Teddy Purcell has been one of, if not the most, intriguing players on the Tampa Bay Lightning roster. Blessed with all the skill in the world, the question with him has never been how talented he is; It has always been, is he playing hard enough? Since being acquired from the Los Angeles Kings during the 2009-2010 season, Purcell has shown glimpses of being a top line player who can score points in bunches. Unfortunately, he has also been benched for poor and inconsistent play. If you look at his career, he struggled as a young player but now with an opportunity on the Bolts he has been steadily improving the past 3 seasons. Just based off statistics, this should be another very good year of production for him. After a 65 point campaign last season many people, including myself, are excited about the fact that most of his points came during a second half surge that saw him on the top line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. Purcell flourished in this role and you could see him developing confidence every minute on the ice.
Seeing this enhancement in productivity, Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman recently rewarded Purcell with a hefty new 3 year extension at 4.5 million dollars per year. This type of commitment to a player shows two things, management believes the young forward will continue to improve every year and become a force on the top line, but also that they are confident that his consistency issues are behind him and he is ready to contribute at his second half top line pace. All of this information is exactly why I look at this year as Teddy’s career year. This is the year that will define him as a player, whether he will take the next step as an elite first line player, or if he will stagnate into a second or third line scoring forward. The Lightning are counting on the former as they need Purcell in the top 6 producing at a solid rate. Either way, fans are going to look at this year as the turning point in his career based on which direction he goes in.
The problem with projecting how a player’s season will turn out is that with projections come expectations. With how well Teddy finished the season; the management, coaches, and fans will now expect that same great Purcell to show up game in and game out. That is a tough assignment and one that the stars of this league need to be able to do. This is the main reason why the next season will be Purcell’s most important season of his career. He must back up his season last year, live up to his new expensive contract, and prove that he is a player that is ready for the challenge of being one of the go-to guys. The Lightning needs more game changing plays like these two against the Boston Bruins in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals.
If he can do this at a more consistent rate, then the Lightning and Purcell will be in great shape for the future. This type of playmaking and scoring ability is what everyone is hoping for, well, except for the other 29 teams.