Skip to content

Poll: Are the Bolts legit Stanley Cup contenders?

Aug 15, 2014, 11:29 AM EDT

Tampa Bay Lightning v Pittsburgh Penguins Getty Images

The Lightning have emerged as a chic midsummer pick to challenge for the Stanley Cup (see here, and here… and here.)

But are those predictions warranted?

It’s an interesting debate. Those in the “yes” camp will point to a pretty good team from a year ago that made significant offseason upgrades in Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, Jason Garrison, Brenden Morrow and Evgeni Nabokov. Steve Stamkos is arguably the league’s purest goalscorer, Ben Bishop and Jon Cooper were Vezina and Jack Adams finalists and the number of young talents (Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov) could be joined by an incoming crop of equally gifted prospects (Jonathan Drouin, Brett Connolly, Vladislav Namestnikov and Adam Erne.)

Those in the “no” camp, however, will probably suggest tapping the brakes.

For all the hype surrounding the Bolts, they’ve only made the playoffs once in the last three years and haven’t won a postseason game since 2011, when Guy Boucher was the head coach and Vinny Lecavalier was team captain. There’s been a huge overhaul since and, as a result, the longest-tenured guys on the team are Stamkos and Victor Hedman. There’s also the reliance on Bishop, who had a fantastic ’13-14 campaign but has no track record of sustained success as an NHL starter. He alluded to as much upon signing a two-year extension earlier this month, saying “I think I’ve still got to prove myself,” and “I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder.”

With those two differing opinions in mind, we turn it over to the PHT faithful — are the Bolts legit Stanley Cup contenders?

Vote away.

  1. vancouversportsbro - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:33 AM

    I like what they are doing, I still say no to the cup though. I think they may be in a few years but not next. People are getting a little ahead of themselves in this poll.

  2. alicesrightfootesq - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:38 AM

    May not beat the best of the West but they could surely win the East.

  3. AppealToReason - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    All they really have to do is find a way past Boston. I’m not really convinced by any team in the Metro besides Pittsburgh is a lock for the playoffs. Not exactly a murderers row in the East.

    Now, they’re also banking on players at least holding relative to their career years, but with some of the depth they’ve added that might not be the worst plan.

  4. govtminion - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    Erm… kind of?

    Thing is, the real contenders are mostly out West. Chicago, L.A., I’d include St. Louis and Anaheim as legit contenders as well. (San Jose still kind of confuses me enough I can’t really give them credit yet) But in the East? Boston obviously is your contender there, and there’s something to be said for the Flyers, Rangers, and Lightning all being very intriguing as well.

    But… with the possible exception of Boston, I’m not sure any of those East teams can legitimately stand against one of the big guns from the West for seven games. So… I think the Lightning can make it TO the finals (if they can find a way past Boston), but no, I don’t think they have a legitimate chance of winning it.

    That is, not YET… let’s talk again after the trade deadline and see if things look any different then.

    • lightning79 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:47 AM

      Surprisingly most teams you named out west, they beat them all once, some of them twice. (obviously It’s not a playoff 7 games series), but nonetheless, they know they can beat anyone. BUT I agree with you. They have to find a way to beat Boston and Pittsburgh…

    • endusersolutions2013 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:51 AM

      I’d have posted similarly if you had not 1st. Whoever wins the WC finals wins the cup.

    • chanceoffleury - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:04 PM

      St Louis needs to win a playoff series before anybody should be saying their ready to win the Cup. Sorry, but that’s the truth.

      • govtminion - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        Well, yeah, that’s a fair point I suppose. Now that you mention it, I’m discounting the Sharks for their continued playoff problems, but the Blues do really kind of deserve to get a little more attention on that problem as well. Mea culpa.

        Still, point stands- until Tampa proves they’re able to find a way past the OTHER ones in the West, I can’t say they’re a legit Cup contender. With respect to the Bolts, Flyers, and Rangers, the Bruins are really the only Eastern team that at the moment I would give a realistic shot at beating one of those teams, and even then it would be no better than 50/50 odds. (And another awesome series like the one they had against the Hawks a couple of years ago- even though my guys lost that series, that was one of the best playoff series I’ve seen in years.)

    • lightning79 - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      this is regarding your comment under this convo. You don’t think Tampa Bay is a contending team, but you add your Flyers to the discussion??? Yet you have the balls to talk about San Jose and St Louis choking? You do know the Flyers’ team who played vs Chicago is totally different, right? It’s not even close to what it was in 2010… If Holmgren wouldn’t be such a dink, you guys would still be contenders but those days are over Thanks to poor contract signing/decisions by Holmgren. It’s unfortunate because he somehow found ways to find gems in the later 1/2nd rounds of the drafts.

