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Trouble Brewing in Tampa Bay With Nikita Kucherov?

Is there trouble brewing in Tampa Bay between head coach Jon Cooper and Nikita Kucherov?

The Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t exactly having the kind of season they’d like, nor the type of season most expect out of a perennial contender. Multiple points back of a Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference, the Lightning need to get it going and go on a roll to have a shot at the playoffs. There’s still tons of time left in the season that’s completely possible, but something feels “off.”

With immense pressure on the team and head coach Jon Cooper being on somewhat of a hot seat, there will be decisions coming out of the Lightning organization that seem or feel questionable. One of those happened the other night against the Ottawa Senators.

Cooper decided to sit the best player on the team in Nikita Kucherov after a turnover in the second period. As the dynamic forward barely played in the third period and sat the overtime, the Lightning scraped out a win but the hockey world was talking about the fact Kucherov was nowhere to be found.

Cooper said of the benching, “As a coach you have to make decisions and what was best for us to win tonight. It was our decision. He’s a huge part of our team, it could be anybody.”

Reports coming out of Tampa is that Kucherov might not be too happy about the decision. Whether that’s his competitive juices flowing, the fact Cooper tried to make an example out of him or that he’s being held accountable in a league where the stars are often given a lot more rope, speculation is that Tampa is a team to watch over the next few games to see if this powder keg is about to blow.

Mike Johnston of TSN wrote:

Strong decision by Jon Cooper to sit Kucherov basically the entire 3rd and OT in a tie game for a turnover late in second. Pressure on the bolts to get it going but coach thought it was more important to hold reigning MVP accountable.

This May Be Something, It May Be Nothing

Stars and coaches have often not been on the same page before. That said, Elliotte Friedman noted that there may be trouble in paradise. He explained, “Kucherov has a lot of pride. Cooper is pushing his buttons. This used to be a coach’s league. Now, it’s a players’ league.” The suggestion here is that this is an issue where sides will be chosen.

Is Cooper playing with fire here? Is Kucherov the kind of person who can put the past behind him and move on? Or, will this be something that bubbles under for a while?

Next: Could Maple Leafs Move Tyson Barrie or Jake Muzzin?



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