Tampa Bay Lightning
|Tampa Bay Lightning|
|2012–13 Tampa Bay Lightning season|
|History||Tampa Bay Lightning
|Home arena||Tampa Bay Times Forum|
|Owner(s)||Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment
(Jeffrey Vinik, chairman)
|General manager||Steve Yzerman|
|Head coach||Jon Cooper|
|Minor league affiliates||Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
Florida Everblades (ECHL)
|Stanley Cups||1 (2003-04)|
|Conference championships||1 (2003-04)|
|Division championships||2 (2002-03, 2003-04)|
The Tampa Bay Lightning are a professional ice hockey team based in Tampa, Florida. They are members of the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Hockey League (NHL). They have one Stanley Cup championship in their history, in 2003–04. They are often referred to as the Bolts, and the nickname is used on their current third jersey. They play their home games in the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa.
The name "Tampa Bay" is often used to describe a geographic metropolitan area which encompasses the cities around the body of water known as Tampa Bay, including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, and Bradenton. Unlike in the case of Green Bay, Wisconsin, there is no municipality known as "Tampa Bay". The "Tampa Bay" in the names of local professional sports franchises (Lightning, Rowdies, Rays, Bucs, etc.) denotes that they represent the entire region, not just Tampa or St. Petersburg.
In the late 1980s, the NHL announced that it would expand. Two rival groups from the Tampa/St. Petersburg area decided to bid for a franchise: a St. Petersburg-based group fronted by future Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes owners Peter Karmanos and Jim Rutherford, and a Tampa-based group fronted by two Hall of Famers—Phil Esposito and his brother Tony.
On paper, it looked like the Karmanos/Rutherford group was the frontrunner. Not only was the Karmanos/Rutherford group better financed, but one of Esposito's key backers, the Pritzker family, had backed out a few months before the bid. Esposito eventually recruited a consortium of Japanese businesses headed by Kokusai Green, a golf course and resort operator. The prospect of Japanese backing tipped the scales in the Esposito group's favor, and they were awarded an expansion franchise for the 1992–93 season, as was a group in Ottawa (which became the Senators). One of the team's limited partners was New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who lived in Tampa during the year.
According to former NHL president Gil Stein, another factor was that the Karmanos/Rutherford group wanted to pay only $29 million before starting play, while the Esposito group was one of the few willing to pay the entire $50 million expansion fee up front.
After being awarded the franchise, the team's management brought in star power before they had any players. Phil Esposito installed himself as president and general manager, while Tony became chief scout. Terry Crisp, who played for the Philadelphia Flyers when they won two Stanley Cups in the mid-1970s, and coached the Calgary Flames to a Cup in 1989, was tapped as the first head coach. The team was named the Lightning, after Tampa's status as the "Lightning Capital of North America".
Phil Esposito initially attempted to recreate the mystique from the powerhouse Bruins of the 70s; he hired former linemate Wayne Cashman as an assistant coach, former Bruin trainer John "Frosty" Forristal as the team's trainer, and the inaugural team photo has him flanked by Cashman and player Ken Hodge, Jr., son of his other Bruins' linemate. The team turned heads in the preseason when Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game, making her first of two NHL appearances in an exhibition game against the St. Louis Blues.
The Lightning first took the ice on October 7, 1992, playing in Tampa's tiny 11,000-seat Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds. They shocked the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 7-3 with four goals by little-known Chris Kontos, a scoring mark unmatched by any Lightning player. The Lightning shot to the top of the Campbell Conference's Norris Division within a month, behind Kontos' initial torrid scoring pace and a breakout season by forward Brian Bradley. However, they buckled under the strain of some of the longest road trips in the league—their nearest division rival, the Blues, were over 1,000 miles away—and finished in last place. Their 53 points in 1992-93, however, was one of the best showings ever by an NHL expansion team. Bradley's 42 goals gave Tampa Bay fans optimism for the next season; it would be a team record until the 2006–07 season when Vincent Lecavalier passed it with a career high 52 goals.
The following season saw the Lightning shift to the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division, as well as move into the Florida Suncoast Dome (a building originally designed for baseball) in St. Petersburg, which was reconfigured for hockey and renamed "the Thunderdome". The team picked up goaltender Daren Puppa, left-wing goal scorer Petr Klima and aging sniper Denis Savard. While Puppa's play resulted in a significant improvement in goals allowed (from 332 to 251), Savard was long past his prime and Klima's scoring was offset by his defensive lapses. The Lightning finished last in the Atlantic Division. Another disappointing season followed in the lockout-shortened 1995 season. Still, the Lightning appeared to be far ahead of their expansion brethren, the Ottawa Senators. In marked contrast to the Lightning, the Senators showed almost no sign of respectability in their first four seasons.
