- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
LAST SEASON 24-40-18 (14th in East)
KEY ADDITIONS LW Todd Fedoruk, D Kurtis Foster, G Antero Niittymaki, D Mattias Öhlund, D Matt Walker, LW Stéphane Veilleux
KEY LOSSES LW David Koci, D Josef Melichar, LW Vaclav Prospal
When G.M. Brian Lawton homed in on 33-year-old free agent Mattias Öhlund, he was after more than a premier defenseman. He also wanted a role model and mentor for Victor Hedman (below), the No. 2 pick in June's entry draft. The two Swedes will fortify a defense that surrendered the third-most shots on goal last season, and Öhlund should strengthen a penalty kill that allowed the most power-play goals in the league. Though the expectations for Hedman are high, the 6'6", 220-pound rookie deeply impressed the Lightning while averaging more than 27 minutes in the preseason. Says coach Rick Tocchet, "I did not know he was this good."
The defensive failings undermined Tampa Bay so much that, as one Eastern Conference coach says, "I don't think anybody saw what they were capable of doing." With better defensive support around goalie Mike Smith (he should improve on his 2.62 goals-against average) and the NHL's 2006--07 leading goal scorer Vincent Lecavalier (he had 52) setting the tone offensively, the Lightning can at least harbor hopes of making the playoffs.
LAST SEASON 41-30-11 (9th in East)
KEY ADDITIONS G Scott Clemmensen, D Ville Koistinen, D Jordan Leopold, C Steve Reinprecht