With only three games left for the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team hopes to finish with wins and then look forward to improving their game for next season. So as the Lightning wrap up this shortened season, let us take a look at three ways I believe this season could have been worse.
3. Cory Conacher could have been taller.
Yeah, the kid has talent, has battled through awful medical issues, and is this year’s NHL warm and fuzzy story. However, let’s face it, the Lightning seem to have this shorty fetish. We have one undrafted player that made a name for himself in Vermont, then became the heart and soul of the Lightning, and recently the organization has been hoarding the 5′ 9″ and under talent just as much as we hoard goalies. If Cory Conacher had been taller, would he have been invited to prospects camp two years ago? While a much decorated college player, I believe that his height and heart for the game got him noticed. He was an underdog of sorts, going undrafted, and the Lightning were quite successful in bringing in their first short, undrafted player back in 2000. With a focus on building the organization around young talent, Conacher was a worthy choice and earned his roster spot. In the end, Yzerman viewed him as a disposable commodity, but he proved valuable and returned a young goalie that might be the solution to our problem between the pipes. If the rookie sensation had never been a part of the team, Yzerman might have made a larger sacrifice on the roster in order to get a good goalie.
2. Jon Cooper could have not been our AHL affiliate’s head coach.
Cooper has proven on almost every level how great and effective he is as a coach. He has taken the Lightning’s minor league affiliate to the finals by annihilating the other teams on their path to hoisting the Calder Cup. Upon the firing of former head coach Guy Boucher, Yzerman immediately knew who would fill the vacancy. It was an obvious choice with Cooper’s successes, and with a decent amount of the Lightning team consisting of Syracuse Crunch call-ups, it allowed for a smoother transition.
1. The Lightning could have traded for veteran players instead of relying on our younger ones.
I noticed as the trade deadline approached, many teams were trading for veteran stars and some were criticizing the Lightning for not doing the same. I don’t see why we would have done that though, not when our farm team boasts an impressive roster. Our younger players have longer shelf lives, which will pay off because they can become franchise faces, not single season one hit wonders. Also, with the constant flow of Crunch players being recalled and reassigned throughout the season, they have the opportunity to grow for a few games at a time in the NHL setting, then take the knowledge gained back with them to Syracuse to better harness their skills. The Lightning might not be able boast a roster packed packed with Iginla and Morrow, or even Jagr, but I’ll take Stamkos, Killorn, Hedman, and Johnson over them any day.
Call me an optimist, but I don’t think this season was an absolute mess. As a Lightning fan, it has been rough to see the losses of our head coach Guy Boucher, some great players, and of course games. While the team has quite a few changes and improvements to make before next season, it is important to remember that things get better. While this year’s team does not continue into the postseason, we certainly hope that next year’s will. For now though, keep an eye on our AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch, and our ECHL affiliate Florida Everblades, who are both in the playoffs for their respective leagues.