The Tampa Bay Lightning has always had roller coaster seasons. This season is no exception. With the success of last year, everyone has their minds set on going even higher this year. They came with in one goal of the Stanley Cup Finals. (In my opinion that goal was scored by someone who shouldn’t have even been playing in game 7, Nathan Horton, as he assaulted a Tampa Bay fan with a water bottle at the end of game 6 as you can see in this video. Tune in about 1:30.) Even the players admitted that they felt they had a sense of entitlement because of how far they made it last year. They are finally letting go of last season, and focusing on the current. Fans need to do the same. The pressure on the team comes a lot from the fan’s high expectations based solely on last year’s success. What if they wouldn’t had made it so far last year? Would everyone still be as upset with the team as they are now? After three long years with not so much as a play off run, fans, players, and the entire organization were frustrated. We lived through the OK Hockey years. Then there was light at the end of the tunnel, when Jeff Vinik purchased the team. He had a vision for The Lightning of class and championships. He hired general manager Steve Yzerman to make the hockey decisions and make that happen. We were all excited to see what Mr. Yzerman had in store, and anxious for the changes. However, we all knew that a miracle wouldn’t happen over night. Building a winning team is a process, and he made that clear on his first day. Let’s take a few minutes to listen to his introduction speech over again:
Jeff Vinik’s vision was to make the organization world class both on the ice and off of the ice, and in the community. He has more than done that. The Tampa Bay Lightning organization is true class from the top to the bottom. I’ve said that before, and I’ll say it again a thousand times over. They do so much for the community, but I’ll save that for another post. His vision was also to have a great building and great fan experience for all fans and supporters. After the $40 million renovations to The Tampa Bay Times Forum, he has sure kept that promise! He said that his vision was to build a world class organization long term. Not put something together over night, and let it go from there. It’s a process. He hired Steve Yzerman with the intent of being together for many years down the road. They are looking at the team’s future, not the team’s present. He gave Mr. Yzerman full reign of all hockey related decisions. After explaining how he wants to run, build, and fix the organization, Mr. Yzerman said “This is a long term project for me, I believe a Stanley Cup caliber hockey team takes time. Changes have been made in the Lightning organization, and will be made over the course of time. There is no easy fix. I don’t sit up here with the notion that I can wave a magic wand, make changes, and we’re a Stanley Cup contender.” He goes on to say that he plans on making immediate changes for the upcoming season for the better, which he did, but with a long term goal of a strong team that can compete on an annual basis. He repeated used the words “long term”. He hired Coach Guy Boucher who had the same values and vision. Coach Boucher came into the Lightning organization with no NHL experience, however, he had been in coaching for 14 years. He turned his AHL team around in just 1 year. He didn’t make the same promise for The Lightning, he said that he expected a 1-3 year turn over time.
No one honestly expected The Lighting to make it to game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals last year. They worked hard and got there, against all of the odds against them. This season it’s even harder, as they lost several key players in the off season. They have been plagued with injures this year from the beginning. For tonight’s game, Dana Tyrell should be returning from his injury. Mattias Ohlund, Ryan Shannon, Adam Hall, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Victor Hedman, and JT Wyman are all out for multiple games right now. Tom Pyatt suffered an injury at practice yesterday, he is questionable for play tonight. When one guy heals up, two more go down it seems.
The crazy schedule doesn’t help, either. Everyone expected this team to come out winning every single game. A lot of the “fans”, and I use that term loosely, have turned their back on the team because of the losing streak. They get up and walk out in the middle of a game. They boo the guys. Why? Because they aren’t playing up to their expectations. I guess a team has to win most games and get the Stanley Cup to please everyone. Even then some will be unhappy. The pressure put on the guys because of last year’s expectations has been weighing on them all season. Not just fans, but even the media has been comparing them to where they were at this point last season. Well, it’s not last season. So get over it people. This is a brand new season with a lot of new faces, and this is how it’s supposed to be. New faces fitting in, learning how to play together and build that on ice chemistry.
That chemistry and trust in each other does not happen over night. As I said earlier, we were all happy with excepting the fact that they would not be the best team in the NHL as they stepped up each building block for a couple of years. Now that they are in that building process, it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for the fans. It’s frustrating for the guys on the team. It’s frustrating for the coach. And it’s certainly frustrating for the management and ownership. But I assure you that this too shall pass. Have faith and stick with the team that we all love, and remember Steve Yzerman’s words. It takes time! People are going crazy with trade rumors, and saying trade this player, acquire that player, they are even calling for the heads of Coach Boucher and Steve Yzerman! I go with this slogan: In Yzerman I Trust.
Dolly Reynolds @HulaDolly @BoltsByTheBay (Twitter)
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