The Tampa Bay Lightning are the defending Stanley Cup Champions but they haven't exactly had the best start to the season. While Tampa has a good 11-4-3 record; they currently sit in 3rd in the Atlantic Division. What's are some of the Issues with the Tampa Bay Lightning and how should they be fixed?
Issues w/ Tampa Bay Lightning
1. Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point's Injuries
2. Not enough Scoring Depth
3. Defense Has Not been good at all
4. Young players have not developed well
It's not a stretch to say that Nikita Kucherov is the focal point of the Lightning' offense, and his absence in the lineup is very noticeable especially on the powerplay since his presence requires other teams to pay special attention to him. Kucherov underwent surgery back in late October and was given a timeline of 8 to 10 weeks. The Lightning was able to play well enough without Nikita Kucherov because they still had Stamkos, Point, and Vasilevkiy, however, unfortunately, Brayden Point sustained an upper-body injury and will be out week to week. The Lightning might struggle in the coming weeks without the services of Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point.
The Lightning had a ton of injuries last season, but the major difference was last season they had incredible depth which they lost in the offseason due to salary cap reasons. Tampa lost their whole third line of Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman, and Barclay Goodrow, as well a player who had been an essential part of their team for a long time, Tyler Johnson. These 4 players played huge roles on the team last season and if the Lightning is to play without Kucherov and Point for a while, they will fall in the standings because they don't have good enough scoring depth this year.
Besides the lack of scoring depth, the Lightning has not played great defensively this season in front of Andrei Vasilevksiy. A big reason for this is because of the injury to Erik Cernak, who is very quietly one of their most important defensemen. Obviously, the veteran defenseman such as Hedman and McDonagh are going to do fine, but the rest of their defenseman hasn't played that well. Mikael Sergachev has developed into a great offensive defenseman, but his play defensively can sometimes be head-scratching. The Lightning has a noticeable weakness on the right side of their defense with the absence of Erik Cernak, so that needs to be addressed somehow.
When the Lightning let some of their veteran players leave, they anticipated some of their younger players taking the next step in their development. Ross Colton, Alex Barre Boulet, and Mathieu Joseph are three young players that need to step their game up in absence of Kucherov and Point. Cal Foote, their 1st round pick in 2017 has not panned out thus far and has not become a top 4 defenseman like he was projected to be. Two other prospects to watch are Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh; both were highly touted prospects but their development hasn't gone well. Because Lightning is in desperate need of players, I expect all of the players mentioned to have an impact on the team.
How to Fix Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning acquire Tage Thompson, Anders Bjork, Colin Miller from the Buffalo Sabres for Ross Colton, Taylor Raddysh, 2023 3rd round pick. Buffalo retains 60% of Colin Miller's contract.
The Lightning improves their scoring depth with the additions of Tage Thompson and Anders Bjork, as well as the addition of Colin Miller.
Tampa Bay Lightning acquire Calle Jarnkrok, Ryan Donato from the Seattle Kraken for Boris Katchouk, 2022 1st round pick. Seattle retains 50% of Jarnkrok's contract.
The Lightning is going all-in to try to three-peat; Jarnkrok will be a great third line and Ryan Donato can be a solid 3rd line player.
This is how their Lineup looks like after trade:
IR: N.Kucherov, B.Point, B.Seabrook
The Tampa Bay Lightning have improved their team so that they will be good enough to survive without Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, and when they return, Tampa will be a really tough team to beat.