This is an important week for the Lightning.
As the team today begins six days of training camp at Germain Arena in Estero, not only is picking a final roster on the to-do list but so is more completely installing coach Jon Cooper's system.
For players, though, the time away from family and friends — and being in close quarters with teammates — offers a chance to form bonds and friendships that can produce those got-your-back relationships on the ice that are so important.
"It's the old cliche," center Steven Stamkos said. "But I think it does work."
Teams can arrange these trips in several ways.
Beyond the usual players-only dinners and golf outings, some teams set up activities. Defenseman Matt Carle recalled a trip with the Sharks to the Canadian mountain town of Banff, during which the team went curling.
"That always sticks out because everyone was so bad at it," Carle said.
When the Lightning traveled to Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, for part of its 2011-12 training camp, then-assistant coach Dan Lacroix put together problem-solving games in which players, in teams, worked together.
This week, the social agenda is being left to the players.
"Are we setting up what they're doing? No," Cooper said. "But have we given them, 'This is a great day to do something?' Yes."
"They're giving us opportunities to build that," right wing Marty St. Louis said of team chemistry. "It's up to us what we do with it."
The trip to southwest Florida couldn't have come at a better time for a team probably feeling the physical and mental fatigue of camp.
Tampa Bay on Saturday finished a grueling stretch of four games in four nights, something Cooper said he hadn't experienced since his days in the junior North American league, though going undefeated probably made it easier to take.
Coaches also dealt with three-a-day practices; players, especially those trying to make the roster, with being judged on everything they did. Cutting 22 players Saturday to reduce the camp roster to 36 should ease the frenetic pace, as will a better spacing of games Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Not that the tension won't be substantial for those on the bubble; 13 more cuts are needed to get to the roster limit of 23. It's just that "we'll be a little bit more individual," Cooper said. "Where are guys going to fit, more special teams, more focus on the intricacies of the game."
And perhaps some beach volleyball for the players.
"It will be good to get everybody together and start building that chemistry and team camaraderie," Carle said. "It's just a matter of getting guys together to know each other a little bit."
MINOR MOVES: Goaltenders Riku Helenius and Cedrick Desjardins cleared waivers and were assigned to AHL Syracuse. Left wing Geoff Walker was placed on waivers with the intention of also sending him to the Crunch.
SCHEDULE: Only Wednesday's noon practice at Germain Arena is open to the public.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]