World Championships Prove Tampa Bay Lightning’s Future Remains Bright

HOCKEY: MAY 21 IIHF World Championship Gold Medal Game - Canada v Sweden

An interesting moment took place during yesterday’s gold medal ceremony for the IIHF World Championships. Sweden defeated Team Canada in a shootout to take the tournament. Much like at the end of NHL playoff series, the defeated Canadian players and coaches came over to congratulate the winners. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper made his way along the line of euphoric Swedes until he came to Victor Hedman. The two exchanged clasped hands, exchanged words, and a hug before Cooper moved on.

It’s hard not to imagine what may have been said between a coach and player that have been through a lot together in recent memory. Over the last several years Jon Cooper was promoted to head coach of the Lightning. He’s guided the team to playoff appearances in three of the last four seasons, including trips to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final and 2016 Eastern Conference Final. He was nominated for the Jack Adams Award and now, coached Canada in an international tournament.

Victor Hedman’s star has ascended over the last few years as well. It’s an understatement to say that number 77 is good at what he does. While his ascent to the upper echelon of the league has been relatively quiet, people have noticed what he’s capable of. Being named a finalist for the 2016 Norris Trophy attests to that. All of his skills were on display in the IIHF World Championships, including a growing nose for the net. He registered Sweden’s shorthanded goal in the Gold Medal game and finished the tournament with t5wo goals, two assists, and a +8 rating through ten games.

World Championships Prove Tampa Bay Lightning's Future Remains Bright
Sweden’s Anton Stralman (C) and Sweden’s Victor Hedman (R) celebrate after winning on penalties during the IIHF Men’s World Championship Ice Hockey final game match between Canada and Sweden in Cologne, western Germany, on May 21, 2017.
Sweden won 2-1. / AFP PHOTO / Ina FASSBENDER (Photo credit should read INA FASSBENDER/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s disappointing not to see the Lightning competing for the Stanley Cup. They have an incredible amount of talent and they still will when the new season begins in the fall. Every member of the Lightning organization that participated in the World Championships is bringing home a medal. Andrei Vasilevskiy was named the top goaltender for the entire tournament. That’s pretty huge. While it may sting not to see the Bolts back in the Eastern Conference Final for the third consecutive year, their future is still bright. The core is still there and they’ll want to prove that a postseason without the Bolts is just a fluke. They’ll be back and they’ll be hungry to win it all.

We may never know exactly what Jon Cooper and Victor Hedman said to each other in that handshake line. While Cooper must have been disappointed that he wasn’t bringing home gold to his native land, it’s easy to imagine that there was pride on his part. He was looking at one of the best blueliners in the league and the cornerstone of his defensive squad. Cooper knows Hedman will be with the Lightning for at least eight more years. A gold medal would have been nice but the silver of the Stanley Cup remains the ultimate goal.

(Feature Photo/Getty Images)

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