For most teams, a mediocre 1-1-1 record to begin the year would not be cause for panic. Yet, most teams aren't the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Fresh off one of the most monumental Stanley Cup playoffs collapses in recent memory, losing to the Columbus Blue Jackets despite a record-setting 2018-19 regular season, Tampa is in need of a hot start.
The Lightning remain a popular pick to win the Stanley Cup in 2019, featuring the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and one of the best goalkeepers in the NHL in Andrei Vasilevskiy, not to mention elite talent across all lines. This is why Stamkos, the unquestioned leader of this group, is taking a stand before things get out of hand.
“We just continue to be the freewheeling team that thinks we can just come into games and win because we’re skilled,” Stamkos said after Sunday's 4-3 defeat, per the Tampa Bay Times. “We keep falling back into the same old bad habits that we’ve been doing, that cost us the season we had last year."
Stamkos is spot on. When you have as much talent as the Lightning do, it's easy to go through the motions, with the result being an undisciplined product. In what's expected to be a very competitive Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division this season, that's just not good enough.
Tampa will recover. Frankly, they're too good not to. But Stamkos' words better not ring hollow, or it will come back to haunt them at some point.