From great success to utter failure
In their fourth season, 1995–96, with Bradley still leading the team in scoring, second-year forward Alexander Selivanov scoring a total of 31 goals, and Roman Hamrlik (the team's first-ever draft choice except those drafted in the expansion draft two days earlier (Wendel Young being the first ever Lightning) in 1992) having an All-Star year on defense, the Lightning finally qualified for the playoffs, nosing out the defending Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference by a single game. Due to his stellar play in net, Puppa was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy (losing out to Jim Carey of Washington). Although they lost their first-round series in six games to the Philadelphia Flyers, it still remains a magical season for Lightning fans. The Thunderdome crowd of 28,183 for the April 23 playoff game against the Flyers was the largest crowd for any NHL game, a record that stood until the 2003 Heritage Classic in Edmonton.
The Lightning picked up sniper Dino Ciccarelli from the Detroit Red Wings during the 1996 off-season, and he did not disappoint, scoring 35 goals in the 1996–97 season, with Chris Gratton notching another 30. The team moved into a glittering new arena, the Ice Palace (now the Tampa Bay Times Forum) and appeared destined for another playoff spot. However, the Lightning suffered a devastating rash of injuries. Puppa developed back trouble that kept him out of all but four games during the season; he would only play a total of 50 games from 1996 until his retirement in 2000. Bradley also lost time to a series of injuries that would limit him to a total of 49 games from 1996 until his retirement in December 1999. Center John Cullen developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and missed the last 12 games of the 1996–97 season; he would eventually be forced to retire in 1999. Decimated by these ailments, the Lightning narrowly missed the playoffs. It would be seven years before the Lightning would even come close to the playoffs again.
Most of the Lightning's early stars were gone by 1998 due to free agency and trades by Phil Esposito which backfired. Crisp was fired eleven games into the 1997–98 season and replaced by Jacques Demers. Though Demers had presided over the resurgence of the Detroit Red Wings in the 1980s and helmed a Stanley Cup run in Montreal in 1993, he was unable to change the team's fortunes, and the Lightning ended up losing 55 games.
By all accounts, the Lightning's plunge to the bottom of the NHL was due to the way Kokusai Green ran the team. Rumors abounded as early as the team's second season that the Lightning were on the brink of bankruptcy and that the team was part of a money laundering scheme for the yakuza (Japanese crime families). Its scouting operation consisted of Tony Esposito and several satellite dishes. The Internal Revenue Service investigated the team in 1994 and 1995, and nearly slapped a lien on the team for $750,000 in back taxes. The situation led longtime NHL broadcaster and writer Stan Fischler to call the Lightning a "skating vaudeville show".
Even in their first playoff season, the team was awash in red ink and Kokusai Green was looking to sell at any price. However, the sale was hampered by the team's murky ownership structure; even some team officials (including Crisp) didn't know who really owned the team. Another problem was that Kokusai Green initially demanded $230 million for the team, including the lease with the Ice Palace.
It later emerged that Kokusai Green's owner, Takashi Okubo, had never met with Esposito or with NHL officials in person prior to being awarded the Lightning. During his seven years as owner, Okubo never watched his team play, and never even visited Tampa. Esposito never met him personally in his hunt for investors, for instance. Nearly all of Kokusai Green's investment in the team and the Ice Palace came in the form of loans, leaving the team constantly short of cash. At least one prospective buyer pulled out after expressing doubts that Okubo even existed. In fact, the first time anyone connected with the Lightning or the NHL even saw Okubo was in the spring of 1998. Many of Esposito's trades came simply to keep the team above water. The team's financial situation was a considerable concern to NHL officials; rumors surfaced that the league was seriously considering taking control of the team if Okubo failed to find a buyer by the summer of 1998.
Forbes wrote an article in late 1997 calling the Lightning a financial nightmare, with a debt equal to a staggering 236% of its value—the highest of any major North American sports franchise. Even though the Ice Palace was built for hockey and the Lightning were the only major tenant, Forbes called the team's deal with the arena a lemon since it would not result in much revenue for 30 years. It was also behind on paying state sales taxes and federal payroll taxes.
Finally, in 1998, Kokusai Green found a buyer. Although Detroit Pistons owner William Davidson was thought to be the frontrunner, the buyer turned out to be insurance tycoon and motivational speaker Art Williams, who previously owned the Birmingham Barracudas of the Canadian Football League. Williams walked into a difficult financial situation; the team was $102 million in debt at the time the sale closed. Like the Japanese, Williams knew very little about hockey. However, he was very visible and outspoken, and immediately pumped an additional $6 million into the team's payroll to turn it around. He also cleared most of the massive debt left over from the Kokusai Green era. After taking control, Williams publicly assured the Espositos that their jobs were safe, only to fire them two games into the 1998–99 season. He then gave Demers complete control of hockey operations as both coach and general manager. Despite the clouds still hovering over the franchise, the Lightning drafted Vincent Lecavalier in 1998, a player who would be a cornerstone of the team for years to come.
