Question of the Week: Did the Tampa Bay Lightning live up to your preseason expectations?

The Raw Charge "Question of the Week" is a weekly feature that poses a question to Raw Charge writers and sometimes other writers within the Boltosphere, discussing the ins and outs of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Many at the beginning of the season begin to think about the possibilities a team has for the postseason. Stanley Cup dreams start right around the beginning of training camp. And then they either die or start to become a serious possibility by November or December.

Most hockey experts at the beginning of the season had the Lightning in seventh or eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Some even had the team not making playoffs. So a fifth place finish was much better than the experts had predicted.

For the record, I had them finishing in sixth place. While no one seemed to find that overly strange, they did seem to think it was a touch optimistic. Turns out, I wasn't quite optimistic enough.

The question of the week is: Before the season even started, what were your expectations for this team with a new coaching staff and GM, and where did you think the Lightning would end up in the standings? And how did the reality of the regular season prove you right or wrong?

John Fontana - Staff

My expectations were born sometime after the conclusion of the 2009-10 campaign. Before Steve Yzerman, Guy Boucher, or any of the off-season moves. It was rhetoric tossed about in conversation by Eric McErlain and James Mirtle: The Lightning were thisclose to the playoffs (eight points out of the eighth seed). Rick Tocchet had been canned, Brian Lawton had been done away with. McErlain focused on how close the Bolts were to the playoffs, while James focused on the fact the Bolts had a top heavy roster (Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Mattias Ohlund and…. Well, that was it) and the idea the team should be blown up and rebuilt.

I focused on Eric’s answer more than Mirtle’s. I looked at the two prime culprits of the Bolts missing the playoffs: It’s record in one-goal games and it’s March 2010 swoon. The Bolts had to improve their record in one-goal affairs, and they had to avoid a total collapse. That was the key.

With the optimism of the season, I thought the Bolts would accomplish that. How much? Couldn’t – more like wouldn’t – even wager. What I expected was growing pains early on, and for the team to take off as the season progressed.

It didn’t go that way, exactly… The team took off, but regressed a bit as the season went on. I thought it would take more time for the team to learn Coach Boucher’s system. I was wrong there.

As for the one-goal game record: The Bolts finished 23-7-11 in those affairs, a .561 win percentage, good for eighth in the NHL.

I'm on record on another site as predicting a 2nd place finish in the SE. They achieved that.

Clark Brooks - Staff / Clark Brooks' Blog

Prior to the wonders that Jedi Master Yzerman pulled off during the offseason, I thought the Lightning would be good enough to battle for a playoff spot, based on the belief that they were probably already at least that good, but saddled with bad leadership. Once the dust had settled, specifically the day they landed Simon Gagne, I expected them to get in. The long run they had in first place was a surprise and I think a 5th seed is higher than I was anticipating prior to the start of the season, because I thought Atlanta, Carolina, New Jersey and Toronto would be better than they were.

Nolan Whyte - Staff / Frozen Sheets Hockey

After so many seasons out of the playoffs, I was very cautious with my expectations this year. I expected the team to make the playoffs, but I also expected the team to have to fight for one of the final spots in the East. I expected them to spend stretches of the season on the outside looking in, and that never really happened. They built on the great core they had, they made changes when things weren't working, and they were also helped by the complete implosion of some teams that usually perform much better, like the Ottawa Senators and the New Jersey Devils.

I certainly did not expect the Lightning to lead the Southeast at any time this year, so any way you slice it, they did a lot better than I expected.

Matt Amos - Staff / Don't Trade Vinny

As has popped up around a few other posts on Raw Charge, my initial hope for the team was to collect 42 wins - a winning record.  I had a feeling that, with the current landscape of the Eastern Conference, if that were achieved, it would certainly give the Lightning a chance to make the playoffs.  However, making the playoffs was not an important point for me, given that MANY teams have made the NHL playoffs before with losing records.  

I feel that's a huge difference, striving to be a winning team as opposed to simply a playoff team.
All that being said, I was expecting for another climb in the standings around the 8-10 spots in the East.  In the beginning, we still had an uneasy goaltending situation, and coach that while highly touted and saying all the right things was unproven.

Sure enough, following standard procedure, I was a bit pessimistic in my expectations/hopes, and the Lightning flirted with the 2nd seed in the East, settling in (obviously) at 5th.

Last week's Question of the Week: What would you like to see the Lightning do this offseason?