Tampa Bay Lightning 2011-12 Season Preview: Master Chef Yzerman is Whipping Up a Winner


Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman’s recipe for success finds the Bolts armed and ready to continue their climb to the top of the NHL in the coming season. No one could have predicted the 2010-11 Bolts would make it to the Eastern Conference Final and finally succumb to the eventual Cup winners, the Boston Bruins in a thrilling 1-0 Game Seven. Yzerman has blended grizzled veterans and brash youngsters together to quickly challenge for the Eastern Conference crown. Stevie Y’s best off season “move” was to keep his core group together despite losing playoff stars Simon Gagne and Sean Bergenheim to free agency. Yzerman took care of superstar Steven Stamkos, re-signing the sniper to a five year, $37.5 million contract  and inked veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson to a one year contract. Roloson went 10-6 with a 2.51 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage in his first postseason appearance since 2006. The Bolts GM also re-signed former Olympic teammate Eric Brewer, who played over 25 minutes per game and led the team in blocked shots in the postseason. In fact, that core group that remains was responsible for 86% of the team’s goals and 74% of its points last season.

Tampa Bay will again compete for the Southeast Division title and go deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2011-12.

Entering: Goalie Mathieu Garon (free agent); Defenseman Bruno Gervais (trade with NY Islanders); Defenseman Matt Gilroy (free agent); Forward Alexandre Picard (free agent); Forward Ryan Shannon (free agent); Defenseman Richard Petiot (free agent); Forward Michel Ouellet (free agent); Forward Tom Pyatt (free agent); Forward Trevor Smith (free agent)

Exiting: Forward Simon Gagne (signed with Los Angeles); Forward Sean Bergenheim (signed with Florida); Goalie Mike Smith (signed with Phoenix); Defenseman Randy Jones (signed with Winnipeg); Defenseman Mike Lundin (signed with Minnesota); Defenseman Matt Smaby (signed with Anaheim); Defenseman Mathieu Roy (signed with Carolina);  Forward Marc Pouliot (signed with Phoenix)

The Defense:  Defensively, Tampa Bay’s roster is full. The Bolts’ blue line has eight players signed to one way contracts:  Eric Brewer, Pavel Kubina, Mattias Ohlund, Victor Hedman, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Brett Clark, Bruno Gervais and Matt Gilroy. Yzerman will be open to second guessing for not going out and signing a big name defenseman to patrol the Bolts blue line, but having Brewer right from the get go is a plus for the Bolts. That being said, the back-end is an area of deep concern. Ohlund and Kubina are a year older and their best days are behind them. While Gervais seems to be a good fit and Gilroy may blossom into a top four defenseman, both have a lot to prove. If Gilroy and Gervais play well accompanied with big Victor Hedman’s emergence as a defensive force (85 blocked shots, 54 hits and 48 takeaways),Tampa Bay’s defense could be much improved.

Roli has found the Fountain of Youth in Tampa

The Goaltending:  The Lightning are solid between the pipes with starter Dwayne Roloson, now the NHL’s oldest player (He turns 42 next month) returning and free agent Mathieu Garon as the backup. Roli is a physical freak of nature and is always in top condition, but the Lightning took no chances and signed Garon to take some of the regular season load off of him. Look for Garon to play as many as 30 games, especially in back to back situations. All in all, the goaltending will be better than last season, especially with Roloson in the fold at the start of training camp. The Lightning’s goalies were nothing short of horrible in the first half of the season last year. With Roloson and Garon on board from the start, the Bolts goaltending will be vastly improved in 2011-12.

The Offense:  Tampa Bay returns, arguably the most talented group of forwards in the league:  Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Steve Downie, Teddy Purcell, Ryan Malone, Dominic Moore, Nate Thompson and Adam Hall. That means the Bolts are looking for a fourth liner and replacements for departed forwards Simon Gagne and Sean Bergenheim, who left via free agency. The most obvious candidates to replace Gagne and Bergenheim are newly acquired forwards Ryan Shannon and Tom Pyatt. Shannon scored career highs in games played (79), goals (11), assists (16), points (27) and rating (+3) last season with Ottawa. No less than nine players, including Carter Ashton, James Wright, Dana Tyrell, Blair Jones and Mattias Ritola will vie for the fourth line spot.

