The 2015-2016 season provided a mixed bag of results for the prospect pipeline of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization. A glass-half-full view would point out the organization weathered one of the most extreme stress tests to a club's depth imaginable. Entering the playoffs without its top goal scorer and second-best defenseman and eventually losing its No. 1 goaltender to injury for an extended period of time in the postseason, the Lightning still managed to advance to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals partly on the performance of some of its top young players.
A glass-half-empty view, however, would point to the disappointing performance of the team's AHL affiliate, which missed the postseason leading to the dismissal of Head Coach Rob Zettler and the hiring of new Head Coach Benoit Groulx entering the 2016-2017 campaign. That's not to say there weren't developmental successes to point to on the Syracuse Crunch roster. But, the smashing success the club had with their affiliate under Jon Cooper had given way to a far more modest, underwhelming new normal that was ultimately not acceptable to the brain trust of Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman and Crunch GM Julien BriseBois.
This week’s “Doug Glatt Edition” of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (also available on Lightning Power Play, Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:
· The No. 69
· Playoff review depends on perspective
· Who stepped up?
· Who stepped down?
· What happens next? A game of dominoes.
· How TB can contend again
· Prospects who are positioned to contribute
· #BPMailbag (Erne timing … Fantasy roster … Point vs Peca vs Vladdy vs TJ ... Goalie questions)
The Lightning’s offseason started late Thursday night when the final buzzer eventually sounded at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center. Despite a pretty solid effort for the first two rounds of the playoffs and into the Eastern Conference Finals, the Lightning’s regular season warts reared their ugly heads as the Pens series progressed.
After last season’s run to the finals the Lightning believed that defense was the way to go further this year — and it almost worked. They spent the entire regular season focused on team defense and conservative counter attacks. The club was called “boring” many times during the regular season, and their league-leading offense from the previous year fell to mediocrity. Add to that inconsistent effort nearly every week – usually in the first period. “It’s a 60-minute game” was said ad nauseum, and eventually the Lightning, with a 3-2 series lead on Pittsburgh, only played with an attacking mindset the third periods of Game 6 and Game 7. Those four periods when they sat back and trusted their defensive structure – in and of itself not a horrible decision – cost them.
This week’s “Aaron Gavey Edition” of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (also available on Lightning Power Play, Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:
· The No. 68
· Most gruesome injury in Lightning history?
· New affiliate in the family
· Youth keeping Lightning in Cup quest
· Koekkoek climbs another rung of depth chart ladder
· Stamkos question still burning
· Two strategic RFA prospect signings
· The No. 67
· Pitt-TB review and why Game 3 was so important
· Meat vests
· The team can win with Vasy
· Vasy vs Bishop
· #BPMailbag (Core players … Annoying comments … How big is the Cup window? … Fast-forwarding prospects)
This week’s “He Who Plays for a Team that Shan’t Be Named Edition” of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (also available on Lightning Power Play, Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:
· The No. 66
· Flightless birds lack intelligence
· Conference Final will be determined by…
· Koekkoek’s made his move
· Zettler out in Syracuse; what went wrong?
· Groulx brings energy, expectations to Crunch
This week’s “Vladdy Namestnikov Edition” of the Bolt Prospects Podcast (also available on Lightning Power Play, Lightning Radio's iHeart station) includes the following topics:
· The No. 65
· Project picks & Vladdy's future
· Keys to NYI series win haven’t changed
· The burning Drouin question
· The burning Stamkos question
· Interviews with Black Aces Koekkoek, DeAngelo, Blujus, and Erne
· The No. 64
· Biggest jersey fail in Lightning history
· Red Wings review
· NYI Game 1 recap – Should we Panik?
· Who wears the goat horns for Game 1?
· A new intangible for Ryan Callahan
· Next step for each Black Ace
The #BPMailbag returns as a text edition this week, right in the thick of the playoffs.
Let’s get started…
@BoltProspects why did #tblightning take Brian Hart instead of [ghost][bear]?
Let the record show this is the first #BPMailbag question asked with emojis. The Lightning took Brian Hart with their second 2012 second-round pick (the team’s fourth pick), at 53 overall. Hart was a 6-3 center coming off a 32-goal, 68-point season in just 29 games for Phillips Exeter Academy. He was a big athlete (soccer star) with good hands and high-end production.
They had already taken defensemen Slater Koekkoek (lefty) at 10 and Dylan Blujus (righty) at 40, with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy at 19. It made sense to go with a forward there, and with their fourth pick, they could swing for the fences. The draft is a crapshoot as it is, but high schoolers are the wild cards of wild cards. You just don’t know if they’re going to be a star or if their numbers are just inflated due to competition. It made sense to swing for the fences there. Gostisbehere (lefty) went at 78, so the Lightning technically took Tanner Richard before him, too (and Philly took two others before him).
· The No. 63
· Tampa Bay’s Johnson
· Drouin 2.0: validation or relief?
· What’s working for TB?
· Reasons to chew your fingernails
· Black Aces review and analysis
· Interview with Jeff Tambellini
Note: Latest edition of the #BPMailbag will be a text edition, posted Thursday afternoon.