1. Can the Tampa Bay Lightning repeat in 2020-21?
There is a reason the Stanley Cup is one of the hardest trophies to win in all of professional sports. Period.
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are a gruelling war of attrition and, after what will be an intense sprint to the finish-line in a condensed 56-game schedule, they could be even tougher this year.
Therefore, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s road to repeating as Stanley Cup Champions will be fraught with challenges perhaps far greater than the ones they faced inside The Bubble last year, which didn’t seem possible.
Firstly, they will have to mentally prepare themselves for another slog, an endurance test that will be made harder without fans in the building and tonight’s banner-raising won’t have the same impact in an empty building.
Secondly, the Lightning will also have to navigate the loss of one of the most dynamic forwards in the entire NHL in Nikita Kucherov, something we covered in the previous slide, and that will be no easy task.
It is also worth remembering that you need a hell of a lot of things to go right in order to win a championship in the NHL, you need a lot of things to go your way and you need a slice of luck and a lot of bounces of the puck along the way.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will need everyone to stay healthy, they will need players in the ilk of Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point to really step up offensively, they will need Victor Hedman to continue playing to a Norris Trophy-caliber level, as well as the likes of Ryan McDonagh and Mikhail Sergachev, and they will also need another elite season from goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
If all of that can happen then, given their abundance of riches and the sheer level of talent and depth at their disposal, then the Lightning will have a great chance of repeating as Stanley Cup Champions.
But it will be far from easy given that the Pittsburgh Penguins are the only team to win back-to-back cups in the salary cap era (2016 and 2017), while they are also the only team to have done it since the 1998-99 season.
That should give you some idea as to how hard it is to run it back in the NHL, and a 56-game season in a Division where you will play the same opponent eight or nine times means that a slow start is out of the equation.
Granted, the Dallas Stars, who they defeated in the Stanley Cup Final last year, may well be the biggest threat to the Lightning, but they also can’t afford to take the likes of the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers and the Columbus Blue Jackets lightly, either.
There is also the possibility of losing players due to the COVID-19 virus throughout the season with no Bubble to protect teams this year, so the element of surprise will be another challenge that Tampa has to deal with.
Overall, repeating as Stanley Cup Champions is one of the hardest things to do in all of major sports and it will be significantly harder this year for a plethora of different reasons but, if there’s one team equipped to go back-to-back, then it is the Tampa Bay Lightning.