With no real enforcer, is "team toughness" enough for the Tampa Bay Lightning?
Don't misunderstand, the Lightning has plenty of guys who can fight: Ryan Malone, Matt Walker, Zenon Konopka, Steve Downie, Vinny Lecavalier. But there is no one in that classic enforcer role. But does that really matter?
As we read in the paper today, the team has rallied around the "team toughness" aspect of keeping things in line on the ice. We got a view of that Sunday in Atlanta, where on just about every occasion in which a Thrashers player challenged a Lightning player, Tampa Bay teammates jumped into the fray. We didn't see a whole lot of that last season.
Remember when GM Brian Lawton called out his players for not rallying around Vinny Lecavalier after he fought in defense of a teammate against the Islanders?
There were no fights in Sunday's game, but Lightning players believe they sent the messages that needed to be sent. They also believed they sent the messages that needed to be sent to each other. Jumping to a teammate's defense is a great way to bind the locker room. But you also can reverse that equation.
The locker room as far as I can tell is a much happier place to be this season. We'll see once the season starts if things don't go well how that holds up. But it seems the team did a lot better job putting together a group that has good chemistry. Bus and plane rides are loud with conversation. Perhaps that is the reason teammates are so quick to jump to each other's defense. They seem to really like each other. Not that last season's team had locker room problems, it just seems the camaraderie is more profound this season.
Whatever the reason, it is good to see. The question, though, is can an NHL team get through a season without that big fist guy that can stare down the other team's big-fist guy? The Lightning obviously believes it is not necessary, and perhaps with the league supposedly cracking down on staged fights (where the two heavyweights go at it) maybe it really doesn't matter.