Saturday morning as the Tampa Bay Lightning prepared for their preseason finale against the Florida Panthers, 36 players were present at training camp. By midday Sunday Tampa Bay’s active roster was trimmed to 23.
Questions surfaced regarding forwards Brett Connolly and Jonathan Drouin’s absence from the final team and head coach Jon Cooper provided his own explanation behind each of the decisions, beginning with Connolly:
“There’s no hurt, shame or anything in going back to the American Hockey League. Brett Connolly is barely 21-years-old and he prospered in the AHL last year with me as his coach, so I am a big fan. He did everything I asked and everything we asked here in training camp. This is also a business. In saying that, Brett Connolly could be here tomorrow; he could be here in a month, he could be here in two months. To me he played himself into the conversation of being on this team full-time and I don’t think anybody in this room would have said that a year ago. He’s taken unbelievable strides in his development and I’m really proud of him.
His reassignment will add an extra test for the sixth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry draft:
“Now he’s going to be in a situation where he can’t go back and hang his head because if it’s not a situation where he’ll be back anytime soon, there will be guys trying to pass him. He’ll be judged not just on how he played in this camp, but how he plays in the AHL, so he can’t let his guard down. If he doesn’t put his guard down that will play extremely well in his favor and maybe we’ll see him back at some point.”
For Drouin it is about allowing him to continue to fine-tune his game:
“When you’re at the top level in junior hockey, as he was in his draft class, there’s just so many expectations that come with that, but we’re trying to do what’s best for Jonathan Drouin and the organization. We didn’t draft Jonathan to come and play for us this year, it didn’t matter who we drafted, this is someone we drafted and asked the question, ‘are they going to be 10-year players and carry this franchise?’ That’s why Jonathan Drouin was drafted. We can second-guess all day long, but to me there’s nothing wrong with going somewhere that you’re going to get the chance to play in all situations and play every night instead of sitting in a situation where you’re not.”
Cooper continued that Drouin is a perfect example of how they would like to handle his development situation differently than they had Connolly:
“I think Connolly is a perfect example of a high draft pick staying with the Lightning his first year, then probably missed a little bit of development because he didn’t get to play that often. In the development of Jonathan Drouin we felt that this was going to be the best move for him. He impressed us. He shouldn’t leave here thinking he didn’t impress us. It’s also a tribute to what the organization has done in that there are a group of guys who’ve played professionally here for a couple of years, made this team and put us in a situation where we didn’t have to rush Jonathan Drouin and that’s good for the organization.”
Mike Angelidis, Matt Taormina and Dana Tyrell all cleared waivers at noon today. Taormina suffered an upper body injury and will remain with the Lightning, but will be on their injury reserve list. Both Angelidis and Tyrell were assigned to the Crunch.
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