Less than 48 hours after the Tampa Bay Lightning’s shocking four-game sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets, the time came to face the music. Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois addressed the assembled media for his end-of-season press conference. His message? The Lightning weren’t going to go nuclear and blow it up because of an earlier-than-expected playoff exit.
“We have a very good team. We have very good players and very good coaches,” BriseBois said. “I’m not going to overreact and blow up all the good things we have here because we had a very bad four-game slump at the most inopportune time of the year.”
“The story of this nucleus of players and this coaching staff, it’s not over,” BriseBois added. “It’s still being written. The best and most memorable chapters lie ahead. I have great faith eventually…we’re going to bring the Cup back to Tampa with this group of players, with these coaches.”
BriseBois’s message was succinct, clear, and direct. Head coach Jon Cooper won’t be going anywhere. That’s not surprising given that he just signed an extension last month. There won’t be any trades involving star players. The Lightning will not be going the nuclear route and blowing the whole thing up. However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes to this roster, especially with the inevitable salary cap crunch the Lightning face.
There’s precedent for deciding not to blow things up.
Take a look at the Washington Capitals. In 2016 and 2017, the Caps won back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies. Unfortunately for them, the Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated them in the second round of the playoffs. Their fans were in up in arms, their reputation as playoff underachievers seemed cemented, and plenty of people wondered if they should tear it all down. Rather than do that, they made just a few changes and kept their core together. In 2018, they finally shed the underachiever label and won their first Stanley Cup.
A team that this year’s Lightning often got compared to, the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings, also faced a similar dilemma. After winning 62 games that season, the Wings fell to the Colorado Avalanche in six games in the Western Conference Final. That loss came on the heels of years of postseason disappointment. They also refused to blow up their core, instead choosing to simply tinker with it. The result was back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998.
Since there’s good historical precedent for not tearing it all down, what’s on the Lightning’s agenda this offseason?
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