The Tampa Bay Lightning’s 20th Anniversary Season is just a memory now. To have such a build up leading up to it, we sure were let down. Not just by the players, but by management and the NHL.
Now, there are two sides to every story, and there is both positive and negative in just about every situation. I also know that it seems I have been writing a bit negative about the team lately, when I always preach positivity and I’m usually, as Guy Boucher would say, ‘rosy rosy’. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m still getting over being sick so I’m a bit cranky. Maybe it’s because my point of view has changed about a lot. But what hasn’t, and will never, change is my passion for the Tampa Bay Lightning. I may get critical, but that doesn’t mean that I’m any less of a fan. You’ll never hear me use the words ‘they suck’. That is what I mean when I complain about the fans whining and complaining when they lose. I understand the frustration. But there’s a way to be classy about it. So with that said, I’m going to break down my personal reflections on the past season in two parts: The Negative and The Positive. I’m going with the negative first, so the positive will be the last impression.
The disappointment started when the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Player’s Association failed to agree to the terms of a new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) on time. This lead to the third lockout of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s career. Congratulations, Commissioner! You have a hattrick in lockouts. (Probably the only kind of hattrick he’s ever had.) You have gone where no man has gone before. For months they strung us along. MONTHS!! We waited. And waited. The open skates at the Tampa Bay Times Forum were nice, so was the attention given to local hockey teams. I’ve never been on ice skates in my life. There was little kids skating like pros all around me, and I looked like a complete idiot. I laced up and scaled the wall just so I can say that I have skated on Tampa Bay Lightning ice. My feet hurt SO bad and I had blisters from the brand new skates they let us, but what a thrill!
They finally came to an agreement and gave us half a season. That wasn’t quite enough time for the players to mesh and feel comfortable. The hype of the twentieth season only had fulfillment with the tributes to the most influential people in the organization’s history. They gave out paper noise makers with prints of the honoree on them. (Well, most of them. The one that I really really wanted, Brian Bradley, they didn’t get his face printed on one. I’d of found a place on our memorabilia wall to hang it up if they had!) You would think that they would give away at least one good keep sake for the special season. But they didn’t No commemorative 20th Anniversary coin or pin or puck, no bobble heads were given out. The selfish side of me was hoping for at least one nice giveaway.
Though they had two of the league’s elite goal scorers, the Lightning failed again to make it to the playoffs. Most of the players appeared to have a lack of drive, a lack of passion when they skated. For the ones who really tried and kept playing hard no matter what, it wasn’t fair. Honestly, the team let down Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. They let down Phil Esposito, who also deserved better. The team wouldn’t be in existence if it wasn’t for him. Their lack of play resulted in the early release of one of the best coaches the team has had yet. They started off with a winning streak, only to jump into a downward spiral. Of course the injuries didn’t help, but the defense and goaltending in unison handed them their worst season in years. It was just one thing after another. To watch them play, it looked as if the team was half asleep on the ice most of the time. Until B.J. Crombeen would drop the gloves to lose a fight. Bless his heart for trying. They looked sluggish. A lot of the games were down right boring. Others that actually had movement, was mostly the opposing team capitalizing on the Lightning’s poor puck handling or passing.
There weren’t many positives in the madness of the 2013 season, however, there were some. We will address those in Part 2. As I mentioned earlier, though most of the players seemed to have a lack of passion, my passion for the team is still strong and very much alive. The horrible last season actually has me really excited for the next. I know that they will be better, they will have energy, they will have the fire back.