Yzerman tempering expectations for Lightning following disappointing year

Posted: 04/07/2017 in NHL, Sports
Tags: , , , , ,

After back-to-back years of deep playoff runs for the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team suffered a setback in 2016-17 by missing the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. And though the team is laden with talent, general manager Steve Yzerman refuses to overlook last season due to previous success.

“We’re in a different spot today than a year ago. Because a year ago, we were coming off Game 7 of the conference final, and that was coming off reaching the Stanley Cup final,” Yzerman said, according to Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times. “This year we didn’t make the playoffs. So let’s take a step back here and let’s not talk about going for it here in June when we just missed the playoffs.”

It’s a very reserved mentality for the man in charge of a team that finished the 2016-17 regular season with 94 points, the same amount as the Western Conference champion Nashville Predators, but one point shy of the amount needed to qualify for the Eastern Conference’s second season.

Yzerman isn’t letting himself, his players, or the team’s fan base rest on past laurels, however, viewing last season as a disappointment, and refusing to blame the lost campaign on the knee injury which limited captain Steven Stamkos to just 17 games.

“We’re a better team with Stamkos, obviously. …

“We definitely can look at areas where we need to improve with the players we did have on the ice,” Yzerman added.

The Lightning’s overhaul began with the passing of the torch between goaltenders Ben Bishop (traded to the Los Angeles Kings and now with the Dallas Stars) and new starter Andrei Vasilevskiy at the 2016-17 trade deadline. It continued with the offseason’s first big splash when forward Jonathan Drouin was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for defensive prospect Mikhail Sergachev.

Yzerman isn’t done his summer work and remains focused on making the Lightning a contender again in 2017-18 and for the long term, saying “I think it’s going to be good for a long time.”

While the Predators may have demonstrated once again that teams need only to qualify for the postseason by the slimmest of margins in order to have a shot at lifting the Stanley Cup, Yzerman seems intent on not leaving the fate of his team in the hands of the competition.

Should have been there, but we weren’t,” Yzerman said.


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