Ten Things We Want to See is a series of articles we’re running on RawCharge.com that look at ten things that we, the staff, would like to see happen during the 2018-19 season. It represents our hopes, our fears, our wildest dreams for this coming season. We hope to be able to look back next summer and check off that each one happened.
We’re down to the final entry in this series. And it’s only fitting that we finish with a Stanley Cup as that is the one thing we most want to see at the end of the season for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning’s roster is stacked with talent from top to bottom. The team has all of the ingredients that are necessary for a successful team, a championship team. There is a true number one center, a Norris-winning defenseman, and a Vezina-caliber goaltender. There’s one of the best scoring wingers in all of hockey today. There’s a bona fide top pairing caliber, shut-down defenseman. There’s depth among the forwards and the blue line. And to top it all off, there’s talent waiting in the wings at the AHL level.
Since being hired by Jeff Vinik to run the Lightning’s hockey operations, the ultimate goal for general manager Steve Yzerman has been to build a Stanley Cup winning team. Right from when his first moves before the 2010-11 season started, Yzerman was tasked with rebuilding a farm that was bare of talent. Not only did he do that, he also got the NHL roster into shape and allowed new head coach Guy Boucher to guide the team to the Eastern Conference Final where they lost in game seven to the eventual Stanley Cup winning Boston Bruins.
The fruits of his labor are now ripe for the picking. Sure, Yzerman was gifted with already having two, young corner stone pieces in Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. But you have to look at the amazing job he has done in drafting, acquiring, and developing prospects like Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde, Anthony Cirelli, and Mikhail Sergachev. Through that drafting and developing, you recognize the core of the team.
Surrounding that core, he has added other pieces to fill in the gaps with already developed players through trades and free agent signings. He has brought in underrated Anton Stralman who has been a stalwart in the top four of the defense. He added J.T. Miller who made a splash at the deadline last year. He strengthened the blue line with the addition of Ryan McDonagh.
The Lightning could be in for some fairly big changes a year from now. The core is locked up for at least the next three or four seasons, but there are some big pieces that are unrestricted free agents next year. Yanni Gourde, Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi, and Braydon Coburn can all be looking for new homes next July.
Now is the time to strike while the iron is hot. The Lightning were lucky to have a mostly healthy roster last season and didn’t get the job done. They’re going to need some luck again to keep the roster healthy and get over the hump with this group before some big changes come to the roster.
Lightning fans have been through some lean times since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004. There was the team’s struggles following the 2005 lockout. There was the administration of the OK Hockey ownership group where the team wasn’t even OK, but outright bad. While 2010-11 was a bright spot, the fans had to suffer through another couple seasons while the team was re-built as the prospects Yzerman had acquired developed into the stars they are today. And now the fans have seen the team get to the Finals once and to the Eastern Conference Finals three other times in the past eight seasons.
It’s time for this team to finish. To give us the one thing we most want to see.
Steven Stamkos receiving the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman and raising it above his head.