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Sweater Series: Ranking the 28’s

A couple of fighters, some folks who went to school in Alaska and a proud bunny-owner highlight the history of this number.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After a couple of months, we’ve finished up recapping and updating the original Sweater Series list. We now move on to uncharted territory. As we go forward, the format is going to change. Instead of listing just one player, we’ll (and by we, I mean me) will be ranking the players that have worn the particular number.

We will be keeping the original idea, this isn’t about the “best” players to wear the number. It’s about the one player that comes to mind when you see the number. In a lot of cases it will be the best player, but every once in awhile a random player will earn the coveted number one spot.

Feel free to add your own memories or opinions in the comments field.

11. Corey Spring (16 Games, 1 Goal, 1 Assist)

Spring saw bits of action during the dark days of the Lightning organization as he appeared in 8 games in 1997-98 and 8 games in 1998-99, two teams that combined won 36 games. The Cranbook, BC native’s lone NHL goal came on March 16th, 1998 against the Boston Bruins. Yes, the Lightning lost that game.

Prior to signing with the Lightning as an undrafted free agent, Spring attended the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. A trait he shares with another fellow number 28 for the Lightning.

10. Mathieu Roy (5 Games, 0 Goals, 0 Assists)

There was a player named Mathieu Roy who played for the Lightning. He made it into 5 games over two seasons. That’s about it. He signed (the first time) with the Lightning following a decent season in Columbus in which the defenseman registered 10 assists in 31 games. He also played for the Syracuse Crunch that year, notching 4 assists in 14 games.

He appeared in four games for the Lightning in 2010-11 and wasn’t re-signed. He spent some time in the Carolina organization and then went overseas to play in Hamburg. The Lightning then brought him back at the end of the 2012-13 season (he signed in late April) and he appeared in one game, a 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.

The same year Roy, who was from the Detroit area, was initially signed (2010), the Lightning announced a partnership with the Florida Everblades in the ECHL. On that roster was...Mathieu Roy a forward from Amos, Quebec. Sadly, the American Roy and the Canadian Roy never played together….boo.

9. Cody Kunyk (1 Game, 0 Assist)

He is part of an exclusive club of players that have appeared in only one game in a Lightning uniform. While he was signed as a highly sought after college prospect, there was just too much other talent in the system for him to find a spot on the roster.

Still only 28-years-old, he continues chasing the dream as he enters his second season with SaiPa Lappeenranta in Finland. In nine games, he has a goal and three assists. He is the second Lightning player to wear the number 28 who attended the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, having played for the Nanooks 15 years after Corey Spring.

8. Reid Simpson (26 Games, 1 Goal, 0 Assists, 103 Penalty Minutes)

If you acquire a game-worn Reid Simpson jersey from the 1999-00 season, chances are it had blood on it. The man fought, a lot. After coming to Tampa in a November trade that sent Michael Nylander to Chicago, he appeared In 26 games with the Lightning. During that abbreviated time, he was in 9 fights and racked up 103 penalty minutes, fairly impressive for someone who averaged 4:33 of ice time.

He did score a goal for the Lightning, the lone tally in a 3-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.

7. Nils Ekman (71 Games, 11 Goals, 13 Assists)

Ekman had a pretty solid, if short NHL career. He appeared in 264 games and recorded 151 points. He scored 20+ goals in consecutive seasons for the San Jose Sharks and even received a few Selke votes in 2003-04.

For the Lightning, his biggest contribution was that he was traded for Tim Taylor.

6. Patrick Poulin (125 Games, 14 Goals, 22 Assists)

Speaking of trades, Patrick Poulin was involved in one of the “biggest” trades in Lightning history. Or, at least it was supposed to be. On January 15th, 1998, the Lightning made two trades. One was with Florida that saw Dino Ciccarelli and Jeff Norton go south in exchange for Jody Hull and Mark Fitzpatrick. The other involved Poulin, Igor Ulanov and Mick Vukota go to Montreal in exchange for Stephane Richer, David Wilke and a young pugnacious center named Darcy Tucker.

The move is often mentioned as one of the worst trades in Canadiens history (though it’s no Scott Gomez deal) as Poulin, the key return for Montreal, never fit into their system and Tucker went on to have some pretty productive years for the Lightning and then Leafs.

