by Jon Jordan on 05/28/11 at 01:13 AM ET
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.
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