Lightning’s Yzerman Got It Right The Second Time

Not many general managers are able to fix a mistake in their tenure. Sometimes an owner doesn’t let them get their chance at redemption and other times well, the GM just doesn’t get it right.

Steve Yzerman made sure that he didn’t make the same mistake twice when he hired Jon Cooper.

Guy Boucher was a flashy hire and the Lightning did make the playoffs with him.

He didn’t last long due to an incomplete roster and demanding style and Yzerman had seen enough from Boucher. Out came the reports that Yzerman made a mistake and that while Boucher had success in the AHL, Yzerman should have gone with a veteran coach from the beginning.

Now, he had a choice. Either hire the really good coach in Lindy Ruff or take a chance with Jon Cooper, who just came off an amazing year in the AHL and a Calder Cup Championship.

The initial route with using an AHL coach didn’t really pan out before and Yzerman, on some level, knew that he would be taking a big risk in an unknown quantity in Cooper.  In the end, Yzerman decided to keep Cooper and Ruff went to Dallas.

It seems to have paid off.

Cooper was nominated as a finalist for the Jack Adams (Coach of the Year) award and the Lightning surprised everyone and made the playoffs, even though the Montreal Canadiens swept them in the first round.

The reason why hiring Cooper paid off is not just because of the nominations or the playoff berth, it is due to their team story as a whole this year. The Lightning faced some critical situations that would have derailed a team poised to make a playoff run.

They lost Steven Stamkos to a broken leg and had to play without him in the lineup for most of the season. As if that wasn’t enough, right after Stamkos came back, longtime franchise player Martin St. Louis decided that he needed a new environment and demanded a trade out. Then, starting goaltender Ben Bishop suffered an elbow injury and was unable to help in the playoffs.

These aren’t just normal situations cropping up in a regular season. These situations could have demoralized a team. Nevertheless, the key thing here is none of those setbacks did enough damage to stop them. They didn’t define the season in a way that most would expect.

Cooper wouldn’t let his team become crippled. Instead, he adjusted their thinking to prepare them for anything that happened next and all it did was bring the whole group closer together. They didn’t just fight this season, they weathered a storm, survived it and became stronger.

Now they know if a Stamkos or St. Louis isn’t in the lineup, they can still win. Now they know that if push comes to shove and Bishop is hurt, the talent is there in Kristers Gudlevskis and Anders Lindback, who did post a shutout in relief of Bishop, to step up with time and rise to the occasion.

Most importantly, now the whole organization knows, especially Steve Yzerman that Cooper is the real deal and can make it in the NHL.

Based off this season, this nomination might be the first of many to come.


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