Nikita Kucherov’s benching overshadows Anthony Cirelli’s heroics


  • Jon Cooper’s decision to bench Nikita Kucherov for most of the third period and overtime was the story last night.
  • It was a move by a coach to showcase accountability on his team.
  • The issue lies in the idea of, “why now?”
  • Why, after 32 games, does Cooper bench the league’s reigning MVP in a game that Tampa Bay dearly needed to win?
  • Many will point toward Kucherov’s egregious turnover that led to Anthony Duclair’s 19th goal of the season, and there would be no argument in that regard.
  • However, Tampa Bay’s struggles go far beyond number 86 getting too cute with the puck.
  • You could cite numerous gaffes by any player this season and say, “Well he wasn’t benched,” and you’d be right in that assessment.
  • However, it seems Kucherov’s turnover to Duclair was the final straw for Cooper.
  • When asked about Kucherov’s benching, Cooper didn’t hesitate in his answer, “As a coach you have to make decisions and what was best for us to win tonight.
  • It was our decision. He’s a huge part of our team, it could be anybody.”
  • When this quote was shared with the public, predictably the pile on was quick. Which, for a turnover as egregious as Kucherov’s, is understandable, especially since he is the team leader in turnovers (32).
  • But the idea that Kucherov has been a turnover machine compared to the rest of the league is hyperbolic.
  • Kucherov’s 32 turnovers ranks 58th in the league.
  • Players near the top of this dubious list?
  • David Pastrnak (52), Connor McDavid (48), Matthew Barzal (53), Erik Karlsson (52), etc.
  • This isn’t to excuse Kucherov, but to bring perspective from outside of the Lightning’s bubble.
  • Additionally, when it comes to creative playmakers (like some of the aforementioned players in the previous paragraph), turnovers are expected and something you have to live with.
  • Martin St. Louis is a legend in the Lightning organization and was consistently near the top of the turnover list.
  • Kucherov will always be this kind of player.
  • If you’ve celebrated his career up to this point, it’s something you’re well aware of. Take the good with the bad.
Sources & Credits: Matthew Esteves, SB Nation
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