New Lightning coach Jon Cooper: "I'm coming here to make the playoffs"
It may have been just opening-act bluster, but new Lightning coach Jon Cooper, in his first meeting with the Tampa Bay area media, had a message for his players and the fans:
"To hear somebody say the playoffs are history, I don't know," Cooper said. "Until the final buzzer goes in the last game of the season, I'm coming here to make the playoffs. I probably shouldn't say this out loud, but when Steve (Yzerman) offered me the job, I said, 'Are you sure you want to do this?' He said, 'I want to do this.' Because if you do this I'm going to try to screw up your draft pick. That's where we're at."
Cooper hit several topics in the relatively short session before the game with the Sabres, which he watched with Yzerman from the Lightning's suite.
He said he wants his teams to be a combination of the 1970s Flyers and 1980s Oilers: "It's no secret, you can look up the stats with penalty minutes and fighting majors our teams have had. But nobody would call us a goon team. We play hard, and that's all I ask, that we play hard and we're hard to play against. Nobody is going to be the '80 Oilers, and nobody is going to be the '70s Flyers. But if we can mix a little of that and have players that couple both those teams ... but, again, it's just trying to make an analogy."
On his core beliefs on how you run a team and relate to players:I believe in respect. Everybody has to have respect for each other, mutual respect for what we all do. I'm a big believer in a team. We're all in this together. We're all in this job and the job is to win. I think a big reason I've had a lot of success in the past is that we've all believed in each other. Nobody strayed from the course. Everybody bought in. I know those are kind of cliche words, but there is one thing I'll always say regardless of what happens. When the fans leave this rink, they're going to be proud of our team. There's a certain type of swagger with teams I've coached, and you have to have that to win. You respect the opponent, you don't fear them. And we've always been a team where we're the feared team when we go into buildings or somebody comes to us. When you have that attitude with a team, anything is possible."