Lightning: Steady or Shaky?
As we approach the 2023-2024 NHL season, it's time to take an analytical look at the Tampa Bay Lightning. With two recent championships in 2020 and 2021, expectations are always high for the Bolts. However, the last season was less than stellar, both in terms of point totals and playoff performance.
Recapping the 2022-2023 Season
Tampa Bay finished third in the Atlantic Division with 98 points. According to ESBC Power AI metrics, they had a strong start to the season but saw a drop-off in performance as the season progressed. The playoffs were particularly disheartening for the Lightning, losing to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. Three of those games went into overtime, emphasizing how the narratives surrounding their season could've been different with just a little luck.
Offseason Roster Changes: Filling Gaps or Creating Them?
Tampa Bay had notable departures this offseason, including Alex Killorn, Corey Perry, Ian Cole, Pat Maroon, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Ross Colton. These players were key contributors in various roles and their absence leaves considerable gaps.
The team welcomed newcomers like Conor Sheary, Josh Archibald, Logan Brown, Luke Glendening, Calvin de Haan, and Jonas Johansson. While none of these players are superstars, they are expected to fill depth roles. The big question is whether these newcomers can adequately replace the outgoing veterans, a scenario that seems possible but not highly likely.
Core Strength and Expectations
One advantage that the Lightning have is their core group of elite players, including Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. These players have been pillars for the team and will continue to be so for at least a few more seasons. With this core, making the playoffs should be within reach.
Jon Cooper, who has been very successful as Tampa's head coach, will continue in his role. His experience and past successes bode well for the Lightning, but he will have to address the declines indicated by the ESBC Power AI metrics from last season.
Final Analysis: Cautious Optimism
While the Lightning's core remains strong, the team's depth has been somewhat depleted, which could prove to be a significant factor in a league where depth often determines long-term success, particularly in the grueling postseason.
Analytically speaking, the ESBC Power AI metrics indicate that the Lightning started strong last season but faltered as the year went on. This trend will need to be arrested if Tampa Bay hopes to make a deep playoff run.
In summary, the 2023-2024 season looks promising but comes with its set of challenges. The Lightning are projected to be a playoff team, but whether they can go beyond that is an open question. It will largely depend on how well the new players integrate into the system and whether the core group can maintain their elite level of play.
A dark cloud emerged just before the season: Andrei Vasilevskiy sustained an injury. He's likely to be sidelined until at least the end of November, leaving a significant question mark in goal. (Vasilievskyi's injury is not included in the projection below)
(Please read our Disclaimer for NHL Team Points Distribution Histograms.)
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