Hockey is hard enough when expectations are placed on you to excel as a high draft pick. Throw in the fact that your dad was a talented hockey player as well, and those expectations get even higher. That is what Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Cal Foote is dealing with as he prepares to skate on the first defensive pairing with Victor Hedman this season.
Foote Primed for New Role
The 23-year-old is in an excellent position to step up his game, as skating with one of the best defensemen in the league is a great way to raise your play up to the next level. Foote will be expected to do that as he will play many minutes with Hedman this season. The former first-round draft pick in 2017 showed growth in 56 games last season, but he did have some difficulty with consistency. After playing as a third-pair defenseman for the past two years, he is now ready to skate and learn from the former Norris Trophy winner.
Foote realizes what a great opportunity it is to play with Hedman. “Anytime you get to be paired up with, in my mind, the best defenseman in the world, it’s obviously really special,” said Foote. “Playing with him the past couple of years and even watching him on the bench, you learn so much.” Foote is a good complement to his veteran linemate, as Hedman’s game includes jumping up in the offense more than most defensemen. This will require him to be more conscious of what is happening around him.
Full Training Camp Will Help Foote
The Lightning are hoping that a full training camp will help Foote this season. “Footer’s made huge strides from last year,” head coach Jon Cooper said on Saturday. “It was unfortunate because he wasn’t in training camp last year. To me, that sets you back when you are not afforded a training camp, and it took him months during the year to get himself in a position where I thought he should have been at the beginning of last year.” He worked hard in the offseason to prepare for camp by gaining speed and adding muscle to ensure he was ready for the number of minutes he might play as a top-pairing defenseman.
The Lightning believe that Foote’s skill set will be a nice complement to Hedman’s. The Englewood, Colorado native always seems to be in a good position and plays a simple game, having enough top-end speed to join the rush and finish the play. Another way he can help Hedman and the other forwards on the offensive end will be to use his average puck skills and quickness with his passes to help his linemates, which is a necessity in playing with the offensive-minded veteran from Sweden.
Son of a Legend
Make no mistake about it. Being the son of a hockey great is not easy. Just ask the sons of Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull. What has made Cal Foote’s situation better is that his dad, Adam, does not talk to the media about his sons. The two-time Stanley Cup champion prefers to stay in the background and let them make their own way in the hockey world. Cal’s brother Nolan was also drafted by the Lightning in 2019 and is now in the New Jersey Devils organization.
At 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds, Cal gets his big frame from his dad, who made his living as a forceful blueliner who wasn’t afraid to get a little dirty. Unlike his father, Cal’s game has been described as less in-your-face and more intellectual. However, he is not afraid to be physical, as evidenced by his scrum in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Florida Panthers. Cal has frequently said that his father taught him everything he knows about hockey. It would also be rewarding if he could help the Lightning win the Stanley Cup this season, which would match his father’s two Stanley Cup Championships.
With a couple of years of seasoning between the American Hockey League and NHL, Foote is preparing to show that he will be an asset for the Lightning on the top defensive pairing. In a season where the Lightning are facing a lot of changes on their blue line, the team believes that he will continue in his development to be a reliable NHL defenseman and become someone that is in the lineup as an impact player for the foreseeable future.
Jim Bay writes about the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators for THW. A retired Special Education Teacher, Jim enjoys writing about hockey and all sports when he is not slashing his way around local golf courses. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow Jim on Twitter. (https://twitter.com/baysports007)