Well, the 2010-2011 NHL season is officially over, and the summer begins. A summer full of more questions than answers. Especially for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
As you likely know by now, the Lightning have 12 contracts expiring this July 1st, most notably Steven Stamkos (RFA) and Eric Brewer (UFA). In fact, those two contracts in particular were mentioned by GM Steve Yzerman as his two top priorities in the free agency race.
After a surprisingly successful first campaign by Yzerman and crew, the pressure to maintain that success from fans of the team might actually approach the overwhelming pressure Stevie puts on himself. One way to relieve some of that pressure -albeit moreso down the road than the present - is to have a successful 2011 NHL Entry Draft, which leads us to our question of the week:
With so many free agency questions looming, how would you like the Lightning to handle the 2011 NHL Entry Draft? What position should the Bolts draft with their 27th overall pick?
Answers from the staff after the jump. Let's hear yours in the comments. And in case you missed it, here is last week's question.
I still think the biggest need to be addressed is defense and my wish list has four names on it: Adam Larsson, Jonas Brodin, Dougie Hamilton and Nathan Beaulieu. Unfortunately, I don't think any of them will be available when it's the Lightning's turn to pick, but I'll be watching to see if something weird happens and one of them slips through the cracks.
If Steve Yzerman is going to stick to the plan he mentioned when becoming GM - you know, drafting and promoting from within to become the Detroit Red Wings of the East - then I would like to see him draft another defenseman. The Lightning have a little depth at goaltender right now in the minors with Cedrick Desjardins and Dustin Tokarski, and they also have some depth at forward with the likes of Blair Jones, Dana Tyrell, and James Wright, but they're painfully thin at defense. They may be weak at wing but they're deep at center, and centers can always be moved out to wing, even if only temporarily. Defense can be questionable with the guys on the Lightning right now as it is, and it doesn't get any better with Norfolk (or wherever their AHL team will be next year). In regards to defensive prospects in general, it pretty much begins and ends with Victor Hedman. And looking out into the future, that's a rather scary thought since one guy can't do it all himself.
Since the Lightning's first pick is way down at the 27 slot, I don't think there's any need to try and zero in on a particular position. Anyone taken that low will likely be in the system for a few years before he sees NHL ice, especially with the "patient development" philosophy of Steve Yzerman.
The Lightning appear to have a wealth of goaltending prsopects, but goalies take a long time to develop into starters, and are generally hit-or-miss as prospects. I wouldn't mind seeing team pick another goalie like Christopher Gibson, a British Finn (Finnish Brit?) playing for Chicoutimi in the QMJHL. But really, I'm happy with using the reliable old cliche: choose the best talent available, regardless of position.
This draft -- position wise -- compares directly to the Lightning's draft years of 2003-2005: Late 1st round / early second round selections. The draft talent is not supposed to be that deep this year... That's fine, that's good, that's great.The Lightning need system depth, though. That's the universal truth with every draft year. They need prospects and talent for the future, that's how it has to be with every sports organizaiton, after all.The thing is, I really don't want them to draft a big-risk/big-reward player, or worse yet: ignore the development of the players. That's what happened with the likes of Mike Egener, Andy Rogers and Vladmir Mihalik who were picked in 2003-2005. All three defenders never materialized into anything more than minor-league roster fillers.Another reason I bring up the draft years of 2003-05 is because I think the Bolts should go defense with their first overall pick, again. While the team could use depth everywhere, it's on D that the team needs to nurture.
I personally wouldn't mind seeing the Lightning start in the first round by drafting a defender, then a goalie in the second round, and alternate between the two for the entire duration of the draft. Only half joking.
In all seriousness, I'd like to see Stevie go after David Mucil of Vancouver of the WHL. He's a big boy (6'3'') and from what I've read, isn't afraid to get his hands dirty (83 PIMs). After watching all the late hacks on the Lightning goalies this year, I'm all for a guy who will box guys out.