BRANDON – During various parts of last season, Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund slipped out of his skate boot and right into a walking boot.
In many ways, Ohlund’s off-ice foot attire served as the perfect metaphor for his first season in a Lightning uniform as the 33-year-old appeared to limp his way through a long campaign.
For the first time in his 12-year career – the first 11 with Vancouver – Ohlund failed to score a single goal (not counting his power-play goal for Sweden in the Olympics). In 67 games he registered a career-low 13 points.
While some of it could be chalked up to having more of a shut-down and mentoring role in Tampa Bay than he had with Vancouver, Ohlund’s first season in a Lightning uniform was underwhelming. His lack of offensive production could be the result of his limited number of power-play opportunities, having averaged just over a minute of power-play time a game despite leading the team with an average of nearly 23 minutes of ice time a night.
But his struggles might also be the result of nagging injuries, the most noticeable being a high-ankle sprain suffered Nov. 14 that cost him seven games as he never really felt 100 percent the rest of the season. His sometimes punishing style of play, the result of some vicious open-ice hits on unsuspecting opponents, may have taken its toll on his body.
Ohlund said that while he looked like a wounded warrior for good portions of last year, he played without limitations.
“I had a few issues, but it wasn’t something big and when I stepped on the ice it never bothered me; it probably took more toll on the trainers than me,” Ohlund said.
The summer didn’t bring an end to the ailments, however, as Ohlund had a minor procedure done to repair some damage to the articular cartilage on his right knee that had him walking around with a brace for a short time.
He downplayed the procedure just as he refuses to use those issues as any kind of an excuse for how his season unfolded.
“I wasn’t ? I just had a bad year last year and obviously didn’t play the way I wanted to, but I have no excuses,” he said. “I’ve been around long enough to know that when you have a bad year, you walk around grumpy for a couple of weeks after the season and then you move on.
“I feel great now, I’m excited to be back here and I want to be a big part of getting this team back on the right path again.”
Now with all the changes the team made during the summer, Ohlund feels re-energized as training camp gets set to open Sept. 17.
“I want to have a good year and, as I’m sure most guys here did, worked as hard as we could this summer to prepare,” Ohlund said. “And it’s been a long summer, we’ve been off since April and that’s a long time. So I’m ready to go, everybody else seems ready to go, and it’s going to be an exciting training camp.”