Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mark Barberio has a long history with current head coach Jon Cooper.
Barberio, after all, was Cooper's 1D when the Norfolk Admirals did some pretty amazing stuff. He scored 134 points in three seasons with Cooper between Norfolk and the Syracuse Crunch, sharing the ice with current Tampa Bay Lightning standouts Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, among others. He followed them up to the NHL and crossed the 100 NHL games played threshold this season with the Lightning.
While the points haven't translated at the top level, there's no doubt that Barberio has been a capable member of an in-flux Lightning blue line that dealt with a few injuries and different combinations, particularly on the bottom pair. He appeared in 52 games this season with 1 goal and 6 assists. His most common partner was Andrej Sustr, but he also saw time with both Anton Stralman and Matt Carle; even as a left shot, Barberio has slotted in on both the left and right sides over the past few seasons.
The boxcars were unimpressive, but in a limited role Barberio did a fine job of sustaining Tampa Bay's season-long puck possession and scoring chance advantage. The Lightning controlled 52.76% of 5v5 shot attempts with Barberio on (+0.51% CorsiRel) and 56.16% of 5v5 scoring chances (+3.44% SCFRel) so, more often than not, the puck was in the other team's end and staying there. (Numbers from Puckalytics and War on Ice). The lack of points can be easily traced to a serious run of poor on-ice shooting luck; of the 23 skaters for Tampa Bay that recorded at least 50 minutes of 5v5 ice time, Barberio ranks 23rd in PDO.
Just 5.90% of Tampa Bay's shots at 5v5 became goals when Barberio was on the ice, even though the team shot over 9% on the year, an enormous difference. Barberio's presence on the ice didn't come with a significant dip in scoring chances, either; the team had 30.45 chances per 60 minutes with Barberio on, about the same amount as with both Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. So Barberio helped move things in the right direction, helped get the team in position to score, and yet, for some reason, score they did not.
Couple that fact with below average goaltending behind him (Tampa Bay goalies stopped 91.74% of 5v5 shots with Barberio on compared to 91.98% overall) and you have a recipe for Mark Barberio's season; quietly effective but seemingly invisible due to lack of scoring, and scapegoated at times due to the play in net behind him. Every guy on Tampa Bay's blue line makes mistakes with the puck; Barberio's just ended up in the net more often than not through no fault of his own.
Now, in the Eastern Conference Finals, Jon Cooper seems to have lost all faith in a guy who used to be his go-to on the back end. It's puzzling, to say the least; through 16 playoff games, Barberio has yet to draw in in spite of numerous occasions where the team dressed 7 defensemen. At times, both Matt Carle and Andrej Sustr have struggled heavily while defending, particularly wide rushes with speed which is something the New York Rangers do exceptionally well. Now, with Matt Carle injured, Barberio is still being overlooked:
And Mark Barberio was never heard from again. pic.twitter.com/JoY789fht8— Kyle Alexander (@kalexanderRC) May 21, 2015
It seems we might have already seen Mark Barberio play his last game in a Tampa Bay Lightning sweater. His 1-year extension signed last summer is up at the end of this year, and if the team is likely to look to black aces with a combined 19 games of NHL experience before him, it really makes you wonder how and why he's fallen so far out of favor.