Bob McKenzie of TSN today reported that Tampa Bay Lightning assistant coach Steve Thomas will not be back with the team next season as his contract will not be renewed.
TB assistant coach Steve Thomas is not returning to the club next season. Club did not renew his contract.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 6, 2016
Steve Thomas has been with the Lightning since 2010, first in a player development role, then as an assistant coach in Tampa Bay. While serving as an assistant coach, his area of responsibility was the forwards. Thomas had a long NHL career and certainly helped to shape the careers of many of the players currently on the Lightning roster while he served in a developmental role.
Last summer, the club brought in Brad Lauer as an assistant coach after George Gwozdecky left the organization. Lauer had previously been the power play coach in Anaheim. Many believed that he was being brought in to help the special team unit, but it was head coach Jon Cooper primarily responsible for the power play unit this season.
The obvious speculation to draw from this move is that the team wishes to bring in a new assistant that can fix the power play. And there's one coach out there that keeps coming up; Adam Oates. Oates was last in the NHL in 2013-14 with the Washington Capitals. Since then, he has been a consultant to players including Steven Stamkos. He was also an assistant for Tampa in the 2009-10 season and two years with the New Jersey Devils from 2010 to 2012 before his stint with the Capitals.
In 2015-16, the Lightning had a 15.8% power play percentage, their second worst in the past 10 seasons and 28th in the league. The 19.3% power play percentage in 2009-10 when Oates was the Assistant Coach was the second best in the same span and was good for 8th overall in the league. Additionally. Stamkos had 24 power play goals in 2009-10, the most he has had in one season. His two years in New Jersey, the power play did not fare quite as well, finishing 29th with 13.9% in 2010-11 and 16th with a 16.9% in 2011-12. However, in his two years in Washington, the Capitals finished 1st with a 26.8% and tied for 1st with 23.4%.
Adam Oates could be an interesting addition to this team. With an already solid penalty kill and great 5 on 5 play, shoring up the power play and making it at least respectable could be the difference between raising the Stanley Cup and petering out in the playoffs.