Tampa Bay Lightning: 2016-17′ Season Most Disappointing In Team History

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2016-17′ was expected to be the year. Coming off two deep playoff runs and with essentially the same team, there wasn’t supposed to be any concern. Winning the Atlantic Division and making the playoffs should have been easy as pie.

Instead, the Lightning are falling hard after 72 games. The team expected to raise Lord Stanley will likely be on the golf course in less than three weeks time. They took a step closer to sealing that fate with three defensive lapses in a row, leading to an 0-3 record on a critical home stand. All of which make this the most disappointing season in team history. A bold statement that couldn’t be more true.

Were there outside factors contributing to this underachieving season? Sure. The numerous injuries to key contributors and trades hurt in terms of finding and keeping chemistry. That’s not an excuse though, as other teams went through similar spells and found ways to win.

This all boils down to inconsistency, along with subpar goaltending and horrid defense. Put simply, the Lightning felt like they could score enough to mask their defensive deficiencies and netminding woes. With Steven Stamkos in the lineup, they sometimes could. Without him, scoring became a struggle and the real issues began to pop up.

Andrej Sustr’s been a bust for the most part, Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy were wildly inconsistent. Even the usually reliable Victor Hedman has had his moments. Maybe that was to be expected, with two deep postseason runs and the World Cup. Still, it has to be disappointing for players and fans alike.

In terms of rankings, this ranks near the top when it comes to disappointing years. 2012 was only 48 games long so any losing streak killed hopes of making the playoffs. 2004-05′ never happened so the players had no say in what happened then. 2007-08′ and 2008-09′ didn’t have expectations, let alone high ones, so no one felt robbed in a sense. 2016-17′ had all of that, plus the players had some control over the outcome. That is why I have no regrets about making such a bold statement. One that probably won’t be popular but needs to be said nonetheless.

Can the Lightning make a run and sneak into the playoffs? Yes. More likely though, their current slide ends up being the final dagger in the most disappointing season in team history.

 

 

 

 

 




Dallas Stars: Jamie Benn Is Back In Action

The Dallas Stars have announced that Jamie Benn is back in action tonight. The left winger missed last Friday’s game, due to an eye injury.

The Stars’ star forward was injured on Thursday, in a matchup against the Vancouver Canucks. Benn took a hit from Vancouver defenseman Nikita Tryamkin. The hit led to a fit, and it was reported that Benn took a glove to the eye. It was scratched, and Benn went to a doctor.

In his absence Friday, the Dallas Stars took a loss to the Calgary Flames. Prior to that game, Benn had gone pointless in the last four games. However, Benn does have 63 goals in just 66 games.

The contest missed on Thursday was just the third game all season that Benn has missed. The Dallas Stars ended up winning the matchup, in come from behind fashion. It appears that the fight that led to the Benn injury actually rallied the team. The final was 4-2, in favor of the Stars.

With the team captain back in action, Jiri Hudler will no longer need to fill in. Hudler has had his own issues this season. He played just his 30th game on Friday while filling in for Jamie Benn. He had missed most of the first half of the 2016-2017 season with some sort of illness. According to Stars coach Lindy Ruff, Hudler has been a healthy scratch lately, due to his skating not being where it needs to be.

Now that Benn is back, Hudler can work on those basics. The Stars need Jamie Benn in the lineup, as they sit 28-33-10 on the season. They are sixth in the Central Division, tied for third-worst record in the Western Conference.

Dallas Stars fans can see Jamie Benn back in action tonight. The Stars will host the San Jose Sharks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. The puck drops at 7:30pm CT.


Check out a few shots of Benn’s fight below:

 

(all images courtesy of Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)




Are the Tampa Bay Lightning Playoff Worthy?

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, Thursday’s home date with the Toronto Maple Leafs was pretty close to a must win. Getting two points would have created separation in a tight race for the final wild-card spot. It also might have eliminated the chasing aspect of reaching the ultimate goal.

Unfortunately for the Lightning, none of those things came to pass with the Maple Leafs handing them a 5-0 shellacking. One that could end up being the playoff-deciding game changer. This kind of performance raises an interesting question going forward.

Are the Tampa Bay Lightning worthy of making the playoffs? Do they have what it takes to compete with the big boys?

