Over the course over the next month or so, we’ll be chatting with a few different writers around the division to gauge how the team they cover has been performing since the end of the season.
Up today is Alan from Raw Charge and Hockey-Graphs, (who you can follow on twitter @loserpoints), discussing the Cup contending Tampa Bay Lightning. You can find a full list of their transactions here.
ALSO IN THIS SERIES:
How would you grade Tampa’s offseason?
I would grade the Bolts offseason as a B. The Kucherov extension was A+ but the McDonagh move brings the grade back down a little. The fanbase is definitely relieved that we don’t have to go through Stammergeddon 2.0. But giving McDonagh that much money a year early is too a big of a risk for me to overlook. He’ll be thirty by the time that extension kicks in and his results have declined over the last few years. The team could have waited until next summer to see how he played in Tampa this year. Instead they overpaid for his over 30 seasons and will likely see that contract get pretty bad at some point. Just a matter of when. If they get four good seasons out of him, that’s probably fine. If it’s three or less, that’s an ugly deal.
How would you grade Toronto’s offseason?
I would grade the Leafs offseason as “Go away I’m tired of hearing about it.” Or an A- I guess. Whatever. I’m not quite as high on Tavares as some seem to be. His defensie results were bad in New York and yes, the Isles were a tire fire but I’m not ready to completely ignore Tavares’ results because of that. He’s joining a team that was already an offensive powerhouse with questionable defense so seeing what they look like with another start in that profile will be interesting. The move that I would be most excited about as a Leafs fan is the hiring of Kyle Dubas as the GM. His hiring shows that the organization is thinking the right way in terms of how to build their front office. And he already showed with his hirings this summer that he’s going to take full advantage of the financial strength at his disposal to surround himself with the best people possible.
How long do you think Tampa’s “window” is open?
I think the window is open for at least another 3-4 years. That would take this core group to their late 20s and early 30s. They’ll have some challenges as more players come up to free agency and need extensions but I don’t see them falling off any time soon. As much as I complain about the Callahan deal and now, to a lesser extent, the McDonagh deal, they’ve done a good job of managing the cap overall. I expect that to continue. They’ve also been able to find high end talent cheaply either via low-round draft picks, undrafted free agents, or undervalued NHLers. If they can continue to do that, they should be able to stay afloat until age inevitably slows them and forces a rebuild.
What’s the difference between these two teams in a playoff series?
If the Lightning and Leafs meet in the playoffs, I think the series would come down to goaltending. I know that’s a cop out answer but I really think that would be the difference. Freddie Andersen doesn’t get enough credit for how great he was last year. And Andrei Vasilevskiy got too much credit for being a league average goalie last year. Both of these teams are skilled offensively. The Leafs have a dangerous combination of creating lots of dangerous chances and having high-end finishing talent. The Lightning have finishing talent but don’t get the same quality of shots systematically the way the Leafs do. Both of these teams put pressure on goaltenders and I think the difference in a series would be which netminder could shut down more of the dangerous chances they face.
Is the Atlantic Division a three-horse race in your eyes?
As a Florida hockey fan, I want to say that the Panthers are a sleeper. But I can’t make the case in good faith. As much as I want to see a first-round series between the Lightning and Panthers, I don’t see it happening this year. But after that, the division gets bad. So maybe it’s a 3.5 team race but that’s the best case scenario.