What is next for what’s left of the Lightning?

by Gary Shelton on April 18, 2019 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

BriseBois has decisions to make./(Tampa Bay Lightning/Scott Audette)

Wednesday, 3 a.m.

And now, all that remains is a lone figure in a lonely office.

Any suggestion of greatness will be laughed away today. Any pretense of excellence is gone. The only coupling with history that the Lightning has is to describe the size of their flop. In the annals of the league, no team has ever been more disappointing in the playffs.

Now, and for the foreseeable future, the most important member of the Lightning is Julien BriseBois.

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It is his job now to hammer out the dents in this roster, and it is his job to make the faulty parts better. He has to fix without doing damage. He has to salvage those who fell short and rid himself of those who just aren't good enough, or big enough, or fast enough. What should be repaired? What should be replaced. It is the question hanging over the disappoitment.

Everyone is disappointed. It's fair to say that. A franchise spent months making us think there was a difference to it, and in the end, it was just skating in circles. At this point, it's hard to say just what must be done. Replace too many players, and you take away from the sum of its parts. Replace too few, and you are simply scheduling another round of disappointment.

Except for one period in Game Four, Kucherov, Stamkos and Point where invisible. Vasilevskiy, a year after winning 11 post-season games, was the worst goaltender in the playoffs. The penalty kill was missing. The power play was a rumor. The defense was a swinging gate.

Next year? It won't matter. The Bolts can go 82-0 and win every contest by five goals. But we won't trust them until the day after they win the Cup. Maybe two days after.

So what do you do? Do you package up Ryan Callahan, Braydon Coburn, Tyler Johnson and Cedric Palat and banish them from the building? Do you try to squeeze one more impact player under the cap? Do you merely stand pat and trust that they'll be better next year? Do you look for size? For toughness? Do you start over? Or do you merely start the journey all over again?

How bad was it? It was annihilation. For instance, during the regular season, Kucherov was first in points, Stamkos was ninth and Point 12th. In the playoffs, Kucherov was 114th, Stamkos was 78th and Point was 127th.

They gave up more goals than anyone. They were 14th of 16 teams in scoring. Their penalty kill was last. Vasilevskiy was winless. After three Bolts scored 40 goals in the regular seaosn, no player scored more than one goal in the series. Ask yourself: Which Lightning player played the best? The answer: None of them.

Again, this is a results-based sport. There is nothing wrong with being good only in the regular season and buying Sno-cones for the team and giving everyone a trophy for really, really trying. But that's not what hockey is about, and there is not one Lightning player who would pretend otherwise. This is a lost season. Nothing more. It is a nice flight that had trouble landing at the end. You don't remember that things were smooth halfway through the trip.

This team will be remembered as rubble and wreckage. They are the Spanish Armada. They are the Baltimore Colts. They are Custer and Mike Tyson and Phi Slamma Jamma and Casey at the bat.

In the first-ever playoff series of the Lightning, coach Terry Crisp was walking off the ice for the final time when the crowd stood and cheered. It was a sweet little moment, a moment where the fans tried to pat a team on the back and thank them for trying. But those days are gone. This was a crushing blow to a city, perhaps the most defining bad moment ever.

For months, this team made us smile. No more. Whenever someone mentions the 2018-2019, they will scowl. They lost. There were expectations and swagger and records, and in the end, it all burned.

The sooner we forget, the better.

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