TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 17: Left wind Ryan Malone #12 of the Tampa Bay Lightning fights defenseman Erik Gudbranson #44 of the Florida Panthers October 17, 2011 at St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Dear Tampa Bay Lightning players:
We all have something to discuss, so you might want to sit down and get comfortable.
You guys aren't fooling anyone. We all know that last season - while it exceeded expectations in many ways - was an example of how you guys can play. When you want to play, that is. I'm not saying that you don't, but the games you've played thus far haven't been very encouraging.
I've been telling fellow fans that they shouldn't start panicking until Game 10. Well, people are starting to panic, anyway, and Game 10 is fast approaching. While losing early might not affect where you end up at the end of the season in the standings, it sure isn't going to help.
So I'm throwing down the gauntlet. I'm going to name names and take numbers. You guys are all on notice by the fans as of right now.
Vincent Lecavalier - Vinny, you've been one of the better players on the ice for most of the games so far. But, seriously, start appointing guys (other than Marty - see next point) to pick up the leadership slack. You can't do it all on your own. I suggest having a little chat with Eric Brewer, who is a former NHL team captain, about that, and maybe you two can figure things out in regards to the rest of the team.
Martin St. Louis - Consistency has been a trademark of yours over the years, and you've been very inconsistent lately, which isn't like you at all. Time to evaluate your distractions and get your focus back. Passion is good, but having a direction to focus that passion is better.
Steven Stamkos - You wanted more of a leadership role on this team, so take more of a leadership role. This isn't something that's handed to you or something you ease into; it's something where you assert yourself and just take it. And I'm not talking about goal scoring, either; although that certainly wouldn't hurt.
Ryan Malone - Playing feisty is good; getting into fights is bad. Re-evaluate what you want to accomplish, and set some personal accomplishments to work towards. Because right now you're not anywhere near where you were last season.
Steve Downie - Downie, Downie, Downie.... Center and ground yourself. You play well with an edge, yes, but you don't need to go over the edge at any given moment. Think about playing smart, setting up guys, and getting goals. Stop thinking about what you can do to spark the team. Scoring goals is all they need right now. And always keep in mind that if you so much as breathe on someone wrong, you'll get thrown in the box for it.
Victor Hedman - Okay, we need to talk about your neutral zone passing. It was barely forgivable for a second-year guy last season, and now it really needs to be dealt with. You're a smart guy, so you should be making smarter passes. Those neutral zone turnovers are just not good at all.
Teddy Purcell, Nate Thompson, Dominic Moore, Tom Pyatt, & Adam Hall - Guys, start thinking about hockey. You're all very scattered right now. Moore, I know you've been sick and had back issues, so I'll cut you a little slack. But for the rest of you, you really need to calm down and just keep things simple.
Pavel Kubina & Brett Clark - You're about where you were last season. Still, try to not get injured with all of the shot blocking. And also try to keep playing clean. Unnecessary penalties have been killing the team. And, yeah, I'm looking at you, Kubina.
Eric Brewer & Marc-Andre Bergeron - You two are the only ones who seem to consistently know what you're doing out there. Thank you for that. It gives the fans some hope that the rest of the team will figure it all out sooner rather than later.
Mathieu Garon - Most of the fans realize that it's really the team in front of you that's struggling, and not you. Don't be afraid to scream at the guys on the ice. A lot. The guys in front of you need all the direction they can get.
Dwayne Roloson - Age is just a number, as you well know. Still, pace yourself. If the rest of the team can't figure this out soon, it's going to end up being a very long season.
And finally, Guy Boucher & the coaching staff - You can only fix the team if they want you to first. Don't kill yourself trying to talk them off the ledge if they just want to jump. Still, my presumptuous suggestion is go back to basics: passing drills, hitting drills, shooting drills. I'm talking pee wee or bantam level drills. Hey, it can't hurt, right?