The Washington Capitals might have made the Southleast Division into one of the toughest divisions in the NHL. After winning the division title for the last 4 years (regular season eastern champs for the last two), the division is wising up and bettering their teams to make the playoff push. The influx of better talent into the division makes this year's division champ a toss up. But all the pundits agree, it is Washington's to lose.
Tampa Bay Lightning:
The Lightning took just about everyone by surprise last season. After winning the Stanley Cup in 2004, the organization has floundered. Even with some great draft picks, the Lightning could barely climb into a playoff spot. After a circus of free agency two seasons ago and some ownership problems, they cleaned house and Guy Boucher gave them the one-three-one. The team finally found it's stride and did away with their divisional champs with a four game sweep in the playoffs. The Lightning were one game, one goal, one game seven from making it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Who's in: Teddy Purcell and Steven Stamkos were resigned over the summer. Tom Pyatt, Micheal Ouellet, Ryan Shannon, and Matt Gilroy were signed in July. Dwayne Roloson signed on for another year.
Who's out: Matt Smaby, Simon Gagne, goaltender Mike Smith, Sean Bergenheim, Randy Jones were all allowed to sign with other teams.
Not much is going to change this team since they have found some chemistry under the direction of Guy Boucher. The core of Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier will remain the Lightning's solid production. Their special teams, mainly their power play is dynamic and dangerous.
With the addition of Eric Brewer, the Lightning defense took their play to a different level. Along with Victor Hedman on the back end and their one-three-one system, the Lightning will be tough to score against. Add in veteran goaltender in Roloson, the Lightning are hungry for more.
With any new fandangled system, it doesn't take long for the league to find a way to beat it. While the one-three-one confounded some teams, the Capitals included, other teams have found ways to beat it. If the Bolts want to take the division title away from the Washington Capitals, they either have to perfect their new trap system or mix it up against teams they face the most.
The Lightning are a dangerous team, and it is likely they can take the division. If Stamkos has another big year and the offense continues to hurt teams on transition, Tampa could find themselves battling for another Eastern Conference championship.