The Tampa Bay Lightning, while successful this season, are a team that has been in transition since the start of the 2013 (lockout shortened, thank you Gary, Jeremy and Don) NHL season. It started off rather subtle with the hot hand of prospect Cory Conacher making his NHL debut, but it grew into a torrent with the failure of the season and the end of Guy Boucher's tenure as head coach of the Lightning.
You know all about Tampacuse and the promotions from the AHL club: Alex Killorn, Radko Gudas, Richard Panik, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Mark Barberio... They were rounded out with Syracuse alumni Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Keith Aulie, and then topped with the promotion of coach Jon Cooper to head coach in Tampa.
We've seen more Syracuse Crunch alumni/prospects make their NHL this season (J.T. Brown, Nikita Kucherov, with stints in the NHL for guys like Brett Connolly, Vladislav Namestnikov, Dmitry Korobov, Matt Taormina and Jean-Philippe Cote; let's leave Kristers Gudevskis and Cedrick Desjardins out of this conversation)... It shows that the franchise is reaping what they've sown in talent within the organization.
Yet, has this helped develop a rift in the locker room in Tampa, one that might have also influenced Martin St. Louis' trade request?
St. Louis has long been thought of as part of the core of talent in Tampa. In the past, that core included the likes of Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Pavel Kubina and Dan Boyle, as well as an assortment of others. Every single one of that core is gone. In fact, a lot of the guys who were part of the 2010-11 playoff team are gone too (with the exceptions of Stamkos, Nate Thompson, Teddy Purcell, Ryan Malone, Eric Brewer, and Victor Hedman and - with a very big asterisk - Mattias Ohlund).
St. Louis has continued to put his nose to the grindstone in spite of changes ongoing around him, winning the Art Ross trophy last season, being a Hart Trophy finalist in 2011.
But the locker room changing so subtly and yet so profoundly, so quickly... Is his voice as the great sage and eminent offensive firepower somehow disregarded by the new infusion of Tampacuse players?
Go back to before the season we had a story here on Raw Charge by Cassie that suggested Steven Stamkos should be given the (then-open) team captaincy. I'm sure many of you who supported Stamkos as captain still feel that the choice should have gone to him directly - though it ultimately wouldn't have mattered with his injury sidelining him for so long... But would it have mattered, or really helped? Stamkos is as removed from the Tampacuse core as St. Louis, the only similarity being age - Stamkos is generally the same age as the majority of the recent roster additions from the system... St. Louis is a member of an older guard who doesn't have that many days left in his career as he once did. The young guys are hungry while leading different lives than that of the older, settled down workaholic that is St. Louis.
There have been no stories out of Tampa that would suggest that there is a divide in the locker room, or discontent. It's hard to dismiss the possibility it exists though.
The only tangible suggestion that there might be a disconnect between the kids and the established core of leaders is a throw-away remark defensiveman J.P. Cote made during a radio interview with Dan D'Uva (the voice of the Syracuse Crunch). That remark can be taken as empty pep from a former teammate, but suggesting that Cote was needed for his leadership from a long-time teammate makes me wonder if a disconnect did indeed exist?
- 2014 NHL trade deadline: O Captain! My Captain! St. Louis reportedly asked for a trade [UPDATED]
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