Complete 2013-14 Season Preview for the Tampa Bay Lightning

Eric SteitzAnalyst IIISeptember 29, 2013

Complete 2013-14 Season Preview for the Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The roster is set. The preseason is over. Now, we can look forward to the 2013-14 season.
    The roster is set. The preseason is over. Now, we can look forward to the 2013-14 season.Scott Iskowitz/Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Lightning’s preseason slate is finished and final roster tweaks should be soon. With the Bolts’ opening night on Oct. 3 in Boston, we can now take a complete look at the 2013-14 season.

    Fans will hope the preseason wasn’t a fluke. Much like the hot start to the abbreviated season last year, the Lightning went 5-2 in this year’s preseason. The Lightning went undefeated in four “home” games, which is a good sign.

    Still, preseason success doesn’t count towards the postseason—an achievement the Lightning haven’t earned since 2011. Head coach Jon Cooper has had a full offseason to make this team his own. Here is a complete look at the 2013-14 season for the Bolts.

Key Roster Changes

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    Valtteri Filppula was one of the most notable additions in a quiet offseason for the Bolts.
    Valtteri Filppula was one of the most notable additions in a quiet offseason for the Bolts.Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

    The Lightning could have a revolving door for a few spots. With all of the young talent and depth at forward, don’t be surprised to see new faces throughout the season.

    This offseason, the Bolts did a nice job of providing Cooper with his own team. Cooper should be able to put the systems and players into place through a few key offseason acquisitions.

     

    Arrivals: Valtteri Filppula (free agent), Jonathan Drouin (draft)

     

    Departures: Vincent Lecavalier (Philadelphia), Benoit Pouliot (New York Rangers)

     

    It was a quiet offseason for the Bolts. They will rely on organizational depth and young talent to complete the 82-game season, which includes the 2014 Winter Olympics. 

Projected 2013-14 Depth Chart

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    Martin St. Louis will hope to guide a young group of players through the ups and downs of an NHL season.
    Martin St. Louis will hope to guide a young group of players through the ups and downs of an NHL season.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    On Sept. 29, the Lightning announced their final roster cuts. One notable cut was first-round selection Jonathan Drouin. Included in the eight-defensemen roster are Mattias Ohlund (injured) and Brian Lee—who got demoted to the AHL last season. Expect some fluidity in this final 23-man roster.

     

    Forwards:

    Ryan Malone-Stamkos-St. Louis

    Killorn-Filppula-Purcell

    Palat-Johnson-Panik

    Labrie-Thompson-B.J. Crombeen

    (Tom Pyatt)

     

    Defensemen:

    Hedman-Salo

    Carle-Gudas

    Brewer-Sustr

    (Keith Aulie, Mark Barberio, Brian Lee, Mattias Ohlund)

     

    Goalies: Ben Bishop, Anders Lindback

Biggest X-Factor

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    Alex Killorn can be a complete player for the Lightning. The Bolts will need it all to get back to the postseason in 2014.
    Alex Killorn can be a complete player for the Lightning. The Bolts will need it all to get back to the postseason in 2014.Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Alex Killorn

    With secondary scoring as a focus for the Lightning’s new direction, Alex Killorn can step into a bigger role. Possibly a second-line forward, Killorn got a taste of the NHL last season. He had 19 points in 38 games last season.

    He is a minute-eater—averaging nearly 17 minutes per game last year. Though he is young in NHL years, Killorn is a veteran of the game. He finished his NCAA career at Harvard and has gone through the minor-league ranks.

    As a versatile two-way player, Killorn could see a significant amount of time as a top-six forward. He has garnered some noteworthy praise in his young career. 

    Per Mike Morreale of NHL.com, Tampa Bay director of amateur scouting Al Murray said:

    "He progressed every year as a player both offensively and defensively. He's got a quick release and a nose for the net offensively, and is a real big body and hard player to play against without the puck. Alex is a player we've been waiting for and are excited about."

Best and Worst Case Scenarios

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    The Lightning will ask Ben Bishop to shoulder a heavy load and propel the team to success.
    The Lightning will ask Ben Bishop to shoulder a heavy load and propel the team to success.Scott Audette/Getty Images

    The Lightning have been a polarizing team since the 2004 Stanley Cup Championship. Tampa Bay has intermittent years of greatness followed by dark spells that include horrible finishes. Last year, they finished 28th in the league and look to bounce back to playoff form. 

    Best Case: The Atlantic Division is a tough new home for the Lightning. With five playoff teams from last season, it won’t be easy to get to the postseason. There is no denying the Lightning have the talent to make the playoffs—it’s about execution and consistency. 

    The top three from each division make the playoffs with two wildcard spots. Best-case scenario for the Lightning is that coveted top-three finish. That would mean solid goaltending and average defense. 

    The offense will be there. It’s up to the rest of Cooper’s system to mesh.

     

    Worst Case: The worst-case scenario for the club this season is a repeat of last year. The Bolts started the year off on top of the standings before hitting some rough ice. By the time all was done, the Lightning found themselves drafting the No. 3 pick—not a good spot.

    An up-and-down—or majorly down—season could warm up the seat for general manager Steve Yzerman. There is always that possibility with all of the young players looking to make an impact this year, but Tampa Bay can ill afford that performance against so many powerhouse franchises. 

Final Prediction

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    The new Atlantic Division will be a tough test for the Lightning, but they have the pieces to finish in the top three.
    The new Atlantic Division will be a tough test for the Lightning, but they have the pieces to finish in the top three.Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Bolts finish Third in Atlantic 

    The Atlantic Division is going to be a tough division. Buffalo and Florida could be considered the weakest teams. With Ryan Miller in goal in Buffalo and Tim Thomas in Florida, no one will want to face either squad if the goaltenders get hot.

    Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Detroit and Boston will all be battling with Tampa Bay for the playoff spots.

    Tampa Bay will be in a dogfight for the postseason, but if they pull the right strings should be on the positive sign of the cutoff.

    Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Victor Hedman, Matt Carle and Ben Bishop will need to play at a high level while the young players get acclimated to the NHL. Cooper will have his hands full, but he has found success at every level.

    It’s time to bring that success to the NHL.