With the books now officially closed on the 2018-19 season for the Tampa Bay Lightning, it‘s time to sit back and evaluate what happened.
Why did the Lightning not play anything like they had played for 82 games? What changes does the team need to make to put them over the top and bring a Stanley Cup to Tampa?
Lightning GM Julien BriseBois and coach Jon Cooper held their year end press conferences and BriesBois said that he stands firmly behind the coaching staff and there will be no changes “ We have a very good team. We have very good players and very good coaches,” BriseBois said. “I’m not going to overreact and blow up all the good things we have here because we had a very bad four-game slump at the most inopportune time of the year.”
“I have great faith eventually…we’re going to bring the Cup back to Tampa with this group of players, with these coaches.”
There will be changes. There always are changes made during the off-season, but with the way the Lightning went down in four straight to the Blue Jackets, those changes could be more numerous this off-season.
Let’s start with the blue line. Dan Girardi 34, Braydon Coburn 33, Anton Stralman 32, are all unrestricted free agents and their best hockey is probably behind them.
Jan Rutta acquired from Chicago mid-season is also an unrestricted free agent, but is just 28 years old. The Lightning may opt to bring Rutta back at a salary in the one to two million dollar range.
Girardi, and Coburn will probably not be back. Stralman may not with as collectively this group counted 10 million dollars toward the cap.
The Lightning will definitely be reshaping the blue line with some new faces. Look for Cal Foote and Cameron Guance to get an extended look next September when training camp opens and be given an opportunity to make the team.
Hedman, Sergachev, Cernak, and Rutta may be the only returning defensemen next season.
While the changes on the blue line are coming, the biggest move the Lightning could make this off-season could be signing Braydon Point to a long term contract.
Point can be a free agent following the 19-20 season and the Lightning would be wise to get Point under contract to keep the core of this team together.
The Lightning needs to keep the core group of players together. Stamkos, Kucherov, Point, Hedman, Sergachev and VasilevskIy.
The Washington Capitals were in this position for years before they were able to win their first cup in 2017-18.
Two years in a row the Capitals won the Presidents Trophy and were eliminated by the Penquins in the playoffs. The fans and critics of the Capitals were saying the same thing about the that team, they weren’t built for the playoffs, they needed more toughness.
Management decided to keep their core intact, Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov and bring in some different role players around them to help them win the cup.
It paid off with the Capitals eventually winning the cup.
The same thing occurred in 95-96 when the Detroit Red Wings won the Presidents Trophy and were eliminated in the playoffs. The Red Wings went on to win the cup the next two seasons.
Patience is a virtue. Nobody wants to hear that. Everyone’s patience is done ran out, but now is not the time to start trading key pieces and blow the whole thing up.
it will be a longer spring and summer in Tampa without the Lightning making that deep playoff run that we are all accustomed to.
Let’s see what adjustments the Lightning make this summer and then get ready for another fun season of Lightning hockey in 2019-20.