What has Led to Tampa Bay's Success?
The Tampa Bay Lightning are on the top of the NHL with a 36-13-3 record through 52 games, good for 75 points. That’s only a mere 1 point over the next best, Vegas Golden Knights (Never thought I would be writing that line down).The Bolts are on the verge of becoming the next dynasty in hockey after the Chicago Blackhawks, whom won 3 cups in 6 years, but are in far better standing despite they have won nothing yet.
Locked Down Star Talent
The Bolts have Steven Stamkos signed for only 8.5 million for the next 7 years, Nikita Kucherov for a whopping 4.766 for this, and next season, and Victor Hedman for 7.875 million until 2024-25. That adds up to a total of 21.141 MILLION! Comparing to the Hawks, let’s see their big 3 of Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews. Together, their salaries come to 26.538 Million, 5 million and change more than Tampa. Kucherov is going to demand a lot more than discounted rate he’s currently at, but it is still a vast improvement over the Hawks.
The only real bad contract on the Lightning is Ryan Callahan.
You can’t fully credit for the Bolts loss on Callahan since they acquired this contract from the New York Rangers for Martin St. Louis. But Callahan has 2 more seasons after this one at a spiteful 5.8 million dollar cap hit. Callahan plays a smaller role on this team and certainly doesn’t need this big of a cap hit. Ultimately, I think this contract will affect his career in the future, forcing GM Steve Yzerman’s hand to demote him to the AHL to make room.
Now, I wouldn’t call the contracts of Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, or even Ondrej Palat great, but they are still moveable if need be in the league, and for what you get in those players, it isn’t bad to have.
Talent waiting in the wings
The past two World Juniors, Team Canada had 5 players that were drafted by the Lightning…. I don’t even recall another time that has happened before. That could mean they are strictly drafting Canadians, but nonetheless it’s impressive. The Bolts scouting staff have done a remarkable job at finding talent, and with Tampa’s system of development, players are taking huge leaps and have been reaching new heights in this organization.
Now I’m not going to highlight every draft they’ve had over the past few years, but they have been having a lot luck in the 2nd round. In the 2016 draft they had three 2nd rounders, that turned out to be Libor Hajek (37th overall), Boris Katchouk (44th overall), and Taylor Raddysh (58th overall). Raddysh and Katchouk both made Team Canada this past tournament and both are currently on the Sault St. Marie Greyhounds in the OHL. They are poised to make a run at the Memorial Cup. Hajek is a Czech defensemen that is known to be great in both ends of the ice. He made a brief 8 game appearance in the AHL where he only picked up a goal. In the WHL this season he has 10 goals for 30 points in 40 games for the Regina Pats/Saskatoon Blades.
The year before that, the Bolts only had two 2nd rounders, where they selected Mitchell Stephens (33rd overall), and Matthew Spencer (44th overall). Stephens is an excellent 2 way forward that is strong on the puck, and comes up big in times of need. Spencer on the other hand, was ranked higher at the beginning of the year, then fell into the 2nd round come the draft. His game has slowed down a bit since then, but with the Lightning’s strong development, it will be no surprise that he will come out to something.
Other players that jumped out since getting picked by the Lightning are 2015 3rd round Anthony Cirelli (72nd overall), 4th rounder Mathieu Joesph (120th overall), and of course 2014 3rd rounder Brayden Point (79th overall).
Smart moves by GM Steve Yzerman, strong development led by head coach Jon Cooper, and an excellent scouting staff to back them up will have the Tampa Bay Lightning being the next dynasty in the NHL.