Superstar Steven Stamkos is healthy and hungry

Projected MVPSteven Stamkos – Look for newly extended all star center Steven Stamkos to be even better this season. Stamkos has been the league’s top goal-scorer over the last two seasons (only his second and third in the NHL) and has been a beast on the power play, leading the league in power play goals. The one aspect of the young superstars’ game that has been overlooked is his durability. Stamkos has played in every game over the past two seasons, despite nagging injuries. Coach Guy Boucher recently disclosed that Stamkos, “Basically broke his sternum” in the opening series of last years Stanley Cup playoffs. Yet the Bolts superstar played on. Make no mistake, Stamkos has lived up to his billing and will continue to do so.

Prediction: Steven Stamkos – 82 games, 54 goals, 50 assists, 104 points and 19 power play goals

Purcell is poised for a big season

Breakout playersTeddy Purcell. The Lightning forward skated in 81 games last season, posting career highs with 17 goals, 34 assists and 51 points. He had six goals and 17 points in 18 playoff games. In the four-game sweep of the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Purcell posted six assists to tie the Lightning playoff record for most helpers in a single postseason series. Purcell is on the precipice of stardom and his numbers will again be career highs.

PredictionTeddy Purcell – 80 games, 25 goals, 38 assists for 63 points.

Steve Downie. Downie had his breakout season in 2009-10 when he scored 22 goals, had 42 points and over 200 penalty minutes. The gritty forward played in only 57 games last season because of injuries. This will be Downie’s  fifth NHL season and he will again be a top six forward skating with the likes of Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier. Look for the talented winger to post career numbers this season.

PredictionSteve Downie – 80 games, 25 goals, 32 assists, 57 points and 200 penalty minutes.

Prior to last season, I drank the Bolts’ blue Kool-aid and believed they had a solid chance to make the playoffs. This season with Yzerman able to add the ingredients of playoff tested players and a rested Dwayne Roloson, the Bolts look to be in the mix for the Stanley Cup.

Follow me on Twitter @LightningShout and “Like” Hockey Independent Lightning on Facebook.

*Steven Stamkos, Teddy Purcell and Dwayne Roloson photographs courtesy of Linda Hamilton*

 

Tampa Bay Lightning 2011-12 Schedule

 

OCTOBER 2011

DATE

VISITOR

HOME

TIME (ET)

TV NETWORK/RESULTS

FRI OCT 7, 2011 LIGHTNING HURRICANES 7:00 PM SUN(HD)
SAT OCT 8, 2011 LIGHTNING BRUINS 7:00 PM NHLN-US, SUN(HD)
MON OCT 10, 2011 LIGHTNING CAPITALS 7:00 PM VERSUS(HD), TSN2, RIS(HD)
THU OCT 13, 2011 LIGHTNING ISLANDERS 7:00 PM SUN(HD)
SAT OCT 15, 2011 LIGHTNING PANTHERS 7:30 PM SUN(HD)
MON OCT 17, 2011 PANTHERS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

  TICKETS

THU OCT 20, 2011 ISLANDERS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

SAT OCT 22, 2011 SABRES LIGHTNING 7:00 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

TUE OCT 25, 2011 LIGHTNING SABRES 7:30 PM VERSUS(HD), TSN2
THU OCT 27, 2011 LIGHTNING PREDATORS 8:00 PM SUN(HD)
SAT OCT 29, 2011 JETS LIGHTNING 7:00 PM CBC

TICKETS

NOVEMBER 2011

DATE

VISITOR

HOME

TIME (ET)

