Almost a month ago, ESPN had weighed judgment against the Lightning's off-season without actually looking at the off-season past the draft. A complete off-season judgment by mid-July also brushes off the majority of the off-season yet to come.
The Hockey News, on the other hand, didn't make the same mistake.
No one should expect the Lightning to be ranked highly anywhere, and for good reason. Questions still remain and uncertainty is prevalent with the franchise overall. But it was a nice surprise to see the Lightning picked to finish 10th in the East in the ongoing THN rankings:
Why: The gale-force winds that blew this ship off course last year have calmed down somewhat, so the team has been able to start building towards a playoff berth. Ownership squabbling aside, the drafting of Victor Hedman and the signing of Mattias Ohlund improve a questionable defense core to compliment a respectable group of forwards.
10th in the East? Pretty nifty for a team that has been dwelling in the cellar for the past two seasons. What's even more nifty? Ahead of the Panthers and the Thrashers. That'd put the Bolts in 3rd in the Southeast Division behind the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes.
10th in the East... That's within spitting distance of the playoffs.
Of course, pre-season rankings and off-season rankings really aren't a barometer to gauge any team's future... But it does infuse some positive vibes and some hope for the on-ice product this upcoming season.