Kukla's Korner

Lightning Season Ends in Boston but 2010-11 Successes Pave the Way for the Future

You’ll hear that they left it all on the ice.

It’s a hockey cliché that is thrown out there, more often than in any other situation, when a team falls short of accomplishing a task at hand.

But Sean Bergenheim left a groin out there in warmups.

Dwayne Roloson left every ounce of energy left in his 41-year-old body.

Steven Stamkos left blood – and half a nose.

And we’ll hear, in the coming days, about several others that have been hobbled since the playoffs began, leaving body parts and pain thresholds behind long ago.

The Tampa Bay Lightning literally gave everything they had to give this season and, specifically, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final Friday night, falling to the Boston Bruins in a 1-0 instant classic.

But there isn’t much about this end result or the 2010-11 season, in general, that can be considered a failure.

How far this team has come in such a short period of time is immeasurable, in the grand scheme of things.

This year was supposed to be about the establishment of stability, the employment of a new atmosphere and attitude and a new era of on-ice proficiency.

Check, check, check.

Anything beyond that, considering the Lightning were a win shy of playing for the Stanley Cup, just a season removed from incessant turmoil under the previous regime, has to be looked at as playing with house money.

This club is well on their way.

There will be changes, though, and we’ll break that down soon enough. With several key expiring contracts and some difficult decisions to be made, you won’t see this exact group together again next year on what the organization will hope is an even better run toward Lord Stanley.

But the blueprint is there. The experience gained in recent weeks is forever ingrained in the players that will remain. And, more importantly than anything else, a winning culture has been established.

From an organizational standpoint, they’ve left an indelible mark with their accomplishments this season and the standard, in year one under general manager Steve Yzerman and head coach Guy Boucher, has clearly been set.

They left it all out there this year and in Game 7 tonight and now, after some well-deserved rest and regrouping, there is every reason to believe that this Tampa Bay Lightning club has only just begun their ascension up the NHL ranks.

They’ve done a community proud, reignited the hockey flame in the Tampa Bay area and taken an enormous step forward toward being the world-class organization owner Jeff Vinik promised they would be when taking over the club.

The argument can be made that they’re already there.

JJ
jj@kuklaskorner.com
JJ on Twitter

Filed in: Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

Comments

PuckStopsHere's avatar

If it was me writing this post, I would have ended the title with a question mark to give Lightning Season Ends in Boston but 2010-11 Successes Pave the Way for the Future?

It isn’t clear to me that next year will be as successful a playoff run.  Its tough to get to the semifinals.  Tampa was a 5th seed who needed to pull off two upsets to get there.  Its quite likely that they can’t rely on Dwayne Roloson at age 42 to play as well as he did this year - if his age catches up to him what do they do for a goalie?

That isn’t to say that Tampa didn’t make a big step forward this year.  It was expected that if you remove the circus the last owners brought in and install a competent coach and GM then things would get better.  However it isn’t clear to me that the future is any brighter.  Another 5th or 6th seed but without the same playoff success is a reasonable prediction for next year.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 05/28/11 at 04:47 AM ET

Jon Jordan's avatar

The point remains, PSH, that a successful culture has been established. They’ve come a long way in a short time and there isn’t any reason to suggest they’ll suddenly go backwards in year two, as in, say, missing the playoffs.

Like I said, there are several key decisions to be made on expiring contracts and holes to address but with Yzerman at the helm, there should already be the collective confidence of the fan base to ease any concerns about the players that will be moved in and out. And with Boucher behind the bench, similar assurance that they’ll be motivated and utilized properly.

There are no guarantees in life, of course. Tampa Bay could finish 30th next season for all any of us knows… But I wouldn’t bet on it. Instead, if I had to, I’d bet this team is in the playoffs in 2011-12 and makes another run in the East.

From a bottom line perspective, the Lightning franchise is in great hands, in great shape and in line for a long and successful run under the Vinik/Leiweke/Yzerman/Boucher regime. Is there really any argument to the contrary?

JJ

Posted by Jon Jordan from Tampa, FL on 05/28/11 at 10:17 AM ET

Rdwings28's avatar

Sweeping the Oveckins off the map makes it a great year.

Posted by Rdwings28 on 05/28/11 at 11:30 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

However it isn’t clear to me that the future is any brighter.

That’s beacuse, in this instance, you can’t use Corsi numbers to figure out a conclusion, Tricycle Boy.

From a bottom line perspective, the Lightning franchise is in great hands, in great shape and in line for a long and successful run under the Vinik/Leiweke/Yzerman/Boucher regime. Is there really any argument to the contrary?

I’d say you’re bang-on with that statement – as you were with your whole post, Jon. And no question mark was needed in your headline. Period.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 05/28/11 at 01:30 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

As much as I disagree with PSH 99.9% of the time he is right here, The Pens of the early 90’s were Head & Shoulders above the rest of the league & after 2 consecutive SC’s I thought they would rule the league for a while & you know what happened after the 2nd cup?

Next April is [Light Years away!/b] A lot can happen in that amount of time

Posted by Evilpens on 05/28/11 at 01:57 PM ET

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