How do you reconcile what happened to the Tampa Bay Lightning?
Well, the first thing you do is get general manager Julien BriseBois down to the Florida keys for a few days — without his cell phone.
No — check that. The FIRST thing you do is have BriseBois sign UFA Brayden Point, and THEN get away from the office for a few days, so nobody with the power to do damage to the roster makes any rash decisions. If BriseBois was the U.S. President, they’d hide ‘the football’ from him for a few days, and rightfully so.
“It would easier if we had a clear narrative. We lost because of, ‘fill in the blank,’” BriseBois said Thursday as he opened his season-ending media availability. “The reality is, it’s a lot more complex than that.”
There will be no “clear answer,” he said, but more likely “some hypotheses” on what went wrong. “The question is, why? Why didn’t we play our best when it mattered the most?
“We did not give Columbus the series. They took it from us. At the same time, we didn’t make it hard enough for them to take it from us,” he said. “It’s too soon. The emotions are too raw. I’m in no position to tell you what (the) changes are going to be.”
What would we do if we were BriseBois? Let’s get into that:
Fire Jon Cooper?
Not a chance, if we were the GM. I want Cooper around the table helping me find the solution to this problem. Not out the door, replaced by a new guy who lacks Cooper’s institutional knowledge.
What about the cap?
Point had 41 goals and 92 points. He could be a $9-10 million player, though he might come in a little cheaper in Florida, where there’s no state tax. But a team that ended the season with just less than $1.5 million in cap space is looking at giving Point a $7 million raise. Oh, and Yanni Gourde’s new deal kicks in next year. That’s another $4M on the cap.
So, do you buy out the final year of Ryan Callahan’s deal, saving about $3 million? Can you move Ondrej Palat (three more years at $5.3M)?
Which of UFA defenceman Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi, Braydon Coburn and Jan Rutta do you bring back? You could let them all go, but they were Tampa’s No. 3, 6, 7, and 9 ranked D-men in minutes played this season.
So, how do the Bolts improve then?
Well, let’s eliminate a few things: Tampa scored the most goals in the league, so the offence is fine. They were seventh best in goals allowed, and the goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy was a Vezina finalists last year and should win it this season. So, why do you lose when the chips are down? What character flaw exists that a good team gets stomped that badly when it counts the most?
BriseBois’s forensic audit should delve into his best guys. I’d want to know what it is in their character that allowed them to fail so abjectly.
How does Steven Stamkos, usually a playoff producer, score once in four games and go minus-8?
What makes Nikita Kucherov snap at the worst time, selfishly getting suspended and ending his playoffs without a goal? Clearly Victor Hedman was hurt. I’m asking why he was allowed to play two games at that low level?
Is Cedric Paquette a true leader? Or just a distracting sideshow?
This team could use a dose of character, but we’ve all seen the danger of trying to bring that in from outside.
“We have a very good team, with very good players and very good coaches,” BriseBois said. “I’m not going to over react and blow up all the good things we have here, because we had a four-game slump at the most inopportune time of the year.
“The story … is not over. It’s still being written.”
It is time, then, for the author to sharpen his pencil.