The year-end grades continue -- check the previous entries in the series: Intro, Wingers part 1, Wingers part 2, and Centers part 1. This installment covers the three wingers who played in more than 10 but fewer than 81 games (in alphabetical order). On Friday, we'll begin looking at the defense.
What we thought would happen:The signing of Valtteri Filppula had many people scratching their heads, especially as the center was coming off a career low year with the Detroit Red Wings in 2012-13. After looking into Filppula's analytics, Kyle Alexander, among others, saw reason to expect that those lows were temporary and that Filppula could do reasonably well.
If forced to make a projection, my inclination would be to guess that a reasonable expectation for Filppula in 2013 with Tampa Bay would be somewhere in between the highs of 2012 and the lows of 2013 (something like 15 goals and 40-45 assists for 55-60 points) which would spell an adequate but unspectacular return on the 5-year, 25 million dollar investment the club has made.
Filppula was projected to be the second line center who would take some of the tough minutes off of Steven Stamkos and who could play a solid, two-way game driven by possession.
What really happened: Filppula met all of those expectations and more. He scored 23 goals and 33 assists. His possession got better both offensively and defensively. He made his linemates better. While Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Martin St. Louis got accolades for keeping the team together through the loss of Steven Stamkos, a lot of that was possible because Filppula made the second line a consistent scoring and possession threat.
What might happen next season: Filppula most likely won't see as many goals go in in 2014-15 as he did in 2013-14. He scored on nearly one out of every five shots and almost no one does that year in and year out. (Filppula's 19.1% scoring rate would have been high even for Stamkos.) A "normal" season would look more like the one Kyle outlined last summer: 15ish goals and 40ish assists. However, in the big picture, that shouldn't be overly troubling. Filppula doesn't need to score 20+ goals to be valuable to this team. His value lies in his ability to tilt the ice for his linemates and make them better. If he can stay healthy, drive possession, and take tough minutes like he did last year, the Stamkos line can score.
What really happened: Pyatt broke his collarbone in his first game, which as expected was not the Lightning's first game. He made it off of the Injured Reserve in December and after that acted as a depth forward. Pyatt made it into only 27 games and had 3 goals and 4 assists. It's pretty fair to say that he was outplayed by the rookies on the team.
What might happen next season: Pyatt is an unrestricted free agent this summer. It's not likely that the team will bring him back what with the kind of depth they have a forward.
What we thought would happen: We expected a typical Steven Stamkos year of goals, goals, and more goals. Expectations were as high as they always are for the best pure-goal scorer in the NHL.
What really happened: Ouch. I still can't watch that video without cringing. Suffice it to say that Stamkos broke his tibia in a gruesome incident in Boston on November 11. He would not return to the lineup until March 6. And he was still not completely his old self. But Steven Stamkos at 90% is better than 90% of the league at 100%. Stamkos still managed to put up 25 goals and 15 assists (40 points) in his 37 games, which aint' half bad. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot. He was also named captain after the old one was no longer available.
What might happen next season: There's no information coming out of the club that indicates any setback in offseason training for Stamkos. And he is definitely planning to train. At this point there's no reason to expect that he won't be able to regain his pre-injury form, but even if he doesn't quite make it, he'll still be a daunting threat for the Lightning. Expectations next season should be as high as ever.