How will you remember this Lightning season?

by Gary Shelton on June 16, 2015 · 2 comments

in general

How will Jon Cooper remember tis season? /JEFFREY S. KING

How will Jon Cooper remember tis season? /JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 12:30 p.m.

Now that it is over, how will you remember this hockey season of the Tampa Bay Lightning?

For the dominance at home? For the vulnerability that came along later?

For Steven Stamkos' abilities as a scorer? Or for the frustrations at the end?

For the fact this was a pretty good team? Or by the fact that history was claimed by the other side.

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Joy or disappointment? Triumph or tragedy? Success or shortfall?

For a fan of the Lightning, there are a lot of feelings to sort through. For instance, there were the big moments by Ben Bishop. And, if you're honest, there were some small ones, too. There was the wonder of the Triplet's line. And the wondering of where it went. There was the power play, which didn't have enough of it. There was Victor Hedman, bowling us all over. And Hedman, bowling over Bishop as Chicago scored a key goal in Game 5.

That's what a hockey season is. There are so many fragments. It is the world's largest jigsaw puzzle, and in the end, it had a couple of pieces missing.

Oh, let's be honest. Once you get over the disappointment, this was the second-best hockey season in the history of Tampa Bay. It was a thrill ride, a team that squeezed most of its opportunities out of itself. Not only was this a good team, it was a likable team. If your kid wanted a jersey of a dozen players, you would probably simply nod at his choice.

Look, we all love winning. But what we really like is the pursuit of winning. This team did that. It got all the way to Game Six against a great Chicago Blackhawks team. There is no shame in losing to Chicago. They're smart, and they're tough, and they've been there before. What the Lightning wants to do more than anything is to become the next version of the Blackhawks.

If you are Jeff Vinik, how do you look at this team? Well, as validation, perhaps. Vinik has done so many things right since he came to town. It's fair to say he is the most beloved owner in the history of Tampa Bay sports, a man who has asked for nothing but who has improved the product.

Yeah, if you're Vinik, you could have gotten one more home date out of this season. But that's quibbling. You have a young, dynamic team, and odds are, ticket sales are going to be brisk for next year.

If you're Steve Yzerman, how do you look at this team? Carefully, probably. Yzerman is an analytical sort, aware of what he has and what he lacks. And if he is looking at the Lightning as a potential champion, well, he may want a little more.

Here's what happened in the playoffs. Teams surrounded Steven Stamkos. Tyler Johnson seemed to be hurt. And once those two were smothered, the Lightning simply didn't have enough threats. Personally, I wouldn't be shocked if Yzerman tried to beef up his third and fourth lines somewhat. Perhaps a more experienced Jonathan Drouin can help that. But there has to be some place to turn on the nights the stars are not shining.

And Jon Cooper? How would Cooper look at this team.

Oh, start with pride. Cooper loves his guys. He loved them last year after they were swept out of the first round by the Canadians, and he'll love them after this. He knows more about injuries than the rest of us. He'll know what Johnson went through, and Kucherov, and Bishop.

But after a while, Cooper will get analytical. He'll break down the ice, to see where the Lightning succeeded and where they fell short, who can be counted to improve and who might be on the slide. It's odd. There was a report during the playoffs that Cooper and Stamkos weren't chummy, but Cooper has said everything right with Stammer. Besides, if a team gets rid of a Stamkos, where in the world is it going to find another one. At first thought, that seems like one of the most foolish deals in the history of the Bolts.

Hey, second isn't first. And the truth is, the Bolts slowed Chicago down enough to win this series. Think of it: In the last three games, it allowed two goals a game. A high-scoring team should get more than that most nights.

Yes, it is going to be interesting to see the cosmetic surgery that this roster gets. Maybe a tweak here. Maybe an improvement there. Maybe a scorer here.

There is only one thing that most of us are looking for, however.

How long before these guys take the ice again?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim Willson June 16, 2015 at 9:29 pm

I have been a huge NFL fan my entire life. When I lived in Chicago I had no interest in hockey at all. The Lightning have totally won me over. I respect everything about this organization. Thanks for all the effort….all the thrills.

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Jack Airey June 16, 2015 at 5:35 pm

Gary;

I’m a hockey fan in training…growing up in Southern California in the 50’s & 60’s I never heard of hockey. Now a senior living in Tampa Bay for the last 12 years I have to say…I’m hooked on the Lighting…all of its players, coach Coop, Big “I” and of course “V” man…no complaints…well maybe one….trying to fall asleep after last night proved impossible. My heart was racing and I was screaming at my TV…Like Iwrote a hockey fan in training. GO BOLTS!!!

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