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Lightning can win Cup with Cooper, core players, GM says

BriseBois won't overreact to Presidents' Trophy winners getting swept in first round by Blue Jackets

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning, led by coach Jon Cooper, have the talent and core players to win the Stanley Cup in the near future, general manager Julien BriseBois said Thursday, two days after they were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Though the Lightning became the first team in NHL history to finish with the best regular-season record and get swept in the first round in a best-of-7 format, BriseBois spoke of his belief in Cooper and players like forward Nikita Kucherov, center Steven Stamkos, defenseman Victor Hedman and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

 

[RELATED: Lightning have structure to win Cup despite sweep, Stamkos says]

 

"I have great faith that eventually we're going to get the job done and we're going to bring the Cup back to Tampa with this group of players, with these coaches," BriseBois said during Lightning exit interviews. "I'm not going to overreact and blow up all the good things we have here because we had a very bad four-game slump at the most inopportune time of the year.

"Now is not the time to make excuses. It's the time to show some humility. It's the time for us to lick our wounds, roll up our sleeves, get to work and focus on doing what we need to do so next year we're more successful."

BriseBois said his faith in Cooper, who led the Lightning to 62 wins, which tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most in an NHL regular season, "has not wavered at all."

Video: Blue Jackets sweep Lightning for first series win

Cooper, who signed a multiyear contract extension on March 26, became coach of the Lightning on March 25, 2013; he is the longest-tenured coach with his team in the NHL. The Tampa Bay leader in regular-season coaching wins, he is 305-159-44 during the regular season and 36-32 in the playoffs.

"If I hadn't re-signed [Cooper] when I did, I'd be looking to re-sign him now," BriseBois said. "There's no point looking for the next [Cooper] when I have the original and I like the original and I have faith in the original."

BriseBois said there will be some roster changes simply because of the Lightning's salary-cap situation. Defensemen Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi, Braydon Coburn and Jan Rutta each can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

"Today, it's too soon," BriseBois said. "The emotions are still too raw. I'm in no position to give you any indication as to what those changes will be."

He did say it's likely center Brayden Point, a pending restricted free agent, will sign a long-term contract with Tampa Bay.

"The story of these players, the story of this team, the story of this nucleus of players and of this coaching staff, it's not over, it's still being written," BriseBois said. "The best and most memorable chapters lie ahead.

"I don't know when, but I know that when we do it will be all the more sweet because of the disappointments that we will have experienced along our journey to making that happen, including the disappointment that we're feeling right now because of the outcome of this playoff series."

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