      Don’t try to tell me, Ray Emery and Steve Mason are similar to Bishop…Or that a top 6 of Luke Schenn, Del Zotto, Nick Grossman, Andrew MacDonald, Mark Streit and Brayden Coburn are better than Stralman, Hedman, Carle, Gudas, Garrison, and Sustr…

      Those days are over dude, and I hate to break it to you but It’s also Holmgren’s fault that your team didn’t win the Stanley Cup in 2010. I guess that’s what happens when you trust Brian Boucher and Ray Emery…and 3rd on the goalie depth chart…..Michael Leighton.

      • govtminion - Aug 15, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        Er… I’m not a Flyers fan… at all. In fact I’m a Bruins fan. Settle down there, chief.

      • lightning79 - Aug 15, 2014 at 3:38 PM

        So you’re a Bruins fan. So the Bruins are the only legitimate contender in the East then. Pittsburgh, Rangers, Bolts….No go?…Haha You lost a 30 goal scorer. You’re about to lose a Dmen (due to cap)…Yes you have one of the best goalie in the league, but Chara ain’t getting younger.

        Why did you leave out the Habs, who were the better team in the Eastern Conference Semi finals….I’m sorry to burst your bubble, dude but teams are eventually going to catch up to the Bruins. If you remember correctly

        As for the 4 meeting Bolts and Bruins had last season.. 3 were played in the Bolts 17 first games of the season (Where 9 Rookies were dressed with barely 20 games of experience) . 1 of those games, they lost Stamkos, 1 they had Lindback in net. 1 was the 1st game of the season, the last win by the Bruins was in a shootout….All 4 games Lightning had Sami Salo, Eric Brewer, Keith Aulie and there’s one Mark Barberio gave you the W on a blind behind the back pass…I wish you good luck this season, I really do, but I wouldn’t call YOUR team the only relevant Eastern conference team.

      • govtminion - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:02 PM

        So you lit me on fire for being a Flyers fan, got corrected, and turn around to do the same because I’m actually a B’s fan?

        Did I sleep with your wife by accident or something?

      • broadstreetsbaddest88 - Aug 16, 2014 at 8:09 PM

        How you gonna make a claim that lightning is contenders an better then just about every other team in the east including the flyers. The lightning got swept by the Habs in the first round no problem an the flyers brought the rangers the eastern confrence champs to game 7 an almost won without there starter most of the series. Lightning is a good up an comin team but not yet ready to contend so don’t get ahead of yourself. It showed in the playoffs when you guys got smoked. I’m not sayin the flyers are a top team or better but I’d def take them in a playoff series then the lightning.

  5. phtjoey - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    this team has too many talented players to miss the second phase of the 2014-15 season. everything that surrounds playoff hockey is very different than the 82 game regular season. how will bishop perform in the playoffs? can cooper coach in the playoffs? (his use of star players in the playoffs last year was questionable) how will the team gel following the additions and subtractions made over the summer?

    i think they will have to go through more growing pains before they become a legit contender. should be another western conference team that will win the SC.

  6. chanceoffleury - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:01 PM

    I compare them to somebody like Colorado in the west in terms of being a threat. They’ve got a great roster and could pull off some big upsets and shake things up, but they are still way too unproven to have earned the playoff shoo-in label in August. I don’t consider a team that can lose one player and it all falls apart as a serious threat. Because injuries are not a maybe thing, they are inevitable. True contenders can lose a starting goalie or have a star player in a major slump and at the very least still keep things interesting. Montreal swatted Tampa away like a fly last year. The silver lining for them is that the east didn’t really get a lot better. They’re still probably the 5th-ish best team in the east but when you add the west they drop considerably in my opinion. Still good, just very unproven.

    • mcphillthy - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:10 PM

      So if the rangers lost lundqvist you’re saying they still would have been a contender?
      In no way, shape, or form do I agree with your statement.
      Losing a starting goalie is the biggest loss for a team. Especially when lindbach was your next best option.
      I am not a fan of Tampa bay but I recognize a good team when I see one
      I just don’t see anyone in the east as a threat, including my flyers. Pittsburgh is irrelevant and Boston couldn’t even beat Montreal. Come on

      • chanceoffleury - Aug 15, 2014 at 7:00 PM

        I feel like you are interpreting my post as teams should be able to lose their best player and still win the stanley cup. That’s not what I said and I don’t believe that should be the case. I was trying to say they should be able to remain competitive and give their opponents a challenge and win a game or two.

