The Tampa Bay Lightning did not have the best season, as we all know. It was the worst season in a long time. However, it wasn’t all bad. There were some good things to come out of their 20th Anniversary season. Yesterday I addressed my personal reflections of the negative. Today, I will address my personal reflections on the positive.
First of all, it was the Twentieth Anniversary season. For a team that many thought wouldn’t last, they have been around for two whole decades. Despite their poor record, the Lighting are proving themselves to be a real team with real heart and real fans.
Speaking of fans, they got to disprove the myth that Tampa doesn’t have many fans. Sure, many showed up during the Stanley Cup Playoff run. Many packed the arena the year after expecting a great season. But most cities will argue that they were just ‘band wagoners’. Last season almost every game was sold out and/or packed to the point of standing room only. It wasn’t because of mostly snowbirds who were there to see the opposing teams. There were certain games like against Toronto where there were a large number of the opposing fans, however, never were the Lightning fans the minority. They stuck with the team through to the end, despite how they were playing. Even those who weren’t able to make it to the games set a record number for tuning in to FOX Sports to watch the game at home. 43 out of the 48 games were shown on FOX Sports Florida or Sun Sports. With 32,518 households tuning in, they showed a 30% increase and had the highest viewing year for the Lightning on the network to date, according to Nielsen Media Research. Many fans said that they would boycott the NHL after the lockout. I’m glad that most fans came out and supported the team anyway.
Martin St. Louis had a wonderful season. With 60 points in 48 games, Marty has won the second Art Ross Trophy of his career. Being 37 years old, this makes him the oldest player in league history. He has proved that hard work pays off, no matter your age. Steven Stamkos had a Stammerific season. He ranked 2nd in the league for goals with 29. With 1 more goal, he’d of had the equivalent of a 60 goal season. (Half a season, 30 goals for those of you who just when ‘huh’?) With 28 assists, he placed 2nd in the league for points with 57.
Tampa Bay finally has two solid goaltenders with Anders Lindback and Ben Bishop. Though young and still a bit shaky, these two have what it takes to mature into two star goalies. With a good defense and goaltending, mixed with the offensive scoring that we saw last year, the Lightning will be unstoppable.
The open skates during the lockout were nice. I can mark something off of my bucket list that I never thought would happen. I got to ice skate on Tampa Bay Lightning ice, as did any fan who signed up on Facebook. There were 3 or 4 for season ticket members, but they also held an open skate or two for any fan who wanted to go. For free!! They didn’t even charge for parking or to rent the skates.
With the lockout the team may have lost money, but we, as fans, saved some. It was hell on those affected by working either at the forum or an environment that gains from NHL games like restaurants and such. But for most fans, we saved money by not going to the games. The ticket prices, parking, gas to get there, food, drinks, souvenirs, etc… with three children we can have a pricey night in no time. (I’m just trying to look at the positives about this whole thing.) For season ticket members who chose to keep their money in the organization, half of their seats for next year are already paid off. Well, if you don’t sit in a section affected by the ticket price increase. Fortunately we sit on the third level in an ‘end zone’ section (320) so ours didn’t go up.
The Lightning has a new, fresh energy to start off the 2013-2014 season with. A new head coach with new ideas, but who has worked with most of the team already, gives the team a new look, a new feel; a new edge. I think that Jon Cooper will do a great job, and I can’t wait to see what happens under his reign. It’s a new era! We got to see that a good number of the ‘Baby Bolts’ in Syracuse are ready. The team has the depth in the minor leagues if they need them. They proved that they are ready for call ups and their AHL and ECHL teams can both survive, as the Syracuse Crunch just swept the opposing team in the first round of the AHL playoffs, and the Florida Everblades are in the ECHL playoffs. Mike Angelidis, Mark Barberio, and many of the young guys proved that they are definitely NHL ready. We got to see many of the young guys that we’ve been waiting to suite up in Bolt Blue succeed on the ice. Pierre-Cedric Labrie for one. I’ve been anxious to see Radko Gudas get his chance. Already a fan favorite, Gudas has blown everyone away with his defense. We got to see the ‘Nacho Cheese’ line in action! (Labrie’s nick name is Nacho, and Gudas’ is Cheese. = Nacho Cheese)
With Guy Boucher being gone for a little while now, General Manager Steve Yzerman can see what moves that he needs to make with the players. He sees that it wasn’t all Boucher’s fault, and now he knows what he has to do. The coaches can see exactly what needs to be addressed, what needs to be worked on and can tweak training camp and early practices to fit to those issues.
Tampa Bay has the 3rd overall draft pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. That is a great opportunity to increase their depth.
Personally, I’m excited for next season. I am not saying that the team is going to the Stanley Cup Finals, they will need some time to groom themselves into being contenders. But there will definitely be improvements, and there will be a new feeling in the arena. Especially with this realignment. Sure, I love the fans to mostly be Lightning fans. But there will be a certain energy with the realignment. Get ready, the snowbirds will be snatching up every seat that they can.
On to 2013-2014!