TV NETWORK/RESULTS

TUE NOV 1, 2011 LIGHTNING HURRICANES 7:00 PM SUN(HD)
FRI NOV 4, 2011 BLACKHAWKS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM NHLN-US, SUN(HD)

TICKETS

SUN NOV 6, 2011 LIGHTNING PANTHERS 5:00 PM SUN(HD)
WED NOV 9, 2011 FLYERS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM VERSUS(HD), TSN2

TICKETS

SAT NOV 12, 2011 LIGHTNING BLUES 8:00 PM SUN(HD)
MON NOV 14, 2011 LIGHTNING JETS 8:30 PM SUN(HD)
THU NOV 17, 2011 PENGUINS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM NHLN-US, SUN(HD)

TICKETS

SAT NOV 19, 2011 DEVILS LIGHTNING 7:00 PM

TICKETS

TUE NOV 22, 2011 MAPLE LEAFS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM RIS(HD), SUN(HD)

TICKETS

FRI NOV 25, 2011 LIGHTNING PANTHERS 7:30 PM SUN(HD)
SAT NOV 26, 2011 PANTHERS LIGHTNING 7:00 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

MON NOV 28, 2011 LIGHTNING WILD 7:30 PM VERSUS(HD), TSN2
WED NOV 30, 2011 LIGHTNING RED WINGS 7:30 PM VERSUS(HD), TSN2
DECEMBER 2011

DATE

VISITOR

HOME

TIME (ET)

TV NETWORK/RESULTS

SAT DEC 3, 2011 RANGERS LIGHTNING 7:00 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

MON DEC 5, 2011 LIGHTNING SENATORS 7:30 PM RDS(HD), SUN(HD)
TUE DEC 6, 2011 LIGHTNING ISLANDERS 7:00 PM SUN(HD)
THU DEC 8, 2011 LIGHTNING RANGERS 7:00 PM SUN(HD)
SAT DEC 10, 2011 LIGHTNING FLYERS 7:00 PM NHLN-US, SUN(HD)
MON DEC 12, 2011 DEVILS LIGHTNING 7:00 PM VERSUS(HD), TSN2, RIS(HD)

TICKETS

THU DEC 15, 2011 FLAMES LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

SAT DEC 17, 2011 LIGHTNING BLUE JACKETS 7:00 PM SUN(HD)
WED DEC 21, 2011 LIGHTNING SHARKS 10:30 PM SUN(HD)
FRI DEC 23, 2011 LIGHTNING AVALANCHE 9:00 PM SUN(HD)
TUE DEC 27, 2011 FLYERS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

THU DEC 29, 2011 CANADIENS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM RDS(HD), SUN(HD)

TICKETS

SAT DEC 31, 2011 HURRICANES LIGHTNING 5:00 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

JANUARY 2012

DATE

VISITOR

HOME

TIME (ET)

TV NETWORK/RESULTS

TUE JAN 3, 2012 LIGHTNING MAPLE LEAFS 7:00 PM RIS(HD), SUN(HD)
THU JAN 5, 2012 LIGHTNING SENATORS 7:30 PM SUN(HD)
SAT JAN 7, 2012 LIGHTNING CANADIENS 7:00 PM CBC, RDS(HD), SUN(HD)
TUE JAN 10, 2012 CANUCKS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

THU JAN 12, 2012 HURRICANES LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

FRI JAN 13, 2012 LIGHTNING CAPITALS 7:00 PM NHLN-US, SUN(HD)
SUN JAN 15, 2012 PENGUINS LIGHTNING 1:00 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

TUE JAN 17, 2012 BRUINS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

FRI JAN 20, 2012 LIGHTNING STARS 8:30 PM SUN(HD)
SAT JAN 21, 2012 LIGHTNING COYOTES 8:00 PM SUN(HD)
TUE JAN 24, 2012 BLUE JACKETS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

TUE JAN 31, 2012 CAPITALS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM VERSUS(HD), TSN2

