Scoring 50 goals in an NHL season is an incredible milestone, one that doesn’t happen often in a team’s history. It’s a feat that even the teams that have been around for awhile don’t witness much. Those who reach that plateau are considered to be elite talents, capable of changing a game in an instant.
For the Tampa Bay Lightning, such talents have been few and far between since entering the league as an expansion team in 1992. In fact, years of misery twice landed them a high draft position. They used that to their advantage, selecting two generational players.
Both went on to become 50-goal scorers. One did it twice, even reaching the incredibly rare 60-goal level that isn’t seen often in the modern NHL.
Vincent Lecavalier: One-Time 50-Goal Scorer
Lecavalier, named captain twice in his 14 seasons as a member of the Lightning, reached the 50-goal mark once. He tallied 52 during the 2006-07 season, narrowly edging out Ottawa Senators forward Dany Heatley for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. Thirty-one of those came at even strength, with the other 21 occurring on special teams. His 108 points that year not only led the Lightning, but were also a career-high. That number far exceeded his previous high of 78 points, posted during the 2002-03 season.
Drafted first overall in the 1998 NHL Draft, many expected greatness from Lecavalier. Brand-new Lightning owner Art Williams even labeled him the Michael Jordan of hockey, a lot of pressure for an 18-year-old kid. Compared to all-time greats like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Steve Yzerman, all of whom had multiple 50-goal seasons in their storied careers, he had little chance of meeting or exceeding the expectations placed upon him at a young age.
While his 52 goals have since been surpassed, the 108 points Lecavalier posted in 2006-07 remain a Lightning record. That may not last long though, as right winger Nikita Kucherov already has 100 points in 62 games played in 2018-19 at the time of writing this.
Lecavalier spent the majority of his Lightning career in the 20 to 30-goal range. He did reach 40 once, though, in the season immediately following his 50-goal campaign. A key figure in both the organization and community, Lecavalier helped deliver Tampa Bay its only Stanley Cup in 2004. For that, he received one of the highest honors an organization can give to players when the Lightning retired his No. 4 jersey on Feb. 10, 2018.
Steven Stamkos Becomes Bolt’s Youngest 50-Goal Scorer
In a season in which the Lightning struggled to score goals, Stamkos provided a glimpse of the player he would become in only his sophomore season. He scored 51 goals, 22 more than the team’s next highest goal scorer, Martin St. Louis. That was enough to earn him a share of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy.
Playing a lot on the power play, Stamkos was the beneficiary of some great passes from a recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee in St. Louis. Nearly half of his goals occurred on the man-advantage, many using his patented one-timer from the left point.
Reaching the mark nearly two months after celebrating his 20th birthday, the 2008 first-overall draft pick became the third-youngest player in NHL history to reach 50 goals in a season. The two that got to the milestone faster were Gretzky and Jimmy Carson. That’s quite the achievement for a player who hadn’t been in the league for long and would only get better given time and experience.
Stamkos Reaches Rare 60-Goal Mark
Fresh off of a surprise run to the 2011 Eastern Conference Final, the Lightning expected to again push for a playoff spot in 2011-12. Instead, injuries and a lack of offensive production combined to make for a disappointing season.
One bright spot was Stamkos. In his fourth season, the goal-scoring dynamo reached another level entirely by becoming a member of the increasingly rare 60-goal club. He joined the Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin as the only two to accomplish that feat in the NHL’s salary cap era, which began during the 2005-06 season.
It took him all 82 games, but the sniper reached the 60-goal milestone by beating Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec early in the third period. In one of the more classy gestures, Jets fans stood and applauded the 22-year-old Markham, Ontario native.
That was the end of Stamkos’ sniping days, as a lockout combined with major injuries wiped out over two seasons of his career. Now 29, the Lightning captain is enjoying a resurgence of sorts, with 33 goals and 73 points in 62 games played. For his career, he’s at 371 goals, two shy of tying Lecavalier’s franchise goal-scoring record.
The Possible Future-50 Goal Club
Of all the current Lightning players, three stand out as possibly being able to reach 50 goals in a season. They are a rejuvenated Stamkos, Kucherov and Brayden Point. An NHL veteran, Stamkos got to 40 goals in 2014-15 and could reach that mark again this season. Kucherov reached 40 in 2016-17 despite missing eight games due to injury. Point, meanwhile, is at 35 goals already, with 20 games left to play this season, so there’s a real possibility he can reach the magic number of 50 in 2018-19
*All statistics courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning.