1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Lightning

With Pat Maroon and Luke Witkowski, the Lightning strikes fear

Tampa Bay’s two biggest offseason acquisitions may be its most important, too.
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Pat Maroon jostled with two Florida Panthers players. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Pat Maroon jostled with two Florida Panthers players. [CHRIS O'MEARA | AP]
Published Sep. 29
Updated Sep. 29

TAMPA — Pat Maroon quipped when training camp started that he’s not what people are used to seeing from the Lightning.

Well, Luke Witkowski isn’t either.

After trading its two biggest forwards in the offseason — J.T. Miller and Adam Erne — Tampa Bay added two big guys in free agency. And they already have demonstrated a physicality that can come with their size.

MORE LIGHTNING: Don’t miss any of the Tampa Bay Times’ NHL coverage. Get unlimited digital access for three months for just $14, using promo code GOBOLTS.

Maroon is listed at 6 feet 2 and 236 pound, making him the heaviest forward on the roster.

Witkowski is listed as a defenseman. But he played more forward during the preseason, and that’s where the Lightning has an opening on the roster. At 6-2, 217, he is about the same weight as Miller and has more than 10 pounds on the next-biggest forward, Cedric Paquette (210).

Size doesn’t always equal physicality, but it does for Maroon and Witkowski.

Just ask the two Panthers whom Maroon fended off by himself during a preseason scrum in front of the net Saturday night. Or the players Witkowski fought in games Tuesday and Thursday.

“Everybody’s so afraid of them,” defenseman Mikhail Sergachev said. “Nobody wants to go in a corner with them. It’s just huge for us.”

They form a different kind of fourth line for the Lightning. Paquette has always been a high-energy, disruptive player. Ryan Callahan didn’t hesitate to throw his body around. But neither has the size of Maroon or Witkowski.

Neither Maroon nor Witkowski is a heavyweight in the world of NHL fights, but both have shown a willingness to drop the gloves. Both did it in the preseason.

Maroon fought the Predators’ Austin Watson, and Witkowski fought the Panthers’ MacKenzie Weegar and Josh Brown as the Lightning racked up five preseason fights.

MORE LIGHTNING: Tampa Bay fell short of coach Jon Cooper’s goal of getting through Saturday’s preseason finale without injuries

The Lightning totaled 15 fights last season, and Yanni Gourde led the way with four. Gourde spent some of the year on the third and fourth lines but has also shown the skill of a top-six player.

“They’re a big help,” Sergachev said. “Our top guys don’t have to do the dirty work.”

Witkowski said he doesn’t look to fight but will defend himself when someone comes after him. Even clean hits bring someone looking to challenge, he said.

He describes his role at forward as skating as hard as he can and delivering big hits. Witkowski doesn’t seem to put Maroon in that category.

“I always knew he was pretty skilled,” Witkowski said. “He has good hands. He has a good shot. He has a big body and protects the puck well.”

Maroon might be the right mix of size and skill to be the power forward planted in front of the net on the power play. He played that spot with the top power-play unit in the preseason.

It’s not a new role for Maroon, who had the sixth-most power-play time on ice among the Stanley Cup champion Blues last season. Coach Jon Cooper compared him in that role to Miller last year. Cooper cited Maroon’s size, good hands, courage to stand in front of the net and puck-retrieval skills.

But Maroon is a more physical player than Miller. That’s something the Lightning didn’t have before.

Contact Diana C. Nearhos at Follow @dianacnearhos


  1. The Lightning's Anthony Cirelli (71) and goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy, right, watch the puck as the Panthers' Noel Acciari (55) defends during the second period on Tuesday in Sunrise. [LUIS M. ALVAREZ  |  AP]
    Tampa Bay doesn’t make costly mistakes and pays attention to details on defense, just like the team has been talking about.
  2. In this file photo, Lightning associate coach Rick Bowness on the bench with his team during a game against the Detroit Red Wings.
    Dallas fired coach Jim Montgomery under odd circumstances and promoted Rick Bowness.
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) on the ice against the San Jose Sharks during second period action at Amalie Arena on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The event will take place Feb. 7 and will benefit Moffitt Cancer Center
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Curtis McElhinney (35) gets beat on a short-handed breakaway goal by New York Islanders right wing Josh Bailey (12) during second-period action. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay allows another flurry of goals and can’t overcome the deficit in a 5-1 loss.
  5. A flurry of New York goals leaves Tampa Bay behind.
  6. Tampa Bay Lightning Mitchell Stephens (67), making his NHL debut, worse to control the puck against New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech (3) during first period action at Amalie Arena on Monday, Dec. 9, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tyler Johnson is out against the Islanders and likely to miss the Lightning’s ‘next couple games’
  7. The giant pipes reflect shades of blue as the glowing letters spelling Tampa Bay Lightning silhouette organist Krystof Srebrakowski and the pipe organ high above the rink. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Diana C. Nearhos | Carter Verhaeghe deserves more playing time. Hockey needs to address its culture issues seriously.
  8. DIRK SHADD   |   Times  
Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) beats Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) to score shorthanded making the score 3 to 1 during third period action at Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (12/06/18).  [SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Tampa Bay plays four games in six nights against the Islanders, Panthers, Bruins and Capitals ... oh my
  9. Tampa Bay Lightning center Carter Verhaeghe (23) celebrates his first NHL career goal as he returns to the bench with his team cheering as the Bolts go up 7-1 during third period action at Amalie Arena on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019 in Tampa.  [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The rookie has been close for weeks but finally got that first one in the final minute of Saturday’s game.
  10. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98)  battles San Jose Sharks left wing Evander Kane (9) in front of the net in the defensive zone during second period action at Amalie Arena on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    After 10 games playing with 11 forwards and seven defenseman, Jon Cooper goes back to the usual lineup.