Tuesday, 20 December 2016

#DistantThunder: Chasing the Lightning Across Western Canada

I grew up just outside Vancouver, British Columbia.  I now live right in the heart of Edmonton, Alberta, just a few blocks away from the newly-constructed Rogers Place.  I've never called Tampa, Florida home.  I have no family connections in Tampa, or the southern United States for that matter.  So, it comes as little surprise that I've been asked the whole "How did you become a Lightning fan?" question a million times.  I wrote about that in an early blog here at The Lightning Lounge.

According to Google maps, the distance between my condo and Amalie Arena is in excess of 4,000 kilometers.  It would take approximately 42 hours to make that trek in a car, and it's basically a full-day journey by plane given that there's almost always a connecting flight involved.  The tremendous distance between my place of abode and the team I cheer for every night is what makes the Lightning's now-annual swing through Western Canada so special.  Getting down to Amalie Arena obviously isn't the easiest thing in the world for me, but walking two blocks to Rogers Place is quite literally a walk in the park(ing lot).

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Coburn's Play an Unexpected Bright Spot for the Struggling Lightning

A lot has been made over the last couple seasons of the Tampa Bay Lightning's salary cap management.  Contracts like Ryan Callahan's and Braydon Coburn's left fans puzzled, as the need for dollars to re-sign players like Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin, among others, is significant.  As much as the decision to sign Coburn to a three-year, $11.1M extension through the 2018-19 season left this blogger with a lot of question marks, his play on the ice this season has left me with anything but.  In short, he's been an unexpected bright spot for a struggling Bolts team to start the year.

To truly understand why the descriptor "unexpected" was used in that last sentence, it's important to look at some of Coburn's historical numbers, courtesy of Puckalytics.com:

In short, the trend over the past handful of seasons hasn't been pretty.  With the exception of 2013-14, Coburn has been a drag on team shot attempt share every year since 2009-10.  The thought from many when the Lightning extended Coburn was simple: Did it make sense to use finite cap space on a now 30-plus-year-old defender who hasn't been a consistent driver of shot attempts for quite some time?  Likely not.