Skip to Main Content
The Official Site of the Tampa Bay Lightning

Ask Burnsie: Closing out the first half of the season

Beat writer Bryan Burns answers your Twitter questions on the trade deadline, traveling with the team and the nine day bye week

by Bryan Burns @BBurnsNHL / beat writer Bryan Burns will answer readers' most intriguing questions in a regular mailbag feature. Be sure to tweet questions to @bburnsnhl and include the hashtag #AskBurnsie to have your question answered in a future mailbag. If your question wasn't answered today, resubmit it and we'll attempt to get it in for another edition. Have fun with your questions too; the more off-beat the query the better.

Any moves you think they need to make? (@JMLA11394)

The NHL trade deadline is February 24, so naturally, the question on the mind of every Lightning fan: Will Tampa Bay make a move to add to an already potent lineup?

Unsurprisingly, the Lightning were silent at last season's deadline. By that date, they had amassed 48 wins and 100 points. They owned a 15-point lead over the rest of the NHL. There really wasn't a need to get better. Why give up an asset or two to make a move that might or might not improve your team and even then only marginally?

The Lightning would go on to win 62 games during the 2018-19 season, tied for the most in League history. They would also get unceremoniously swept from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets in one forgettable week in April.

Would adding somebody at the trade deadline have prevented that debacle?
Personally, I don't think so.

Which brings us to the current season. The Lightning are in a different position in 2019-20 than they were in 2018-19. They sit eight points back of the Atlantic Division-leading Boston Bruins but with three games in hand. They're solidly in a playoff spot in second place in the Atlantic and fifth in the Eastern Conference, but the Bolts can't get comfortable either. Philadelphia is ninth in the East and just two points behind the Lightning (although the Bolts own a couple games in hand). Florida trails the Lightning by just one point in the division with one more game played. The Maple Leafs are outside the playoff picture looking in, five points behind the Bolts with one more game played.

It makes more sense for the Lightning to deal at the deadline this season, to ensure they get into the postseason where, as we all learned last year, anything can happen.

But it might not make sense either.

Earlier this season, Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said he's always looking for opportunities to improve the team. The trade deadline might not be the best time to do it, however. BriseBois said he looked at the deadline deals made over the last 10 seasons, and there haven't been many where the buyer comes out on top with the benefit of hindsight.

"It's not a great time to be buying," BriseBois said. "You're buying at a premium and it rarely pays off. So, philosophically I'd say it's not a good time to buy. But it's one of the few times where you can actually buy. There aren't a lot of times during the year where teams are moving NHL players who can contribute today without you having to take anything out of your lineup."

So what would the Lightning be looking for if they do make a deal at the deadline?

Goaltending is set. Andrei Vasilevskiy leads the NHL for wins and has been at the top of his game over the last month and a half. Curtis McElhinney has proven a reliable backup and more than capable of holding down the fort on his own should he need to.

Before the season started, I would have said the Lightning might be in search of another piece on the blueline, but now I'm not so sure. The emergence of Mikhail Sergachev has been a boon for the Bolts. He's played himself into a top four role with more responsibility and more ice time. Kevin Shattenkirk has proven to be a steal at the $1.75-million contract the Lightning signed him to after the Rangers bought him out over the summer. And Jan Rutta's steady play and chemistry pairing with Norris Trophy candidate Victor Hedman has given the Lightning another reliable blueliner they can count on. With Ryan McDonagh back from his upper-body injury, the Lightning are eight players deep on defense and quite comfortable playing any one of those eight. I'm not sure there's a real need to upgrade there.

If there's any move to be made, I think the Lightning try to supplement their forward depth by adding a player they can insert in their top nine, someone that can give them a little more firepower offensively while fitting in with their defense-first philosophy, someone that adds a slightly different element not currently seen among the forward group. Maybe a heavier body, although that's not as glaring a need this season with the arrival of Pat Maroon and the continued strong play of guys like Cedric Paquette and Ondrej Palat. Rookies Carter Verhaeghe and Mitchell Stephens give the Lightning options too, so the Lightning might be tempted to stand pat again. But if they do make a deadline deal, I think the forward position is where they'll be looking to add.

Where's your favorite city to travel to with the team and why? Climate, food and nightlife, proximity to Tampa or your hometown? (@hpenn10)

I love to travel and seek out the best restaurants, breweries, etc. when I go to a new city, so I have several.

It's hard to narrow down a favorite city, so how about I give a few of the best and what I like about each.

Montreal is a great wandering city. I love aimlessly walking through the different neighborhoods. And the Bell Centre might be the best opposing venue to watch a game too. Canadiens fans are quite boisterous and make for an entertaining environment.

Boston is another easily walkable city when the weather cooperates. Plus, its home to two of my favorite establishments: Neptune Oyster for the best lobster roll south of Maine and Trillium Brewing Company for the juiciest New England-style IPAs.

Brooklyn has Other Half, the best brewery in the world in my opinion. If you're lucky, the Lightning play all three NYC-area teams on the same trip, so you have more time to explore the Big Apple (and multiple trips to Other Half). And there's nothing quite like walking up the hill from the bus drop-off point to the event level inside Madison Square Garden and seeing the iconic roof and scoreboard, no matter how many times you've done it. MSG also gets props for having my favorite press box in the NHL with TVs built into the glass desk in front of you to help with replays.

Nashville has Hattie B's and Prince's for hot chicken. And no matter when you go to Nashville, it feels like there's a perpetual party going nonstop around the Broadway area. Not much of a country music guy, but even I enjoy popping into the different establishments along the strip to check out the local music scene.

Chicago is home to the best road hotel in the League (no, I can't divulge which one, although I'd say enough of you have found out based on the number of people lined up on the sidewalk waiting for the team bus to come through).

Pittsburgh is picturesque. There might not be a better visual in the League than emerging from the Fort Pitt tunnel and, bam, the downtown skyline surrounded by the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers crossed by multiple yellow bridges smacks you right in the face.

Dallas makes the list for the ramen alone (shout out to Ten Ramen for the delicious bowl of Spicy Lobster Miso).

Vancouver is the most beautiful city what with the surrounding mountains and water. If you're lucky enough to get a day off in Vancouver, it's very tempting to make the two-hour drive north to Whistler for any outdoor activity you can think of.

The Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota is my favorite arena, mainly because it has this really cool log cabin feel with wood paneling everywhere and spruce trees in the entryways.

Even Buffalo, which I think gets an undeservedly bad rap, has its bright spots. Gabriel's Gate serves up the best plate of Buffalo wings I've ever tasted. And a short walk down the street, Thin Man Brewery always has five or six really good IPAs on tap.

Why do you guys have 2 bye weeks? I thought there was only one bye week in a season (@v2_dog)

The Lightning only have one bye week, it just seems really long because they have nine days off since the bye week is combined with All-Star weekend.

Maybe it seems like the Lightning had another bye week back in early November when they went six days without a game. But that was because they were traveling to Stockholm, Sweden to take part in the NHL Global Series. From November 2-13, the Lightning played just the two Global Series games against the Buffalo Sabres as they needed the extra time off to recover from the cross-Atlantic flights to and from Stockholm.

Speaking of the schedule, it becomes much more favorable for the Lightning once they return from a four-game road trip starting in Dallas and continuing in California coming out of All-Star weekend.

From February 2 through the end of the regular season, the Lightning have 17 home games compared to 13 on the road (remember, the Bolts played just three contests at AMALIE Arena in January). And the crush of games lightens up a bit in March when the Lightning have three separate stretches with two days between games as well as three days off once they return from their Western Canada trip.

View More