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ESPN Ultimate Rankings put the Tampa Bay Lightning at the top

Third overall in rankings among the 4 major North American sports leagues. First overall among NHL clubs. Way ahead of the other local tams in Tampa Bay.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The number one team in the greater Tampa Bay area may be presented as the Buccaneers by local media coverage (and fans too, of course, as the NFL and pewter have a longer tenure in the region) but it's different on the national media landscape. And that perspective isn't judging Tampa Bay sports, it's judging just about the entirety of North America.

According to ESPN, the Tampa Bay Lightning are #3 overall in pro sports ranking of all 122 top level professional clubs in the four major sport leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL).

Number. Three. Overall.

The top two teams on the overall ranking list would surprise you to begin with: The San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA. The 4th overall franchise happens to be the Anaheim Ducks. The fact a MLB or NFL team did not crack the top four may discredit the list all together but it takes so many different categories of ranking, averaged out, to get the final list for the ESPN Ultimate Rankings... The Seattle Seahawks were ranked #5 overall though, and the Green Bay Packers were ranked #6.  The first Major League Baseball team to make the cut was the Pittsburgh Pirates at #8. The 3rd NHL team to make the list was the Dallas Stars, ranked 10th overall.

For the local sediment sake, the Rays were ranked 45th (9th overall among MLB teams). The Buccaneers, one of the 50 most valuable franchises in the world according to Forbes, was ranked 91st (22nd among NFL teams).

It is in three categories that matter in the business sense of sports the most where the Lightning are tops: Affordability, Fan Relations and Stadium Experience saw the Lightning ranked 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd among the 122 ranked franchise. All of those factors are actually the work of one other top-five ranking area for the Lightning: Ownership. Jeff Vinik's efforts are ranked 4th overall. The general article profile does not credit the man who should be cited by name here. Mr. Vinik's exceptional job as owner of the Lightning shines here, and shines brilliantly through pro sports.

Of course we're here for sports and not business.  The Lightning rank high in Players (8th), and well in coaching (11th), all of this giving way to a high profile ranking of bang-for-the-buck (9th).

Downside: They still managed to find a way to bring up the Steven Stamkos contract situation as a shadow on the organization. Oh well, you can't win'em all.