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Cullen: Lightning have superior skill players

Scott Cullen
9/20/2011 11:50:28 AM
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After the second 100-point season in franchise history, the Tampa Bay Lightning will be out to prove that their 2010-2011 season wasn't a fluke.

Steven Stamkos slumped down the stretch, scoring five goals in the last 28 games of the regular season, yet his 96 goals over the last two seasons ranks as tops in the league. He's only 21-year-old, getting stronger and saw his penalty minutes rise last season too, so there can easily be a case made for taking Stamkos first in many formats.

Martin St. Louis is the engine that drives the Lightning attack, scoring at least 80 points in each of the last five seasons and not missing a game in seven of the last eight seasons. St. Louis' exceptional point production and left wing status makes him an elite fantasy option despite very low penalty minute totals (38 over the last three seasons).

A strong postseason showing (19 points in 18 games) might offer some hope that Vincent Lecavalier can still be an offensive force, an assertion that would have been difficult to make following a season in which he finished with 54 points in 65 games, his lowest total since 2001-2001. He's been banged up with several different injuries in recent years and is a cumulative minus-47 over the last four seasons, but hope still lingers that Lecavalier can be nearly the player he was when he scored 108 points in 2006-2007.

Injuries cut into Steve Downie's season last year, but the agitator brings a nearly unique mix of points and penalty minutes. In the last two seasons, Downie has accrued 78 points and 379 penalty minutes. Among players with at least 350 penalty minutes over the last two years, Downie is the only one with more than 40 points so he's very valuable in fantasy; likely more valuable than he is to Tampa Bay.

Stop if you've heard this before, but injuries also shorted Ryan Malone's season last year, but the five-time 20-goal scorer remains an adequate source of points and penalty minutes for those in deeper leagues,

Moving from the Islanders to the Lightning brought favourable results for goaltender Dwayne Roloson, a 41-year-old who posted 18 wins in 34 games with Tampa Bay after winning six of 20 games for the Islanders, despite posting a better save percentage with New York. He's expected to backstop the efforts of a contending team, but Roloson won't be expected to handle the workload that many other starters take on, which limits his fantasy appeal.

After washing out in Los Angeles, Teddy Purcell turned into a quality scoring forward, chipping in 51 points, while playing 14:06 per game. Purcell has extremely low penalty minute totals (24 PIMs in 196 career games), so that affects his value, but he's an asset in deeper leagues.

None of Tampa Bay's defencemen put up huge point totals and that includes Victor Hedman, who has 46 points through his first two seasons, but nearly a penalty minute per game, along with the potential growth of a 20-year-old makes Hedman as good as any on the Tampa Bay blueline. Eric Brewer or Brett Clark are possible veteran options, but only in the most dire of circumstances.

Prospects like Carter Ashton and Brett Connolly may be heard from at some point, but the best sleeper candidate on the Lightning roster would be winger Ryan Shannon, a diminutive speedster who scored a career-high 27 points last season. If Shannon finds a spot on a scoring line in Tampa Bay, he would surely have a shot to surpass last season's modest totals.

The Lightning surprised last year in Guy Boucher's first year behind the bench and now there will be no surprising this year. Tampa Bay's top players rank among the very best, but the success of the team will require contributions from the supporting cast, and that's where value can be found in the Lightning lineup.

Depth Chart - Tampa Bay Lightning

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.  For more, check out TSN Fantasy Sports on Facebook.




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