Okay, so the Lightning got beat up pretty badly tonight, losing their third in a row, all at home. Boston lost against the Penguins, so the Bolts remain six points back of eighth place in the East. But with only two wins in their last ten, it seems pretty clear that the team lacks the tools and the will to make up the necessary ground. So as we drag our asses toward the inevitable mathmatical elimination from playoff contention, we can look at the team and ask ourselves a few questions about the team and its future.
Question One: Will Alex Tanguay start next season in the NHL? He played less than twelve minutes against the Sabres and has been a non-factor for this team all season. He's still stuck at nine goals on the year. He was hoping to use this one-year contract to reassert himself and land a big, long-term contract next season. More likely, he's played his way to a two-way contract, or maybe a contract with a team in the German league. Hell, he could probably get two million from a KHL club. I wouldn't expect another year with a Bolt on his chest though.
Question Two: Will Vincent Lecavalier's critics finally shut up? Yes, he had a rough start to the year, but he has six goals in eight games (one against the Sabres) and managed seven shots in the game, two more than the first line of Stamkos, St.Louis and Downie. The man is coming around.
Question Three: Would anything short of contracting the league by ten teams allow Tampa Bay to find at least eight NHL-quality forwards? Seriously, right now we have maybe six. The rest are a mix of prospects that aren't panning out, and plain old spare parts. This team is paper thin. We have the core, but we're not building around it.
Question Four: How long will Victor Hedman's learning curve be? Are we going to get an idea what he's capable of in his second, third, fourth year? Fifth? And will he still be with the club when he finds himself? If he's slow to develop, I expect him to get moved at less than his eventual value. I hope for his sake he develops quickly. I hope for our sake we're patient. None of this "Roamin' Roman" crap. Let the kid grow at his own pace.
Question Five: What are we going to build on for next year? '07-'08 was a good team that fell apart. '08-'09 was a team torn apart ten times over, nuked, screwed, and decimated by injuries. '09-'10 has been a conservatively improved team that has been competative for stretches, but has fallen short of contending. My guess, based on the new owner's rhetoric, that we're in for another conservative summer of patient building. Do we have anything to be excited about next year? Lecavalier and St.Louis will be a little older. Can we build fast enough to use these guys while they're still effective? Are we just going to keep adding spare parts, hoping some of them stick?
What is the plan? And will we have to wait for a new management team to come in and "put their stamp" on the team? I'm tired of transition. I want to see some wins.