Lightning Need More Production From Bottom Six

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nicholas Paul (20) celebrates his goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with forward Michael Eyssimont (23) and forward Ross Colton (79) during the third period of Game 5 Thursday night in Toronto.
Photo Credit: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

With the 2023-24’ NHL regular season three quarters of the way finished, one thing has stuck out in a negative way for the Tampa Bay Lightning. That’s their lack of secondary scoring, specifically from their bottom six forwards.

Conor Sheary has been a total bust after signing a three-year, $6 million contract this past summer. He currently has only one goal and 10 points in 42 games, matching his total from his rookie season of 2015-16’. Head coach Jon Cooper recently put him on a line with a former 60 goal scorer in Steven Stamkos, hoping to jumpstart Sheary, but it was to no avail.

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Nick Paul is on the way to his best offensive season, with 31 points in 60 games. A lot of that has come via the power play, though, as he took over Alex Killorn’s spot on the man advantage and has seven goals and 12 points in that extra ice time. Unfortunately, his defensive game has suffered as a result, proven by his career-worst minus-20 rating.

Tampa Bay Lightning – Photo: Hector Urcia | Inside The Rink

Tanner Jeannot has been a horrible trade deadline acquisition considering all the Lightning gave up to get him. Last season, Jeannot only notched one goal and four points in 20 games after being traded from the Nashville Predators. This season, he tallied six goals and 12 points in 42 games before getting injured.

Michael Eyssimont, Luke Glendening, and Tyler Motte also struggle to score, evidenced by goal totals under 10. They play hard though, constantly hounding the puck and trying to create turnovers, so it’s hard to criticize their effort.

Austin Watson has been in and out of the lineup but has only three points in limited ice time. Thankfully, he only parlayed his pro tryout into a one-year contract.

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Even the normally reliable Anthony Cirelli is on pace for the worst full season of his career. Right now, his 12 goals and 31 points are not at the level expected of him. More concerning, however, might be the minus-8 rating he has through 59 games. That’s something nobody saw coming from a guy that was in the Selke Trophy conversation since his first full season of 2018-19’.

For comparison, Corey Perry had 19 and 12 goals in his two seasons with the Lightning. Ross Colton contributed 16 goals and 32 points last year as a third-liner. That’s more than Sheary and Jeannot have put together. In fact, 16 goals is the same amount as Sheary, Jeannot, and Glendening.

Killorn had goal totals between 15 and 30 for much of his career. Many of those were game-winners, especially in previous years, so there’s no doubt his presence is missed on and off the ice.

Can the Lightning get more secondary scoring down the stretch? While unknown, the team’s playoff hopes likely to rest on receiving enough production out of their bottom six to take the stress off of the trio of Brandon Hagel, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point.

Lauren Burg

Lauren Burg is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer for “Inside the Rink.” A lifelong Tampa Bay Area resident, she graduated from the University of South Florida’s world-renowned journalism program in December 2009. While in college, she discovered hockey and the Tampa Bay Lightning. She quickly became a passionate fan, attending many games over the years. She also experienced an All-Star game in 2018, numerous road games, and, most recently, the Bolts back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Since graduating college, she’s been working hard to combine her two loves, writing and hockey, hoping to one day make that her full-time career. In her free time, she enjoys attending sporting events (both home & road when possible), taking photos, and traveling.

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