With the 2021-22 season right around the corner, many questions have been floating around about this Lightning team, which made significant changes during the offseason. With the additions of Corey Perry, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Brian Elliott, as well as the regular-season return of Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, there’s a lot of questions that Tampa Bay Lightning fans all around the world want to ask.
With all these changes to the team and the cap situation forced by the flat salary cap, and the market being thrown off by some questionable deals made by other teams, there are a lot of things that people are predicting to happen. With that being said, here are my five hot takes entering the 2021-22 season.
1. Nikita Kucherov is a finalist for the Hart trophy
This may not be as much as a hot take, seeing as how the Tampa Bay Lightning star forward won the Hart trophy back in 2019 after putting up an unbelievable 128 points in 82 games, the most amount of points by a Hart trophy-winning player since Mario Lemieux back in the 1995-96 season after he put up 161 points. But with Nikita Kucherov injured for the entire 2020-21 season, a lot of people have doubted whether or not Kucherov is still a Hart trophy caliber player, which is a common thing you’ll hear from people when a player is injured for a whole season, as a lot of people put a cloud of doubt above a player after an injury that long. Even though he was injured for the entire last season, Kucherov put up 32 points in 23 games, something many players cannot get close to. With all this, it makes for a Hart trophy player, and he is undoubtedly going to be one of the top three players nominated.
2. Alex Barre-Boulet will make the jump to the NHL
Alex Barre-Boulet has been a player that Lightning fans have been keeping a close eye on for the last couple of years, and for a good reason too. Consistently a top scorer in the AHL and a great goal scorer, he will be looking to make that jump into the NHL. Although he only scored one point in four games during this years preseason, Barre-Boulet averaged 16:52 minutes on the ice per game, nearly more than any other AHL player that the Lightning has looked to bring into their roster to replace a crucial part of their roster that was taken away during the 2021 offseason. The only other player that played more time than him was Fredrik Claesson, who averaged over 19 minutes a game, and should be expected to try and find a spot as the 7th D if a roster player gets injured. Alex Barre-Boulet is a player we should expect to see play most games this season and be prepared to see him on a line with Steven Stamkos.
3. The Tampa Bay Lightning win the conference
The Tampa Bay Lightning have been a dominant team ever since their bounce-back season in 2017-18 after missing the playoffs the year before. In 2018, Tampa made the Eastern Conference Finals but lost to the Washington Capitals, who went on to win the cup that season. 2019 is a season that we don’t like to talk about, but we won zero games against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round. In 2020 and 2021, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the cup back-to-back. So yeah, pretty good for a team that people doubted for years. The Tampa Bay Lightning have a great chance to win the conference, especially with all their star players back in the lineup, but it will be a tough battle against the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders for that ‘z’ next to their name in the standings. No matter what, though with the team that the Lightning have built around Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, the Lightning have a great chance to win the conference, and there’s no doubt in many fans mind’s that they will do it.
4. Brayden Point will have the best season of his career
Brayden Point, a name that every NHL fan has heard at least a few dozen times, has played amazingly over the last few seasons, becoming one of the most significant pieces to the Lightning’s success over the previous few years. As well as being one of the best skaters in the league, along with having some of the best hands, Brayden Point is also very good at making sure the Lightning always has a chance to score with him on the ice. Whether it’s him or another player, there will be a chance for someone to register a goal. Brayden Point, who scored 48 points in 56 games this past season, has been playing like a beast for the last few seasons, and with Nikita Kucherov back in the lineup and Ondrej Palat on the first line as well, they will all be able to put up a good amount of points this season, but don’t be surprised if Brayden Point scores over 100 points this season and is possibly in talks for the Hart and/or Art Ross trophies.
5. The Tampa Bay Lightning make the Stanley Cup Finals again
This probably won’t come as a surprise, but we can expect success with the Tampa Bay Lightning team over the last decade. With the way this offseason went and how many key pieces the Lightning were able to keep, the Tampa Bay Lightning have a great chance of making the finals for the third time in a row. Whether the Lightning win is unknown, as there’s no possible way to know whether we’ll be playing a top team like the Colorado Avalanche in the finals or a wildcard team like the Seattle Kraken or Vancouver Canucks. Nevertheless, no team should be underestimated, but it’s tough to see the Tampa Bay Lightning not making the cup finals again, especially with the dynasty built already for this historical Lightning team.