After a whirlwind offseason in which the Lightning introduced five new forwards (Sean Bergenheim, Dominic Moore, Chris Durno, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Simon Gagne) with NHL experience it was believed that the Lightning could conceivably fill four formidable lines without even dropping a single puck at training camp Eric Perrin, who entered camp on an invitational basis, is now poised to be an anomaly.
As story-lines go, Perrin’s is one that was overshadowed when the Lightning opened their training camp September 17. Now, two weeks later and less than a handful of days until the roster cuts that finalize the Lightning’s opening night roster, it is impossible to ignore what could be in store for the Bolts and Perrin. Amidst all of the deliberation that is to come, there is one that thing that can certainly be said about Perrin. The fact that he is in contention for a roster spot this late into training camp is a testament of how unwavering his desire to play NHL hockey for the Lightning truly is.
Out of all the players who came to training with hopes of making the Lightning roster, it would be difficult to argue that any player had a more precarious challenge than Perrin. As a training camp invitee (without a contract) Perrin has been taxed with the already arduous task of not only impressing the coaches enough to earn a roster spot, but also to persuade management that he is worthy of an NHL contract.
During the past two seasons, when the Lightning had players who would have been better suited playing in the minors rather than the NHL, this would not have been as great of a challenge. Now, however, the Lightning have the capability to fill all four of their lines with players who have NHL experience, Perrin has to dispel whatever preconceived line combinations the coaching staff may have had penciled in prior to the start of training camp
If Perrin had any uncertainties, whatsoever, about being able to contend for a position, no one would ever have known. His decision to compete in training camp is one that he knew was obviously filled with adversity, yet he never hesitated to compete. Even so, he is still very quick to brush away the suggestion that he may be faced with extra stress or pressure because his challenge has been more grueling than the players who are only playing only for a roster spot and not also a contract.
“I am not worrying about what I am going to do tomorrow, or anything that might happen,” Perrin says. “I am only worrying about myself and what is asked of me by the coaches.”
Thus far, maintaining focus has not posed as a threat to Perrin; one could even suggest that his uncanny ability to stray from the anxieties that others in a similar position may feel is a glimmering example of the resiliency that he embodies.
Some people, particularly those who have not watched a single day of Lightning training camp, may debate or question the decisions to pass up other players who were already under contract for the Lightning. Throughout the process of whittling down the players, Perrin is one person that has not at all been surprised by how close he has come to cracking the roster.
“I don’t want to think that I am surprised,” Perrin said. “It is a mentality that you have to expect things in life, whether it is sports or anything. You have to demand so much of yourself in order to have success.”
Typically you would regard a statement from a professional athlete who suggests that they expect success for themselves as mundane. However, when you hear those words come from Perrin, who was undrafted out of college and has spent the majority of his hockey career bouncing throughout European leagues, you regard it as having more significance. It is encouraging to hear a person who continues to persevere, despite the many challenges that they have had to face along the way.
The success that Perrin has had throughout camp comes from more than just having the right mentality to succeed. As many fans will remember, Perrin has tasted the greatest level of success that the NHL has to offer. In winning the Stanley Cup with the Lightning during their 2004 run, Perrin absorbed every aspect of how to win the big games and now plays with that understanding.
“I have experienced how you have to battle to accomplish the highest reward in hockey,” Perrin says. “It is something that is engraved in your head and will never go away. You need all guys, the team to go to war.”
Every shift that Perrin takes, showcases just how important it is to him to be on the final roster. There is no mistaking what is at stake. Perrin is not in training camp so he can continue to play hockey. He could continue playing hockey in Russia’s KHL if that were his mentality. No, Perrin is in training camp because he wants to play in the NHL, for the Lightning.
When asked to explain how he approaches each shift, Perrin does not hesitate in saying that he treats each day as “do or die.”
As good as Perrin has looked playing in new Lightning Head Coach Guy Boucher’s offensive-minded system, and the mentality that he carries with him on a daily basis, it would be foolish to begin guessing that his approach is going to have him going away anytime soon.