Tampa Bay Lightning announces changes to their coaching staff

(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Lightning is officially parting ways with associate coach Rick Bowness and assistant coach Brad Lauer.

The Tampa Bay Lightning had a tremendous 25th Anniversary Season, making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final before being eliminated in Game 7 by the Washington Capitals. While there is much to cheer about in the 2017-18 season, the unceremonious end to the said season brought light to a couple of issues.

As with any issue, the best way to resolve the said issue is to dig deep and get down to the root of the problem and start there. This seems to be exactly what the Tampa Bay Lightning did today.

The Lightning announced earlier today in a Press Release the team has officially parted ways with associate coach Rick Bowness and assistant coach Brad Lauer and neither will be returning to the team next season.

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While no one ever wants to lose a member of the team, this move should come as no surprise to anyone here in the Bolts Nation. Unfortunately, the many reasons for the move are available in black and white for everyone to see.

For those of you who don’t know, Rick Bowness was tasked with overseeing the Lightning’s defense and penalty kill. This, right there, should tell you everything you need to know. The Bolts have struggled defensively for quite some time, and while adding some new pieces to the puzzle (i.e. Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh) has shown some improvement, there was still something missing.

Also, let’s take a moment to examine the Lightning’s Penalty Kill. First, we’ll take a look at the regular season. The Lightning was shorthanded a total of 268 times in the regular season. In those 268 times they were shorthanded, the Bolts allowed a total of 64 Power Play Goals Against.

This gives the Lightning a Penalty Kill Percentage of 76.1 percent. At first glance, you may be like, “that’s not that bad, right?” Unfortunately, you would be wrong. These numbers afforded the Lightning the 28th place position in the National Hockey League in terms of Penalty Kill.

Only three teams were lower than the Lightning in this particular statistic; the Philadelphia Flyers, Montreal Canadiens, and New York Islanders, respectively. Regrettably, things didn’t improve much in the postseason.

The Tampa Bay Lightning found themselves a man down a total of 48 times in the 17 games they played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. On a side note, this made the Bolts the third-highest penalized team in the postseason. In those 48 times the Lightning was shorthanded; they allowed a total of 12 Power Play Goals Against.

When you do the math, which can get confusing at times, the Lightning came up with a postseason Penalty Kill Percentage of 75 percent. This was good enough to earn them a spot slightly below the middle of the pack in the 10th place position.

There are many reasons as to why the Tampa Bay Lightning’s season ended so anticlimactically and there is definitely plenty of “blame” to go around, but it would be difficult to deny the horrendous Penalty Kill had at least a little to do with it.

Despite the negativity to be had in this particular situation, Tampa Bay Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman had nothing but kind words to say about both Bowness and Lauer.

"“Rick has served a significant role on our coaching staff since 2013, while Brad has been a part of two teams that reached the Eastern Conference Final. We appreciate all their knowledge and effort.”"

There has been no word from the team as to who they may be looking at to fill the shoes of the two departing coaches. The one thing fans can be sure of is Yzerman will be keeping a close eye on the playing field as the team prepares for the upcoming 2018-19 season.

The Lightning has a lot of ground to make up when it comes to the Penalty Kill and to a slightly lesser degree, the defense. The good news here is the Bolts are known as a team who generally thrives when faced with adversity.

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It’ll definitely be interesting to see who Yzerman and the powers that be within the Lightning organization selects to take up the mantles of associate coach and assistant coach in the coming season. Yzerman has a very distinct eye for talent, so whoever the newcomer may be, fans can rest assured a change is on the horizon.