Time and experience help to offer perspective.
When the Norfolk Admirals were winning 28 consecutive AHL games from Feb. 10 to April 15 last year, they were caught up in the moment. During the process, there seemed to be no time to take stock of what they were doing: setting a North American pro hockey record.
A year later, they understand.
"During this season, we would think about it," said Tampa Bay Lightning winger Richard Panik, who played with Norfolk last season, then moved with the team to Syracuse until being called to the NHL.
"We would try to tell the younger guys about it," Panik said. "They would ask about it. It was pretty awesome."
How awesome? Jon Cooper understands now more than he did then.
"You remember when the Chicago Blackhawks went on their little run?" asked Cooper, who also moved to Syracuse but now coaches Tampa Bay.
Chicago earned points in its first 24 games this season.
"Well, you find yourself wondering if they can get to 28," Cooper said. "You marvel at what the Chicago Blackhawks did. It makes what we accomplished that much bigger. It's immortal."
It transcends hockey.
"The Miami Heat, they got to 27 (wins in a row)," Cooper said. "They didn't get to 28 this year. People talk about how remarkable those feats are. Well, we did that and better."
The streak is on his resume. So is the Calder Cup.
"I wouldn't be sitting here on this bus if it wasn't for that," Cooper said Saturday a few hours before the Lightning would rally from a 5-1 deficit to tie Washington 5-5, then lose in overtime.
"The more success you have, the higher your profile gets, the greater the potential demand for your services."
Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman, met that demand on March 25, but only after Cooper had moved with the minor league affiliate to Syracuse and earned the best record in the AHL over 65 games. Cooper was elevated when Tampa Bay fired coach Guy Boucher.
Cooper looked elsewhere after his success with the Admirals, interviewing with Edmonton and Washington.
"Now I look back and say that it was probably a blessing that I didn't get the jobs because I probably wasn't ready," he said. "But this year, I started seeing things over and over again. It got repetitive. I was running into situations I'd already seen before. That's when I knew I was ready."
The Lightning is 3-4-1-2 with Cooper behind its bench, and Saturday's game at Washington was an indicator that the coach and players are still newlyweds.
The Lightning was outshot 20-6 and outscored 3-0 in the opening period. Then Tampa Bay began playing defense, earning shots and pressing the issue. And for 40 minutes, there was a flashback to a year earlier, a level lower on the NHL food chain. To a team that won 28 in a row.
"When you start funneling in shots, that just increases your chances to score," said Cooper, who adds that his system of fast-paced offense is not only effective, "it's entertaining."
It's different from Boucher's tightly choreographed system that was spurned by the Lightning players in his third season.
Cooper "wants more puck possession," said veteran winger Marty St. Louis, who chafed in Boucher's system. "I'm not sure we have the personnel to play that way. The system allows us to make more reads. The game happens so fast, and you have to be able to read it. He's been doing a good job of showing the good reads and bad reads.... He's a good teacher, and everybody's buying in."
Part of the reason could be that he's a new face.
"I'll never say anything bad about Boucher," said Pierre-Cedric Labrie, who played with Cooper in Norfolk the last two seasons before moving to Tampa Bay from Syracuse. "He gave me a chance to play in the NHL. His system can work well with the right team."
Cooper, on the other hand, has worked to relax the Lightning, pointing out mistakes without recrimination.
"He can tell a joke while he's making a correction," Labrie said. "He's still making his point, and you remember it, but you can laugh."
He's been with the Lightning long enough to know "we need to get a little bigger, we need to get a little stronger, we need to get a little tougher," Cooper said. "We need to surround our guys who have a little bit more skill with a little bit of brash. And we need to get the smaller, skilled guys to be at the same place with the players we want to surround them with. That's when the magic starts to happen, when both of those collide."
Magic means playing with speed and skill that wins and entertains. Cooper has preached it since he coached juniors. Not so long ago, he was watching the NHL on TV.
"I didn't walk away from a law career to be an NHL coach," Cooper said. "I walked away from a law career because I love coaching. I can't sit here and say that in 2003, when I was in a North American Hockey League job in Texarkana, that it was the way to the NHL. No way. I wanted to be a junior coach and maybe head coach at a college."
His mind changed "when I took the fork in the road that was the Norfolk Admirals job," Cooper said. "When I made the decision to go pro, that's when I saw an NHL future."
It's happened so quickly.
"We won the Clark Cup (with Green Bay) two days after my son (Jonathan) was born," he said. "He's still not 3 yet. From junior to the NHL in three years. It sounds fast when you say it, but when you look at three years in the minors, in one we had a 28-game winning streak and won a Calder Cup. I coached in two different cities. I don't know how much more I could have done in the American League."