Talk about Taylor
It's just too bad for Tim Taylor that his career could end with surgery to correct his degenerative right hip. That's no way for anyone to go out.
I like Taylor, a terrific guy, but some mail I've gotten this week (and one really harsh letter in particular) was intent on body-slamming the Lightning captain not only for his play last season but for his work as captain. In a nutshell, the writer wondered who named him captain in the first place (coach John Tortorella and GM Jay Feaster) and that Taylor could not lead AT ALL because of his injury and the fact that he played on the fourth line.
I grant you Taylor's ineffective season on the ice made captaining somewhat tougher. But the guy was great in the locker room. I know that doesn't mean much to most. It is not a part of the game that gets much publicity. But in this case it is worth mentioning.
Taylor worked very hard throughout the year, but especially early, to make sure all the players felt part of the team. That was a big chore as the team started with nine new faces. It also was important given what Rob DiMaio said at the beginning of the year, that when he first came back to the team in the 2005-06 season, he was not comfortable. The Lightning, which had so little turnover after the Cup season, was a bit of a closed society and not as welcoming of a newcomer as it might have been.
Hockey, a truly team sport, is one of the few sports where locker room harmony can have a great effect on how a team plays, so Taylor was proactive. He organized team-wide functions as early as training camp, made sure everyone always was involved. It worked, and it was fun to watch the locker room become pretty tight by mid season. Of course, the resurgence on the ice helped, but a good vibe in the locker room didn't hurt, either. Taylor also was pro-active when it came to talking to slumping players and as a liaison between the players and the coaches.
And don't forget that after Taylor's second cortisone shot, he played his best hockey of the season. And though he did not have a point, he had an even plus-minus, won 53 percent of his faceoffs and averaged 12:01 of ice time. That after averaging 7:55 of ice time in the regular season. Playing well through injury is a leadership.
So, yeah, Taylor had a tough season overall. But after watching him last season continue to be involved off the ice, I believe he was the perfect choice to be captain. And that is why Feaster said this when asked if Taylor had a spot waiting on the roster if he can recover from surgery that may happen in September and could have him on the ice by February if things go really well: "No one in this organization is prepared to close the door on Tim Taylor being able to come back from this. We all recognize the odds are tremendous and stacked against him, but if anybody can do it, Tim Taylor can. Tim Taylor is a hockey warrior. He's an old-school kind of guy, so he's absolutely welcome.''
By the way, I'm taking a 10-day vacation to recharge a bit before the season, so there might not be much on the blog until the last week of August. Thanks for all your contributions.