One of PHT’s 10 pressing questions in advance of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…
If the saying “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” is true, then the Tampa Bay Lightning could be the mightiest team in the playoffs.
But in more practical terms, one can’t help to ask if they’ve already been asked to clear too many hurdles this season.
Let’s look back at a season full of turmoil for a team that managed to make the playoffs after missing out the previous two years…
In one frightening fall, the Lightning saw their young star (and eventual captain) Steven Stamkos suffer a broken leg that kept him out from Nov. 11 to March 6:
“I’ll be honest, we sat there for 24 hours and had a pity party and thought our season might be over,” Head coach Jon Cooper said in March.
Instead, it might have been a sign of things to come, as Stamkos’ injury was just one of the Lightning’s biggest headaches in 2013-14.
St. Louis bolts
After 972 regular season games (and a Stanley Cup victory, two scoring titles and one Hart Trophy), Martin St. Louis couldn’t shake the initial sting of being left off Team Canada and demanded a trade from the team he captained. He was eventually granted his wish on trade deadline day, capping off an operatic exchange between a franchise, a former star and its fan base.
St. Louis left the Lightning with a traded captain of their own in Ryan Callahan, some quality New York Rangers draft picks and this apology letter:
Bishop banged up
Speaking of debatable Olympic “snubs,” Ben Bishop provided the Lightning with Vezina-caliber work this season. So, in accordance with a turmoil-filled season, he naturally suffered an injury late in the season that could carry over to the postseason.
Erratic backup Anders Lindback has actually been heating up lately since Bishop was injured and captured the NHL’s first star of the week on Monday, but in the big picture, many would believe that Bishop’s injury could be devastating … especially since the Montreal Canadiens are rolling out gold medal-winning star netminder Carey Price.
Malone’s legal troubles
While Bishop provided late-season adversity that may have more of an impact on the ice, Ryan Malone’s legal troubles — he was arrested for DUI and cocaine possession over the weekend — add drama off the ice for the Lightning, too.
Considering the season the Lightning have endured, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that Cooper downplayed the situation for the team as a whole, as the Tampa Bay Time reported on Sunday.
“Hockeywise we’ve had way more distractions worse than this one,” Cooper said. “This is more of a life issue, more a friend of ours who we know is physically doing okay and hopefully the worst is over.
“As for hockey, this won’t be a distraction at all for us.”
The good news for the Lightning is that just about every champion – in the NHL and otherwise – deals with adversity along the way. Really, the playoffs are months of peaks and valleys, so they may very well look at the regular season as a training ground for the bigger challenges ahead.
And, if nothing else, it makes for a great story.
“Ooh, that might be for the book later — later in life,” Cooper told the Canadian Press.
For more Pressing Playoff Questions, click here.