Saturday, 9 September 2017

Do Lightning fans undervalue Alex Killorn's production?

Arguably the most polarizing player in Bolts Nation these days is Alex Killorn.  One half of the fan base sees his consistent 40-ish point seasons and concludes that he's a sound second-line option for the Tampa Bay Lightning, while the other half looks at his $4.45M cap hit and thinks the team should be getting more production and fewer cold streaks.  It's a debate that raged all year long, and it got me thinking: What is pure point production like Killorn's worth in today's NHL?

I think many fans, myself included, are guilty of evaluating production in the context of the post-2004 lockout salary cap situation.  $7.5M per season, to me, still sounds like an elite player's salary, but recent history has shown us that it just isn't the case anymore.  The standard has been 'revised' by contracts like Connor McDavid's, Anze Kopitar's, Patrick Kane's, and even Steven Stamkos's.  What used to be the going rate for a superstar player is now the salary for a very good player.  What used to be the salary for a very good player is now the salary of an above average player... and so on, and so on.

The impact of this, of course, is that a player like Alex Killorn, who might have gone for $X on the market a few years ago, is now going to $X+$Y today.  So, back to the questions at hand: What is production like Killorn's worth in the modern NHL?  Is Killorn overpaid by the Lightning?  Do fans undervalue his offensive contributions?

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Opinion: The Lightning's Fortunes will Sink or Swim with Braydon Coburn in 2017-18

There are a lot of questions heading into the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2017-18 campaign.  After two lengthy playoff runs in 2015 and 2016, the team missed the playoffs last spring thanks in large part to some unfortunate injury luck and a string of lackluster play early in the year.  It’s thus clear why many keen observers are wondering exactly which version of the Lightning we will see this year.  Will it be the one that looks like a Stanley Cup contender, or will it be the one that belongs on the upper-half of the draft board?  Time will tell.

Making things even more uncertain are the moves that were made during the offseason.  On paper, the roster really isn’t any stronger than it was to start 2016-17.  It’s the same cast of characters, less Jonathan Drouin and Ben Bishop, with a dose of Dan Girardi thrown into the fold.  You can make a very strong argument that the roster is actually worse now than it was at this time last year.  The x-factor, of course, is health.  Keeping Steven Stamkos et al healthy this year could mean a big boost, but it’s also true that most of the Lightning’s woes last year were on the defensive side of the puck, where their top guys remained relatively healthy.

So, with all that in mind, what are the keys to the Lightning’s success this year?  Everybody obviously expects big things from Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, but plenty of teams in recent history have shown that it’s difficult to make a big run without depth.  Especially on defense, where Tampa struggled so mightily last year.