Williams was widely seen as being in over his head and was an easy target for his NHL colleagues, who called him "Jed Clampett" behind his back because of his thick Southern accent and fundamentalist Christian views (unlike most of his fellow owners, Williams did not smoke, drink or curse). Early in the 1998–99 season, the Lightning lost 10 games in a row, all but ending any chance of making the playoffs. They ended up losing 54 games that year—more than the expansion Nashville Predators. Although some blame Williams for the slide, it can be argued that the damage from the Kokusai Green era was too much for Williams to overcome.
Return to respectability
By the spring of 1999, Williams had seen enough. He had not attended a game in some time because "this team broke my heart". He lost $20 million in the 1998–99 season alone—as much money in one year as he'd estimated he could have reasonably lost in five years. 
Williams sold the team for $115 million—$2 million less than he had paid for the team a year earlier—to Davidson, who had almost bought the team a year earlier. Along with the sale, the Lightning picked up a new top minor league affiliate; Davidson also owned the Detroit Vipers of the now-defunct International Hockey League.
Davidson remained in Detroit, but appointed Tom Wilson as team president to handle day-to-day management of the team. Wilson immediately fired Demers, who despite his best efforts (and fatherly attitude toward Lecavalier) was unable to overcome the damage from the Kokusai Green ownership. Wilson persuaded Ottawa Senators general manager Rick Dudley to take over as the Lightning's new general manager; Dudley in turn brought Vipers coach Steve Ludzik in as the team's new head coach. Wilson, Dudley, and Ludzik had helped make the Vipers one of the premier minor league hockey franchises, having won a Turner Cup in only their third season in Detroit (the team had originally been based in Salt Lake City).
However, as had been the case with Demers, the damage from the last few seasons under Kokusai Green was too much for Ludzik to overcome. Even with a wholesale transfer of talent from Detroit to Tampa (a move that eventually doomed the Vipers, which folded along with the IHL in 2001), the Lightning lost 54 games in 1999–2000 and 52 in 2000–01, becoming the first team in NHL history to post four straight 50-loss seasons. The lone bright spots in those years were the blossoming of Lecavalier and Brad Richards into NHL stars. Ludzik was replaced in early 2001 by career NHL assistant John Tortorella. The March 5th trade deadline offered another glimmer of hope when the team acquired hold-out goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin from Phoenix for 3 players and a draft pick.
The 2001–02 season, Tortorella's first full year behind the bench, saw some improvement. Martin St. Louis was having a breakout season when he broke his leg in game number 47 and was lost for the remainder of the season. Khabibulin recorded a shut out at the NHL All Star Game but was not named MVP, by all accounts, due to the game's voting protocol. By mid February as injuries began to mount, it became clear that the Lightning would miss the playoffs and Dudley was fired. The GM had made a preseason guarantee that the team would make the playoffs. His assistant Jay Feaster was named the team's fourth general manager. While ultimately finishing far out of playoff contention, the Lightning showed some signs of life, earning more than 60 points for the first time since 1997. Tortorella stripped Lecavalier of the captaincy due to contract negotiations that had made the young center miss the start of the season.
Two dream seasons — and the Stanley Cup
With a young core of players led by Lecavalier, Richards, Martin St. Louis, and Fredrik Modin, the Lightning were thought to be very close to respectability. However, they arrived somewhat earlier than expected in 2002–03. The young team was led by the goaltending of Nikolai Khabibulin and the scoring efforts of Lecavalier, St. Louis, Modin, Richards, and Ruslan Fedotenko, and also boasted a new captain, former prolific scorer Dave Andreychuk. Throughout the season, the Lightning battled the Washington Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division. They finished with 93 points, breaking the 90-point barrier for the first time in team history. They won the division by just one point, giving them home-ice advantage in their first round match-up with the Caps. At season's end, Coach Tortorella was recognized for his efforts by being named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, losing out to Jacques Lemaire of Minnesota.
In the playoffs, the Lightning quickly fell two games behind in the series but followed the two losses with four consecutive wins which advanced them to the Conference Semifinals for the first time in team history. In the semifinals the Lightning won only one game, losing the series to the New Jersey Devils. The Devils went on to win the Stanley Cup, but the Lightning's return to the post-season pleased the long-suffering hockey fans of the Tampa Bay area.
The Lightning roared through the 2003–04 regular season, finishing with 106 points, second-best in the league after the Western Conference's Detroit Red Wings—the first 100-point season in franchise history. The Lightning went through the season with only 20 man-games lost to injury. In the first round of the playoffs, the Lightning ousted the Alexei Yashin-led New York Islanders in five games, with solid play from goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who posted 3 shutouts in games 1, 3, and 4.
