About a month ago, I posted an article here listing the top five reasons it's okay to love the Tampa Bay Lightning again. In spite of what I like to frequently and grossly overestimate as my considerable sphere of influence, some people are still hesitant to do so. Cassie McClellan of Raw Charge has written an article at From The Rink in which she confesses to being reluctant to embrace the Bolts, in spite of their record (8-5-2, which is 2nd in the Southeast Division and 4th overall in the Eastern Conference) and the stellar play so far from Steven Stamkos (leading the league with 26 points and 14 goals) & friends for fear of it all being some kind of mirage, with the team eventually reverting to the nightmare version of itself that lumbered around the St. Pete Times Forum for the last few years. That's a perfectly understandable and reasonable reaction. For historical precedent, look no further than the Munchkins of Oz. They didn't immediately run out into the yellow brick streets and break into song upon first sight of the witch's striped socks and pointy toes sticking out from beneath Dorothy's house. It took a little coaxing and convincing from Glenda, the Good Witch.
Please allow me to be the Glenda to your Munchkin.
There is no other shoe to drop. There is no bubble to burst. There is no some other metaphor that I can't currently think of that illustrates harsh, bleak reality replacing hope and optimism. Those days are over.
That's not to say the Lightning are on their way to a limitless future of prosperity and achievement filled with multiple all star selections, perennial playoff spots and a deluge of Stanley Cups. They'll hit ruts where they struggle. Heck, they may not even make the playoffs this year (although I highly doubt that). But with the organization that is currently in place, the people in charge are actually suited to do the jobs that are listed on their business cards. That means if they get beat, it will be because other teams were better, not because a coach refused to consider that his gameplan might need to be adjusted to best utilize the individual skills of the players on his team. If management makes a bad decision, it will be without Gary Bettman having to summon anyone to his office in New York to tell them to grow up already and then outline clearly what they could and couldn't do. If the fan experience is lacking, it won't be because the über-sophisticated wife of the general manager running roughshod over us rubes here in Tampa Bay and shoving her idea of what that should be down our throats. Basically, if they stink, at least they'll do it the right way.
It's safe to come out now and live in the moment because this isn't a movie (or a late night talk show): the bad guys are all gone and they're not coming back.