The Lightning’s shortcomings the previous few seasons have been the consequence of not having the ability to win the big game. They were right there last season, but dropped in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The year before that, they were ousted by the Chicago Blackhawks in six games in the Stanley Cup final. Despite not having the ability to close things out the past few seasons, they stay one of the elite in the NHL and should once again be in the mix come playoff time.
The silver lining to their conduct last season was that they won two playoff series and also brought the eventual Cup champions to the verge without Steven Stamkos. The Lightning captain played in just one playoff match, but he is back to full health and, in just 26 years old, there’s no reason to think he can’t return to the 90+ stage player he had been out of 2009 to 2012.
Similar to the Penguins, Tampa returns all its core players in the last season. The roster is full of stars in their mid-20s, so that they might be getting better. Following is a look at their futures odds for the upcoming season.
Stanley Cup +1000
One could assert that this team is trending in the wrong direction after dropping in the Cup final two decades ago, in the East last last season, but given the makeup of the roster, it might be silly to discount them. Also worth considering — of those 11 Stanley Cup champions since the lockout, five of them dropped in a seminar final the season before, so don’t cross Tampa off the list of Cup contenders.
The Lightning are supporting just the Chicago Blackhawks (+750) about 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) in 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 well worth noting that no team has performed three consecutive Eastern Conference finals in a very long time. You actually have to go way back to when the conference was called the Prince of Wales Conference, when the New York Islanders made three consecutive appearances in the final from 1982 to 1984.
Atlantic Division +130
How odd is it to see both teams from Florida — the Lightning and Panthers (+400) — forward of four Original Six teams on the Atlantic Division futures oddsboard? Odd or not, Tampa Bay is your largest favorite in division futures markets this season, but if they slip even a bit, that +400 value about the Panthers, last season’s division winner, is an excellent bargain.
Maybe another unexpected 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 next to just the Caps (106.5) in the point total economy, but this number appears too large. They’d 97 points every year and surpassed the 105.5 point total mark only once in the last ten years. The Capitals were the only team from the East to surpass this number last year and with a few divisional competitions planning to see an uptick in creation, the UNDER seems like a safe bet.