The Lightning’s shortcomings the past couple of seasons are the consequence of not having the ability to win the big game. They had been right there last season, but lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The year before that, they had been ousted by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup final. Despite not being able to close things out the past few seasons, they remain among the elite in the NHL and should once again be in the mix come playoff time.
The silver lining to their conduct last year was that they won two playoff series and brought the eventual Cup winners into the verge without Steven Stamkos. Even the Lightning captain played in just one playoff game, but he’s back to full health and, at only 26 years old, there is no reason to think he can’t return to the 90+ point player he had been out of 2009 to 2012.
Much like the Penguins, Tampa returns all of its core players from last season. The roster is filled with stars in their mid-20s, so they still might be getting better. Here’s a look at their futures odds for the upcoming season.
Stanley Cup +1000
An individual could argue that this team is trending in the wrong direction after dropping at the Cup final two years back, in the East last last season, but given the makeup of the roster, so it might be foolish to discount them. Also worth considering — of those 11 Stanley Cup champions since the lockout, five of them dropped in a seminar final the year before, and therefore don’t cross Tampa off your list of Cup contenders.
The Lightning are supporting just the Chicago Blackhawks (+750) on the Stanley Cup futures oddsboard and are tied together with the Pens and Capitals.
Eastern Conference +550
Tampa trails both Pittsburgh (+400) and Washington (+500) from the Eastern Conference futures marketplace as the Lightning try to make it back to their third consecutive conference closing. This franchise has won the conference twice in its history, however it’s worth noting that no team has played three consecutive Eastern Conference finals in a very long time. You truly have to go way back to when the summit was known as the Prince of Wales Conference, when the New York Islanders made three consecutive appearances in the closing from 1982 to 1984.
Atlantic Division +130
How strange is it to see two teams from Florida — the Lightning and Panthers (+400) — forward of four First Six teams around the Atlantic Division futures oddsboard? Odd or not, Tampa Bay is the largest favorite in branch futures markets this year, but should they slip even a bit, that +400 worth on the Panthers, last season’s division winner, is an superb bargain.
Perhaps another surprising oddity is that it has been more than a decade since the Lightning won their division, when they moved back in 2003 and 2004.
OVER/UNDER Point Complete 105.5
The Lightning are second to only the Caps (106.5) at the point total economy, but this number appears too large. They had 97 points every year and surpassed that the 105.5 point total mark only once in the past ten years. The Capitals were the only team in the East to transcend this number last season and with a couple divisional competitions planning to see an uptick in production, the UNDER looks like a safe bet.