This year was different.
“I think the blessing was having a newborn baby in the house,” Shannon said of Emma Madison, born June 26. “I had something else that I was thinking about and doing that kept my mind occupied.”
Between the bottle feedings and diaper changes for Emma, the first child for him and his wife Jessica, everything seemed to fall into place for the speedy forward. When the Lightning showed interest and offered a one-year contract, it wasn’t hard for him to make a decision.
Shannon, 28, has always seemed destined for Tampa Bay through his Connecticut roots. He played for the Tampa Bay Lightning as a 12-year old in the prestigious Quebec Pee-Wee tournament. Shannon showed the local media a playing card his mother had saved from the event. He wore 22 while growing up, the number he has decided to wear for the NHL version of the Lightning.
“It kinda fits,” Shannon said.
Shannon has worn No. 26 since he played with Vancouver in 2007-08, around the time he met Marty St. Louis. The two have worked out together during the summer ever since with the Prentiss Hockey Performance program, based in Darien, Conn.
St. Louis will keep his No. 26.
“I lost rock, paper, scissors with Marty,” Shannon joked.
Shannon, who compiled 51 goals and 150 points in four seasons at Boston College, was undrafted like St. Louis. He has had to battle throughout to become an NHL player at 5 foot 9, 175 pounds.
Anaheim signed Shannon as a free agent in 2005 and he scored 86 points in 71 games in 2005-06 in the American Hockey League with Portland. After playing 53 games with Anaheim and winning the Stanley Cup in 2007, he was traded to Vancouver and gained a workout partner.
“I had been at Prentiss four or five years prior and when I found out [St. Louis] was going to be training there it was unbelievable, my heart stopped,” Shannon said. “He’s always been a role model for me from afar and now being able to learn from him and the other guys on the team is great. I’ll be doing a lot of listening.”
Being around St. Louis has already impacted Shannon’s game.
“I’ve always been really focused on the work side of it,” Shannon said. “But doing the right things with the experience he has -- he’s taken some time to give me advice on how to develop my game. We’re not weightlifters. We’re hockey players. So it’s about getting on the ice and doing the right things and making the right reads. It’s going to be a fun time here.”
When Shannon found out from his agent that the Lightning was a possibility, he said they were his first choice because of the style of play, the commitment from the organization and where they are headed.
Shannon could be coming to Tampa Bay at just the right time, off career highs of 11 goals and 27 points in his third season with the Ottawa Senators.
“When everything collapsed in Ottawa, that opened up an opportunity and I think I found my game,” Shannon said. “But you want to be part of a winning culture, where everybody’s committed to that ultimate goal – the Stanley Cup. This is a good time to be here.”
Shannon has played 260 NHL games, with 31 goals and 87 points. He also participated in the 2003 World Juniors and in the 2008 and 2011 World Championships for Team USA.
The right-hand shot can help the Lightning in several different areas. Shannon had a plus/minus rating of +3, with 41 takeaways and five power-play goals for Ottawa, who was 32-40-10 last season.
“I’ll fill whatever role that the team sees fit,” Shannon said. “I’ve been a versatile forward so far in this league.
“I have just been figuring out my game, what approach works best for me, how to prepare for games. The experience is the biggest thing. The struggles that I went through at the beginning of my career have really helped me. Now, I’m ready to go.”
Shannon showed what he can do on the penalty kill against the Lightning, scoring a short-handed goal in a 3-2 overtime victory for the Senators March 19.
“I didn’t get that opportunity with the other organizations,” Shannon said. “It was one of our strengths at the end last season in Ottawa. If it’s a role I have here, I’ll look forward to it.”
Shannon got a first-hand look at what made the Lightning successful last season -- the responsiveness to the system, the speed. He said the Bolts were accountable from top to bottom, a big positive for a team that wants to win games. He has been on teams that have been disjointed. He knows how it looks.
He sees a style of play he can fit smoothly.
“The plan is all about speed and puck possession,” Shannon said. “That’s where I flourish.”