So the NHL and the NHLPA finally came to an agreement, ending the 113-day lockout putting not just the Lightning but the entire league into high gear as the teams get ready for their abbreviated 48-game season.
While it looks like things life on the ice is back to normal, it is far from that. Normalcy would have been a three or for week training camp that would have included four or five preseason games.
A normal training camp would have also provided the coaching staff significant time to evaluate the 40 plus players of which two, three or maybe four would crack the opening day roster for the first time.
Instead, Coach Guy Boucher and his staff must now construct a training camp that will be short not only in time but in players on-hand. The Lightning has just 31 players for the abbreviated camp for the staff to evaluate, (including injured Mattias Ohlund) implement Boucher’s system and more importantly to gain as much chemistry as possible.
"Priority number one, for me, is chemistry right now,'' Boucher said.”We have a lot of new players. It's all good, but with 48 games, the chemistry better start quick.''
Boucher has always focused on team-bonding/player chemistry [on-ice] but never in such a short period of time. In order to help speed up the process, the team relocated training camp to the Germain Arena, in Estero, Fl. home of Lightning’s East Coast Hockey League affiliate Florida Everblades.
Traditionally throughout the season, especially when the team would be on a long road trip, Boucher would include time for team-bonding activities.
“It’s going to be huge [referring to the early team-bonding activities], especially with this odd season coming up,” said Victor Hedman. “It’s definitely important for us to have fun with it and have a good camp so we’re ready to open up the season on Saturday.”
Along with team/chemistry bonding activities, Boucher and his staff have to do things a little different. There will be more video during off ice time, additional meetings with groups, individual meetings and more emphasis given to scrimmages. Basically, everything will be accelerated.
Preparing for the season with informal workouts has helped the players, but it's not the same as training camp and because of the situation that now comes into play Boucher and the players must work harder than before.
“We need the guys in game shape, more than putting our systems in place. Every player in camp is getting a real look. We're not trying to fill jersey's, we're looking to see what the players can do,” said Boucher following the Bolts first workout in Estero.
There are some that feel fewer games will help several of the older players, but that's not necessarily the case.
Injuries could be on the rise from a lack of significant training time, but what is or could be more of a concern is the fact that fewer games can be harder on teams that get caught up in a losing streak. Recovery from a considerable losing streak could possibly ruin any post-season hopes.
A quick start out of the gate and consistency will be keys to the success not just for the Lightning but for all the teams.
“The intensity of the games is going to be extremely high,” Boucher said. “You're going to see some physicality. You're going to see guys battling with everything they've got.”
"The magnitude of how important this start is, that's why we don't have time to wait for the guys to gel in the next two weeks,'' said Martin St. Louis. "We have to jump out to speed up the process. We're trying to do the right thing so that we can put ourselves in a better position to have success early on.''
Remaining Training Camp Schedule
Wednesday, Jan. 16, 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Thursday, Jan. 17, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Tampa Bay Times Forum
Friday, Jan. 18, 11:30 a.m. (free lunch offered for fans on the West Plaza)
*All times are subject to change. All practices are open to the public.
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