On the cusp of something special?

Inconsistent is a way to describe the way the Bolts have played the first 15 games of this season. For every win, there is a loss or a poor showing in the shootout again that robs the fans of confidence in the team. For every goal scored by Steven Stamkos or Ryan Malone, there is a scoring drought for another marquee forward on the team -- Vincent Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay at first, and now Martin St. Louis.

For all the upgrades on defense last summer, the Bolts have been consistently failing to clear the zone. They've been struggling with defensive assignments and generally hanging either Antero Niittymaki or Mike Smith out to dry at times.

Suffice it to say, the Bolts are not firing on all cylinders yet.  But rather than be discouraged, I ask the fans to look at the standings as of this morning:

Southeast Standings

Washington 17 10 3 4 24
Tampa Bay 15 6 4 5 17
Atlanta 13 6 6 1 13
Florida 15 5 9 1 11
Carolina 16 2 11 3 7

(updated 11.8.2009 at 7:37 AM EST)

Seven points out of first place, two games in hand.  Squarely in second place in the division that's riddled by both mediocrity and injury.  For all the panic that erupted among the Lightning faithful over the last 10 days when things have gone wrong, there is a rich amount of promise with this team and where they can go.  It can get better, and it's likely to.

Look at the offense. And while there is concern about lack of goal production from St. Louis and Lecavalier,  St. Louis is still on a pace for 92 points for the season, and Lecavalier's on a pace for 76.  Tanguay is on a pace for 49 as well.

The promise of these averages is that consistency is yet to truly take hold.  St. Louis has averaged 29 goals per season during his previous eight seasons with the Lightning, so there's reason to believe he'll end his goal drought soon enough.  It's also why Tanguay's nine points aren't reason to label him a bust.  After all, he's scored three goals and notched seven points in the last six games alone.  Lecavalier has averaged 30 goals a season for his career.  That's reason enough to realize his goal-scoring pace will increase as the season goes on.

Of course, that's only one side fo the ice,t he Lightning defense need to play above the quality of game that was common place late last season -- you know, AHL caliber.  Moving the puck and clearing the zone should not be an issue for the defensive corps - who are largely a group of NHL veterans.  Buying into the system and having confidence in their own abilities is a must...  Oh, and a little aggression never hurt anyone (meaning Mattias Ohlund should not be the only one leveling players with hits).

These players are not a thrown-together squad, making up for injuries and other roster subtractions.   Glimpses of the promise is there.  When it all comes together - look out.

Will the Bolts actually be in contention for the Southeast Division crown?

Yes -- if they can find consistency, they'll be formidable94
No -- the inconsistency is a sign of their mediocrity. They are also-rans19
Too early to speculate. Ask me again in January.36