During the off season, the Tampa Bay Lightning added some core talent to their blue-line as well as some other changes. But while some things changed, others stayed the same. Between changes and the status-quo, there are a number of assets and liabilities that can be pointed out for Tampa Bay this season. Let's look at the team from an overall prospective and identify three strengths and three weaknesses for the season ahead..
Everyone always wants to start off on a positive note, so let's list the three strengths for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Rocket Richard winner: First of all, the Tampa Bay Lightning boasts the 2011-2012's leading scorer, forward Steven Stamkos. Stamkos tallied 60 goals and added 37 assists. Although the Lightning didn't make the playoffs, Stamkos was instrumental in the games Tampa Bay did win; remember they only missed the playoffs by eight points. Most of the goals Stamkos scored were not off of the faceoff circle either, where he originally crafted his signature slap shot. Expect Stamkos' production to continue this season but with an accelerated one, it might be difficult for the 22-year-old to net a comparable amount of goals this season in almost half of a season.
Blue-line changes: Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman proved how serious he was in strengthening the teams' blue-line when he signed Sami Salo from Vancouver and Matt Carle from Philadelphia. Both are top defensemen that will bolster Tampa Bay's blue-line. Carle and Salo add to a defensemen core that consists of the likes of Eric Brewer, Victor Hedman, and Brian Lee. Salo is a two-way defenseman who can also score some goals. Tampa Bay's blue-line was one of the areas the team concentrated on improving the most.
Chemistry: Most of the Lightning team from the 2011-2012 season returns this season. Building team chemistry is one of the most difficult and important things to do and in an accelerated season, that can prove even more difficult. Lightning Coach Guy Boucher has made this his No. 1 priority in training camp. New additions, Salo, Carle, B.J. Crombeen, and Benoit Pouliot won't have long to get acclimated with their new team. The positive though, is that all three forwards worked out regularly in Brandon with returning Bolts veterans for most of the lockout. If they aren't already assimilated into the team, it won't take long.
Unproven goalie between the pipes: Lightning Goalie Anders Lindback has never been a #1 goalie before, playing behind Pekka Rinne in Nashville. He could however, with Tampa Bay. That doesn't erase Lindback's inexperience. In his NHL career, Lindback has only started 28 games, playing in 38 overall. Over the course of his time with Nashville he's posted a .914 save percentage and 2.53 goals against average. While Coach Guy Boucher hasn't officially said Lindback would be the team's #1 netminder, it's very possible and eventually likely as the goal is to develop the 24-year-old. Anders will likely be sharing playing time with veteran Mathieu Garon.
Power play: Last season, Tampa Bay's power play was unforgettable and not in a good way. The Lightning were ranked 25th in the NHL last season with the man advantage posting an anemic 15.2 conversion percent. However, Boucher has revamped the power play and has been concentrating on it during training camp, even having the team practicing it for 40 minutes in practice on Wednesday. The power play group featured Matt Carle and the versatile Salo. Salo has 55 career power-play goals in 761 games. Carle has 17 in 471 games. Utilizing four forwards, Tampa Bay's power play looks less rigid and structured than last season. The four forward combination on the first power play unit features, Marty St. Louis, Ryan Malone, Teddy Purcell, and of course, Stamkos.
"We tried to dumb it down a little bit and let guys read off their creativity," Stamkos said. "It worked really well."
Injuries: Every team in the League has a disadvantage because of a shortened season and every team is concerned with the potential for injuries such as groin strains, hip flexors, and back injuries. However, last season, the Lightning lost over 200 man games due to injuries: Victor Hedman suffered concussions, Ryan Malone was in and out of the lineup, Vincent Lecavalier fractured his hand, Nate Thompson was also concussed, and Marc-Andre Bergeron was sidelined for 30 games last season with a back injury... Even Sami Salo has had groin problems in Vancouver along with a multitude of other injuries. Major injuries during a 48 game season are not something you want to think about, but the Bolts need to be ready to adapt to any losses suffered by these players or others in the lineup.