With the Tampa Bay Lightning currently on a much-needed break, Bolts fans and the team alike have some down time. Of course there is still playoff hockey being played and the IIHF World Championships are going on too, but at least we can take solace in the fact the Bolts have clinched an Eastern Conference Finals berth for the second year in a row.
After the playoffs come the NHL Awards, the annual rite of the league that doles out such prizes as the Hart Trophy for league MVP, the Vezina Trophy for the top goaltender, and the Norris Trophy for best defensemen. I thought I would take time to give a history of previous Tampa Bay Lightning award winners. This year Will Arnett will host the NHL Awards on June 22 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. This is the seventh year the awards will be held in Las Vegas and with Sin City most likely getting an NHL team soon, it seems the city is becoming increasingly relevant. But on to the Bolts' history.
Our first award came in 1999 when John Cullen won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for displaying outstanding qualities such as sportsmanship, perseverance, and dedication to hockey.
Fast-forward and in comes Marty St. Louis, who has received the most awards out of any Bolt with eight. He was named the Art Ross Trophy recipient on two separate occasions: One came during the Bolts' Stanley Cup run in '03-'04 and more recently during the '12-'13 season.
Notably the most fruitful year for the Bolts was the 2003-2004 season. Besides the obvious success of the Bolts winning Lord Stanley's Cup, the Lightning also saw Marty St. Louis receive the Ted Lindsay Award, NHL Plus-Minus Award, and the Hart Memorial Trophy along with numerous other successes such as Brad Richards receiving the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy and Conn Smythe Trophy and head coach John Tortorella winning the Jack Adams Award.
Almost half of the Bolts' individual awards came from that season. In more recent years, the Bolts saw Vinny Lecavalier lead the team with continued offensive success. Receiving the "Rocket Richard" Trophy for most goals scored in a season ('06-'07), Lecavalier has also been rewarded multiple times for his service off the ice. He currently is the Los Angeles Kings' nominee for the Masterton Trophy and in the past has been rewarded with the NHL Foundation Player Award and the King Clancy Memorial Trophy.
Most recently Steven Stamkos has provided the Bolts with some national recognition. Stammer has produced the most goals in two regular seasons in '09-'10 and '11-'12. The latter was particularly special as Stammer became the sixth player to reach a 50-goal season before he turned 23. That same year he recorded his 60th goal in the final game against Winnipeg. It was such a feat that some Jets fans gave him a standing ovation as the 60th goal mark has only been achieved 20 times. We can assume that Stamkos will continue to put up ridiculous numbers in the future. Hopefully it'll all be with our club.
Steve Yzerman, our commander-in-chief and beloved GM, received the General Manager of the Year Award last year for his continued success with the Bolts' and Crunch's rosters. Although the Crunch had another off year and did not make the playoffs, one would hope that the Lightning will not be plagued with injury next year and not have to make call-ups often.
With all the awards surfacing within the last few weeks the Bolts have three names out that have a possibility at contention. Ben Bishop has put together a stellar season and a seemingly even better postseason and is up for the Vezina Trophy. Victor Hedman has currently been receiving high praise by the media, and if the Lightning make a good playoff run a great one, we could see Hedman receive the Conn Smythe. There is also reason to believe Hedman could be a Norris Trophy winner within the next few seasons. Also, Anton Stralman was nominated by the Bolts' beat writers as the team's nominee for the Masterton Trophy.