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5 Questions: Flames at Lightning

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
I reached out to Raw Charge with four questions and a sad statement, and John Fontana was gracious enough to respond with four answers and a gloaty statement of his own. Hell- he didn't even ask questions of his own (though I think that may be due to a miscommunication as it got passed to him through someone else). So thanks, John!

How noticeable is the shift from St. Louis to Callahan? Is there a clear difference in overall team play?
Well, it’s noticeable in that the long time #26 is not on the ice any more with a Lightning sweater on. In comparison to how the team was playing immediately before the trade (while things were distracted because of the circus) there’s a clear difference in play. But, generally? I wouldn’t say there was much of a difference besides seeing a more responsible player contributing offensively and defensively. Marty, because of his size, wasn’t exactly known for his forechecking prowess, and his days as a penalty kill mainstay are past him. Callahan’s responsible play has fit in and been an asset.

Jon Cooper for Jack Adams or Jon Cooper for Jack Adams?
I’m going to go with option C; Jon Cooper for Jack Adams. Patrick Roy is going to get consideration because of his transition from successful player to successful coach, but he achieves it with an iron fist. Cooper’s rallying his players and has been through much more adversity with the club (the loss of Stamkos, the St. Louis charade, the sizable transition from the soft Southeast Division to the grueling Atlantic.) He’s got the team behind him and they’ll do what they can for him, and more.

Is there still room for Stamkos to improve? If so, where?
Faceoffs. He’s a sub-50% faceoff guy, and as the team’s top line center, that stat should be higher.

Not a question, but I'm still bitter about 2004.
And the Stanley Cup Championship rings are just as shiny today as they were when they were awarded, thanks.

How has this season stacked up to the expectations coming in?
Above and beyond; most fans expected the Lightning to tread water in the Atlantic Division may be with its imposing lineup…. I mean, four of the original six teams in one division? The Northeast (the division’s predecessor) as known for its intense play and rivalries, so joining the division alone was intimidating.

While the Bolts had a solid start to the season, losing Steven Stamkos in mid November was … Well, it made you think everything was over. The season was done. Yet, here Tampa Bay is with a playoff berth. The play of goalie Ben Bishop through most of the season helped that. The contributions from Valtteri Filppula and rookies Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson (as well as others) helped fill the void left by Stamkos during his recovery.

Make sure to go thank John over at Raw Charge's gamethread tonight- it's always great having writers from the other team stop by and give an internal perspective.