TICKETS

FEBRUARY 2012

DATE

VISITOR

HOME

TIME (ET)

TV NETWORK/RESULTS

THU FEB 2, 2012 JETS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

SAT FEB 4, 2012 PANTHERS LIGHTNING 7:00 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

TUE FEB 7, 2012 KINGS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM VERSUS(HD), TSN2

TICKETS

THU FEB 9, 2012 LIGHTNING RANGERS 7:00 PM SUN(HD)
SAT FEB 11, 2012 LIGHTNING SABRES 7:00 PM SUN(HD)
SUN FEB 12, 2012 LIGHTNING PENGUINS 7:00 PM RIS(HD), SUN(HD)
TUE FEB 14, 2012 SENATORS LIGHTNING 7:00 PM RDS(HD), SUN(HD)

TICKETS

THU FEB 16, 2012 SHARKS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM RIS(HD), SUN(HD)

TICKETS

SAT FEB 18, 2012 CAPITALS LIGHTNING 7:00 PM NHLN-US, SUN(HD)

TICKETS

TUE FEB 21, 2012 DUCKS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

THU FEB 23, 2012 LIGHTNING JETS 8:30 PM SUN(HD)
SAT FEB 25, 2012 LIGHTNING PENGUINS 1:00 PM NHLN-US, SUN(HD)
SUN FEB 26, 2012 LIGHTNING DEVILS 1:00 PM SUN(HD)
TUE FEB 28, 2012 CANADIENS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM RDS(HD), SUN(HD)

TICKETS

MARCH 2012

DATE

VISITOR

HOME

TIME (ET)

TV NETWORK/RESULTS

FRI MAR 2, 2012 RANGERS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM NHLN-US, SUN(HD)

TICKETS

SAT MAR 3, 2012 LIGHTNING HURRICANES 7:00 PM SUN(HD)
TUE MAR 6, 2012 SENATORS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

THU MAR 8, 2012 LIGHTNING CAPITALS 7:00 PM NHLN-US, SUN(HD)
SAT MAR 10, 2012 HURRICANES LIGHTNING 7:00 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

TUE MAR 13, 2012 BRUINS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

THU MAR 15, 2012 MAPLE LEAFS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

SAT MAR 17, 2012 BLUES LIGHTNING 7:00 PM NHLN-US, SUN(HD)

TICKETS

MON MAR 19, 2012 SABRES LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

THU MAR 22, 2012 OILERS LIGHTNING 7:30 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

SAT MAR 24, 2012 ISLANDERS LIGHTNING 7:00 PM SUN(HD)

TICKETS

MON MAR 26, 2012 LIGHTNING FLYERS 7:30 PM VERSUS(HD), TSN2
TUE MAR 27, 2012 LIGHTNING BRUINS 7:30 PM VERSUS(HD), TSN2
THU MAR 29, 2012 LIGHTNING DEVILS 7:00 PM SUN(HD)
SAT MAR 31, 2012 JETS LIGHTNING 7:00 PM CBC, SUN(HD)

TICKETS

APRIL 2012

DATE

VISITOR

HOME

TIME (ET)

TV NETWORK/RESULTS

MON APR 2, 2012 CAPITALS LIGHTNING 7:00 PM VERSUS(HD), TSN2, RIS(HD)

TICKETS

WED APR 4, 2012 LIGHTNING CANADIENS 7:30 PM TSN, RDS(HD), SUN(HD)
THU APR 5, 2012 LIGHTNING MAPLE LEAFS 7:00 PM SUN(HD)
SAT APR 7, 2012 LIGHTNING JETS 7:00 PM CBC
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About the Author: WB Philp is a published hockey writer who has a built in disdain for Barry Melrose. He covered the Detroit sports teams for many years until he came to his senses and moved to the Sunshine State. He is a true puckhead on a mission from God (Gordie Howe) to make hockey relevant in the south. He lives in Hockey Bay USA and covers the Lightning full time. Did I mention he hates Barry Melrose?

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