Tampa Bay Lightning centre Steven Stamkos has played in the NHL for 5 seasons, and in the last 4 he has either been first or 2nd in goals in the NHL. He has won the Rocket Richard Trophy twice, and finished runner-up twice.
Is that trend about to change?
The NHL realignment for the coming season sees the Lightning join the former Northeast Division along with the Florida Panthers and Detroit Red Wings, and it could prove to be a bit of a challenge for Stamkos.
You see, the former Southeast Division was essentially a goal-scorers dream. Teams in the Southeast ranked 18th (Washington), 24th (Winnipeg), 26th (Tampa), 29th (Carolina) and 30th (Florida) in terms of goals against last season.
Compare that to the 6 teams the Panthers and Lightning will be going up against and their rankings from 2012-13 – Ottawa (2nd), Boston (3rd), Detroit (5th), Montreal (14th), Toronto (17th) and Buffalo (22nd). This isn’t the Southleast any more, and it makes you wonder if the offensive output of Stamkos, Martin St. Louis among others will be adversely affected.
Compare the division the Lightning is joining and contrast that with what Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals (Stamkos’ biggest goal-scoring rival) will be playing in. The Flyers (23rd), Islanders (21st), Penguins (12th), Blue Jackets (10th) and Rangers (4th) aren’t bad, but not the stinginess of the new Atlantic division.
The saving grace for Stamkos might be the slight reduction in number of games each team plays against each of their divisional rivals. He will still get his fix of the Panthers, and then make his hay in the non-divisional games. Or, it could just be a fact of Stamkos being good enough to battle through the tough defenses in the Atlantic and still get his goals.
It will be an interesting thing to watch this season as the adjustments are made. It could also be twisted so that the Southeast was among the worst defensive divisions because of snipers like Stamkos and Ovechkin.
We will see in a few weeks which way it was and how it will be going forward.