In the second round, the Lightning faced the Montreal Canadiens, captained by Saku Koivu; Lecavalier, Richards, and Khabibulin led the team to a four-game sweep of Montreal. They next faced Keith Primeau and his Philadelphia Flyers in the Conference Finals. After a tightly-fought seven-game series in which neither team was able to win consecutive games, Fredrik Modin notched the winning goal of the seventh and deciding game, earning the Eastern Conference championship for the Lightning and their first-ever berth in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Their opponent in the final round was the Calgary Flames, captained by Jarome Iginla. The final round also went the full seven games, with the deciding game played in the St. Pete Times Forum on June 7, 2004. This time, Ruslan Fedotenko was the Game 7 hero, scoring both Lightning goals in a 2-1 victory. Brad Richards, who had 26 points, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup playoffs; the Lightning had won all 31 contests in which he had scored a goal since the opening of the season. Tortorella won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's Coach of the Year. Only three years after losing 50 games, the Lightning became the southernmost team ever to win the Stanley Cup, in only their 12th year of existence. Martin St. Louis led the team and the NHL with 94 points (his 38 goals were fourth-most after the 41 of tied trio Iginla, Rick Nash, and Ilya Kovalchuk), and won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league's most valuable player. St. Louis also won the Lester B. Pearson Award for league's most outstanding player as voted by the NHL Players' Association, and tied the Vancouver Canucks' Marek Malik for the NHL Plus/Minus Award. A season of superlatives was capped with one final accolade, as The Sporting News named GM Jay Feaster as the league's executive of the year for 2003-04.
The Lightning had to wait a year to defend their title due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout, but in 2005–06 they barely made the playoffs with 93 points in a conference where six teams notched 100 or more points. They lost to the Ottawa Senators in five games in the first round.
2006–07 season: Another short postseason
During the offseason, the Lightning traded Fredrik Modin and Fredrik Norrena, to the Columbus Blue Jackets for goaltender Marc Denis, to replace John Grahame, who had served as the Lightning's goaltender throughout most of the 2005–06 season, as he left the team, and signed with the Carolina Hurricanes. Free agent Johan Holmqvist would eventually get the majority of playing time, and most of the club's wins. The first half of the 2006-07 NHL Season was rocky for the Lightning, maintaining an 18-19-2 record throughout the first few months. January and February were far better months for the team, going 9-4-0 in January, and 9-2-2 in February, getting them back into the thick of things in the playoff race. 14 games in March were split even, and on March 16, 2007, Vincent Lecavalier broke the franchise record for most points in a season, with 95 (finishing with 108). The record was previously held by Martin St. Louis, who had set the record in the 2003–04 Stanley Cup Championship year. Lecavalier also broke the franchise's goal scoring record, finishing with a league-leading 52 goals.
The Lightning were busy during the final weeks before the NHL Trade Deadline, acquiring wingers Kyle Wanvig, Stephen Baby, and defensemen Shane O'Brien. Former first round pick Nikita Alexeev was traded on the day of the deadline to the Chicago Blackhawks. Other new additions for the team during the season were Filip Kuba, Luke Richardson, and Doug Janik. Veteran Andre Roy, who had won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004, was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Throughout March, the Lightning had been switching places with the Atlanta Thrashers for first place in the Southeast Division. With a chance to overtake the Thrashers one final time and once again become division champions for the third time in team history, on April 6, 2007, in the final week of the regular season, the Lighting suffered a loss to the Florida Panthers, the night before the season finale in Atlanta. That same night, the Thrashers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, and clinched the division. For the Lightning, this meant having to settle for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, with a final record of 44-33-5 (93 points).
The Lightning were eliminated from playoff competition on April 22, after a 3-2 home loss to the New Jersey Devils in game six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Following their playoff exit, on August 7, 2007, Absolute Hockey Enterprises, a group led by Doug MacLean, announced it had signed a purchase agreement for the team and the leasehold on the St. Pete Times Forum. MacLean is the former president and general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets and former head coach for both the Blue Jackets and the Florida Panthers. The group announced that it planned to keep the team in Tampa, but the deal fell apart during the 2007-08 season.
2007–08 season: Dead last
The Lightning struggled to maintain success during the 2007–2008 campaign. Although the "Big 3", (Lecavalier, St. Louis, and Richards) along with Vaclav Prospal, had performed up to expectations, they had little consistent play from supporting players.
At the start of the All-Star Break on January 25, the Lightning had a 20–25–5 record, and with 45 points, were in last place in both the Southeast Division, and the Eastern Conference. Only the Los Angeles Kings had a lower point total at this time of the season, with 40 points.
The Lightning were active during the trade deadline, similar to the previous season. The more notable trades included Vaclav Prospal being dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers for AHL All-Star defenseman Alexandre Picard and a conditional draft pick. Former Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Brad Richards and goaltender Johan Holmqvist were sent to the Dallas Stars, for goaltender Mike Smith, and forwards Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern, as well as a fourth round pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. One player with considerable ice time, Jan Hlavac, was traded to the Nashville Predators for a seventh round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Defenseman Dan Boyle, was re-signed to a 6-year contract extension, reportedly worth $40 million.
