A total of 13 players have worn the number 21 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and while a lot of the names are familiar to long time Bolts fans (and one is an outright disaster for the NHL in general) there is only one name that stands out. I've played down number association with my entries for 6, 9, and 18... But 21 is a different beast. 21 is, for me, Cory Sarich and none other.
Back when I wrote about Brian Holzinger almost two weeks ago, I referenced the trade that brought him in to the fold and the fact that Sarich was truly the centerpiece of the deal. The former 1st round draft pick (from the enigmatic 1996 NHL entry draft) was nearing the end of his second full professional season after playing four years in the WHL.
Oh, and he had earned a reputation for pop... As in hard-hitting pop! Big hits and dropping the gloves.
Sarich was a solid physical defenseman that'd end up part of the Lightning's core going forward, growing with the young nucleus of Pavel Kubina, Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Fredrik Modin, and Marty St. Louis. While I can take this opportunity to cite the Bolts We're Younger, We're Bigger, We're Faster, We're Stronger marketing campaign, I'm unable to give you the "We're Bigger" commercial to watch and laugh at (which featured Sarich, Dan Cloutier, Modin, and Gordie Dwyer among others trying to use undersized equipment.)
Sarich wasn't going to be a Norris candidate at any point in time in his career with the Bolts, scoring all of 10 goals in his time in Tampa and never over 20 points a season. Cory was dependable to throw a hit when needed, or get into a fight at just the right time to spark the team. This fight in Los Angeles stands out in my mind, not so much for how the fight went but how the Lightning picked up their game against the Kings after it happened.
Of course, with a young team aging and with success on their resume, opportunity (and a payday) will be found elsewhere. Sarich left the Lightning in the summer of 2007 for the Calgary Flames (and a lump sum payday.) He's played in the Western Conference ever since, spending time mostly with Calgary. He was with the Colorado Avalanche last season.
(Other players to wear #21 in Tampa: Tim Bergland , Bob Halkidis, Jody Hull, Mick Vukota, Craig Janney, Alexandre Daigle, Andreas Johansson, Mathieu Darche, Cory Murphy, David Hale, Mattias Ritola, Michael Kostka)