At any given moment this season, Jon Cooper can scan the bodies in front of him on the Tampa Bay Lightning bench and see nameplates synonymous with three straight trips to the Stanley Cup Final, two ending in elation.
Stamkos. Hedman. Kucherov. Point. And so on.
Cooper, Tampa Bay's head coach since March 2013, can also see nameplates that barely register with hockey fans and media outside of central Florida.
Perbix. Koepke. Colton. Myers. And so on.
Tampa Bay won its second of two recent Cups just 16 months ago. Yet the club's roster has turned over significantly. Forward Anthony Cirelli, set to return from injury any day now, will be the 27th player to appear in at least one Lightning game this season. Of those 27, 14 have never hoisted the Cup, while offseason signee Ian Cole, a two-time champ, won his with Pittsburgh.
"That's our vibe. We're not a new team, but we kind of are a new team," Cooper, the NHL's longest-tenured coach, said in an interview Monday.
That might be the perfect way to frame it. There's been no official retooling or rebuilding process for the Lightning. The championship core is largely intact, so they're not an entirely new group. But to balance the books over the last two offseasons, Tampa has sacrificed plenty of depth. The salary cap, stalled for three seasons at $81.5 million, increased in 2022-23 but only by $1 million.
Yanni Gourde, Barclay Goodrow, and Blake Coleman - members of a terrific third line - all left in 2021. The same goes for Tyler Johnson and defenseman David Savard. Top-flight winger Ondrej Palat, plus two serviceable blue-liners in Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta, were this past summer's cap casualties.