Gwozdecky leaves Lightning to pursue other opportunities


George Gwozdecky is leaving the Tampa Bay Lightning after spending two seasons as an assistant coach on Jon Cooper’s staff the club announced on Monday.

Gwozdecky joined the Lightning on Aug. 9, 2013 after serving as the head coach at the University of Denver for 19 seasons.

“Jon Cooper and I, along with the entire Lightning organization, would like to thank George and his family for giving us the past two years,” GM Steve Yzerman said in a statement. “He helped turn a young, unproven team into the Eastern Conference Champions and we appreciate his professionalism and dedication.”

The 61-year-old told the Tampa Bay Times that he’s been considering leaving the club for a while.

“I have nothing but great memories, great things to say about the team, about the organization,” Gwozdecky said. “It was a great learning experience.”

Gwozdecky will attend this week’s NHL Draft with the Lightning and be apart of the coaches association meetings before heading home to Denver.

Mike Chambers of The Denver Post reports that Gwozdecky could be an ideal candidate to replace Andre Tourigny in Colorado, but Gwozdecky says he has not heard from the Avs.

“Not leaning in any direction right now except to get some much-needed (rest and relaxation),” Gwozdecky told Chambers via text message. “I have not spoken with anybody in the Avs organization but I’m sure I would if they call.”

Tourigny announced his resignation last month.

Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning

Drouin denies any ‘bad blood’ with Cooper


Jonathan Drouin denied any rift between himself and Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper on Wednesday while speaking with the Tampa Bay Times.

“We have a good relationship, we talk a lot,” Drouin said. “There’s not bad blood towards each other. Everything’s perfect.”

The 20-year-old repeatedly stated that he communicates regularly with his head coach, maybe in part because of claims made about a week ago in the Toronto Sun:

In Round 2 of the playoffs, with Drouin clearly growing frustrated, Cooper was urged to meet with his player.

Normally, he avoids talking to or making eye contact with Drouin. Their meeting didn’t necessarily go well. Cooper told him it was a process to work his way into the Tampa lineup.

Of course, a very late scratch in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final brought more immediate attention to the situation (especially since he said he was in during a pregame interview). Drouin is doing well to avoid drama, although he admitted to Sportsnet that this is “not how he envisioned” a deep playoff run and that he’ll need to “force” Cooper to put him in the lineup.

Game 2 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final was likely Drouin’s best showing of the postseason, yet apparently the bad outweighed the good in Cooper’s eyes. More than a few observers noted a big turnover by Drouin.

His teammates noticed his energy, though.

“I think you saw that when he did get in the lineup the amount of energy (he had). Guys fed off that,” Steven Stamkos said. “He’s a guy that’s always ready if we need him. It’s pretty nice to have a guy with that much skill ready to go if need be.”

Ultimately, it all comes down to Cooper, but credit Drouin for avoiding added controversy.

Columnist suggests Stamkos has fallen out of favor with Cooper


With the Tampa Bay Lightning searching for the equalizer during the final minute of Game 1, captain Steven Stamkos was on the bench watching as the Chicago Blackhawks skated away with a 2-1 win.

It’s a move Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons called odd in his piece on Friday.

Simmons goes on to suggest that the reduced ice time coupled with the demotion to the Bolts’ second line could add up to Stamkos finding a new home after next season when he is set to become an unrestricted free agent.

Once upon a time, it seemed far fetched that he would ever leave Tampa Bay. But he’s now playing the wing instead of centre, getting second line minutes for a coach who doesn’t favour him. The narrative has changed.

Stamkos, who has averaged 18:01 in ice time per game in these playoffs, finished the Game 1 loss with 17:17 in time on ice. He played 5:29 of the third period down from the 7:02 he played in the second.

“I go out and do whatever I can every shift,” said Stamkos. “That’s all I can control.” When asked about the final minute of play, he said: “I want to be out there. If you ask every player they want to be out there … You have to believe in yourself that you’re a difference maker.”

When asked about it following Saturday’s morning skate, Jon Cooper got defensive.

“I don’t know what that means,” said Cooper when asked if Stamkos would see more ice time in Game 2. “Should I just play him the whole game, like all 60?”

When reminded of Stamkos’ Game 1 ice time, Cooper replied, “Okay. So if he plays 20 minutes, I should give him two more shifts. I’ll think about that tonight.”

Stamkos scored 43 goals and 72 points in 82 games while averaging 19:22 of ice time during the regular season.

He went eight games without scoring to begin the playoffs and he’s now failed to score in three straight games – two of them losses.

Stamkos needs to start scoring, yes. But to suggest he may be looking for a new home after next season is probably still far fetched.

Bolts’ Drouin to take warmup, could play Game 2


Lightning rookie Jonathan Drouin will take the pre-game skate tonight in Tampa Bay and could be an option for Game 2.

The 19-year-old has not played in nearly a month with his last action coming in Game 4 of the Lightning’s second-round series with the Montreal Canadiens.

“They want to trust me in the (defensive) zone, I want to be a player that’s put in any situation,” said Drouin per Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times. “I’m working my way up there”

Drouin hasn’t taken part in the team’s pregame skate since he last played, which was back on May 7.

He has appeared in three games in these playoffs registering a minus-4 rating to go along with two penalty minutes while averaging just over 11 minutes in ice time.

“Jo, he’s a talented player. We’ve watched him grow this season,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “He gives us a different look when he’s in the lineup. It’s hard to sit here and say what you expect.

“We expect our guys to produce, stick to our structure, play as hard as you can, look in the mirror at the end of the day and say, I have no regrets. If he’s in, that’s what I expect.”

It’s uncertain of who may come out of the lineup, but forward Tyler Johnson did leave the team’s morning skate briefly.

He told Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston following the morning skate that there was no doubt about his playing status tonight.

Puck drop on Game 2 is at 7:15 p.m. ET on NBC.

Bolts’ Coburn missed final two periods due to illness


The Tampa Bay Lightning were reduced to six defensemen for the final two periods of Sunday’s 2-0 win because Braydon Coburn was sick.

The Bolts’, who dressed seven defensemen with Matt Carle returning from an undisclosed injury, lost Coburn after the first period.

Tampa head coach Jon Cooper suggested the blue liner was physically ill on the team’s bench.

“I don’t know what TV cameras picked stuff up. We had issues on the bench, so I’ve got to find out more of what’s going on,” said Cooper. “But, there was, yeah. Don’t walk on our bench. That’s what I’m going to say.”

Coburn, who has a goal and two assists while averaging 16:36 in ice time in 18 playoff games, was limited to just eight shifts and 5:43 of ice time on Sunday.