Stamkos may be out but Cooper’s Law still reigns


Watching Tampa Bay Lightning star center and alternate captain Steven Stamkos sustain yesterday’s leg injury in Boston was heart-wrenching.

The last thing I would have thought possible going into the game, since I was mainly concerned with Tampa Bay just beating the Bruins, but it hammers home the sad truth of just how dangerous and unpredictable the game of hockey is, even to one of Tampa Bay’s best players, at the cusp of what was beginning to look like a great start.

A season-ending injury can happen to anyone, at any time. Thanks, Hockey Gods. We get it now. And unfortunately, Stammer does too.

Previous to yesterday’s broken right tibia injury, Stamkos had yet to suffer a significant enough mishap to miss much ice time in his career.

We at Bolts at the Bay are hoping that isn’t the case, but we’d also be pretty foolish to not recognize the severity of Stammer’s injury, and that it may be best in the long-term that Stammer take all necessary precautions in returning to the ice. And that might mean taking it slow, sitting out this season (if necessary), and coming back stronger in 2014-15.

I’m hoping to hear better news than that, but I’m also trying to be pragmatic because well…I saw that video replay too – maybe a few too many times.

Stammer is tough. And it’s pretty obvious by the pain radiating through his body on the ice, that this was no mere scratch.

Stamkos is a vital element of the Lightning’s recent success, no doubt, but I think what needs to be acknowledged is that he’s not the only reason the Bolts have had this hot start.

I think head coach Jon Cooper and goaltender Ben Bishop (to name just my top-two reasons) deserve a lot of the credit too.

And both of those elements are still safe and sound and working to keep this train on the tracks.

I think the system that Cooper has introduced to this Lightning team is working, and I believe the scoring, tenacity on defense, and the overall different attitude of this team is more apparent because of him.

I further believe, that the struggles against teams like Chicago (though somehow they managed to squeak by) and New Jersey; those are the games where the Lightning got too far away from the Cooper system, and tried to play the other team, at that team’s game.

The Boston Riddle will keep for the time being (at least until their next match-up in March).

But when the Lightning remains under Cooper’s Law, they have played their best hockey.

They are more than just one player, they are a team united under one vision of how to play the game, and that’s what Coach Cooper brings to the table.

Of course it helps when you have a talented goaltender dialed in like Bishop has been over the course of the season.

His role as the firm backstop of the team cannot be overstated. I think the Lightning defense has adhered to a better strategy (read: Cooper’s Law) which keeps us in a better position than a season ago, when defense was a big mess.

But bottom line, the Lightning has really needed a goalie to step up and defend the pipes and that’s precisely what Bishop has done for Tampa Bay.

His resolve and skill is key to the Lightning’s 12 wins so far this season, and if he can stay healthy (please God), and continue being solid in net, I believe Tampa Bay will show everyone around the league just how “for real” this team is.

It’s not the result of one player, but a collection of talented, driven players under Cooper’s Law.

Stammer leaves a void for sure, but we’ve got talent to fill it. We’ve got depth in the forward position (otherwise why wasn’t Jonathan Drouin playing from the very beginning?) and we’ve got a new vision in Tampa Bay, carried by a roster of new, talented young stars and a new brilliant coach.

Tags: Jon Cooper Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning