Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Fennelly: Lightning must prove itself to erase doubts

Lost in the delayed start to the Bucs season is that the team with the best chance at a championship opens training camp next week, under the cover of football.

The Lightning.

Remember?

It was easy enough to forget after last season, when all its potential and possibilities vanished in a season that came up short of even the playoffs.

And it will be easy enough to break this team into little pieces if it doesn't come through this time. GM Steve Yzerman has tweaked the roster. It had better be enough.

Remember when the Lightning was one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup?

That was then.

RELATED: Steven Stamkos ready for Lightning camp.

This team still has a chance to be special. That chance, at least the work behind it, begins Thursday with training camp. With expectations. With questions.

The window remains open.

But the Lightning has to go prove itself.

Until it does that, we're right to doubt this team.

It still has some of the most talented players on the planet, including defenseman Victor Hedman, who is ready for his Norris Trophy closeup, and Nikita Kucherov, who is a dead-eyed scoring machine. And, yes, Steven Stamkos, still.

The window remains open.

This team can and should win the Atlantic Division, over Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs, and Carey Price (and Jonathan Drouin) and the Canadiens.

This team can make a run. It made the Cup final two seasons ago. It made the conference final a season ago. Remember?

RELATED: Tyler Johnson says revamped summer routine paying off.

The best thing coach Jon Cooper's team might have going for it is that people will rightly be wondering if this team can get back to where it was. The Lightning isn't in the weeds, but it wouldn't be a bad thing if it approached this season that way.

The lesson last season was you have to attack all 82 games, something the Lightning didn't do. It created a hole it couldn't escape.

It will need a healthy Stamkos. And a healthy Ryan Callahan. It will need better seasons from Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, and more consistency from Alex Killorn. Remember, the talented Drouin is gone.

It remains to be seen what veterans Chris Kunitz and Dan Girardi will bring. Kunitz is a Cup winner, and Girardi brings tons of experience to the defense. The real find could be defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who came over from Montreal in the Drouin trade.

RELATED: Dan Girardi relishes new home, and role, with Lightning.

But it will come down to goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is still only 23 years old and who navigated last season without anyone thinking he wasn't the guy. Vasilevskiy was spectacular at the world championships in May. Ben Bishop is gone. It's Vasilevskiy's net. The Lightning will go as far as he goes.

Yes, there were injuries last season, but there also was a definite lack of urgency at times. Part of Cooper's job will be to make sure that doesn't happen again.

Here comes the Lightning.

The window remains open.

It opens for business next week.

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Lightning journal: Vinik pushing for outdoor game

Lightning journal: Vinik pushing for outdoor game

As he sat back in his chair facing the stands in the middle of the two benches, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik could not help but remember the first time he sat there.A young Steven Stamkos sat next to him as he spoke in front of a crowd of about 30 peop...
Published: 09/24/18
Lightning journal: Roster trimmed to 28

Lightning journal: Roster trimmed to 28

TAMPA – After Sunday morning, the Lightning sat five cuts away from having a 23-man roster to start the regular season.It cut its training camp roster by 27, leaving 28 players on the roster with the start of the regular season less than two we...
Published: 09/23/18
Lightning forward prospect Boris Katchouk putting together strong preseason

Lightning forward prospect Boris Katchouk putting together strong preseason

TAMPA — As the end of training camp looms, there's no clear-cut answer as to how the Lightning will fill the one, maybe two open forward spots in its lineup.It could go with Adam Erne. Spending much of his time in AHL Syracuse the past three se...
Published: 09/22/18
Lightning journal: ‘No-risk’ forward pickup; another preseason win; Fan Fest on Sunday

Lightning journal: ‘No-risk’ forward pickup; another preseason win; Fan Fest on Sunday

TAMPA — It didn't take long for Lightning GM Julien BriseBois to decide he wanted to put a waiver claim in Friday.Not when he saw that F Danick Martel was available."He's a player we have had on our radar for a while, going back to actually his...
Published: 09/22/18
Lightning journal: Adam Erne looks to stick in Tampa

Lightning journal: Adam Erne looks to stick in Tampa

Forward Adam Erne flicks the puck into the net, but he has no time to celebrate.He flips around. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Snow flies off his skates. Erne then squares his body as he arrives in the defensive zone, steps away from the net.Within a secon...
Published: 09/21/18
Lightning falls to Hurricanes again in preseason

Lightning falls to Hurricanes again in preseason

The Lightning did not fare much better in its second preseason crack at the Hurricanes.In fact, it did worse.It lost 6-1 Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C.Carolina put a much more veteran team on the ice than it did Tuesday in winning Tampa Bay's preseason o...
Published: 09/19/18
Second-round pick Gabriel Fortier among Lightning’s early cuts

Second-round pick Gabriel Fortier among Lightning’s early cuts

One round of cuts down, several more to go.The Lightning cut seven players on Wednesday, five of whom were training camp invitees, the team announced. All seven players were assigned to juniors.Gabriel Fortier was the most notable cut. The Lightning'...
Published: 09/19/18
Lightning journal: Can Mathieu Joseph sneak his way onto the opening-day roster?

Lightning journal: Can Mathieu Joseph sneak his way onto the opening-day roster?

It remains to be seen if F Mathieu Joseph will make the Lightning's roster. If he doesn't, it certainly won't be because of a lack of opportunities.Joseph saw time on the Lightning power play and penalty kill on Tuesday at Amalie Arena when Tampa Bay...
Published: 09/19/18
Hockey News poll: Lightning favored to win Stanley Cup, other awards

Hockey News poll: Lightning favored to win Stanley Cup, other awards

Falling just short of winning a championship the past few seasons has done nothing to erode fans' confidence in the Lightning.Not just locally, but also nationally and across Canada.The Lightning is the runaway favorite to win the Stanley C...
Published: 09/19/18
Lightning journal: Alex Killorn’s just puttin’ on the Fitz

Lightning journal: Alex Killorn’s just puttin’ on the Fitz

TAMPA — How big is FitzMagic? It has hit the Lightning, too.Proving that Harvard guys stick together, Lightning forward Alex Killorn showed support for fellow Harvard grad Ryan Fitzpatrick by, sort of, dressing up the way Fitzpatrick did after ...
Published: 09/19/18