TAMPA — The Lightning have a lot to be thankful for. No one makes it to the NHL on his own.
It may or may not take a village, but it always takes more than one. So we asked the Lightning who in their hockey careers were they thankful for at Thanksgiving. Anticipating that most would point to family members, we asked them to go beyond.
Most players named a juniors or youth coach. That’s usually the age when a young hockey player becomes a true prospect and they recognize the coaches who helped them get there.
For center Brayden Point, that means Mike Stothers and Tim Hunter, who he played for separately with the Moose Jaw Warriors. Stothers taught him defensive responsibility and Tim Hunter gave him freedom to take chances offensively. Now, Point is a strong two-way center, credited with the ability to play against top lines.
He also credits Barb Underhill, a skating coach who works with NHL teams. When he was drafted five years ago, his skating was, at best, a question mark. It’s become a strength.
Forward Alex Killorn’s confidence took a hit when he was cut from a team around age 14. But Gordie Killgore gave him a shot on a different team. It turned into a good opportunity and a good season for Killorn. That built his confidence back up as a hockey player as Killorn aimed at higher goals.
When defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was a teenager, he started attending and then working at hockey camps with Erik Nates, a friend of his older brother. Nates helped Shattenkirk with his penalty kills work, something Shattenkirk is known for now. The two still work together in the offseason and Shattenkirk says Nates still treats him like the 14-year-old kid.
Defenseman Braydon Coburn is thankful for his shot at the NHL. He was drafted by the Thrashers in 2013, but didn’t play consistently in the NHL for the organization. Paul Holmgren traded for him, bringing Coburn to the Flyers at age 23. The then-GM set Coburn at ease and gave him confidence. Coburn hasn’t left the NHL since.
Quick hits with Luke Schenn
Most-hated food as a kid: Schenn, a Lightning defenseman, did not eat onions as a child. Now he’ll eat white onions, some times. He’s still not here for scallions or red onions, though.
Biggest pet peeve: Schenn is not a fan of people texting while having an in-person conversation, but he admits it’s something he does himself.
Most re-watched movie: He was 9 or 10 the first time he saw Happy Gilmore and Schenn estimates he’s now seen the movie about 50 times.
So, I had a thought
· Steven Stamkos’ comments after Saturday’s loss to Carolina were his strongest since Oct. 6 when the Lightning were completely outworked at Carolina. This time, effort wasn’t the issue. But Stamkos’ theme of “we’re sick of talking about it” was similar. The biggest difference was his pronoun. In October, Stamkos said “we” a lot, and he was definitely part of that “we,” though some took it as him calling out his teammates more than a group including himself. This time he stressed “I” and his role as a leader — I need to score. I need to do the right things.
· Much attention was paid to the big-name restricted free agents this summer, the guys like Point and Toronto winger Mitch Marner. There were two, however, who never signed. Defenseman Julius Honka has an interesting situation. He asked for a trade from Dallas, but the Stars never found a deal they wanted. Honka signed with his hometown team in Finland and is playing well, after sitting in the Stars press box for almost half the season. As of 5 p.m. Sunday, he’s ineligible to play in the NHL this season. Next summer, they’ll do this dance again. But a year of playing in Liiga could serve as further development for a player who may not have made it through to the AHL if placed on waivers. Maybe that makes him more attractive on the trade market or even puts him in a different position within the Stars organization.
· Like most companies, the NHL held a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale in their online shop. (Technically, the league called them separate sales, but the promo codes were for the same discount so … one sale.) Here’s the thing, though: the 30 percent discount didn’t apply to jerseys. I don’t have the numbers, but I have to assume jerseys are one of the most popular items on the shop. Not including them in the big holiday sale is dumb.
Top December home games: 3. Islanders (Dec. 9); 2. Capitals (Dec. 14). 1. Bruins (Dec. 12.) … It’ll be a fun week.
Best NHL Christmas gifts: 3. Hat. 2. Jersey. 1. Tickets.
Points in November: 3. Patrick Kane, Chicago, 24; 2. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado, 25; 1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton, 26.
Questions about the Lightning
How serious is Alex Killorn’s injury?
Not too serious. Killorn missed Saturday’s game against Carolina with a lower-body injury, but he returned to the ice for Monday morning’s practice. Coach Jon Cooper said the forward is still day-to-day and rated him questionable for Tuesday’s game in Nashville. But Killorn won’t be out long.
Will the Lightning make the playoffs?
Yes. Don’t judge this year’s Lightning by last year’s standards. They’ve lost three in a row and that’s frustrating. But they aren’t playing poorly. But they are winning at a rate that puts them in the playoffs.
Right now the Lightning are on the outside looking in, but I keep adjusting for points percentage instead of points. The Lightning has still played the fewest games, so they’ve had the opportunity for fewer points. From that perspective, Tampa Bay is third in the Atlantic, and thus in the playoffs.
Contact Diana C. Nearhos at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @dianacnearhos.