Looking solely at Thursday nights mess, the easy answer would be no. If you can’t put up a fight against a young but talented Toronto team, how would you beat elite NHL teams? The Pittsburgh’s, Chicago’s, Washington’s, San Jose’s are all perennial Stanley Cup contenders.  Those guys don’t miss the playoffs and usually go far once they get there.

The Lightning were getting close to competing with those teams in recent years. They pushed Chicago to six games in the 2015 Stanley Cup final. Last year, they gave Pittsburgh a fight before narrowly losing in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. This year has been a different story though. A team with heightened expectations found themselves in the East cellar on February 2nd. That sparked a turnaround that no one saw coming.

Out of a playoff spot and with a mountain to climb, the Lightning clawed their way up the standings. Four points on a recent back-to-back road trip got them into a tie for the eighth and final wild card spot. But the work doesn’t stop there, a message that failed to reach Tampa Bay before their most recent clash.

Delving deeper, however, the Lightning have had a lot go against them this season. The loss of two leaders, Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan, due to injury. The trade deadline, forcing them to say goodbye to three key pieces of this teams success in past years. Then more injuries, with three centers (Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette) going down one week ago.

Glancing at the big picture, it’s a miracle the Lightning are knocking on the door of a playoff spot with so many distractions. Oh, and a lineup filled with minor leaguers. That’s a testament to the experience this team has in elimination style games. It’s also one reason I feel they might in fact be playoff worthy.

Can the Tampa Bay Lightning make the postseason? While unknown at this time, the mere fact they are close is a miracle considering where they were over a month ago.

 

 




While He’s No Connor McDavid, Nolan Patrick Is A Franchise Player

There might not be a generational talent waiting to be selected at the 2017 NHL Draft. Although, Nolan Patrick is pretty damn close. Trying to follow in the footsteps of Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, Patrick wants to establish himself early at the NHL level. If all goes right, he should be a lock for 2018 Calder consideration.

It’s impossible to come into the league with more fanfare than that of McDavid and Matthews. However, Patrick isn’t some average player. He’s ranked as the number 1 skater in the 2017 NHL Draft for a reason. And whoever gets him will be reaping the benefits for years to come.

At the WHL level, players are expected to amass big point totals. If they are good enough, NHL teams will find them. Patrick has been one of the best prospects for the last three years. His impressive numbers from 2015-16 show that, as he recorded 102 points in 72 games.

The 2016-17 season hasn’t been so kind to Patrick. He’s not played a full season with his WHL team, Brandon Wheat Kings, due to an upper body injury. In addition, Patrick missed the 2017 World Junior Championships.

This injury hasn’t stopped scouts from admiring and praising Patrick. Wheat Kings G.M., Grant Armstrong, thinks very highly of Patrick, as he stated to the Edmonton Sun in an article written by Jason Hills.

“The biggest thing about Nolan is that he’s a pro already. He acts like a pro. He’s passionate about winning, passionate about being a good teammate and he works incredibly hard every day. He’s the type of player you build your organization around and he’ll be that player at the next level.”

Teams such as Colorado, Las Vegas, Arizona, and Detroit, have the best shots at getting Patrick. He’d fit in well on any of these teams. It’s expected that Patrick goes directly to the NHL upon his Draft year, but which team fits Patrick the best?

Obviously, Las Vegas would make the most sense, as they can build him to be he franchise player. Detroit has a winning pedigree, and will no doubt mold him into an All-Star. Colorado and Arizona both have some great young talent, and Patrick could be the glue that holds them all together.

With the NHL Draft fast approaching, the hype around Nolan Patrick will only grow. Now fully healthy, he’s well on his way to becoming the top pick in the 2017 Entry Draft. He might not be a generational talent like McDavid, but he’s definitely worthy of the top selection.

Follow Daniel James Gentile on twitter @dgentleman9288




Washington Capitals: Stanley Cup may have found a new home in DC

Don’t look now but a new president may have sparked a resurgence in the Nation’s Capital in 2017. The Washington Capitals have staked a claim as the best team in NHL. However, the Caps have been in this position before during the regular season. It’s the playoffs where everything seems to go wrong. 

We may be harping on the same sour subject for Washington Capitals fans but you can sense the hunger the players have this year. It sort of reminds me a lot of how the Chicago Blackhawks were built off failure. Their nemesis was the Quarter Finals. Until they could overcome their issue there, only then did they become a powerhouse. The same lies for the Caps. In 2014 they were favorites and the same expectations were given in 2015 however, they ran into teams that were just as explosive.

