Today was one of several unofficial beginnings to the 2013-14 Tampa Bay Lightning season: The much anticipated "media day". Players were on hand to fill out HR paperwork, have photos and videos for in-game scoreboard presentations taken, and offering up the first volley of generally innocuous bon mots to the assembled scribes and TV reporters (many of whom will not set foot inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum again this season, unless the team is a playoff contender).
- They all feel real good.
- They're all glad to be back and excited about the new season.
- They're all going to miss Vinny (Lecavalier), not just as a teammate but as a friend.
- They all understand that sometimes business decisions have unpleasant consequences.
- They all think they have the potential to make the playoffs if they can come together as a team.
After that, they took the ice for some practice drills. Some in a grumpy mood due to ongoing renovations taking place at the Forum (the locker rooms where the changes are afoot), resulting in a lack of air conditioning in the locker room area.
Meanwhile, head coach Jon Cooper held his first press conference of the season. Some highlights from that:
The attitude on day one: "Enthusiasm is a great word. You can tell everybody has a little jump in their step. New coaching staff, veterans are invigorated because this is a new era I suppose. And there's a crop of young talent that the organization hasn't seen in quite some time"
On the availability of roster spots: "I think this will be as competitive camp as this organization has seen in some time."
On who is likely to be the #1 goalie: "It's way too early for that. We've got two pretty young guys just coming into their prime. Do we have two goalies with a ton of NHL experience? No we don't. So we have two capable NHL goalies? Yes we do. It's going to be up to those two and that will play out over the season."
On building versus rebuilding "I don't like the word 'rebuilding'. Professional sports is a business. If you finish in the bottom half of the standings, you're rebuilding. If you finish in the top half, you're reloading. It all kind of means the same thing; everybody has the same common goal. I can't sit here and say we're rebuilding. We've already built from the ground up. We had a minor league team that had never made the playoffs in their affiliation with the Lightning. Now not only are they making the playoffs on a regular basis, they're making the Calder Cup finals on a regular basis. You have to have prospects to do that. We're able to make trades now. For instance, we give up a bright young prospect in Cory Conacher to pick up a bright young prospect to fill a need in Ben Bishop. Is that rebuilding? I don't know. Maybe it's just building."
On the influx of youth: "Usually some of these kids walk in and they're wide-eyed and nervous. This group of guys coming in aren't like that. They've got that little twinkle in their eye like they're going to make this team. I think the fact that they've got a coach that they've had success under has probably helped their confidence. And in saying that, you probably have a veteran group of guys that are maybe looking in the rear view mirror a little bit. As I said this is going to be a pretty competitive group. I know we're starting with 62 players in the organization but when you start paring that down to the low thirties, there's going to be battles for spots, and that's what we want."