Despite the kind of star power that portends great things, the Tampa Bay Lightning face a host of problems, even after a busy summer.
On paper, it’s tough to say that the Bolts got much better this offseason, either. In the grand scheme of things, their best chance of turning things around might come down to some virtuoso work by still-new head coach Jon Cooper. So, does he have what it takes?
Cooper took over the team in late March, so he didn’t exactly get much time to handle a sulking squad; while he won his first game behind the bench, he didn’t exactly work miracles in a 5-8-3 run. Still, that amounted to little more than a dress rehearsal.
Much like his predecessor Guy Boucher, Cooper is still a fresh-faced coach, but success has followed him in his stops so far. He won a championship at both the AHL and USHL level before Bolts GM Steve Yzerman hired him to replace Boucher.
If nothing else, he’s been a smash success so far in his coaching career.
Cooper must play the right notes with a defense that looks awfully shaky beyond centerpiece Victor Hedman and 2012 acquisition Matt Carle. Goaltending remains a significant question mark, too.
It’s also worth debating whether Tampa Bay’s offense took a step back this summer, as the team most notably bought out Vincent Lecavalier while they signed Valtteri Filppula and drafted Jonathan Drouin. There’s a pretty steep drop-off from the team’s big names and their depth forwards, too, so scoring goals might be a little tougher than one might expect.
Still, if there’s one strong early sign, it’s that Cooper says he’s emphasizing structure on defense while giving his offensive stars plenty of leeway to create chances. He told the Tampa Tribune as much on March 28.
“I’m not going to go out there and teach Steven Stamkos how to do a one-timer. He’s got that one figured out,” Cooper said. “I’m not that guy that says this guy has to go here, and Marty, you have to go here.
“You get full possession of the puck … have at it, boys.”
His acting chops
It’s anyone’s guess if the 45-year-old coach will translate his success at other levels at the NHL. The roster, for one, implies that it might take a while.
If nothing else, it seems like he’ll keep the players loose, though. Puck Daddy unearthed this rather interesting testament to his sense of humor: