COMMENTARY | The Tampa Bay Lightning failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row and questions are swirling around why.
Two top players in the National Hockey League, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, are on the Lightning's roster, which only adds fuel to the fire. St. Louis, a right winger, was awarded this year's Art Ross Trophy, finishing out the season with 60 points. Stamkos ended the season with 57 points, only to trail St. Louis in the standings.
How does a team with the top two point leaders on its roster in the NHL fail to make the playoffs? That question is on everyone's minds.
1. What's Going On Between The Pipes
Andres Lindback, a 6-foot-3 goalie, dominated the net at the start of the shortened season after being acquired from the Nashville Predators in the summer. Lindback offers quick glove speed, a skill that is a rare find in a goalie -- especially one with his massive size. A midseason injury, involving a high-ankle sprain, benched Lindback for most of the Lightning's games just when things started getting good.
Shortly after Lindback's injury, details about the Cory Conacher trade surfaced. In a risky move, Conacher, a Rookie of the Year candidate, was traded to the Ottawa Senators for goalie Ben Bishop. Bishop strived to make his mark with the Lightning and ended the season with a between-the-pipes save percentage of .917. As speculations continue to arise on if trading Conacher was the right move, the answer is clear from the win-loss record the Lightning put up this season.
Injuries continued to plague the Lightning during the shortened season, including big-name players like Ryan Malone and Vincent Lecavalier. Malone, a left winger, dealt with multiple injuries this season, including both upper- and lower-body injuries. Every minute Malone had to watch from the bench, the Lightning lost hope to make the postseason. Lecavalier, a 6-foot-4 captain, was out for most of the season after a game against the Panthers on March 14, 2013, when he sustained a lower-body injury. The injury caused Lecavalier to be benched up until the final games of the season.
Most people know the players on the offense for the Lightning, but how many people really know the players on the defense? A strong offense means nothing in the game of hockey if you can't protect the net, and the Lightning had problems in their end zone this season. Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay Lightning general manager, made attempts to tackle this issue leading up to the NHL trade deadline. Yzerman acquired defenseman Mike Commodore from the Detroit Red Wings, Keith Aulie from the Toronto Maple Leafs and Brain Lee from the Ottawa Senators to alleviate some problems in the defense zone. Still, the newly added defenseman did not have enough time to develop within the team in the shorted season and failed to produce on the ice -- despite Yzerman's efforts.
The Lightning failed to hit the mark on the ice this season, landing 14th in the Eastern Conference standings, and it comes to no surprise to anyone who follows them that they didn't make the playoffs. NHL camps will start this summer, and it's clear that the Lightning have a lot of work to do if they want to get out of this slump. More changes are to be made before the Lightning hit the ice again in the fall.
Hopefully, tackling big issues that will reflect wins on the ice will be at the top of their list.
Tia Marie is a Canadian native who contributes to the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Tia Marie's work can be found on multiple sports websites, including JrHockeyRecruit.com.
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