New year, same problems? No.

Alex Ovechkin is still dangerous as ever but teams can no longer isolate his scoring ability and expect the Caps to fold under pressure. The team is loaded with weapons such as the dynamic Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov but it’s more a balanced attack that has the Caps thinking Stanley Cup. Failure is supposed to build character and the Caps have plenty of it. 

What they do from here on out till the end of the regular season means nothing. The Caps should have one focus, revenge on their minds. The Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers will be there waiting as they are the last two teams to put them out but there is that sense of mission that has these Caps ready for what’s ahead.

In the playoffs, records are reset, teams are all 0-0 and this suits Ovechkin just fine. 4-2 has been their trademark the last two seasons in both series wins and defeats. 

If Braden Holtby can somehow forget his playoff experiences and continue his stellar play that he has this season, then the Cup will have a new home. Scoring for the Caps is a given, it’s the defense that must be shored up. For his career, Holtby has surrendered 90 goals in 46 playoff games. However, the 2016-17 season has been one of redemption. I understand that it’s two separate occasions but it goes back to the hunger I spoke of earlier. 94 goals in 50 games with eight shutouts. Yes, it’s safe to say he’s preparing himself for one heck of a comeback.

The Caps are ready to remove that cloud over their heads and that should have the rest of the league worried.




Tampa Bay Lightning: Brian Boyle, Ben Bishop Trades Send Wrong Message

The Tampa Bay Lightning have traded forward Brian Boyle and starting goaltender Ben Bishop in the last 24 hours for a couple of draft picks and minor league prospects.

While the Bishop trade can be understood, with Andrei Vasilevskiy signed to a three-year contract extension this past summer, trading him and Boyle around the same time is one horrible move.

How exactly?

Simply put, both players were veterans that weren’t afraid to speak up and demand change when the Lightning needed it most. Neither was the captain or alternate captain, but in a season where both Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan have been injured for a good chunk of time Boyle and Bishop kept the team afloat.

In essence, they were the team leaders. Both gave 110 percent every day and kept the Tampa Bay Lightning within striking distance of a playoff spot. Each one was integral during the recent seven-game point streak that got Tampa Bay within four points of being a part of the postseason conversation, not the footnote they were most of this season.

Now both are gone. Boyle to Toronto and Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings. Tampa Bay’s already slim playoff hopes likely went with them. A team predicted by many to win the Stanley Cup is left to play over a months worth of meaningless games, thanks in large part to a disappointing season and two trades that send the message to forget the postseason.

Long term, the Tampa Bay Lightning might have won these trades. General manager Steve Yzerman probably pulled off a miracle in getting what he did (Byron Froese, Erik Cernak, Peter Budaj and draft picks) for the guys who departed. Unfortunately, that’s little solace for a team and fanbase that had such high hopes of achieving something special this year.

 

 




Los Angeles Kings: Ben Bishop, just a rental or replacement?

The Tampa Bay Lighting just made a decision on a lingering issue for the past few seasons. Ben Bishop or Andrei Vasilevskiy? Guess it’s safe to say the winner is Vasilevskiy as Bishop was sent packing to the Los Angeles Kings Sunday evening. That’s great news for the Lightning but, it opens up questions for the Kings now.

The Kings are already goalie heavy with the return of former Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick. So, what was this move about? The Kings are still a bit leery on the groin injury of Quick’s even with his return after missing four months. What this trade does is sure up a glaring hole the Kings have tried their best to plug with Peter Baduj but it’s clear he’s no Quick.

But still, does the trade make any sense with Bishop becoming a free agent this season and Quick signed through 2023? However, this seems to be more on the side of a plugging a slow leak that trying to repair a flat. Quick is a winner despite his recent injuries and although he may be two years Bishop’s senior, winning is what matters in LA. 

That and money.

Quick, through the remainder of his contract will earn annually around $5.8M, the same that Bishop currently earns now. With Bishop set to hit Free Agency after the season, he will be looking for a huge payday and the Kings would be wise to move along and let another team take that chance. Bishop is good, like full-time starter good but it won’t be for the Kings past this year.

The job still belongs to Quick. The Kings are just gearing up for a potential playoff run and just in case Quick’s groin flares up again they will have a viable backup in place. This was not a bad move and while speculation will arise concerning Quick’s status with the Kings all fans should rest assured that he’s just a slow leak fix until their tire is fully repaired.