ESPN's Off-Season rankings put the Lightning at 13th in the East
While many of the Eastern Conference playoff teams got a full-on glowing treatment by author and ESPN.com contributor Terry Frei (a football writer) during his off-season rankings, the Tampa Bay Lightning did not get such a versed coverage beyond the stereotypes and pre-draft, pre-free agency easy-target coverage:
13. Tampa Bay Lightning
At least the linesmen have stepped between the owners, Oren Koules and Len Barrie, theoretically leaving Brian Lawton with less to sort out as he goes about his business. Vinny Lecavalier is still here and hasn't been the subject of a new trade rumor for several hours. Steve Stamkos looked to be in way over his head for the first half of the season before somewhat validating management's decision not to send him back to major junior for one more season, and now he'll be able to call Victor Hedman "Kid."
It practically comes off like Terry wrote this before or just after July 1st and phoned it in. He doesn't care about the Lightning, nor expects the readers to have gone that far in the article... That's how it's presented. There is no mention of a revamped defense and the players brought in. It's all the same media narrative nationally about Tampa Bay from the past year: ownership issues (fresh information is available about today), Vincent Lecavalier trade rumors, Steven Stamkos and the known-since-April #2 draft pick Victor Hedman.
What he fails to cover is the change of an AHL caliber defense into one of much higher experience and quality, or a mega-dominant-in-the-Southeast-Division goaltender being signed for chump change.
It's too much to expect the Lightning to be contending for a playoff spot or something at this point, or have a top ranking -- it's July for goodness sake! But then again, any attempt to rank the NHL's Eastern (or Western) Conference in mid-July is entirely futile. Games don't start until October and an off-season isn't complete until camp opens in September. Changes are still afoot for every team out there.
At least try to present the facts, though, for every team. Not the only facts you can think of off the top of your head while your focus is on other subjects.