future NHL re-rate) to showcase what he can do with the Syracuse Crunch, but only time will tell if his game will transition to the pro level.
So with a clear step back in firepower for the upcoming season, how will the Lightning fair once the puck drops on the season?