Throughout the offseason, many people have pointed to the Tampa Bay Lightning defense as an area they would have liked to see general manager Steve Yzerman address, either through the draft, or free agency. It is an area that many appear to have hoped would see a shakeup in light of the struggles that particular unit had a year ago. As we hit the two month mark before the first regular season game is played, and approximately just over one month before the team officially reports for training camp, the question has to be asked; what if the current group of defenseman is the group that ultimately takes the ice on opening night in Boston two months from now?
It is not too far-fetched a scenario to suggest that may be exactly what happens.
Before some get upset over that thought, there are a number of reasons why that may not be the worst idea for this team moving forward, at least in the short term.
One of the first reasons that come to mind is the idea that the schedule will return to near normal after the insanity of what it was a year ago with the lockout. With such a compressed schedule, back-to-back games, and the travel that went along with it, practice time was not what it normally is under a regular schedule. Yes, the Olympics will compress the schedule a bit in 2013, but it will be nothing close to the insanity we saw a year ago.
In addition to the schedule being more conducive to practice time in the 2013-14 season, it also means the team will have a full training camp. This has the potential to be huge for the defensive players on this roster. It will give Lightning head coach Jon Cooper and his staff an opportunity to install their system, and have plenty of time for the players to get used to it and understand it in the seven preseason games they will play before opening night.
One of the biggest, and maybe the least talked about reasons the defense could be better in 2013-14, could be credited to the hiring of associate coach Rick Bowness. Bowness is expected to work closely with the defense, and brings a wealth of NHL coaching experience that could potentially do wonders for this team moving forward. Bowness’ experience could really help both the veteran defenseman and some of the younger defenseman trying to find their way in the NHL.
At the end of the day, the frustration with a defense that struggled the way it did last season is understandable. At the same time, Steve Yzerman has shown that he will just about always show patience when it comes to major roster decisions. While it may be discouraging to some to not see the roster overhaul they want, why not see if some of these factors do have an impact on the final product in 2013?
When Yzerman spoke to the assembled media at prospect camp, he did not sound like someone looking to shake up the roster. He sounded like someone that wanted the players on the roster to play better.
What is the harm in seeing how the defense plays in the first 15-20 games and evaluating from there? It may not be the popular move, but it may be the right move.