Lightning adds toughness to offensively explosive lineup
Officials from assorted NHL teams have been commenting on the size of the Tampa Bay Lightning's young talent at the Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Mich. Take a look at the size of the young defensemen Tampa Bay has drafted in recent seasons and you’ll see why. These guys are huge.
Lightning management has been concerned that the team lost some of its size and toughness since winning the Stanley Cup in 2003-04. General Manager Jay Feaster has promised that this will be the toughest Lightning team since the Lightning took home the Cup.
Last season, Tampa Bay had a 44-33-5 record for 93 points to finish second in the Southeast Division, four points behind the Atlanta Thrashers, and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, thus qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Bolts had a good team, probably better than the overall record due to early goaltending problems. Johan Holmqvist solved that problem for them last year and he'll return again this year.
Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis again had outstanding seasons, while the play of Brad Richards slipped a bit in the eyes of some hockey insiders. But he remains a tough center to play against and will have linemates this season with more offensive ability.
Dan Boyle is one of the top offensive defensemen in the NHL and Paul Ranger has matured into a solid, all-around blueliner. Shane O'Brien was a good pickup at the trading deadline and Filip Kuba had a career year. Brad Lukowich returns to Tampa Bay to round out a solid Top Five. There will be a battle at training camp for the sixth defenseman's job.
Feaster's off-season objective was to make the Lightning tougher to play against and it appears he's doing a good job of that.