NASHVILLE — Lightning general manager Brian Lawton can't work on impulse or in a vacuum.
There are financial considerations, understanding that teams have ups and downs and that, for now, with few teams separating themselves in playoff races, no one is ready to make big deals.
So, what is a GM to do when his team has one win in nine games while scoring 13 goals?
Maintain patience, Lawton said, and faith in the players.
"One of the things that has happened here, in my opinion, the last few years, it has been panic at times," he said. "You're not going to see that. It's slow and steady. It'd be nice to make three blockbuster trades and be first in our division two weeks from now, but it doesn't work that way."
Besides, Lawton added, "I have complete confidence in the group. At some point, everybody in that room recognizes and understands that this business, everything around it is predicated on winning. But as far as my confidence level in the group, I have tremendous confidence in the guys here. They've just got to get the job done."
The brutal 1-6-2 stretch has pushed Tampa Bay (11-12-9) below .500 for the first time since Oct. 17. It has been shut out three times in eight games. The power play is 0-for-13 the past four.
Individually, things aren't much better. Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis have six goals each, Alex Tanguay four.
Steven Stamkos has a team-best 17 goals but zero in his past eight games. Ryan Malone has 16 but just one in his past 10. The entire defense has just nine.
The team's 76 goals are the league's third fewest.
Play also has been ragged. Pucks jump off sticks, passes go awry. An inability or unwillingness to consistently get to the net makes things worse.
"It's execution," Lecavalier said. "It's something we have to focus on, passes on tape. Instead of making the long pass, make the short passes so there's less chance it's going to bounce everywhere. Just make simple plays and take what's given you."
"Guys are (mad)," the center added. "This is the most important stretch of the season, and we have to turn it around. The urgency has to be there. We have to start (tonight) and go in the right direction; not just playing good, we have to get results."
Still, Lawton pointed out that the team is about where he expected after 32 games.
"We expected to be in a dogfight for a playoff spot," he said.
And Tampa Bay, which faces the Predators tonight at the Sommet Center, entered Monday only two points out of the East's final playoff spot.
"This has been a rough stretch, and the root of the problem is not being able to contribute that timely goal," Lawton said. "That's part of the growing pains. When you're down for a couple of years, it's not going to be instantaneous, and you've got to stick with it. The coaches realize that. The players realize it. I hope they do because in today's world, you're not going to see massive changes during the year like you used to."
Especially in the short term as the holiday roster freeze runs Saturday through Dec. 27.
"It is very difficult because everybody, including myself, wants to win so bad right now," Lawton said. "You want to fix everything in a minute's notice, but the business doesn't work that way. … You'd like to come in and fly off the handle and make massive changes, but it's just not the way the business works."
So the Lightning looks within.
"It's up to the guys in the room," Lawton said. "They've got to really bond together here and come up with the solutions."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]