The Tampa Bay Lightning came into existence in 1992. After 23 years and 22 actual NHL seasons along with two Stanley Cup Final appearances and one Stanley Cup victory, the Lightning have had their share of noteworthy players.
Among those who played in Tampa were guys like Mike Commodore, Simon Gagne, Steve Eminger and the NHL Network’s own, Kevin Weekes. There have even been a couple of Hall of Famers who suited up for the Lightning in Denis Savard and Dino Ciccarelli.
Why even the name of Gretzky has donned the Lightning sweater. In full disclosure, it was Brent, not Wayne but our Gretz played 13 games over a couple of seasons in the early 1990s and even scored a goal for the Bolts.
The franchise has had some success, some failure and a lot of mediocrity in the twenty plus years in Tampa. Through it all the fan base has grown with the team. Some fans have been around since the days when the team played at the Florida State Fairgrounds, while others jumped on board during the most recent run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Wherever one might be in their fandom, I thought that the organization has enough history to come up with an all-time team. To qualify, a player had to play at least two full seasons or 164 games. Without further ado, here is my All-Time Tampa Bay Lightning Team:
My top line in franchise history would be centered by Steven Stamkos. It seems that the center position is one in which the franchise has seen its share of great players but Stammer is simply the best player at this position in team history.
On the wings, Stamkos has his old running mate, Marty St. Louis. I can already hear a lot of fans booing the choice of St. Louis because of the way he demanded off the team in the season before last. Set those emotions aside for a minute and look at what St. Louis did while a member of the organization.
He is number two in goals and in years of service and he is number one in assists and points. Speaking of points, it would be pointless to write this piece and exclude St. Louis. He is deserving of a spot on the top line period.
The top left wing spot goes to Dave Andreychuk. The fact that I feel strongly that Andreychuk deserves to be inducted into the Hall of Fame notwithstanding, he captained the franchise’s only Stanley Cup winning team. At the age of 41! I realize that Andreychuk moved from LW to center but I am taking some liberties here by using him on the wing. That said, if I needed a faceoff win in my zone with a game on the line, Andreychuk gets the call.
Dave Andreychuk – LW Steven Stamkos – C Marty St. Louis – RW
Continuing the strength up the middle of the ice, the center for the All-Time team is Vinny Lecavalier. He is the franchise leader in games played and goals and second in assists and points. Vinny also captained the team on two different occasions for parts of eight of the thirteen years of his service to the organization.
On Lecavalier’s wings we have a couple of old school guys. Frederik Modin on the left and Ruslan Fedotenko on the right. Modin had some very good years for Tampa in the six he was here. He is still top ten in games played, goals and points and number 11 in assists. Modin also was an integral part of the Stanley Cup team of 2004.
Fedotenko played in four seasons with the Lightning but during the 2004 Stanley Cup victory run, he etched his name in the hearts of the Lightning fans forever as he scored the Stanley Cup winning goal in game seven against Calgary. In fact, Fedotenko scored twice in that game getting an assist from Lecavalier on the game winner.
Frederik Modin – LW Vinny Lecavalier – C Ruslan Fedotenko – RW
Centering the third line is Brad Richards. The only Conn Smythe Trophy winner in franchise history. Richards is number four all-time in games played, goals and points. He is number three in assists in team history as well. Along with Lecavalier and St. Louis, Richards was the nucleus of the young stars of the Stanley Cup winning team.
On the left side of Richards will be Ondrej Palat. Despite playing only two full seasons and a part of a third, Palat already has more goals than ten forwards in team history who have played more games. In assists, Palat is already number sixteen all-time and the second highest in points of all players with three or less years of service. Knowing that he is locked up for another two seasons and after that he is a restricted free agent that would most probably be with the team for a number of years to come, Palat’s franchise totals will continue to skyrocket and be easily top ten when he hangs up his skates.
Ryan Malone is my choice for the third line right wing. After six seasons, Malone had one of the most ignominious departures in team history. Arrested by Tampa police and charged with a DUI and cocaine possession in April of 2014, Malone pled no contest a few months later to those charges but his Lightning career was over. His contributions to the team during his six seasons cannot be ignored.
Ondrej Palat – LW Brad Richards – C Ryan Malone – RW
This is the line that gave me fits especially among the centers. There were three very good candidates among Tyler Johnson, Chris Gratton and Tim Taylor. I know that Johnson is the future along with his Triplets line mates but Gratton and Taylor both served as captains for the franchise.
I went with Chris Gratton. His numbers were too hard to ignore. He is seventh all-time in games played, eighth in goals scored and total points and ninth in assists for the team. As stated, he also served as team captain during the 1999-2000 season.
