Every day we’re edging closer to a resumption of full hockey activities. The Tampa Bay Lightning have already started up small group sessions with no more than six skaters on the ice at a time. For now, the players are working on drills to sharpen their skills and to improve their endurance to be ready for the playoffs.
But before we get to the playoffs (well, really a round robin seeding and then the playoffs), the Lightning will get at least a few weeks of a training camp. Every one will be able to get on the ice together with the coaches there to instruct them. One issue that every coaching staff will be working to address is refreshing the team’s system. Maybe there will be some small refinements since the coaches have had three plus months to watch tape, review, and think about what could be improved in the team’s system.
It’s also an opportunity to really bring a team’s trade deadline acquisitions up to speed. For the Lightning, that means Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, and Zach Bogosian. There is often a struggle to get players acquired at the deadline fully acclimated to their new teammates and a new system. Especially later in the season when there is a more condensed schedule and less practice time available. That’s on top of the off ice pressure that acquired players face in being uprooted, taking care of their family, and living out of a hotel. Or in Coleman’s case, the expected arrival of a child. This second training camp will give the new players time to really absorb the team’s system and allow the coaching staff to figure out the right line combinations to get the most out of them.
Bogosian was signed as a free agent after he mutually agreed with the Buffalo Sabres to terminate his contract after they were unable to trade him. The Lightning were short handed on the blue line due to injuries. Bogosian is unlikely to see much if any ice time during the playoffs, but it also can’t be ruled out either because of match ups or new injuries. In eight games, Bogosian put up two assists and 12 PIMs. His possession metrics were a mixed bag with offense being suppressed with him on the ice, but the defense being slightly better. A better understanding of the system and his teammates could allow him to use his experience to be in a better position to help the team.
Blake Coleman was acquired on February 16th from the New Jersey Devils for prospect Nolan Foote and the first round pick acquired from the Vancouver Canucks in the J.T. Miller trade. In nine games for the Lightning, Coleman only put up one assist. Before coming to the Lightning, Coleman was viewed as one of the better defensive forwards in the NHL and is an excellent penalty killer. He also had an offensive breakout with the Devils this season with 21 goals and 31 points in 57 games. In his short stint with the Lightning before the shutdown, his possession metrics were not good on either side of the puck.
Barclay Goodrow was acquired a week after Coleman on February 24th with a third round pick in exchange for a first round pick and Anthony Greco (who was just included to make the contract limits work). Like Coleman, Goodrow is a solid defensive forward that contributes on the penalty kill. Goodrow doesn’t have as much offense in his game though. Over eight games with the Lightning, he has put up two assists. Also like Coleman, his possession metrics went in the wrong direction both on offense and defense.
The long and short of it is that neither Coleman or Goodrow had much time to be incorporated into the Lightning’s system. Both were trying to learn it on the fly in the middle of the season when everyone else already has it ingrained and instinctual. This training camp will allow both to really learn the system and get it down, as well as learning the capabilities of their teammates.
For the rest of the team, it will also be a great refresher and an opportunity to purge some bad habits that had likely crept into their game over the course of the season. The playoffs are still a glorified random number generator. But anything the coaching staff can do to stack the deck in their favor will surely help in getting the numbers to fall favorably for the Lightning on their quest for the Stanley Cup.