Lightning’s roster needs tweaking, not fixing

by Gary Shelton on May 25, 2018 · 2 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Have injuries slowed Stamkos?/JEFFREY S.KING

Have injuries slowed Stamkos?/JEFFREY S.KING

Friday, 4 a.m.

Steve Yzerman has been here before.

It wasn't a pleasant feeling then, either.

It was back in 2011, and the Lightning was coming off a shutout in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs. His team was led by a hot young coach, and it had it had played well before losing a 1-0 game to Boston.

And Yzerman blew up the roster.

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Kucherov saw the season slip away./JEFFREY S. KING

Kucherov saw the season slip away./JEFFREY S. KING

Dwayne Roloson, the goaltender, was out. Guy Boucher, the coach, didn't last long. Yzerman saw flaws in his team, and he believed it needed heavy repairs. And so he tore the roster apart and rebuilt.

Now, the scenario is the same. The Washington Caps exposed the Lightning as a smaller, slower opponent. During those final two losses, it no longer looked like an upset. It looked like one team pushing around another.

And so Yzerman faces choices. 1) He can blow up the roster; 2) He can stand pat; 3. He can do a little bit of both.

Look, it's a likable Lightnng team. But can it continue to survive with mites such as Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde? Or, when it gets deep into the playoffs, does it need more bulk on its roster?

Of course, disappointment is the worst time to contemplate changes. Eventually, however, this should strike Yzerman. One: His roster is pretty good. Two: It isn't good enough.

What about Nikita Kucherov? He didn't have a good Eastern Conference final. But Kucherov is still young enough, electric enough, to build around.

What about Steven Stamkos? He was better against the Caps. But there are stretches when Stamkos' inability to create his own shot is apparent. Have injuries taken too big a toll on Stamkos? We'll see.

What about Brayden Point? More and more, Point looks like a keeper. I don't trade him. I don't think about it.

What about Andrei Vasilevskiy? Get serious. Consider this: In 2011, starting goalie Roloson won 18 games. This year, Vasilevskiy won 44 (and 10 more in the playoffs). He's a keeper.

I keep Hedman. I keep McDonagh. I keep J.T. Miller. I keep Mikhail Sergachev.

Everyone else? Let's talk.

There are two ways the Bolts can go at this point They can believe too much in their players, and they can believe too little. I know, I know. The immediate reaction for the fans is to criticize, and the immediate reaction from the front office is to defend the players.

But somewhere in the middle, the truth about the Lightning is that they're pretty good.

Today, that seems like a horrible thing to suggest.


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