Lightning plays the odds in Coleman trade

by Gary Shelton on February 17, 2020

in general

BriseBois pulled the trigger for the Lightning./(Tampa Bay Lightning/Scott Audette)

Monday, 4 a.m.

Perhaps it will work. Perhaps it will reinvigorate the Lightning. Perhaps it will convince the players that management is doing all it can to put together a championship team.

And perhaps it won't.

That's the risk to any trade, isn't it? A team makes one of these push-it-over-the-top deals, and more often than not, it doesn't get there. Sometimes, the young prospect traded away becomes special, and fans rue the day he was bartered away.

On the other hand, wouldn't you rather your team did something other than sit on its hands? Don't you like aggression more than being safe? Don't you like going for it?

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That's where we are with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who traded for forward Blake Coleman Sunday. It was an all-in move, a move designed to provide one last grand push to help it through the playoffs. Coleman is having a heck of a year, with 21 goals. The Bolts have a reason to think that this might work.

But will it?

Hey, history is full of win-right-now moves, and a lot of them don't cement a team's ambitions. But sometimes, one does. Sometimes, a player is the final piece of the puzzle.

"There aren't too many stars that bring as much value as he does that come with a cap hit of $1.8 million," said Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois. "Like I said, I like our team. I believe in this group, and now I think we're just all stronger because we've added Blake Coleman. Not only will he make us a better, more competitive team this year, but he'll also make us a better, more competitive team next year as well.

"What I felt we could not afford to do is (not) give this group of players every chance to have as good a spring as possible."

This was a strong move for a franchise, and a bold one for a general manager. With this move, BriseBois looked very Steve Yzerman-like. That's a good sign, too.

Yes, Nolan Foote is a nice prospect, a guy who may one day be something, a guy who is a really big deal in Kelowna. But sometimes, what you have isn't quite enough. What you have needs bolstering. That's where the Lightning is. Bad general managers make too many moves. Short-timers don't make any. But the prudent ones make the rare deal, and the right one.

A story. In 2004, the Lightning was on its way to being a pretty good darned hockey team. But at the trade deadline, Jay Feaster pulled the trigger on a trade for defenseman Daryl Sydor.

That night, on the team bus, forward Dave Andreychuck walked past Feaster's seat. He reached down and laid his hand on Feaster's shoulder, a silent but effective way of saying "you done good, buddy." And Feaster had. It helped solidify the Bolts' defense on their way to the cup.

Now, maybe the Lightning has done it again. They've traded in a lot of tomorrows for a few this year. Coleman plays a good defensive game himself. That could help. He'll help the depth scoring. He'll help the winning nights continue.

Granted, nothing is certain. The Lightning could have won the title without Coleman. With him, they might not.

"You can never have too many good players," BriseBois said. "Coleman is going to fit great into our group. He's a speedy, powerful skater. He's a relentless puck hound. He's a super competitive guy. He blocks shots, he hits, he scores. He plays a heavy game. He's just a really good complement to the group of players we already have."

But professional sports is about a team improving its odds. The Lightning seems to have done that for the short term. This year's team is better today than it was yesterday.

And isn't that the point?

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