Sunday, June 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Too soon for slumping Lightning to make dramatic changes

TAMPA — During a prolonged slump like the one the Lightning is facing, it's easy for fans to demand a shakeup.

Fire coach Jon Cooper.

Trade goalie Ben Bishop.

Neither action is expected to happen anytime soon. While Tampa Bay may eventually deal Bishop, a pending unrestricted free agent, there doesn't seem to be a sizable market for goaltenders. That could change by March's trade deadline, but GM Steve Yzerman said it's "very possible" Bishop remains in Tampa Bay the rest of the season.

Cooper isn't going anywhere. He's in the first year of a multiyear extension signed a year ago last week. And after leading the Lightning to back-to-back lengthy playoff runs, Cooper is going to get the chance to work through one of the toughest stretches of his tenure.

It doesn't mean Cooper should be absolved of blame for the Lightning underachieving. The constant line shuffling hasn't seemed to work. Teams have clearly adjusted to Tampa Bay, which has often seemed out of synch. It's fair to question some lineup decisions, specifically on defense, with struggling Nikita Nesterov seeing too much ice.

"Ultimately, I'm the head coach of the team," Cooper said. "We are all in this together. So when things aren't going well for them, you need to look in the mirror yourself, 'How can I help these guys get better?' Because we're not in the finger-pointing business. … We all wear that together, that's part of why we've had success and why I know we'll get out of this."

The team is still playing hard for the coaching staff. Anyone who watched the intense, 90-minute practice last week in St. Louis will agree, or last weekend's back-to-back. It was, however, troubling that the Lightning didn't respond better in Thursday's 5-1 loss to Vancouver after Cooper gave the players Monday and Tuesday off.

Yzerman said he likes this team. He'll look to improve via trade but acknowledges those are hard to make in a salary-cap world. You need a partner.

For now, it's up to the current team to play up to expectations. Or eventually, changes may come.

"I just think that if a team is not winning, that team doesn't stay the same," C Brian Boyle said. "We love each other, we want to stick together. We've got to start winning. We're running out of time."

QUESTION MARK: It has to be concerning that wing Ryan Callahan's surgically repaired right hip continues to nag him, forcing him to miss his sixth straight game Saturday. The hip bothered him for most of the second half of last season, requiring June surgery. Whether Callahan returned too soon (Oct. 30) is hard to answer. But you understand why Cooper said the team is being cautious so that it's not a "long-term" issue, considering the veteran is in the third year of a six-year, $34.8 million deal.

SLAP SHOTS: D Slater Koekkoek was upset at his latest demotion to AHL Syracuse Friday, and it's hard to blame him. You can argue the former first-round pick deserves more of a chance to stick in the NHL. … Callahan said more than $200,000 was raised for his foundation at Tuesday's launch party. … Captain Steven Stamkos, on crutches after last month's knee surgery, has been rehabbing in Tampa and is expected to address the media this week for the first time since surgery.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Comments
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Even without a first-round pick, the Lightning wrapped up its draft with seven picks Saturday, starting with Gabriel Fortier, an undersized 18-year-old forward from Quebec in the second round."They were guys that we really wanted," Lightning director...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

Lightning takes Quebec LW Gabriel Fortier with second-round pick

The Lightning is on the board in the 2018 NHL draft, using their first pick — 59th overall in the second round — on Gabriel Fortier, an undersize left wing from Quebec."I spoke with them a couple of times, so I knew there was an interest,...
Published: 06/23/18
Live blog: 2018 NHL entry draft

Live blog: 2018 NHL entry draft

The Lightning isn't scheduled to pick until the second round, but there's no telling how active they might be with trades, so you'll want to follow our live coverage throughout the NHL draft Friday (Round 1) and Saturday (Rounds 2-7) in Dallas.(funct...
Published: 06/23/18
Lightning re-signs backup goalie Louis Domingue to 2-year deal

Lightning re-signs backup goalie Louis Domingue to 2-year deal

The Lightning has re-signed one of its restricted free agents in backup goalie Louis Domingue, who will be back with Tampa Bay on a two-year deal worth $2.3 million.Domingue, 26, was acquired from Arizona in November after he had posted a 4.33 goals-...
Published: 06/22/18
Lightning names ex-player Jeff Halpern as new assistant coach

Lightning names ex-player Jeff Halpern as new assistant coach

The Lightning has filled one of the openings on Jon Cooper's coaching staff, announcing Friday  that former Tampa Bay forward Jeff Halpern has been hired as an assistant coach.Halpern, 42, has spent the past two seasons as an assistant with the ...
Published: 06/22/18
Steve Yzerman: Lightning won’t re-sign forward Chris Kunitz

Steve Yzerman: Lightning won’t re-sign forward Chris Kunitz

As expected, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he does not intend to re-sign veteran forward Chris Kunitz, who will seek his fifth Stanley Cup with a different team next season.Kunitz, 38, brought much-needed playoff experience in his lone...
Published: 06/22/18
2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

NHL schedules all balance out at the end, but the Lightning will open 2018-19 with five straight home games and end the season with its last four on the road.The Lightning released its schedule Thursday evening for the upcoming season, with all sorts...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

The Lightning doesn't have a first-round pick in this weekend's draft, but that's not to say the weekend couldn't be busy for general manager Steve Yzerman and his front office.The Lightning sent its top draft pick to the Rangers in February as part ...
Published: 06/21/18