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.