Lightning still have plenty of firepower in lineup
After the Tampa Bay Lightning were the darlings of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, coming within one goal of reaching the Cup Final with a new general manager and new coach, they crashed out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference last season.
The defense corps was never whole because of an injury to Matthias Ohlund, and a thin group was crippled by further absences. The goaltending was terrible, and a strong offense wasn't enough to compensate.
2012-13 Lightning Fantasy Team Preview
Under-valued: Teddy Purcell - PIMs will always be low, but Purcell has blossomed since joining Bolts (51 points in first full season, 65 points last year) and is a power-play machine -- 21 and 19 PPP respectively each of last two seasons.
Over-valued: Martin St. Louis - Still an elite playmaker (25 goals and 49 assists in 77 games last year), but should be considered an early third-round pick -- not a second-rounder -- because of his low plus/minus, PIMs and SOG potential.
Sleeper: Anders Lindback - Just 24 years old with a monstrous frame, Lindback has serious potential to breakout as the new No. 1 goalie in Tampa Bay. Had a career 2.53 GAA and .914 SV% in 38 games for Nashville -- with full workload, expect similar stats and around 25 wins.
Several players who starred for Norfolk during the Admirals' historic season in the American Hockey League and Calder Cup championship run could graduate to bolster the Lightning's depth, which has been a serious issue for several years.
The Lightning still have plenty of firepower, and better play at their own end of the ice could mean a return to the postseason.
NOTES: To be clear, there really aren't forward "lines" in Tampa Bay. Sure, coach Guy Boucher sends three forwards onto the ice at a time, but he doesn't just switch them around from game-to-game or period-to-period -- he'll mix and match on a shift-by-shift basis some nights.
That said, there are some areas of need to fill during training camp. The Lightning need to find a No. 3 center, and a couple of top-nine wings from a collection of younger players. Several key figures from Norfolk's run will be part of the competition. Cory Conacher needs to prove he's more like St. Louis and less like Keith Aucoin, another diminutive dominator at the AHL level. Tyler Johnson faces similar concerns. Richard Panik and Alex Killorn could also squeeze onto the roster.
Brewer and Hedman played together last season, but Boucher's system is pretty unique so he might not want a defense pairing of two guys new to it logging heavy minutes early in the season. Keith Aulie, Matt Taormina and Mark Barberio could end up on the third pairing with a strong camp.
Lindback and Garon will likely split time in the early going, but don't discount Tokarski playing a prominent role for the Lightning at some point.