A team is defined by its performance. Its performance is defined by its players. The players are defined by their coaches.
Wherever you go, whatever sport you follow, whatever team you tie yourself to, you will find that this much is true.
Guy Boucher, Dan Lacroix and Martin Raymond have provided the Lightning with stability and a strong core coaching staff that looks to build on the accomplishments of their first two seasons at the helm in Tampa Bay.
However, it has been assistant coach Wayne Fleming who has given the Bolts players reasons to fight through the tough times both during the 2011 playoff run and during the struggles of the this past season.
Last April, right as the Lightning had clinched their first playoff berth since 2007, Fleming was diagnosed with a primary brain tumor. The tumor required immediate surgery and Fleming would be forced to miss the opening playoff game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as the remainder of the team’s postseason games. Despite his absence, Fleming still held a presence on the team’s locker room white-board during the playoff run.
“A great day for playoff hockey. Embrace and savor the moment. – WF,” the board read.
This past season, the team continued to play for Fleming.
Although Fleming is still recovering at his home in Calgary, the Lightning still kept him on the coaching staff, his name listed on the team roster card that was handed out every game-night.
Today, Fleming continues to battle his illness at home with the support of wife, Carolyn, and their four children.
With attention now turned to the upcoming season, questions have begun to surface regarding whether the team will continue to honor Fleming as a member of the coaching staff, replace him with another assistant coach should his condition not improve, or move forward with Lacroix and Raymond as the only assistants.
Nobody within the Lightning front office, however, has hinted as to which direction the team will go with concern to that decision.
With rookie development camps beginning next week, time is beginning to become a factor. That said, it will be interesting to see what is done in the upcoming months as the team prepares for the upcoming 2012-13 season.