Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

With camp opening, Cooper begins to mold Lightning

TAMPA — Forgive Jon Cooper the use of a cliche. But when it comes to the opening of training camp, the Lightning coach said he will be "a little bit like a kid in a candy store."

"Honestly, it can't come fast enough," he added. "You want to walk in and see what you've got."

What Cooper has most of all at the camp that opens today at the Tampa Bay Times Forum is a chance to revamp the roster.

The Lightning wants to get younger and quicker.

General manager Steve Yzerman always has said that in a salary cap world the best way to do that is to promote from within. The sense is the organization now has the depth to do it.

That is why perhaps nine players from last season's AHL Syracuse squad will compete for up to four openings among the top 12 forward positions.

Add Jonathan Drouin, the draft's No. 3 overall pick, and Geoff Walker, who played last season for AHL Lake Erie and was signed as a free agent, and that's 11 players in what should be a cauldron of competition.

How many forward spots are available overall? Tough to say because Cooper has not said how many he will carry beyond the top 12. And Drouin might have a spot as he can play nine games before the Lightning must decide whether to send him back to juniors.

Whatever the numbers, the competition "is going to be huge," said center Tyler Johnson, who led the AHL last season with 37 goals for Syracuse. "We all want to get a place on this team and there's not enough spots for everybody, so it's going to be a battle and it's going to be tough."

"We're just hungry for spots," said right wing Brett Connolly, the No. 6 overall draft pick of 2010 who had 31 goals last season for Syracuse. "We all have the same mind-set."

Things should be more settled on defense with the only likely addition being Syracuse's Mark Barberio, who would be a tantalizing target if put on waivers to return him to the Crunch.

But that doesn't mean the competition at forward won't have a trickle-down effect among all players, even those whose jobs are secure.

"Absolutely," center Nate Thompson said. "Whenever you have competition it pushes you because you see the young guys coming up and you want to solidify yourself.

"You can look at it as competition throughout the roster," he added. "Guys want to earn jobs. Guys want bigger roles. Guys want to become more impact players. It's good for everybody."

But especially for Cooper, who enters his first full NHL season after taking over in late March when Guy Boucher was fired.

"My message to the guys coming in, the rookies, is relax," Cooper said. "You have a chance, but we want you to put your best foot forward. We don't want to have excited energy. We want calm, focused, driven players."

And some veterans to look over their shoulders.

"It's unacceptable where we're at," Cooper said of last season's 28th place finish. "As an organization we're going to do everything in our power to make sure that's the last time we're in that position in the standings.

"It's not a threat, but that's where we're at."

All on: Sun Sports announced it will carry 77 Lightning games this season. With NBC Sports Network airing three and Ch. 44 two, all 82 games will be televised.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]


Lightning training camp

Where: Tampa Bay Times Forum

When: Players report today for physicals and off-ice testing. Practices begin Thursday.

Watch: Free and open to the public Thursday and Saturday. Enter at Gate B. Gate opens at 9 a.m. Thursday. Fan Fest begins 8 a.m. Saturday.

Parking: Thursday — East and West lots at the Times Forum, $5. Saturday — Limited free parking for season ticket holders. Otherwise, not provided.

Handicapping training camp

Here is a best guess as to what Lightning players have roster spots locked up and those fighting for jobs:

Forwards: Locks — B.J. Crombeen, Valtteri Filppula,

Alex Killorn, Ryan Malone, Teddy Purcell, Marty St. Louis,

Steven Stamkos, Nate Thompson. In the mix — Mike Angelidis, J.T. Brown, Brett Connolly, Jonathan Drouin*, Tyler Johnson, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik, Tom Pyatt, Dana Tyrell, Geoff Walker.

Defense: Locks — Keith Aulie, Eric Brewer, Matt Carle, Radko Gudas, Victor Hedman, Brian Lee**, Mattias Ohlund**, Sami Salo. In the mix — Mark Barberio, Andrej Sustr, Matt Taormina.

Goaltenders: Locks — Ben Bishop, Anders Lindback.

* Drouin can play up to nine NHL games before the team must decide whether to send him to juniors

** Injured

With camp opening, Cooper begins to mold Lightning 09/10/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 10, 2013 10:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: Gordon Hayward's message to Celtics from hospital bed after gruesome injury


    BOSTON — Gordon Hayward's face was etched in pain and shock.

    Gordon Hayward of the Boston Celtics sits on the floor after being injured while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. [Gregory Shamus | Getty Images]
  2. Rick and Tom podcast: Where does Winston rank among top QBs?


    Where does Bucs QB Jameis Winston rank among current NFL QBs this year? The result might shock you. Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down a new poll by Sports Illustrated in their latest podcast.

    Where does Jameis Winston rank among the NFL's top quarterbacks?
  3. Epilogue: USF's Mike Radomski made thank-yous a way of life


    TAMPA — He was a sucker for baseball and benevolence. Mike Radomski tracked every gesture, regardless of how noble or benign, as meticulously as pitch counts in his volumes of scorebooks.

    Assistant director of communications Mike Radomski, who primarily served as the media liaison for men's basketball but also worked with several other Bulls sports, died shortly after 1 a.m. Oct. 12, 2017 in a car accident on Interstate 75 near his Wildwood home. He was 29. PHOTO PROVIDED.
  4. Cubs down Dodgers 3-2; force NLCS Game 5 Thursday


    CHICAGO — Javier Baez snapped an 0-for-20 skid with two home runs, former Ray Wade Davis hung on for a six-out save and the Cubs avoided a sweep, holding off the Dodgers 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 4 of the NL Championship Series.

  5. Bucs' Vernon Hargreaves: 'I'm not making any plays'


    TAMPA — Eli Manning gathered his receivers together on the sideline during the Giants' Week 4 game against the Bucs and told them he planned to target the weakest link of the secondary all afternoon.

    Patriots receiver Chris Hogan gets position in front of Bucs cornerback Vernon Hargreaves for a 5-yard touchdown pass in New England’s win on Oct. 5.