The goal of every team during the off-season is to get better. In order to do that, you need to take stock of what you did well, what you did poorly and implement change that will strengthen your weakest points.
That’s exactly what the Tampa Bay Lightning did this summer.
The Lightning finished with a league-worst 3.39 goals against per game average and 26th in the league on the penalty kill, showing that the problem for the Lightning was clearly allowing goals – not scoring them.
General Manager Steve Yzerman didn’t hesitate to address this issue. Even before the beginning of free agency, Yzerman secured himself a new goalie in Anders Lindback in a trade with the Nashville Predators at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. In 38 NHL games, Lindback has a 2.53 goals against average and a .914 save percentage.
When free agency began on July 1, Yzerman continued addressing the team’s needs by adding defenseman Sami Salo to the blue line. Despite injury concerns, Salo is a good two-way defenseman who could be a solid addition to a power play that finished 25th in the league last season.
The team also managed to nab Matt Carle out of Philadelphia. Carle, 27, scored 38 points last season with the Flyers and tallied another six in 11 playoff games. Carle has played in 80 or more games in each of his last three NHL seasons and is a combined plus-55 throughout his career. Carle should pay dividends for the team both offensively on special teams and defensively as well.
The team did manage to finish ninth in average goals scored per game though, mostly thanks to Steve Stamkos and his career-high 60-goal season. The team didn’t tweak their offense much, instead choosing to focus on defense. After all, there’s not much to worry about when your big three – Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavelier – combine for 107 goals. Add in the emergence of forward Teddy Purcell, who finished third on the team with 65 points last season, and you have a powerhouse offense that doesn’t need much tinkering.
But that was the problem for the Lighting. Too many games were won by the offense without much help from the defense. The additions of Carle, Salo and Lindback will definitely help offset that equilibrium.
The Tampa Bay Lightning took stock of their season last year in which they finished 10th overall in the Eastern Conference – eight points out from a playoff spot – and immediately addressed their most pressing needs. If nothing else, the team should experience a level of stability on defense and in goal that they haven’t had in some time. If that stability comes into fruition, add that to a killer offense and you have the makings of a playoff-bound team.
How far this team can go remains to be seen – but all signs point to a return to the playoffs at the very least.