In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. I will first note some ongoing trends that are happening in the league. Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
Thirtieth up are the Tampa Bay Lightning who are in their 27th year as a franchise. They have made the playoffs in five of the last six seasons.
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 1st
- Goals for Rank: 1st
- Goals against Rank: 5th
- PP Rank: 4th
- PK Rank: 22nd
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 2nd
- Eastern Conference Standings: 2nd
- Atlantic Division Standings: 2nd
- Coach: Jon Cooper (8th season with the Lightning; 305-159-44 regular season; 36-32 playoffs)
On offense, the emergence of Nikita Kucherov is official. I mean he put up 128 points last season, that’s impressive. Add to that Steven Stamkos who fell two points shy of 100 points, Brayden Point had a 90+ point season and you have the best line in the NHL last season. There is a sharp drop off after that line with some average players like Ondrej Palat, Anthony Cirelli, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson. These aren’t bad players but they are a far cry from what the top line produces. I don’t think Nikita has a 128 point season again but seeing those three players all have above 90 points again would not surprise me.
Defensively, this team allowed the 10th most shots against last season. Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh provide some sage experience and wisdom while the team also has some exciting young prospects in Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak. They need to work on limiting the shots but they have acquired a good chemistry with Andrei Vasilevskiy in net that works well as a whole. One thing is sure with this defense, they can carry the puck up ice and they are strong on offense and power plays.
In net, Andrei Vasilevskiy had a career year last year with 53 starts, 39 wins (1st in NHL), a 2.40 GAA (9th in NHL) and a .925 SV% (6th in NHL). Given his two prior years I don’t think those numbers hold but I don’t think he takes a massive step back either. I expect to see him win 35 games with a 2.5 GAA and a .918 SV% still sitting as a top seven goalie in the NHL. At 25 holding such consistent numbers through four seasons leads me to believe he will be one of the more stable goalies for many years to come.
Behind the bench, Jon Cooper has now made the playoffs in five of the seven years with the Lightning. In 2014-2015 they made the Stanley Cup finals where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. I will be curious to see how he fares on this team without Steve Yzerman helping to build the team that they have now. Granted Julien Brisebois was GM all of last year but he had Steve Yzerman with him as an advisor. I think Jon is a top seven coach but this year should be a good test.
- Patrick Maroon
- J.T. Miller
Prospects and Picks
Callan Foote – Taken 14th overall in the 2017 draft, Callan impressed at the team Canada World Junior Championship with 3 assists in seven games helping them win a gold medal. Last year in the AHL he had 10 goals and 31 points across 76 games. He will likely spend some time with Tampa Bay this year but I think he will need another year of play to be ready for full time NHL play.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Mikhail Sergachev – First, he is likely to get some top minutes time with Victor Hedman, second he will likely get some power play time among the top two units, third he had 32 points in what could be a “sophomore slump” in the NHL. I could see him topping 50 points on this team this year including 10 power play points.
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$79.7MM Spent; $1.7MM in Cap room; 23 players signed.