However, after the trade deadline, the Lightning fared no better than they had throughout the entire season. With the day of the deadline being February 26, the Lightning won only five games after that date. Finishing with a 31–42–9 record, with 71 points, they had the best chance at getting the top overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft through the draft lottery, and was awarded the top overall pick by winning the draft lottery on April 7. They would use their first overall pick to select Steven Stamkos, who had been playing in the Ontario Hockey League prior to the draft.
The Lightning were the worst team on the road in the NHL, winning only 11 games. Another showing of the team's poor play, was the difference from the previous season's success in the overtime/shootout periods. In the 2006–07 season, the Lightning had one of the best extra period records, winning 15 games in either overtime or the shootout. In the 2007–08 season, they won only 3 games, losing 9.
Vincent Lecavalier suffered a dislocated shoulder as the result of an open-ice hit from Matt Cooke of the Washington Capitals, in the game before the season finale in Atlanta. Lecavalier, who planned on having arthroscopic wrist surgery after the season's ending, would undergo surgery to repair his right shoulder as well. Cooke was fined $2,500 by the NHL for the hit, because Lecavalier did not have possession of the puck at the time. Perhaps the lone bright spot in the season was Lecavalier's winning both the King Clancy Memorial Trophy and the NHL Foundation Player Award for work through his foundation, including a $3 million pledge to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida for what would become the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at All Children's Hospital.
John Tortorella was fired by the Lightning following their worst season since Tortorella was hired. At the time working as an NHL analyst for ESPN, Barry Melrose stated on June 4 during an episode of Pardon the Interruption that he missed coaching and would entertain any NHL coaching offers. He stated, "I miss not having a dog in the fight". On June 23, ESPN reported that Melrose had been chosen to be the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, starting in the 2008-2009 NHL season. The next day, the Lightning officially introduced him as their new head coach.
As a harbinger of new ownership's sketchy hockey-IQ, on July 4, 2008, and despite coming off a recent contract extension, Boyle was traded along with Brad Lukowich to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, a first round draft pick in 2009 and a fourth round draft pick in 2010. Boyle was pressured to waive his no-trade clause by Tampa Bay's ownership, who said they would otherwise place him on waivers where he would likely be claimed by the Atlanta Thrashers. In the fallout from the trade, Boyle would call the owners liars  for misrepresenting the aforementioned events to the public, while former coach Tortorella later labeled them as "cowboys" and said that he had zero respect for them. Frustrated at interference in the team's hockey operations by Barrie and Koules, seven days later GM Jay Feaster saw the handwriting on the wall and resigned, despite having 3 years remaining on his contract.
2008–09 season: From bad to worse
The Lightning opened the season in the Czech Republic against the New York Rangers as a part of the NHL's regular season "Premiere" that selects several teams to open the NHL regular season in Europe.
Barry Melrose would record his first win as a head coach in over 13 years on October 21, 2008 with a 3–2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers. However, the Lightning did not get off to a great start as hoped, and Melrose was fired by the Lightning with a 5–7–4 record. Rick Tocchet, who had been hired as assistant coach during the previous offseason, was promoted to interim head coach.
On March 4 NHL veterans Mark Recchi and Olaf Kolzig were traded by the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs respectively. The Lightning acquired top round picks Matt Lashoff and Martins Karsums from the Bruins.
After the firing of Melrose, the Lightning went 19–33–14, and would finish the season 24–40–18 with 66 points, their lowest point total since the 2000–01 season. With the 2nd overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the Lightning selected Victor Hedman.
2009–10 season: Season of new beginnings
During the offseason, the Lightning removed the interim status of Rick Tocchet, and decided to make him the full-time coach with a multi-year contract. The Lightning had an up and down beginning to the 2009–10 campaign, however Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier continued to show strong leadership. Despite an overmatched roster on paper, and a team that struggled in the first 2 periods of many games, the Lightning remained competitive in the playoff race until March, when they went 5–10–1 for the month and fell 8 points out of a playoff spot. Unable to make a final push for the playoffs, they were officially eliminated from contention within the first week of April. The Lightning finished the season 34–36–12, 4th in the Southeast Division, and 12th in the Eastern Conference.
Steven Stamkos scored 51 goals in just his second NHL season, earning himself a share of the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy by finishing tied for the league lead in goals with Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby.
During the season, the team was sold to Boston investment banker Jeffrey Vinik. Following the late-season collapse, Vinik cleaned house, firing both head coach Rick Tocchet and general manager Brian Lawton on April 12, 2010, one day after the season ended.
In May 2010, Vinik hired Steve Yzerman away from the Detroit Red Wings front office to be the new general manager, signing him to a five-year contract. Yzerman then hired Guy Boucher away from the Montreal Canadiens organization to succeed Tocchet as the head coach two weeks later.
