Thursday was the first official practice for new Head Coach, Jon Cooper, and the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was the beginning of a new era. A new philosophy. And what fans are hoping is a final playoff push over the last few weeks of the season. For Cooper, it starts with defense.
"What do the great teams do?" Cooper asked, "They know how to play D. So we practiced a little bit of D. How to come back, how to back check. It was good. They were really receptive."
Something else he seemed emphatic about instilling in the players is that it doesn't matter what position the program says you play, everyone has to do their part:
"When we have the puck, we're five offensive players. If we don't have it, we're five defensive players. You're not just a goal scorer. That's the mentality we're gonna have."
Cooper's success at every level he's coached speaks for itself. Only time will tell if that translates to the NHL. But for now, he truly believes in his philosophy and tactics, though some may find the new mindset he's preaching to be boring. Cooper says, that's just fine with him:
"We need to get into a position where we're playing the same way every single game. I know it sounds boring but, if winning is boring than I wanna be bored."
When practice was over and the huffs and puffs from his players could be heard throughout the Bay Area, in the end it was a lot of fun for the new leader of the Bolts:
"It was fun. I had a lot of fun. There's a lot of really good guys in there. They worked hard. I'm sure, new coach is here so they're trying to impress but, they're asking all the right questions and they worked hard. I had fun."