Stamkos, Kucherov and Point benched for an entire period.

Stamkos, Kucherov and Point benched for an entire period.

Jon Cooper sending a message.

Jonathan Larivee

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been one of the most consistently competitive teams in the National Hockey League over the past several seasons and they've managed to maintain that level of success by holding their players to a high and rigid standard.

On Saturday, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper sent shockwaves through his locker room when he made it clear that no player on the Lightning was above those standards, including the organization's highest paid superstars.

During the third period of Sunday's game between the Lightning and the Sabres, a game the Lightning would lose by a score of 5-3, Cooper would keep not one, not two, but three of his top stars glued to the bench as he sent a message that their performance simply hadn't been good enough. Those players were none other than Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point, who didn't hit the ice for a single minute in the third.

Cooper explained his reasoning for the move following the conclusion of the game:

Well, as coaches, you've got to put your team in the best position to win and 99.9% of the time, those guys give us the best chance to win when they're on the ice. It just felt, in third period, they weren't giving us the best chance to win. This team has been unbelievable for a decade. You take the three Finals. Well, there's a reason a lot of that's happened. We have a set of standards here that everybody adheres to, and it's not pick and choose. It's everybody. It's how it was for today. Like I said, those guys are an extremely important part of our team, but for 20 minutes tonight, I thought the other guys could get it done and you know what? They almost did.

We've got a lot of pride in this this room and in our organization. It's not a situation where you're upset with guys or you feel differently about guys. You've got to come here and go to work. It's the best league in the world with the best players in the world. If you're not on it and you're not giving it to the standard that this franchise has set the bar for, for me, the league in the last how many years? You can't go out there. Like I said, those guys are the reason we have a standard that high. It's because of those guys. Just for a period tonight, that was it.

The message has been sent, now it will be up to Stamkos, Kucherov, and Point to show that the message was received.