Mike Smith is on the Hot Seat
Every team has multiple dramatic stories each year. You can single out tons of issues that any franchise - from the bottom-dwelling Bolts to the champion Pittsburgh Penguins -- face. How certain players on the roster have a little story about their need to overcome, how they have to improve, how they have to mature and how they have to silence the ever-present nay-sayers or concerns that are harbored by fans and team executives alike.
And for the Tampa Bay Lightning, there is no player on the roster who is more under the microscope to perform than goaltender Mike Smith.
John Kreiser at NHL.com put up a list of players on the hot seat in the Eastern Conference this upcoming season. They have something to prove and they are under pressure to perform. John surmised Smith's situation as thus:
The Lightning's season totally fell apart when Smith, their starting goaltender, went down for the season at the end of January with a concussion. Before the injury, Smith proved he was a more-than-adequate netminder (14-18-6, 2.82 GAA, .916 save percentage), and the Lightning are counting on him to stay healthy and improve on those numbers this season.
With a revamped-defense in front of him, Mike should be in prime position to thrive in the crease for the Lightning. The question that keeps him on the hot-seat is his head. Not neurotic antics, but Post Concussion Syndrome and concussions in general. I could re-hash the story on Smith injuries, but that would be a disservice to Bolts fans. The fact is that like Kreiser lays out, where Smith goes - so will the Lightning.
But Smith's story is not the only one for the Lightning. There are other mini-dramas that are ready to play out and are on people's minds. Some of them will lead to heat and pressure and others are just concerns we will take with us along the way.
If Smith is on the hot seat, the guy immediately behind him in line is head coach Rick Tocchet. While the players seem to love Tocchet and Rick suffered through hell in a hand basket as the Lightning dissintergrated from injuries on his watch... Well, a good coach makes lemonade out of lemons. That could be applied to Tocchet's decision to take the kid-gloves off Steven Stamkos and let him play. But in general the Lightning struggled. With Tocchet able to lead the team from training-camp onward, making sure his team is properly conditioned this time around, it erases any excuses for poor showings... Unless injuries mount again. Even then, Tocchet could easily find himself made into the scapegoat.
There are other issues out there, other concerns with other players. It's easy to run off a list of drama, but I'd love to hear your take on it. Is Smith the guy under the most pressure right now? Who else makes your list and why?