Lightning Dynasty Is Secure Regardless of Stanley Cup Results

After the Tampa Bay Lightning came up two games short against the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final, there is some question as to whether or not losing this Final will leave Tampa as just back-to-back champions rather than a dynasty. While there is no debate that three consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances puts them in elite company and unquestioned dynasty status, does losing the Final put a damper on their legacy?

The Lightning Are Already in Elite Company

Just getting to the Final this year puts the Lightning in territory unmatched over nearly four decades. Not only are they the first team to make it to three straight Stanley Cup Finals since the Edmonton Oilers from 1983-1985, but they’re the first to do it since the salary cap was instituted following the lockout of 2005.

Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning 2021 Stanley Cup
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2021 Stanley Cup (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

In addition to the three straight Cup Finals, the Lightning have been the most consistent team in the Eastern Conference for the better part of a decade. They made it to six conference championships in the last eight years, appearing in four Stanley Cup Finals over that span, the first being in 2015 when they lost 4-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks — their second championship in three years.

Since 2010 the Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, and Pittsburgh Penguins have all won multiple championships, with Chicago leading the pack with three (2010, 2013, and 2015), but none of them have had the consistent success of the Lightning. The Blackhawks haven’t made it to the conference championship since that 2015 season, the Penguins haven’t made it since winning the Cup in 2017, and the Kings haven’t been to their conference final since winning the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. No team has made it to more than four conference championships over that span except the Lightning — who have made it to seven.

Can’t Count the Lightning Out

In spite of the Lightning falling 4-2 to the Avalanche, it’s still far too early for the critics to say their run at a dynasty is over. Winning three in four years, if the Lightning were to bounce back next season and win again, would still fall in dynasty territory, wouldn’t it? There hasn’t been a run like that since the Oilers won three out of four from 1987-1990, and they even won five out of seven if you go back to 1984.

Around the professional sports landscape, you look at teams like the New England Patriots that were considered a dynasty in the early 2000s, having won the Super Bowl in 2002, 2004, and 2005, then again in the late 2010s, having won in 2015, 2017, and 2019. In the NBA, the recent dynasty has been considered the Golden State Warriors, having won three out of four from 2015-2018, winning four total, including the most recent one, and appearing in six of the last eight NBA Finals.

Just because a team loses one particular championship series does not mean it’s the end of a potential dynasty run, just that the team has more to try and accomplish in the coming years while the proverbial “championship window” is still open. And for the Lightning, that is something that may end sooner than later.

Lightning Roster Changes on the Horizon

One of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoff heroes for the Lightning was Ondrej Palat, who finished tied for the team lead — along with captain Steven Stamkos — with eleven goals and had the twelfth postseason game-winning goal of his career in Game 5 — by far the most over that span in the NHL.

Palat — along with newcomer Nick Paul, Jan Rutta, and Riley Nash — is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. Palat has the opportunity to really cash in on his outstanding postseason performances over the last three years and increase his $5.3 million per season salary with plenty of teams sure to be interested. Paul, who is also due for a big pay increase over his $1.35 million per season salary, is likewise going to garner a lot of attention from teams looking for a scoring threat to go along with his outstanding defense and penalty-killing ability.

For the second straight year, the Lightning could see major contributors to their Stanley Cup contention plucked off their roster and forcing them to search for less expensive — and likely, less productive — replacements. That will certainly have an effect on whether or not Tampa Bay can remain in contention and continue to build on their dynasty into the near future.

Related: Lightning Fans Should Prepare For Life Without Palat

But credit to general manager Julien BriseBois, he’s found missing pieces and replacements since taking over the team. Whether that was trading for Paul and Brandon Hagel this season or going back two years and looking at their trades for Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman, BriseBois has the knack for finding the right fits for this team to come in and give them what they need. Hagel, for instance, was a 20-goal scorer for the Chicago Blackhawks and became heavily relied upon for his shut-down defense of opponents’ top scoring lines. Anything more is just icing on the cake.

One Series Does Not Define A Dynasty

At the end of the day, the Lightning and Avalanche is the Stanley Cup Final matchup hockey fans have longed for over the past few years. While the Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens didn’t have the type of teams that matched up well against the Lightning, it’s still a testament to how good this team is that they won two Stanley Cups in the span of 282 days, followed up by another Final appearance. No one has ever played more hockey than the Lightning have over that time span — due in large part to the extenuating circumstances of the COVID-19 pause, bubble, and shortened 2021 season — and they have the right formula to finish the job.

After using the moniker the “Tampa Bay Find-A-Ways” through much of the season thanks to injuries, the Lightning weren’t able to find a way to put together a comeback that has only happened once before in Stanley Cup Final history. But make no mistake about it — just because the Lightning didn’t pull off a miraculous comeback, it isn’t the final nail in their dynasty coffin. In fact, it may end up being the beginning of a Stanley Cup Final rivalry we haven’t seen the likes of since the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins met in back-to-back Cups in 2008 and 2009.

Morning Skate newsletter Click To Subscribe