Additions of Mattias Ohlund, Matt Walker and Stephane Veilleux to help solve a locker room issue as much as help the on-ice product
Pretty decent story in Thursday's paper (unless, as one of my bosses has predicted, it gets moved to Friday) about how the Lightning locker room lost some of its bearings as last season went on, and how the additions of defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Matt Walker, and left wing Stephane Veilleux, are supposed to combat that.
The situation wasn't anything dire. Center Steven Stamkos even spoke about how in some ways, the craziness of last season -- the injuries, the revolving door of players, the losing -- brought some guys closer. Still, it seems over time, with frustrations growing, the locker room forgot a little bit about how to win, especially when it came to pregame preparation. As Stamkos said, "It was tough. I'm not going to sit here and tell you it wasn't."
Coach Rick Tocchet addressed it several times after games about how it didn't seem as if the team was ready to play. Interestingly, he also admitted recently that given all the circumstances last season, he probably did not do enough to fix it.
"It's really hard when you have a different guy in the lineup every night," Tocchet said. "So, to be honest with you, I cut slack on that."
Tocchet was adamant he would not cut slack next season.
"I won't cut slack in training camp on the way we're going to play," he said. "The guys that were here last year, I'll give them a clean slate knowing we had the revolving door. But the leash will be a little bit shorter this year in the sense they better be ready to play. If you're a guy that I thought last year, who was two-for-four -- two games you were okay, two you were half asleep -- you're going to get a shorter hook. They know that. The guys know. It's something I put on the table."
But back to the locker room. Ohlund and Walker, when they were in town earlier this month, spoke at length about how important is pregame preparation. Both said they will have no problem getting on a teammate's case, if necessary. Ohlund said he will likely wait until after training camp to get to know his teammates. Walker said he will dive right in if it is warranted.
"In the hockey world, it takes about three minutes to feel like you've grown up with the guy beside you," Walker said. "I know if you have to stand up and address something, it's never anything personal. We're here for the same reason, to put the best product on the ice and play well."
Bottom line, Ohlund said, "If you're not mentally prepared to play, you don't have a chance."