It's a little under seven weeks until the 2007-08 NHL season opens in London, England on September 29th (blimey!) and it's time to start previewing the season. I'm starting these season previews really, really early but that's only because there's no way I can write 30 solid previews in only a couple of weeks. If I'm going to preview every single NHL team, and I'm going to try my hardest to do so, it will take all seven weeks and then some... And as you might have guessed, these aren't going to be your standard season previews.
misguided expansion locations; Florida!
- Tampa Bay does not appreciate high save percentages.
- [Insert obligatory joke about how bad the Southeast Division is] In Southeast division, merchandise buys you!
- Tampa Bay got new owners this off-season, including Doug MacLean. Sorry, Tampa. He's your problem now.
- Ok, ok. Last horrible joke. Promise. In Southeast division, hockey plays you!
Odds for the folks at gambler's anonymous
4.5 to 1: The Tampa Bay's Ice Girls are some of the best in the NHL.
Guaranteed to happen: There are at least 10 separate rumors of St. Louis/Richards/Lecavalier trades, and yet all three will remain with the Bolts through the end of the season.
10 to 1: You will forget at some point during the season that the Lightning have, in fact, won more Stanley Cups in the last 10 years than Montreal, Toronto, Philadelphia, the Rangers and Edmonton combined.
Obligatory serious analysis
When it comes to their corps of forwards, the Lightning have some of the best in the Eastern Conference. Their top three of Lecavalier, Richards and St. Louis is one of the best top three in the game, and they get support from defender Dan Boyle, one of the best offensive defense men out there.
The problem is, there isn't a whole lot left to the team after those four and help may not be on it's way. The team has about $23.5 million in cap space used up on those four players alone, which is almost half of their cap space. As you might expect, the rest of the cupboard is pretty bare. Filip Kuba and Vaclav Prospal are solid second tier players, but there really isn't much else there. The team is also going to be dealing with the loss of two big (and I do mean BIG) defenders, 6-foot-3 Cory Sarich and 6-foot-4 Luke Richardson. The team brought in Brad Lukowich to try and fill the gap, but let's face it, Lukowich is only one man.
In net, things aren't much better. The tandem of Johan Holmqvist and Marc Denis can, well... They're really good at standing between the pipes. The combined to start every game for the Bolts last season, and also combined for a GAA a hair over 3 and a save percentage of .888. That's not going to get it done if Tampa wants to win the Southeast. But then again, it is the Southeast.
Prediction: The defense just isn't going to be there, and with much of the conference improved, I'd venture to guess that the Bolts will fall in at about the 10th spot.
Previous Editions of Preseason Foreplay