When the Tampa Bay Lightning got swept out of the 2019 Playoffs, it was clear that the offensive juggernaut’s forward corps was lacking some of that size and grit needed to make a sustained playoff run. The Lightning had all the talent in the world but simply lacked that toughness factor that makes a good regular-season team a contender come the postseason.
In response to this need, general manager Julien BriseBois went out and signedone of the heroes of the St. Louis Blues’ playoff run – Pat Maroon.
At the time of his signing, the move made perfect sense for the Lightning. Bringing in a veteran player like Maroon made sense, especially when you consider that BriseBois signed him to a reasonable one-year, $900,000 contract.
Now, just a handful of games into the young 2019-20 season, the Lightning can already say with confidence that the Maroon experiment has been a success.
What Maroon Contributes to the Lightning
While he may not be an offensively minded player, Maroon brings everything to the table that the Lightning need: size, strength, leadership and, most importantly, a dominant net-front presence. When the former Blues grinder is on the ice, his presence is known, as he towers above a relatively small Tampa Bay lineup.
Nowhere is this presence seen more clearly than on the power play. Last season, the Lightning led the league on the man advantage using raw skill and passing prowess. While this allowed them to dominate the regular season, in the playoffs, this structure was shutdown by Columbus Blue Jackets.
In response, the Lightning have tried parking Maroon in front of the net while on the power play, causing a natural screen that can throw off even the best goaltenders. So, for the first time since Brian Boyle departed the franchise, Tampa Bay has a real net-front threat that can’t just be pushed around.
Will this convert to Maroon scoring a lot of points on the man advantage? Likely not. But it will provide the Lightning with a new look that may give their power play the bite needed to succeed in the playoffs.
Other Intangibles Maroon Brings to Lightning
As important as Maroon’s size can be for the Lightning this season, his leadership will be a defining trait of his tenure. With the departure of locker room leaders like Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi and Anton Stralman in the 2019 offseason, there was a serious veteran void in Tampa Bay.
Maroon more than fills this leadership void, as he was one of the emotional leaders for the Blues throughout their Stanley Cup run. He has seen everything in his career, and he knows how to react to the situation while helping to guide his through tough times.
Maroon Fits in Tampa Bay
Even if the Lightning have had a relatively shaky start to their 2019-20 season, one player that has worked so far is Maroon. Even if he plays limited minutes on the fourth-line, those minutes are noticeable. He has been all over the ice, causing havoc while helping his teammates score points.
Will Maroon be the final piece that the Lightning need to get over their playoff hump? Possibly. But while we won’t know that outcome until April, for now, he looks to be a positive force in Tampa Bay.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.