Is it Finally Alex Barre-Boulet’s Time with Tampa Bay Lightning?

TAMPA, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 28: Alex Barre-Boulet #12 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates a goal during a game against the Arizona Coyotes at Amalie Arena on October 28, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 28: Alex Barre-Boulet #12 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates a goal during a game against the Arizona Coyotes at Amalie Arena on October 28, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /
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The Tampa Bay Lightning expect to have at least one starting forward spot up for grabs ahead of the 2023-24 postseason. That forward spot could slot in anywhere up and down the lineup. One of the trendy candidates to land that role will be Alex Barre-Boulet who is looking at perhaps his biggest opportunity yet to become an NHL regular.

Barre-Boulet has gotten his fair share of chances over the last few seasons. He has played in NHL games in each of the last three seasons with the Lightning which have come mostly due to injury to more regular players.

Last season, Barre-Boulet played in just one NHL game after playing in 14 and 15 games in the two prior seasons. Out of training camp, Barre-Boulet was passed up on in favor of Cole Koepke and Gabriel Fortier who both landed opening night roster spots. Both of which will still be in competition for spots again along with Logan Brown, Josh Archibald and maybe even Gage Concalves.

Despite only playing a single game in the NHL, the 2022-23 season was Barre-Boulet’s best professional season. He finished as an over a point-per-game player for the second straight season and recorded a career high of 84 points in just 69 games. 24 of those points came as goals. There is no denying his talent at the professional level.

This past season also saw him break the Syracuse Crunch all-time goal and point records. Barre-Boulet now holds the franchise point record by over 40 points

Of course, setting these types of career franchise records means that you have spent a lot of time in the AHL and that is where the concern comes in.

The thing with Barre-Boulet in the past has been that he needs to play on one of the top two lines in order to have success. The problem has been that the Lightning have not had too many openings in the top six during his time, therefore, there has not been much chance for him to be successful and forced him to remain primarily in the AHL.

There have been chances for him in the bottom six to play. But with his smaller size at 5’10 and primarily offensive style of play, Barre-Boulet has not really been able to fit in  while playing third and fourth line minutes. He has not been able to prove a high enough level of defensive zone responsibility and ability to play at both ends of the ice to warrant playing regularly. In the bottom six, you are expected to play in defensive situations and play more of a checking role and Barre-Boulet has never adjusted his game to play in this role in the NHL.

His inability to be trusted has been part of what has polarized many in the fanbase. Many will stump for him to come in and be a top two line player next season and many have also been writing him off for years, citing that he cannot play both ends.

This year could be different for him as Tampa Bay might have a top-six role up for grabs and it could be his for the taking. His overall game has also seemed to turn the corner in the AHL but it remains to be seen whether that will translate into the NHL. His talent is unquestionable, but his willingness to adapt his game to play in the NHL remains to be seen.

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