Yzerman's first offseason with Tampa Bay began with a splash. With the 6th pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the Lightning selected forward Brett Connolly despite a history of injuries while playing for the Prince George Cougars. When asked about Connolly's injuries being a factor in the decision to draft him, Yzerman boldly declared, "I think it was a factor that he was available with the 6th pick. Because if he had been healthy all year, based on everything I know, he would not have been available with the 6th pick." On July 1, 2010, veteran blueliner Andrej Meszaros was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for their 2nd round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Later that day, the Lightning signed their star winger Martin St. Louis to a lucrative 4-year contract extension worth $22.5 million beginning on July 1, 2011. On July 19, in another move with the Flyers, the Lightning traded defenseman Matt Walker and Tampa Bay's 4th round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for high scoring winger Simon Gagne. Other offseason acquisitions included the signing of forwards Sean Bergenheim, Dominic Moore and Marc-Antoine Pouliot along with defensemen Brett Clark, Randy Jones and Pavel Kubina, goaltender Dan Ellis and the re-signing of restricted free agent forward Steve Downie to a 2-year, $3.7 million deal.
2010–11 season: Redemption
With starting goaltender Mike Smith injured, the Lightning called up Cédrick Desjardins who played with a .95 save percentage and a 1.00 GAA in two games. Since Dan Ellis was not a strong starting goaltender, Steve Yzerman acquired veteran Dwayne Roloson from the New York Islanders.
The Lightning compiled a 46–25–11 record with 103 points, matching a franchise record for wins in a season. After holding the first place in the Southeast Division for several months, they fell to second after a poor performance in March. Their record was good enough for second in the Southeast Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference, and they returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2006–07 season. Scoring 31 goals and assisting on 68, Martin St. Louis finished second in the league in points.
In the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, Tampa Bay drew the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference Quarterfinals. After losing Game 4 at home in the second overtime period, they fell behind in the series one game to three. However, the Lightning went on to win the next three games, including a 1–0 Game 7 win on the road, taking their first playoff series since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004. In the Conference Semifinals, the Lightning swept the top-seeded Washington Capitals.
Tampa Bay went up against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals. In Game 4 of the series, the Lightning trailed 3–0 at the end of the first period. When Dwayne Roloson was pulled for Mike Smith, the Bruins failed to score again, and the Lightning tied the game in the second period by scoring three goals in 3:58, going on to win the game 5–3 and tying the series at two games apiece. The series went the full seven games, but the Lightning were eliminated and denied a Stanley Cup Final by a single goal, as the game was lost (0–1).
As a team, the Lightning finished the season with a 38–36–8 record. With only 84 points, they fell short of reaching the playoffs, ending the season third in the Southeast Division and tenth in the Eastern Conference.
Individually, Steven Stamkos scored a franchise record 60 goals. He won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy for the second time in his career, though it was the first time in which he did not share the award. Stamkos was second in the league in points with 97, and was a finalist for both the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award.
Nearing the end of a dismal 18–26–4 season, in which the Lightning ended fourth in the Southeast and fourteenth in the East, GM Steve Yzerman looked to their highly successful AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. On March 25, 2013, following the dismissal of Guy Boucher, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that Jon Cooper would become the eighth head coach in franchise history.
Radio and television
The Lightning radio broadcasts are on WFLA; the play-by-play announcer is Dave Mishkin, known for his energetic style and his tendency to shriek when the Lightning score. Phil Esposito is the color commentator for home games. Matthew Sammon is the pregame and intermission host. The Lightning television broadcasts can be seen on Sun Sports. The television play-by-play announcer is Rick Peckham. The color commentator is Bobby Taylor. The studio host is Paul Kennedy. Todd Kalas and Whit Watson also host in select home games. Brittany Zion is the in-arena host. Former Lightning players Chris Dingman and Dave Andreychuk assist with the television broadcasts on occasion.
Team colors and mascot
Since starting play, the Lightning colors have been blue, black, silver and white. Their logo has been a stylized lightning bolt. This is the origin of one nickname for the team—the 'Bolts'.
Logo and jerseys
The original Lightning jerseys featured simple stripes on the sleeves and tail, and contrasting shoulders—black shoulders over a white jersey, and white shoulders over the black—with the alternate logo (a lightning bolt over the outline of the state of Florida). The underarm gussets included a feature referred to as "victory stripes"—a group of thin stripes, alternating in the team's colors (black-silver-blue on white, or white-blue-silver on black). For the 1996-97 season, the Lightning added a third jersey, primarily blue with a sublimated wave and rain design on the front and back, lightning bolts down the sleeves, a silver-gray shoulder yoke, and black gussets. The third jersey was retired after the 1998-99 season.
In their first two seasons, the Lightning used a stylized block font for player names, with gaps in the upper loops of letters such as A, B, D, and R. The numbers were standard block numbers with drop shadows. The fonts were vertical in 1992-93, and italicized in 1993-94. The following season, the name font changed to a block font, vertically arched, while the number font changed to a painted style resembling the letters "Tampa Bay" in the logo. This style was also used on the blue alternate in 1998-99, replacing an "electrified" number font from 1996-98. In 2000-01, the old fonts were replaced with traditional block letters and numbers, which have been used ever since.