Lining up with Gratton are Vinny Prospal on his left and Teddy Purcell on his right. Ironic that both Prospal and Purcell piqued the ire of many Lightning fans for different reasons. Prospal’s contract signed with previous ownership had to be bought out but still cost the Lightning a cap hit of over $1 million dollars for six years after the team let him go. Overlooking the financial aspects, Prospal is ninth all-time in games played for the team. He is also fifth all-time in points, sixth in goals and fourth in assists. Prospal enjoyed a nice run during his six seasons with the organization but missed out on the Stanley Cup victory.
Purcell was an enigma during his tenure with the Bolts. Possessing one of the league’s best wrist shots, the frustration by many fans was that Purcell hesitated to shoot more than he did. Despite that reputation and despite the fact that he is not in the top 20 in games played, Purcell is 15th in goals scored and 12th in assists and total points.
Vinny Prospal – LW Chris Gratton – C Teddy Purcell – RW
The Defensive Pairings
The top two defensive pairing was a no-brainer, Dan Boyle and Victor Hedman. In six seasons, Boyle played almost 400 games for the franchise and was generally considered the number one blue liner on the team during his time in Tampa.
Hedman is the new face along with Stamkos of this franchise. The 24 year-old defenseman showed many NHL fans just how good he is during the recent playoff run. Over the next few years, there should be Norris Trophy consideration along with the continued development of Hedman’s overall game.
The second pairing would be Cory Sarich and Pavel Kubina. Both Sarich and Kubina were on the Stanley Cup winning team and along with Boyle and Darryl Sydor were as good a top four in 2004 as there was in the league. Kubina played 10 years and 662 games with Tampa which trails only Lecavalier and St. Louis in service to the team. Sarich is right behind them with seven years and 490 games. But it isn’t just sheer length of time for these two but the years they played here were highly productive and thus merit inclusion on this team.
The last D-man pairing is Roman Hamrlik and Jassen Cullimore. Hamrlik was the number one draft pick in franchise history. Both of these players were in the early years of the team’s existence but nevertheless played important roles in the team’s history. Cullimore’s last season with the team was the 2004 Stanley Cup championship season.
Dan Boyle Victor Hedman
Cory Sarich Pavel Kubina
Roman Hamrlik Jassen Cullimore
The Lightning have had a couple of great goalies, a few very good goalies and quite a lot of bad goalies. Setting the criteria at having to have played a minimum of 162 games for the organization limited the goalies to just three. Daren Puppa, Nikolai Khabibulin and Ben Bishop.
While Puppa was manning the net during the first playoff in the team’s history and he is still a fan favorite in town, the choice is relatively easy here. Khabibulin led the team to its only Stanley Cup victory. Bishop has been a phenomenal regular season goalie and showed tremendous intestinal fortitude this past playoff season. My knock on Bishop would have to be the inability to avoid serious injuries the last two years.
Nikolai Khabibulin – Starter
Ben Bishop – Backup
Coaches and General Managers
Only two to consider. John Tortorella and Jon Cooper. Both took Lightning teams to the promised land of a Stanley Cup Final. One won and one lost there. Sorry, Coop, Torts gets the nod here.
As far as GMs, also only two to consider, Jay Feaster and Steve Yzerman. Like the coaches, both of these GMs had a team go to the Cup Final, one lost and one won. While it may not seem fair that I give the nod to Yzerman over Feaster here, some of the pieces of the 2004 Championship team were already in place when Feaster took the reins in 2002. To his credit, Feaster acquired Fedotenko, Sydor and Corey Stillman that were needed to secure the Cup.
Yzerman on the other hand put together this past year’s Stanley Cup contender completely with the exception of only two players – Stamkos and Hedman. For that reason, he gets the nod over Feaster.
Lot of players that didn’t make the cut but need to be mentioned are in no particular order: Rob Zamuner, Mikael Andersson, Tim Taylor, Nolan Pratt, Brian Bradley from the early days of the franchise. From the more recent teams, players such as Nate Thompson, Paul Ranger, Adam Hall, Andre Roy, Steve Downie, and Tyler Johnson cannot be forgotten for their contributions to the organization.
Lastly, some players that were my personal favorites for the way they would grind and give everything they had on the ice like: Brad Luckowich, Daren Puppa, Chris Dingman and Filip Kuba.
In the big scheme of things, the Lightning have not been around a long time but long enough to have had some great players, a lot of good players and some cup of coffee players but I think I speak for all Lightning fans when I say thank you to all who have worn the Lightning Bolt sweater for the effort, hard work and determination you all put forth for our team.