When Lightning fans get their first glimpse inside the newly renovated St. Pete Times Forum, there are liable to be a lot of strained necks as they look all around their brand new old home. One area that will remain unchanged is an empty area in the rafters that would be just ideal for the hanging of banners with retired players numbers on them.
As the Lightning steam towards their 20th anniversary next season, team highlights and individual accomplishments will get a lot of attention. And now that some of our long-time favorites are closer to the end of their careers than the beginning, it's not too early to speculate which Lightning players might eventually receive that ultimate individual recognistion from their team, the retirement of their number.
The first name you think of might be Dave Andreychuk. Although a majority of his lengthy NHL career was played elsewhere, he set records with Tampa Bay (notably, the career mark for power play goals) and he was the captain of the Stanley Cup winning team in '04. Expected to be inducted into the hockey hall of fame eventually, he remains with the organization and nobody's worn number 25 since he retired.
Of course, nobody's worn number 93 since Darren Puppa played for the Bolts either, so...
What do you think? Are Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis shoe-ins for this honor? Anybody who came before? Anybody since? Below are some answers from the Raw Charge staff. Let us know what you have to say in the comments section.
Nolan Whyte - Staff writer / Frozen Sheets of Hockey
I would say the only two guys who really deserve to have their sweaters retired are still wearing them-- that being Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. These guys are the Lightning for the last ten years, plain and simple.
I know people will hoot and holler for Captain Dave Andreychuk to have his number in the rafters, but that would sit funny with me. Although he was integral to the Cup team and helping that group to mature, he was really only a player here for three full seasons (his final post-lockout half-season doesn't count for me... he should have rode off into the sunset, but full points for effort). He made his mark in the league in other places, even though he lifted his only Cup in Tampa. I know he's insanely popular and continues to do huge PR things for the club, and he deserves to be recognized, but I think retiring a number should be based more on on-ice performance than popularity.
The only other player who should even merit consideration would be Brian Bradley, who was a central piece of the expansion era team, playing six seasons before post-concussion issues ended his career (sound familiar? That's right, concussions existed before Sidney Crosby). Most of the team's scoring records were Brian's before Marty and Vinnie came along and destroyed them.
Matt Amos - Staff Writer / Don't Trade Vinny
Is there any doubt? Rick freaking Tocchet. Duhhhhhh. Oh, ahem. Sorry bout that.
To answer the question for real, and while some may not agree, I think Dave Andreychuk undoubtedly deserves to have his number retired by the Lightning.
While it's true that most of his offensive accomplishments were achieved elsewhere, the fact remains that the Lightning would not have won their lone cup without him. And I always thought that number retiring was a team's way of showing gratitude and appreciation for a player who raised the team's level. I think it would be an absolute shame not to see Andy's number in the St. Pete Times forum.
That being said, at this point, I've got two others. My man crushes. Marty and Vinny. If Stamkos sticks around and stays healthy, he definitely gets added to the mix, but as of now, no one has provided more offense, leadership, unforgettable moments, highlights, and trade rumors to the Lightning than those two.
I don't think we have to worry about any of these three getting shot down by the Lightning, they're pretty good about honoring the team's past studs.
John Fontana - Managing Editor
I can tell you with certainty right now that Cory Cross’s #4 will be retired. I’m absolutely sure of it!
Yes, his number will be retired. But it won’t be because of his efforts on defense while wearing said number. It’ll be because of the next guy who wore the number: Vincent Lecavalier.
There’s a love-hate relationship among the fans with Lecavalier. Some see him as the face of the franchise. Others see him as overpaid, under-performing and unworthy. Whatever the case, the team captain will be clearing the 1,000 games-played threshold late this season (barring injury). He’ll be crossing the 800 career point plateau too.
But his off-ice efforts are as noteworthy as his on-ice performance. He’s invested millions in the Bay area, helping found the Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorder center at All Childrens Hospital. He’s put a face to a team that long lacked an identity. He’s also kept Tampa Bay relevant in the "pipe-dream, pulled-out-of-our-ass" trade rumor department for more than a decade.
Of course, Martin St. Louis’ #26 will hang from the rafters, too. It’s a certainty. But trying to gauge who else from the team at current – even Steven Stamkos – will get his number retired is a crap-shoot. Anything can happen between now and then.