As with all NHL teams for the 2007–08 season, the Lightning debuted in new Reebok "Rbk Edge" jerseys. Also, like several other NHL teams, the Lightning updated their team logo.
The Lightning unveiled their new logo on August 25, 2007. The new logo is similar to the old one, but with a more modern look. The new logo also kept the same theme as the previous one, but with the words "Tampa Bay" across the top now appearing with tall capital initials, and the word "Lightning" no longer appearing on the bottom of the logo.
The Edge jerseys use the same template adopted by the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins. Unlike those teams, the Lightning's elbow panels remain the base color of the jersey, and an additional blue panel is added near the cuff of the sleeve. The Edge uniforms retain the underarm gusset "victory stripes" of their predecessors.
It was reported on January 23, 2011 that the Lightning had filed paperwork with the NHL to change their logo and colors, beginning with the 2011–12 season. The new logo, as well as the new home and away jerseys, were unveiled by the team at a press conference at the St. Pete Times Forum on January 31, 2011. The Lightning began to integrate the new logo onto center ice, and even distributed free t-shirts with the simplified logo on February 4, 2011, while still using the old Lightning logo and uniforms.
The current uniforms are made in a traditional hockey sweater design. Initially the colors that will be used were simply blue and white, but by popular demand, black was later added as a trim color on the numbers. The victory stripes were also eliminated.
New alternate jersey (2008–present)
Along with many other NHL teams, the Lightning debuted a new "Alternate" or "Third" jersey in the 2008–09 season. The jersey features a dominant "electric blue" color, with black and silver accents at the end of the sleeves. The logo is removed, and in its place emblazoned across the front of the jersey descending to the lower left of the jersey is the word "BOLTS" (utilizing a layout similar to that of the Ottawa Senators third jersey). The numbers are featured on the back and sleeves only, using white lettering. Prior to the 2012–13 season, the previous Lightning logo emblazoned on the shoulders was replaced by the simplified lightning bolt logo introduced the previous season.
The Lightning mascot is a lightning bug named ThunderBug. He performs at games and makes appearances in the community. According to the Lightning website, Thunderbug enjoys birthday parties, street hockey, ice hockey, and Lightning fans, while his dislikes include flyswatters and bug zappers.
The Lightning also utilize a dance team known as the Lightning Girls at all home games and community events. The Tampa Bay Lightning Girls are a group of dancers who perform in the stands.
This is a partial list of the last five seasons completed by the Lightning. For the full season-by-season history, see List of Tampa Bay Lightning seasons
Note: GP = Games played, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, Pts = Points, GF = Goals for, GA = Goals against
Records as of the 2012–13 season.
|2008–09||82||24||40||18||66||210||279||5th, Southeast||Did not qualify|
|2009–10||82||34||36||12||80||217||260||4th, Southeast||Did not qualify|
|2010–11||82||46||25||11||103||247||240||2nd, Southeast||Lost in Conference Finals, 3–4 (Bruins)|
|2011–12||82||38||36||8||84||235||281||3rd, Southeast||Did not qualify|
|2012–13||48||18||26||4||40||148||150||4th, Southeast||Did not qualify|
Updated April 2, 2013.
Hall of Famers
NHL All-Star Team
- 2003–04 — First Team: Martin St. Louis
- 2006–07 — Second Team: Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Dan Boyle
- 2009–10 — Second Team: Martin St. Louis
- 2010–11 — Second Team: Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos
- 2011–12 — Second Team: Steven Stamkos
NHL All-Rookie Team
- Brad Richards: 2000–01
- Brian Bradley, C: 1993, 1994
- Roman Hamrlik, D: 1996
- Dino Ciccarelli RW: 1997
- Wendel Clark LW: 1999
- Petr Svoboda, D: 2000
- Fredrik Modin, LW: 2001
- Nikolai Khabibulin, G: 2002, 2003
- Martin St. Louis, RW: 2003, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 (alternate captain)
- Vincent Lecavalier, C: 2003, 2007, 2008 (captain), 2009
- Steven Stamkos, C: 2011, 2012
NHL YoungStars Game
- Brad Richards, C: 2002
- Alexander Svitov, C: 2003
- Paul Ranger, D: 2007
- Mike Lundin, D: 2008
- Steven Stamkos, C: 2009
First-round draft picks
- 1992: Roman Hamrlik (first overall)
- 1993: Chris Gratton (third overall)
- 1994: Jason Wiemer (eighth overall)
- 1995: Daymond Langkow (fifth overall)
- 1996: Mario Larocque (16th overall)
- 1997: Paul Mara (seventh overall)
- 1998: Vincent Lecavalier (first overall)
- 1999: None
- 2000: Nikita Alexeev (eighth overall)
- 2001: Alexander Svitov (third overall)
- 2002: None
- 2003: None
- 2004: Andy Rogers (30th overall)
- 2005: Vladimir Mihalik (30th overall)
- 2006: Riku Helenius (15th overall)
- 2007: None
- 2008: Steven Stamkos (1st overall)
- 2009: Victor Hedman (2nd overall), Carter Ashton (29th overall)
- 2010: Brett Connolly (6th overall)
- 2011: Vladislav Namestnikov (27th overall)
- 2012: Slater Koekkoek (10th overall), Andrei Vasilevski (19th overall)
Franchise scoring leaders
These are the top-ten point-scorers in franchise history. Figures are updated after each completed NHL regular season.
