The Tampa Bay Lightning are Brutal in 2019-20

After making the playoffs four of the past five seasons, the Steven Stamkos lead Tampa Bay Lightning are posting a mediocre record in the 2019-20 NHL Regular Season at 16-11-3. While a slow start to the season is nothing new for an NHL team its lengthy 82 game season, there is cause for concern regarding the Bolts. Below are the reasons why the lack of success for the Florida-based franchise will continue throughout the season, as well as over the course of the future.

“O Captain My Captain”

One of the league’s most elite goal scorers, C Steven Stamkos has notched 40+ goals four times in his 11 year career, and is a 2x Maurice Richard Trophy winner for leading the league in goals scored. The one thing Stamkos has never been awarded however, is the Stanley Cup. He’s never contributed highly in the playoffs in general, apart from his lone 2017-18 post-season run, where he totaled 16 points, 7 of which were goals, in 17 games, but ultimately came up empty handed in the Eastern Conference Finals in a Game 7 loss to the Washington Capitals. At the age of 29, Stamkos’ window for ‘Cup runs is closing. Along with his lack of production in the spotlight, he’s proving to me that he should not be Tampa Bay’s captain. He is neither a guy able to rally the boys in dire moments, nor lead by example in critical moments. As far as I am concerned, he can pad his stats in the regular season for another 5-7 years, but it will be negligible when it comes to his production in the real games in the spring.

“Come Again Another Day”

Hockey teams are reliant on chemistry, not the individual’s talent. The Soviet Union’s hockey team in the late 20th century, comprised of soldiers from the CCCP’s Red Army that became the most dominant hockey team in the world for decades, was a team that started with zero knowledge of the game. The Russian hockey team’s mastermind, Anatoli Tarisov however, transformed this group into prowess, as they utilized chemistry and puck moving efficiency in a system later coined “cycling”. This system is now the foundation of modern ice hockey. The Soviets defeated an NHL All-Star team 2-1 in the 1979 Challenger’s Cup, a best-of-3 series, a feat that established the Soviets as the best hockey team in the world, thus reinforcing that even a team of the NHL’s best can’t defeat discipline and unmatched chemistry with talent alone. Another example of super team failures is the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning. After a 62-14-6 record, representing the NHL as the #1 seed in the 2019 NHL Playoffs, they were swept by Wildcard, Columbus Blue Jackets, in the first round. Despite Brayden Point and Stamkos both scoring 90+ points, and Nikita Kucherov scoring 124 in the regular season, the Bolts weren’t able to surpass the deficit through their star players.

You Come Here Often?

The NHL is one of the few professional sports that has to abide to a salary cap. Since the cap for the 2019-20 season is $81.5 million, and needing to have a minimum of $60.2 million, NHL teams don’t have as much flexibility as other professional sports franchises may have. The Lightning have a projected $1,814.42 million in cap space per CapFriendly, with 11 players whose contracts expire after the 2019-20 season, including Defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Mikhail Sergachev. The Lightning are most likely going to have to let most of their veterans walk in order to compensate the contract of Sergachev, unless BriseBois can sign them to cap friendly deals that would be < $1.25 million. Salary Cap Purgatory is a place where teams’ dreams go to die, and all signs point to the Lightning approaching the curve. With such little room to finesse the additions of skilled players that can fit into Tampa Bay’s system, their production and status will continue to remain stagnant. 

One Must Go

At the end of the day, the NHL is, and always will be, a business. You’re not paid for what you’ve done, you’re paid for what you do. Stamkos has done nothing except score a lot of goals in the regular season and produced little in the post-season. He does not rally the boys, nor does he win in the big moments. Another person worthy of blame for Tampa’s failures are HC Jon Cooper. Besides a few team achievements in the regular and post-season, Cooper has failed to lead this talented team to a Stanley Cup since his hiring in 2013. With all of the recent coach firings in the NHL, I propose that Jon Cooper is the next to be called to the executioner block. This team has too much talent to be wasted the way it has, and the only way to right this wrong. Before the beginning of the 2020-21 NHL season, one of these moves need to be made: Trade Steven Stamkos or fire Jon Cooper.