New Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper received his first official introduction to Tampa on Tuesday, battling rush-hour traffic on I-275 to get to his introductory news conference in a timely manner. Then he introduced himself to the town by stating his intentions for the remaining 15 games of the regular season with Tampa Bay in an uphill climb to get to the playoffs. Cooper shared a conversation he had with Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman. “I'm coming here to make the playoffs,'' Cooper said. “And when Steve offered me the job, and obviously (owner Jeff) Vinik and (CEO) Tod (Leiweke), I was sitting there talking with Steve and I asked him, 'Are you sure you want to do this?' And he said, 'I want to do this.' I said, 'Because if you do this, I'm really going to try to screw up your draft pick.' “So that's where we are at.'' It's that sort of mentality that earned Cooper his first opportunity as a head coach in the NHL after leading Tampa Bay's minor-league affiliate to a championship last season — a run that included a North American hockey record 28-game wining streak to end the regular season. He believes the seemingly impossible is possible, and he makes his players believe they can do the same. “He's one of those guys who will get the best out of every player,'' said Tyler Johnson, who was a key part of Cooper's championship team last season. “He knows how to push players.''
Cooper's goal: Turn around Lightning, make playoffs
Tampa Tribune | Mar 27