43-33-6, eighth in East; lost in first round to Ottawa
KEY ADDITIONS G Marc Denis, D Filip Kuba, D Luke Richardson
KEY LOSSES D Pavel Kubina, LW Fredrik Modin
Training camp was
supposed to begin at 7 a.m. on Sept. 14, but the entire team was present when
coach John Tortorella kicked off the meeting seven minutes early. The Lightning
may have been eager to get its season under way, but don't expect the team to
be in attendance come playoff time.
Ever since the
2003--04 Stanley Cup winners got trounced by Ottawa in a five-game first-round
series last season, G.M. Jay Feaster has set out to rebuild. But that doesn't
mean Tampa Bay has improved much. To replace the struggling goalie tandem of
John Grahame and Sean Burke (a combined .891 save percentage), Feaster brought
in Marc Denis, who was a disappointment in net for the Avalanche and the Blue
Jackets (career record: 94-156-28 and 2.97 goals-against average). The remaking
of the blue line included the acquisitions of mobile Filip Kuba but also
slow-footed Luke Richardson, who is a career minus-120.
Cup-winning offense--led by center Vincent Lecavalier (35 goals, 40 assists),
center Brad Richards (23 goals, 68 assists) and right wing Martin St. Louis (31
goals, 30 assists)--remains intact, the Lightning's fixes, though not too late,
are too little.
37-34-11, 11th in East
KEY ADDITIONS D Bryan Allen, G Alex Auld, RW Todd Bertuzzi, LW Ville
KEY LOSSES G.M. Mike Keenan, G Roberto Luongo
In the NHL's
southernmost outpost, front-office politics, not the hurricane season, spun
this team into disarray. In September, All-Star goalie Roberto Luongo, the face
of the franchise for five seasons, was traded for troubled winger Todd Bertuzzi
and three others to boost Florida's offense. The deal was orchestrated by G.M.
Mike Keenan, who 10 days before training camp abruptly resigned, leaving
Jacques Martin to juggle the roles of coach and G.M.
provide the club with some stability during his 28-month tenure, signing
captain Olli Jokinen (38 goals, 51 assists) and 6'4", 220-pound center
Chris Gratton to multiyear deals. The Panthers will return eight players who
scored 15 or more goals last year. "We've got four solid lines," says
left wing Martin Gelinas. To stay out of the division cellar, Florida will need
consistent play out of each of them.