Will Victor Hedman bounce back for Tampa Bay Lightning?

Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

Star Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman is widely regarded as a future inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame. However, the 2022-23 campaign did not showcase his best performance in the NHL.

Firstly, his nine  goals in 76 regular season games were tied with the COVID abbreviated 2020-21 season for his lowest total since the 2012-13 season. Additionally, according to Money Puck, his Corsi (On-Ice Shot Attempt %) stood at 50%, marking the first time since 2012-13 that he dipped below 51%. Moreover, his 0.64 points per game were his lowest since 2015-16, a noticeable decline from his career-high of 1.04 points per game just a year prior. His power-play points also dropped below 22 for the first time since 2015-16.

Beyond the statistics, it’s evident that Hedman did not perform at his usual level during the past season. Mikhail Sergachev assumed the role of quarterbacking the top power-play unit and logged more ice time per game than the accomplished Swedish defenseman in the playoffs.

It’s worth acknowledging that injuries hampered Hedman for a significant portion of the final two months of the season. Nevertheless, there’s now a legitimate question about whether he remains the top defenseman for the Tampa Bay Lightning moving forward.

One potential factor contributing to his down season is the extensive ice time he has accumulated since the conclusion of the 2018-19 season. With over 8,700 minutes played, Hedman has significantly more ice time logged than any other player in this time frame, with Dallas’ Miro Heiskanen as the nearest competitor at under 8,100 total minutes. Tampa Bay’s own Mikhail Sergachev ranks third with 8,033:06. Hedman has played over 10 full games more than any other player in the past four seasons, and long-term fatigue may have played a role in his underwhelming performance.

Turning 33 years old in December, it’s possible that Hedman is transitioning out of his prime. However, numerous defensemen have excelled well into their 30s, such as Mark Giordano, who won the Norris Trophy at the age of 35 in 2018-19. Thus, Hedman could remain an elite defenseman for several more years, despite his age.

Ultimately, Victor Hedman is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the best defensemen of his generation. Although 2022-23 was not a stellar year for him, it would still be considered exceptional for most defensemen in the sport. Given the departure of key defensemen in recent years, including Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta, the Lightning will continue to rely on Hedman as their defensive anchor. While a bounce-back season in 2023-24 is entirely possible, it’s also necessary as the Lightning will need Hedman to play at an elite level if they aim to compete for the Stanley Cup again next season.

dark. Next. Darren Raddysh Provided a Pleasant Surprise