Embed from Getty ImagesLightning coach Jon Cooper tries to downplay expectations,” and that theme was carried on all throughout this season after Steve Yzerman wowed with his offseason roster moves and media outlets are picking them as this season’s darlings.
“All I ask is don’t blow us up to be something we’re not. That’s the one thing I don’t want people to do,” Cooper told NHL.com at the time.
In Matt Sammon’s latest Power Play Podcast on the team’s own website, coach Cooper decides to drop the collective dismissal about expectations, carefully defining what they are. The coach simply took all things in consideration and said, you know what? Bring it.
Here’s what he told Sammon:
“When you sit there and throw around the expectations, well, to be honest, I actually kind of like them. I rather be the team that people are expecting to do well. That just means you probably have some pretty good players around. As opposed to the team that’s not expected to do anything. That probably means that you don’t have as many good players around. Expectations are what you want them. What we want to do here, is we’re chasing that Stanley Cup. That’s our goal, but there are so many steps you have to take to get there. One of them is making sure we’re a better team this year than we were last year, and going on from there. And that’s what we expect from ourselves.”
Coaches have an easier time coaching an underdog, regardless of the talent in the lineup. It’s easier to make it a success if you actually have an underdog that is an overachiever in disguise and if you’re like Cooper, you’d rather have expectations to go as far as you can with the Lightning’s roster rather than, let’s say, the current makeup of the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres.
The theme of media expectations on the team carried over in Sunday’s Tampa Bay Times after The Hockey News predicted in its season preview that the Lightning will make it to the Stanley Cup Final. Stamkos summed it up best to reporter Joe Smith:
Returning a strong, young core and buoyed by some veteran additions, players have expressed excitement as they’ve trickled in for informal workouts over the past couple of weeks.
But they’ve hit the pause button on planning a parade route in downtown Tampa.
“It looks good on paper right now,” captain Steven Stamkos said. “But we’ve got to do the work on the ice.”
Once the season starts though, players are best to avoid reading team reports, fantasy hockey predictions and see why the coach bitched about his Corsi.
Cooper also touched on the significance of individual expectations, which has really shifted away from Steven Stamkos, who could easily score 60 goals this season as I casually inserted an expectation on you, not-so-surprised reader, and to Jonathan Drouin. The hype on Drouin has been high. Just be thankful the Lightning hasn’t been in an extended period of tanking or else he’d have the “franchise savior” tag based on the press and praise Drouin received.
“I think some of these expectations can be a little bit unfair,” Cooper told Sammon. “He had a linemate that won the Calder Trophy in Colorado in Nathan MacKinnon and while if Jonathan Drouin doesn’t win that trophy does that make him not meet expectations? I don’t believe that. I think Jonathan Drouin’s expectation should be make the Tampa Bay Lightning, become an every day player and get better as a better player.”
Later, Cooper touched on the two Calder Trophy finalists who lost out to MacKinnon—Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat— wondering what of their expectations now? During the bulk of the season Cooper figured people weren’t putting either on a Top 50 list, but still, they ought to be better than last year.
Each season, teams usually have a training camp slogan or a T-shirt to carry a theme through the year and I’m sure this season’s Lightning will have a catchy one but it will boil down to just being better than last year. Both individually and as a team.
The podcast is worth a listen as Cooper touches on significance of Nabokov being here and on the other signings, too.
Side note from Sammon on the podcast: Bolts team reporter Michelle Gingras and radio intern Samantha Weimet will be filing stories on the podcast, pitching in during the season and teased a “bigger” Power Play Podcast. Let’s home it emulates the Two-Man Advantage that Mike Vogel and John Walton (formerly co-hosted by the funny and knowledgable Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt, now the Caps video coach).
- The Hockey News isn’t making it easy on the Lightning with its predictions, declaring Andrey Vasilevskiy “best Russian goalie prospect in years.” Ryan Kennedy | The Hockey News
- Mark Barberio is back, keeping his hair short. I like the look. Wait did he seriously say he took a bus ride from Montreal? Please Mark that you were joking. Tampa Bay Lightning
- Ondrej Palat is back skating and is mid-season form giving OK interviews. He shares his opinions and all, but always long for more from Palat. His English is great and would be great for an in-depth chat. Tampa Bay Lightning
- The rookies and prospects continue to get some reps in with the prospect tournament in Nashville. These games aren’t about wins or losses. Read through to figure out who’s rising to the occasion. Erik Erlendsson | Tampa Tribune
- Adam Erne tweets that he’s cleared to play in the prospect tournament now that his bum wrist is good to go. Twitter
- Ben Bishop tweets that he got to be on the field at the Bucs game Sunday, presumably to feel what losing felt like again so he will be driven to never want to experience that again. And by that, I mean attending a Bucs game. Twitter