2017-18 Tampa Bay Lightning Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
You don't see this very often - the Tampa Bay Lightning failed to make the playoffs last year, yet only Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Chicago and Dallas have lower odds to win the Stanley Cup than the Lightning do. Injuries hit the team very hard last year, though, and when healthy this team has the potential to be truly potent. I have been high on this team for several years now, and at the risk of providing an early spoiler for the end of this preview I am feeling quite optimistic about them again this year. This is a team to watch.
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What fuels the optimism? Well, the team went a very strong 8-1-1 down the stretch, which wasn't enough to earn a wild-card spot, but they came close. And Steven Stamkos - the best pure goal scorer in the league for my money - is coming into this season healthy after a season full of injuries last year. If he can stay healthy the team is potent offensively and sound everywhere else. Firepower can win in the NHL, and they will certainly have that.
Tampa Bay Lightning Offseason Moves
The big splash in the offseason was the trade of Jonathan Drouin. He is a very talented forward who had a breakout year last year after a rough start to his career, but he was expendable asset given the offensive depth in Tampa, and his past issues with Tampa Bay management made him tough to trust long term. They dealt him to Montreal, and in return received Mikhail Sergachev, one of the top defensive prospects out there. He briefly started last season with Montreal but was returned to junior where he had another outstanding season with Windsor. He may not be ready for a heavy role this year, but he'll be given the chance to earn one.
Sergachev is not the only defenseman they added. They brought in 33-year-old defenseman Dan Girardi, who was bought out halfway through a six-year contract with the Rangers. His game was declining in Manhattan, and it's tough to see the wisdom in his two-year, $6 million contract.
Beyond those moves the biggest accomplishment of the offseason was tying up key pieces for the long term - Ondrej Palat got five more years, and Tyler Johnson seven. Neither was cheap, but both are very valuable assets who had to be brought back. Good moves.
Of the small deals that were made, the most interesting is the addition of
Chris Kunitz. He turns 38 before the season starts, so he doesn't have a
whole lot to give, but his experience winning four Cups, including the last
two in a row with Pittsburgh, is going to be very valuable for this
Tampa Bay Lightning NHL Outlook
The Lightning were a very solid offensive team last year, and that was largely without both Stamkos and Ryan Callahan, who played just 18 games last year. This should be a top five offense this season as long as they stay healthy. The defense could perhaps be a little deeper, but Victor Hedman is one of the best defenders in the league, and at 26 he's only now entering his prime. He'll have a great year. In net there are concerns about Andrei Vasilevskiy's ability to be an unquestioned No. 1 guy now that the safety net of Ben Bishop is gone for good. He has talent, though, and will have the luxury of a lot of goal support to ease the pressure on him. Add it all up and you have a team that is justifiably widely respected.
Tampa Bay Lightning Schedule
January is going to be brutal. They start a five-game road trip on New Year 's Eve in Columbus. They return home for three games, but then they leave again for an eight-game trip that stretches until Feb. 5. That's 13 of 16 on the road - no team faces anything worse than that this year. This should be quite a good team, but that could be a brutal stretch for a team that has shown any weaknesses.
Tampa Bay Lightning NHL Futures Odds
As I said at the outset, Bovada has the team tied in a group of teams at +1400 to win the Cup. BetOnline has Tampa Bay at +600 to win the Eastern Conference. That is tied with Washington, and behind only Pittsburgh at +450. They are favored to win the Atlantic Division at +300, ahead of Toronto at +375. The season win total sits at 44. They won 42 last year.
2017-18 Tampa Bay Lightning Predictions
I am very bullish. The "over" on the season win total offers as much value as any on the board. Five teams won more than 44 games last year in the Eastern Conference. Tampa will do the same here, and they are on track to make the Eastern Conference final. They are the toughest threat Pittsburgh faces this year.
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