        Honestly, maybe NY would remain competitive. You certainly can’t say they wouldn’t. Pittsburgh scratched together wins without Crosby or Malkin in 2011. They inevitably choked (shocking), but they could have won that series. It’s not like Tampa walked all over them. They definitely kept it interesting. And NY is an extreme example of the goalie-loss, anyway. Teams built head to toe around an arguably generational talent in goal set themselves up to be the most vulnerable teams because if/when you lose that goalie it obviously takes more effort to fill in the gaps. And it’s not like Nash and Richards were lighting it up despite taking up like 1/5 of NY’s cap space. They had starpower issues of their own.

        Minnesota made it to game 6 of the second round last year against the reigning cup champs with their 3rd and 4th string goalies rotating. Anaheim made it to G7 round 2 getting as deep as their 3rd string. Montreal scratched together some wins in the ECF when Price went down. And that was just this year. Like I said, injuries are inevitable. Goalies are not an exception. If your goalie gets hurt you shouldn’t just light the season on fire and watch it burn. Like I said, Tampa isn’t bad. They’re quite good. But I think in August the term “contender” shouldn’t be thrown around so loosely. Even if they can get past Boston, Montreal and Pittsburgh, can they get past LA, Chicago or Anaheim to win it, too?

  7. mcphillthy - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    I’m going to go ahead and say yes. I think Tampa can beat Boston and take the east.
    They were the hottest team in the NHL at the end of last season and if bishop hadn’t gotten injured I think they would have surprised a lot of people.
    They are solid across the board.
    Will they win the cup? Looking at the west I say no. But they can win the east and make it to the cup which automatically makes them cup contenders if you are in the Stanley cup finals.
    If bishop plays at the same level he did last season I don’t see any reason why they don’t win the east.

  8. drivemekrejci - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:15 PM

    I only see them and Boston as major players in the East. Maybe Pitt. West is def where it’s at though!

  9. billiam55 - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    meh. if they got bishop they will def make it past the first round.

  10. bcsteele - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    I think they are a contender…but I still don’t think they will be able to win it all at this stage.

  11. btlpper68 - Aug 15, 2014 at 1:29 PM

    Best team ON PAPER in the east

  12. pfhockey - Aug 15, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    People will be surprised when Palat points up about 70 points next year.

  13. lightning79 - Aug 15, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    No matter how things play out, I have a feeling Tampa, Boston and Montreal are going to be top 3 teams in their division. As for the Metro, Pittsburgh, Columbus (underrated), NY Rangers should be the top 3’s

  14. useurhedman - Aug 15, 2014 at 6:06 PM

    I’m a Bolts fan living in Boston so I see a fair amount of each team each season. I’m definitely getting center ice next season so I can watch this Bolts roster. There’s a lot to be excited about but yes, they haven’t won yet. But the did pick up Morrow and people who have. Boston did not look good during the habs series to finish last season. Krejci might as well have not been there, chara looked legit hurt, Marchand looked distracted, it was concerning. They get Seidenberg back but he’s older and the B’s looked slow in that series against Montreal. And anyone who watched couldn’t deny that Montreal then looked slow against the Rangers. Lost a 30 goal scorer to boot. Admittedly, an older slower 30 goal scorer. But, they’ve won consistently so they will continue to be in the conversation until they aren’t. I think the biggest threat to Lighting getting to eastern conference championship is a Bishop sophmore slump. They look great on paper.

  15. paulerhythm - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:08 AM

    I liked what Yserman has done with the trades and signings during the off season. On paper, they look like contenders in Eastern Conference. Cup contenders? I don’t think they beat the Western Conference loaded with Chicago or LA. If those two team do not make it out of the West, then maybe, a good chance. I do see them contending for the Atlantic Division with Boston and Montreal. Of course, all of that is moot if injuries to Bishop, Stamkos, or Hedman happens. Bishop has to be what he was last year, as well. We shall see, eh?

  16. matthewdillonhockey - Aug 16, 2014 at 12:27 AM

    A couple months back, I wrote a blog post about this. It was before the signings / offseason moves. But those just make me vote “yes” even more. I like this team. After Boston, there is no clear favorite among NYR, Pens, Habs, and these guys. Why not these guys?

  17. penguins87and71 - Aug 16, 2014 at 1:20 AM

    I think they have a chance if Bishop and Stamkos stay healthy. The Eastern Conference has been pretty mediocre for the past couple of years. Yes you still have the Penguins, Bruins, Rangers, and Canadiens, but after that there’s not much. I think the Lightning will certainly be contenders this year. The only things that worry me is they’re a very young team, and will the supporting cast in Killorn, Johnson, Palat, and Filppula show up and produce like they did last year. 3 of those 4 players are pretty young.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kessel (1862)
  2. P. Kane (1335)
  3. P. Datsyuk (1302)
  4. M. Richards (1156)
  5. M. Giordano (1138)