Tampa Bay Lightning – Should Jon Cooper Be Fired?

The regular season is well and truly underway for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but have they returned to their winning ways?

Play Analysis – The Bad

Since their opening night win versus the Florida Panthers, the Lightning have amassed a 5-3-1 record. This places them fourth within the Atlantic Division and 14th overall in the league.

After crashing out in the first round of the playoffs, many predicted that the Lightning would come back stronger. However, a lack of discipline and seemingly “disinterested” play continued into the regular season.

In match ups versus the Carolina Hurricanes and Ottawa Senators, the Lightning were clearly outplayed. Shot totals heavily favored the opponents, seeing the Lightning outshot 78-34.

Play Analysis – The Good

On the other hand, the Lightning have also shown flashes of the brilliance. In the game versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Lightning were dominant from the get go. The team capitalized on scoring opportunities and defensive play was considerably tighter.

So what should you make of these results overall? Whilst the team have not gotten off to a terrific start, it is still too early in the season to begin panicking. With more play under their belts, the Lightning should aim to find consistency and mitigate costly mistakes.

However, one cannot outright ignore the question of what will happen if inconsistencies remain.

Coop’s Record and Staffing Changes

Last Season, the Lightning attempted to address their defensive issues by relieving coaches Rick Bowness and Brad Lauer of their duties. Instead, Jeff Halpern (former Lightning forward and assistant coach of the Syracuse Crunch) was drafted in to revitalise the team.

Whilst this worked for a period, the Lightning’s play began to significantly taper off following the Allstar Break in January. This was also the story coming into the playoffs, where they fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

As it stands, former coach John Tortorella is the only coach to have led the team to a Stanley Cup win. The last (and only) being 2004, when they overcame the Calgary Flames in a seven game series.

So how does Coop’s resume compare? Well, for starters, the Lightning have managed to clinch a playoff berth in five of the last six years under Cooper’s guidance. Within this, the Lightning have made several deep runs, appearing in one Cup final (2014-15 season vs Chicago Blackhawks) and two further Eastern Conference finals. However, with the talent the Lightning have had over the years, this is far from enough.

Verdict – Should he stay or should he go?

So to arrive at the main point of this article. Should the repeated failures and lingering inconsistencies be held against Coach Cooper?

This is a very difficult question to answer, but its outcome may heavily depend upon the rest of the season. Fans of the Lightning will have high demands in place for the team, as last season’s exploits fell significantly short of expectation.

In all reality, anything short of a return to the playoffs and contention for the cup will be a disappointment to the fans. With consistent years where the “it wasn’t our time” narrative became prevalent, fans want to see change.

Should the Lightning fall short of playoffs one more time, then it could easily be argued that the time may come to move on from Cooper. Whilst Julien BriseBois and Jeff Vinik have both insisted Cooper’s job is safe, the narrative may change later down the line.

A likely replacement could be Syracuse Crunch head coach Benoîs Groulx, as the Lightning have a tendency to promote from within their own organisation. However, this is only personal speculation and may never materialize.

Only time will tell on whether Coach Coop will get to continue holding the reigns. So for now, let’s just continue to enjoy the gum chewing and hope it can bring the city the victory they have been starved of for the last half a decade.

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