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Beyond The Benches:
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The Tampa Bay Lighting were able to call their 2013-3014 season a success even though they were swept in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals but the Montreal Canadiens. In hopes of replicating their season but this time with a better ending, the Lighting have gone out and made some key signings in free agency.
There’s no denying the level of talent on this Tampa team. Even after losing Steven Stamkos, who is arguably the best player in the league, for 45 games the Lighting were still able to cap off a regular season where they finished second in the NHL’s Atlantic Division. There was even talent in areas that were considered weaknesses for the Lighting coming into the season. Ben Bishop was named a starting goalie for the first time in his career. In the past the knock on the Lighting was that as explosive as their offense was, their defense and goaltending was lackluster. Bishop had never played in more than 22 games in a season but once the season started all doubts were put aside as he posted career highs in every statistical category for a goaltender. In fact, Bishop was a top ten finalist for the Hart Trophy while finishing in a close third place for the Vezina. The Lighting also traded away Martin St. Louis who had been the face of the franchise for over a decade. However the trade would benefit both the Lighting and their trading partners, the New York Rangers. The Rangers sent Ryan Callahan to Tampa Bay who then signed the right winger to a six year extension at the end of the season.
Callahan’s extension has already benefitted Steve Yzerman’s Tampa Bay Lighting. Callahan was able to convince two of his old teammates in New York to consider signing with Tampa Bay. NHL.com confirmed that Callahan was a driving force behind the free agent signings of center Brian Boyle (3yrs/$6million) and defenseman Anton Stralman (5yrs/$22.5million).
After he spoke to the media in Tampa Bay about the signing and Callahan, Stralman.
“I just kind of wanted to hear his thoughts, so he obviously had an impact on my decision,” as told to NHL.com.
Boyle was also quick to praise Callahan and his ability to convince him to come to Tampa.
“He [Callahan] was telling me about how great the area is and how fun it is, and with the group what to expect,” Boyle told the Tampa Tribune.
The Lighting will return the core of last years team that exceeded all expectations. With one full season at the helm under his belt, Coach Jon Cooper knows what works and what doesn’t for his team. He’ll feel free to let his players improvise on offense knowing that his goalie. Ben Bishop, can more than hold his own. The additions of Brain Boyle and Anton Stralman make an already dangerous Tampa Bay team even more dangerous and capable of making a deep playoff run. As the Bruins, who sat atop the Atlantic Division last season, are slow to make changes to their team, they should take notice of the Lighting who are aiming to knock them off their pedestal and become the most feared team in the Eastern Conference.
Andrew Connolly is a graduate from Emmanuel College. Not only is he an avid fan of all of Boston’s sports teams but is deeply invested in following the NFL, NBA, MLB and the NHL. Aspiring WWE World Heavyweight Champion, follow him on Twitter at @aconnolly86 for both biased and unbiased MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and WWE tweets.
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