Bolts paid the price for Stanley Cup

by Gary Shelton on July 14, 2021

in general

BriseBois will try to squeeze out another Cup run./(Tampa Bay Lightning/Scott Audette)

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

In a way, it is fitting that the Stanley Cup itself is injured.

It is a large, and it is shiny, and these days, it is dented. An unnamed player for the Tampa Bay Lightning dropped the cup, and it bent.

What other kind of trophy would better represent this player, who survived the Stanley Cup Walk of the Wounded for their second straight title. It might be a shorter list to talk about the players who weren't hurt in the league's annual war of attrition.

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-- Nikita Kucherov, who missed the entire season with a hip injury, finished with a fractured rib. A day before every game, he would have "nerve-blocker injections."

-- Alex Killorn broke his fibula in Game Four of the Finals against Montreal. Three days later, he had a rod inserted into the leg. Two days after that, he was skating again. Only then did he decide the team would be better off with another player.

-- Victor Hedman tore a meniscus in his leg on March 30 and played despite it.

-- Ryan McDonaugh broke a hand.

-- Barclay Goodrow broke a hand.

"That's how you win the Stanley Cup," general manager Julien BriseBois said.

BriseBois listed the injuries in a press conference on Tuesday as he outlined what will be a difficult off-season for the Lightning. The team is over the salary cap, and faces the expansion draft, then the draft (where trades often happen), then free agency.

Still, he said, "Going forward., I expect us to remain a Stanley Cup contender. If you want to win a championship, you first have to be a Stanley Cup contender. We’ve been that since 2013-14. We have elite players at all the of the key positions, and they’re either in their prime or just entering their prime. I have a lot of reasons to believe we’re going to remain a Stanley Cup contender. Hopefully the stars align again for us and we can go on another magical run."

So was it a magical run or a physical one?

Well, both. There is no grind quite like hockey. In what other sport do players routinely return with a faceful of stitches? In what other game is a player, like Kucherov, expected to shut up and put on a flak jacket to play?

Now, it is BriseBois's turn. He doesn't get much credit; there is still an impression he's playing with Steve Yzerman's hand. But BriseBois has been deft for the Bolts, bringing in Blake Coleman and Goodrow at last year's trade deadline, and adding David Savard this year. Yeah, BriseBois inherited his stars, but he is brought in the support players that have won two titles.

It will take some creativity, which BriseBois has had a gift for. Coleman and Goodrow are free agents. Killorn or Tyler Johnson (rumors even include Steven Stamkos) could be lost to Seattle.

But as you look to the future, appreciate just how hard the Stanley Cup is to win. It takes 16 victories. It took 75 goals. It took 131 assists. It took needles and gauze and playing in pain. It takes blood and scars and bruises.

It took heart. One large, dented heart.

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