February 23, 2009

Tampa Bay Lightning: What to play for

So the Tampa Bay Lightning have accepted defeat. That's too bad. I was really hoping better from them.

Once a team has accepted the fact that they're not making playoffs, the question that often looms is, "What is there to play for?" And the answer that often follows is, "pride." I think those people have limited imaginations.

Pride is a nice idea, but what about being spiteful? What about being the giant killers, the spoilers, the underdogs? What about taking teams down just to prove a point - that the only reason you didn't make playoffs this season is because of a rough start? Why give every team an easy road thru Tampa when you've had to fight for every little thing this season? Why not play to prove people wrong?

After all, you beat the second best team in the NHL last night - Boston. And you managed to make it to a shootout with the third best team in the conference a couple of games before - New Jersey. So why just sit back and feel sorry for yourselves when now you can have all of the fun and none of the pressure?

(As you can see, I'm not one to back down from a challenge and just walk away very easily.)

And if some of you need that pressure, well, there are a few guys off of the team that could be up for a spot on Olympic squads next season. Don't think the GMs of those national teams aren't watching. They'll be inviting guys to camps over the summer, and they're making their invitation lists right now. They want the best players, after all, and not the best teams - and those don't always coincide.

If you want to slack off a bit because you're thinking there's nothing to play for, try playing for a spot (or playing to get a teammate a spot) on Team Canada, Team USA, Team Czech Republic, or Team Finland. It's not just how you play that's going to matter, but how well you hold up thru adversity. Not to mention how good a leader you are. There are plenty of other guys who'll take that spot if you don't want it, if you decide the rest of the season isn't worth the effort.

So go ahead. Be spiteful. Own every single team you play for the next 22 games. Make sure you're making the point you want to be making. Because if you don't do it, no one else will.

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