Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning season in review

For Lightning rookie center Tyler Johnson, the 2013-14 season was unique.

"I don't know if I can ever say I've been through a team that had so much adversity," he said.

• Steven Stamkos' broken right tibia cost him 45 games.

• At one point, nine players were out with various hurts.

• Marty St. Louis originally was left off Canada's Olympic team, which sparked such bitter feelings in the right wing against Tampa Bay general manager and Canada executive director Steve Yzerman, it began two months of drama that ended with St. Louis forcing a trade to the Rangers for Ryan Callahan.

• Left wing Ryan Malone was arrested on DUI and cocaine possession charges.

• A stunningly bad call in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series against the Canadiens took away a 2-1 lead and helped thwart a potential comeback in the series.

"So for us to do what we did," Johnson said, "I'm proud of all the guys and how we came together. It's a year I'm always going to remember."

Tampa Bay went from 28th last season in the 30-team league to making the playoffs for the first time since 2011. It tied a franchise mark with 25 home wins and did it with a roster that included 10 rookies and 12 players making their Stanley Cup playoff debuts. "Overall we're very encouraged by the season we had, the group that we have, the character in the room," Yzerman said. "They played a really exciting brand of hockey."

A look back:

MVP

Goalie Ben Bishop

He set franchise marks with 37 wins, a 2.23 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage, and is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy (top goalie). His elite work helped hold the team together while Steven Stamkos rehabilitated his broken right tibia, and his absence during the playoffs because of a dislocated left elbow was acutely felt.

"There'll be a little bit of a bigger target on my back next year, but that's what you want," Bishop said. "You want people to come in and think it's going to be a hard night to score. I'll embrace it. I'm excited."

A high bar

C Tyler Johnson and LW Ondrej Palat

Not since 2007-08, when it was done by the Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, have rookies on the same team scored 20 goals each and been rookie of the year finalists. But Palat (bottom right), who led the team with 59 points on 23 goals and 36 assists, and Johnson (top), whose 24 goals set a team rookie record and tied the Avalanche's Nathan MacKinnon for the league rookie lead, did just that.

"There's no fluff with those kids," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

"He's my friend," Palat said of Johnson. "It's awesome we're together."

Hot button

No story stirred as much passion as the trade of Marty St. Louis to the Rangers. Anger among fans was split between St. Louis (a petulant child who bailed on his teammates) and GM Steve Yzerman (crazy for trading an important offensive weapon during a playoff run). But as Ryan Callahan fit in well after coming from New York in the trade — though he struggled in the playoffs — and St. Louis started slowly with New York, the deal didn't look too bad.

Five story lines

Ryan Callahan: Agent Stephen Bartlett says the Lightning is "in the mix" for the gritty right wing, who can be a free agent over the summer. The question is how much he will cost. Stories out of New York said Callahan wanted as much as $6.5 million a year for six years. But Bartlett said Florida's lack of a state income tax could lower his client's asking price.

Adding defense: A top-four defenseman was on Steve Yzerman's wish last year, and nothing has changed. Radko Gudas and Matt Carle weren't always up to the task. Fewer minutes for them might help.

Getting physical: Yzerman loves teams built on speed and hockey IQ, but it was obvious, especially in the playoffs, Tampa Bay needs size and strength, not for fighting but to help battle in the defensive zone.

Andrey Vasilevskiy: Yzerman wants to sign 2013's 19th overall draft pick as soon as his contract with the KHL's Ufa runs out Wednesday. But Ufa apparently is dangling a deal that would lock up the goalie, one of Tampa Bay's prized prospects, for another year.

Ben Bishop's backup: Did rookie Kristers Gudlevskis show enough to earn the job? Probably not. Did Anders Lindback play himself out of Tampa Bay? Probably. Where does the Lightning go next? Perhaps to a veteran to hold the spot while Gudlevskis — and Vasilevskiy, it is hoped — mature at Syracuse.

Most disappointing

W Teddy Purcell

His goal before the season was to eliminate the long scoring droughts that have plagued his career. But with just 12 goals in 81 games, Purcell had a midseason slump of one goal in 20 games and ended the season with two goals in 31 games.

Nicest surprise

LW Ondrej Palat

The 208th overall pick of the 2011 draft led Tampa Bay with 59 points, scored 23 goals, led all rookies at plus-32 and played for the Czech Republic at the Olympics. "I set the bar kind of high," he said.

Stat pack

• The Lightning had a league-leading 12 penalties for too many men on the ice.

• Tampa Bay's 2.55 goals-against average was half a goal better than the 3.06 it averaged in 2012-13.

• D Victor Hedman's 35 points since Jan. 1 (six goals, 29 assists) tied Senators D Erik Karlsson for tops in the league.

• Steven Stamkos was second in the league with a 20.2 shooting percentage.

• Tyler Johnson's five shorthanded goals tied the Bruins' Brad Marchand for first in the league, and he led all rookies with an average 18:47 of ice time. He became the second NHL rookie (Dennis Maruk, 1975-76) with five power-play and five shorthanded goals in the same season.

• Radko Gudas led all rookies and was tied for third in the league with 273 hits.

• The Lightning's 10 shorthanded goals were tied for third in the league and double what it had in the previous four season combined.

Follow the money

Contract status for 2014-15:

Signed: Forwards B.J. Crombeen, Valtteri Filppula, Nikita Kucherov, Ryan Malone, Cedric Paquette, Teddy Purcell, Nate Thompson, Steven Stamkos. Defensemen Eric Brewer, Matt Carle, Radko Gudas, Victor Hedman, Mattias Ohlund. Goaltenders Ben Bishop, Kristers Gudlevskis

Restricted free agents: Forwards J.T. Brown, Brett Connolly, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Cody Kunyk, Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik. Defensemen Keith Aulie, Mark Barberio, Dmitry Korobov, Andrej Sustr. Goaltenders Anders Lindback

Unrestricted free agents: Forwards Ryan Callahan, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Tom Pyatt. Defensemen Mike Kostka, Brian Lee, Sami Salo, Matt Taormina. Goaltenders Cedrick Desjardins.

Buyout: Vinny Prospal

     
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