Lightning's Success More Than A Goalie For Cooper
There is an old saying of show me a good goalie, and I will show you a good coach in the world of hockey. Now unlike most clichs, where the quote is usually very superficial like pucks in deep, this one has a bit more meaning as in the NHL a really good goaltender can mask a really bad coach or a miscasted coach.
A good example of this is New York Rangers former head coach John Torterella and his goalie Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist made Torterella look good, really good for a while but ultimately Torterellas coaching style failed, as Lundqvists amazing play couldnt save his job.
As the Tampa Bay Lightnings head coach Jon Cooper is a finalist for the Jack Adams (coach of the year) award, there has been some talk that his goalie Ben Bishop, who is up for the Vezina award, made Cooper look brilliant in his first NHL season.
There are a few things that are in play against this idea, as it should be noted that Cooper is actually a really good coach who has the benefit of having Bishop on his roster.
The first thing to look at is Coopers previous success. Cooper came from the Norfolk Admirals/Syracuse Crunch affiliate. He won a Calder Cup in his first year with the Admirals. Not only did he win the AHL championship, his team also went on an unprecedented, record setting 28 game win streak. Both of these feats were completed without Bishop, who was with a different organization at the time.
Now lets look at what he did for the Lightning outside of Ben Bishop because as everyone should know there are other players than just Bishop on the team.
Last season, where former Bolts coach Guy Boucher was fired, the Lightning sat 27th in terms of puck possession or Corsi percentage at 44.7 percent. This means the Bolts barely had the puck and could explain their dismal year in the shortened season.
This year, however, the Lightning sat 10th in the league with 51.7 percent Corsi. Their overall puck possession jumped 7 points in a years difference. All due respect to Bishop, he cant take credit for that as he doesnt shoot the puck. Coopers system and coaching style gets the credit for the increase.
Also about the teams who are above the Lightning in Corsi, nine out of ten of them made the playoffs including the Lightning.
Numbers aside, Cooper did other things to keep this team from flying apart. Its been reported ad nauseam how injuries affected this team. They lost Steven Stamkos for most of the season to a brutal leg injury. The team had to compensate for that and Cooper juggled his lines to keep his team not only in the playoff hunt but also securely in a playoff spot during their star players absence.
He also kept the team together during the Martin St. Louis saga and coached them to some of their best hockey after St. Louis was traded.
After Bishop sustained an injury, many wondered whether the Lightning would even gain home-ice advantage. However, Cooper had his squad stay strong and with Kristers Gudlevskis and Anders Lindback only gave up two goals in the final four games.
Many who dont follow the Lightning closely may think that Bishops record correlates with Coopers success and that Bishop makes his bench boss look good which is not the case at all. Jon Coopers coaching ability, systems and experience got him the record his record this year and the Jack Adams nominations.