Readers and fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning had a lot to say about the team’s first-round exit from the NHL playoffs after a record-tying 62 regular-season wins. Here’s a sampling of letters sent to email@example.com:
At least it didn’t linger
Look at it this way: the Lightning tied the 1995-96 Red Wings for the most wins. But it took Detroit 19 games to get knocked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs while it took Tampa Bay just four. I’d call that an accomplishment.
Bruce Lowitt, Oldsmar
Time to get bigger
The Lightning developed several bad habits during the regular season, such as reckless turnovers and sloppy defense. A high-scoring offense and power play covered up the bad habits. Unfortunately neither 5-on-5 goals nor power plays are plentiful in the postseason. The Lightning urgently needs to get bigger and more physical on its forward lines. Of its top four goal scorers (Stamkos, Kucherov, Point and Johnson), Stamkos is the biggest and perhaps most physical; yet Stamkos is neither big nor physical by NHL standards.
Mike Horan, St. Petersburg
At the trading deadline, Columbus added unrestricted free agents, able to walk away at the end of the season, the following: Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Keith Kincaid and Adam McQuaid. During the year they signed short-term deals with Adam Clendening, Anthony Duclair and Riley Nash. In addition, it has unrestricted free agents “Bob” the goalie and Panarin, both eligible to walk at year’s end. Of those nine, only Nash is under contract next year. The Lightning, on the other hand, chose to stand pat at the trading deadline. Hard to argue with the team they have assembled. But what would Steve Yzerman have done? From a Lightning fan and season-ticket holder since the Fairgrounds.
Doug Mann, Riverview
What will happen if Cooper stays
Jon Cooper is an overrated coach. He pulls the goalie too early. He changes the lines too often. He did not play Louis Domingue enough during the season and the first playoff round to give Vasy rest. Cooper was chasing the regular-season record for his own ego. He should have rested the top players after a playoff berth had been secured. If he had done that, Hedman would not have been injured at the very end of the season. If I was Jeff Vinik, I would fire Cooper. Ever since 2014, while Cooper has been here, a highly talented team assembled by Steve Yzerman has failed in the playoffs. Enough is enough. If Cooper stays, next year will be more of the same. Losses in the playoffs. Some top players will want to be traded so they can finally win the Stanley Cup. The fan base will deteriorate because Tampa is not a natural hockey town like the Original Six cities where fans show up even if the team loses year after year. I lived in Dallas for many years, and after the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999 and then went downhill, the fans disappeared for several years.
Susan L. (“Susie”) Hoeller, Land O Lakes
Thank you, Columbus
Dear Columbus: Congratulations and thank you for making quick work of our Lightning. You let us see how hard work pays off. Had you let us win one game, it would have started up the old clichés. You saved us all the money we would have spent on tickets, watch parties, and souvenirs for a Game 5 that would have only delayed the inevitable. Your continued success might take the sting out of this a bit. One suggestion for Lightning opening night next season: forget the fancy magnetic schedules and bobble heads. Give each fan a bottle of Listerine. It’s going to take something strong to get this bad taste out of our mouths.
Rich Lynch, North Redington Beach
Time to say goodbye
My wife and I watch all the Lightning games. We love them, but if someone asked me months ago about playoff chances I would say “not good.” You cannot allow five goals in the playoffs and win. Also, hockey is a very hard sport to coach, and if a coach year after year is getting beat in the playoffs, I say “goodbye.”
Robert L Gallo, Port Richey
There are just no words, only questions: How can such a deep team fail to show up for the playoffs? How can such a wonderful and talented coach fail to energize and inspire his team? What happened to our special teams that excelled all season long? The Lightning is still my team and I am still a hockey fan, although a deeply disappointed and discouraged one right now.
Alyce McCathran, Apollo Beach
Trotz and Torts out-coached us
Last year and this year, Barry Trotz and John Tortorella had a game plan to shut down our offense that our coaches couldn’t figure out how to respond to. My conspiracy theory is that Steve Yzerman realized last year that Jon Cooper was not an NHL playoff-caliber coach and wanted to make a change, and Jeff Vinik overruled him. Yzerman quit in frustration knowing he was not going to win a Stanley Cup with Coop behind the bench.
Bill Gilmour, Tampa
They won 62 games?
Game 2 was one of the most poorly played games I can remember seeing. No sense of urgency. Passing was unbelievably bad. They were going to do one thing. Carry the puck into the offensive end, no matter how many times Columbus stopped them. When a team is able to stop Tampa Bay at what they do best, the Bolts don’t seem to be able to adjust. It is hard to believe they won 62 games.
Mike Callahan, Tampa