Note: Pos = Position; GP = Games Played; G = Goals; A = Assists; Pts = Points; P/G = Points per game; * = current Lightning player
NHL awards and trophies
- Vincent Lecavalier: 2006–07
- Steven Stamkos: 2009–10 (shared with Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins), 2011–12
- Most goals in a season: Steven Stamkos, 60 (2011–12)
- Most assists in a season: Brad Richards (2005–06) and Martin St. Louis (2010–11), 68
- Most points in a season: Vincent Lecavalier, 108 (2006–07)
- Most penalty minutes in a season: Zenon Konopka, 265 (2009–10)
- Most points in a season, defenseman: Roman Hamrlik, 65 (1995–96)
- Most points in a season, rookie: Brad Richards, 62 (2000–01)
- Most wins in a season: Nikolai Khabibulin, 30 (2002–03)
- Most shutouts in a season: Nikolai Khabibulin, 7 (2001–02)
- Largest Home Playoff Attendance: 28,183 (ThunderDome – now Tropicana Field) (1995–96)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Tampa Bay Lightning|
- List of NHL players
- List of NHL seasons
- List of Stanley Cup champions
- List of National Hockey League awards
- Tampa Bay Sports And Entertainment LLC Closes on Purchase of Tampa Bay Lightning
- Fedotenko scores both Tampa goals
- Sandomir, Richard (1998-04-06). "A Soap Opera on Ice". New York Times.
- Stein, Gil (1997). Power Plays: An Inside Look at the Big Business of the National Hockey League. pp. 86–92.
- Florida's Central Gulf Coast: Lightning Capital of North America
- Duhatschek, Eric et al. (2001). Hockey Chronicles. New York City: Checkmark Books. ISBN 0-8160-4697-2.
- Fischler, Stan (1999). Cracked Ice: An Insider's Look at the NHL. Lincolnwood, Illinois: Masters Press. ISBN 1-57028-219-6.
- "Lightning winger St. Louis out with broken leg". CBC News. January 24, 2002.
- "Vote deadline may have cost Khabibulin the MVP award". CNN.
- Tampa Bay Lightning - News: Lightning Acquire Conditional Draft Pick, AHL All-Star Defenseman From Philadelphia - 25 February 2008
- Tampa Bay Lightning - News: Lightning Acquire Goaltender Mike Smith, Center Jeff Halpern, Left Wing Jussi Jokinen & fourth-Round Pick From Dallas - 26 February 2008
- Tampa Bay Lightning - News: Lightning Acquire Seventh-Round Pick In 2008 From Nashville In Exchange For Jan Hlavac - 26 February 2008
- ESPN - Boyle signs six-year contract extension with Lightning - NHL
- Lightning give Tocchet multiyear deal
- "Steven Stamkos' empty-net goal gives him 51 and a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy Damian Cristodero". St. Petersburg Times. April 12, 2010. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
- Damian Cristodero (April 12, 2010). "It's official: Tampa Bay Lightning fires coach Rick Tocchet and GM Brian Lawton". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
- Smith, Joe (January 2, 2011). "Tampa Bay Lightning gets goalie Dwayne Roloson from New York Islanders for minor-league defenseman". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved May 31, 2011.
- "Lightning Release Guy Boucher of Coaching Duties". Tampa Bay Lightning. March 24, 2013. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
- "Lightning name Jon Cooper as head coach". Tampa Bay Lightning. March 25, 2013. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
- Damian Cristodero (January 23, 2011). "Tampa Bay Lightning's new uniforms sound as if they will include a simple, classic design". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved January 23, 2011.
- "Lightning Unveil New Logo, Jersey Systems Along with Vision and Brand Aspiration". Lightning.nhl.com. January 31, 2011. Retrieved January 31, 2011.
- "A couple of Tampa Bay Lightning records could fall tonight at Times Forum against the Capitals". St. Petersburg Times. February 4, 2011. Retrieved June 24, 2012.
- Lightning Unveil Third Jerseys vs. Devils
- Thunderbug Mascot Page
- Lightning Girls
- "Lightning Roster - Tampa Bay Lightning - Team". Tampa Bay Lightning. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
- Hockey-Reference.com - Tampa Bay Lightning Career Leaders