Poulin was ok for the Lightning, notching 12 of his goals in 73 games in 1996-97, but just didn’t have the footspeed to become a top-level player, even in the clutch-and-grab years. Currently running a towing business in Quebec, his son Samuel is a defenseman for the Sherbrooke Phoenix of the QMJHL and is eligible for the 2019 draft. Could they become the first father/son duo to play for the Lightning...I mean after the Julien BriseBois trades for William Nylander, or course.

5. Kjell Samuelsson (46 Games, 1 Goal, 4 Assists)

Samuelsson is probably ranked higher on this list then he should be, simply because I have a horrible fondness for the 1998-99 Tampa Bay Lightning, one of the worst teams to ever hit NHL ice.

The large (6’6”, 235 lbs.) Swede was 40 when he signed with the Lightning in October after he had started the season with VEU Feldkirch. Coincidentally, the Lightning had faced him in Austria when they opened their season in Europe.

He was large man filling a large gap on a team where the top pairing was Cory Cross and a young Jassen Cullimore. Never the fastest skater in the league, the 39-year-old defenseman was obviously a stopgap solution as the team waited for some of its younger prospects (cough, Pavel Kubina, cough) to get acclimated to the NHL. Yet, there he was logging almost 20 minutes a game for the majority of the year.

His one goal came in a tie against Chicago, a second period goal that was assisted by Enrico Ciccone. Unfortunately, he also broke his foot in that game and missed the next month of play. That was the pattern of his year with the Lightning: lots of ice time, little offensive production and then missed time due to injury. Still, he provided the stability they were looking for when he was on the ice as he managed to finish the season at a -6 on a team that gave up 113 more goals than they scored.

Also, he could hold three pucks in one hand while autographing them.

4. Luke Witkowski (54 Games, 0 Goals, 4 Assists)

Witkowski is the name most modern fans would associate with on this list. A longtime member of the Syracuse Crunch, the defenseman/forward appeared in parts of three seasons with the Bolts, his longest stint being the 34 games he played in 2016-17.

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A fan favorite due to his outgoing nature and willingness to mix it up with his opponents, Witkowski was always a bit of a fringe prospect for the Lightning on the blue line despite their relative lack of depth in that area.

3. Marc Bureau (186 Games, 20 Goals, 40 Assists)

An original member of the Lightning, Bureau was a solid defensive center, the perfect pick up for an expansion team. His best year with the Lightning was his first, where he potted 10 goals and had a career-high 31 points.

The 11-year veteran (not bad for being undrafted) was eventually traded to Montreal for former 50-goal scorer Brian Bellows and went on to bounce around the league until 1999-2000, playing 9 games for the Calgary Flames, the very team he broke into the league with in 1989-90.

2. Sheldon Keefe (125 Games, 12 Goals, 12 Assists)

Sheldon Keefe only played parts of three seasons for the Tampa Bay Lightning yet he somehow managed to wear four different jersey numbers (46, 27, 42 and 28). Drafted in the second round by the Lightning in the 1999 draft, Keefe was a top prospect for the organization after putting up 121 points in 66 games for the Barrie Colts in his final year in juniors.

For such a short playing career, he managed to fill it with quite a bit of controversy.

Despite a strong rookie camp, Keefe was sent to IHL affiliate Detroit, but not before hammering out an impressive $2.5 million, 3-year contract that was similar to what Brad Richards had signed with the Bolts.

Keefe played well in Detroit and eventually made his debut with the Lightning appearing in 49 games and recording 4 points. Things got a little rocky after that. He was suspended for failing to report to Rochester in March of 2001, with General Manager Rick Dudley stating^:

“If Sheldon Keefe thinks he can tell us how to run our team, he’ll be 31 before he ever sees the National Hockey League again.”

Keefe (or his agent) felt that the organization wasn’t keeping their promises in regards to giving him a shot at more playing time at the NHL level. Before being reassigned, he had seen his playing time dwindle under John Tortorella’s leadership.

After a 144-day suspension, Keefe was back with the club for the next season’s training camp and while he didn’t make the team out of camp he did end up recording 13 points in 39 games with the Lightning that season.

Despite his tireless aggressive play, he never seemed to be able to translate his junior/minor league success to the NHL level. He last played for the Utah Grizzlies in 2004-05. Since then ,he has made a name for himself in the coaching ranks. First in juniors with the Soo Sault Marie Greyhounds and now the Toronto Marlies. He was tied to a variety of open NHL jobs this past summer but elected to stay with the Marlies.

1. Zenon Konopka (81 Games, 2 Goals, 4 Assists, 294 Penalty Minutes)

There seem to be too types of players that stand out in fans’ minds. One is the superstar, the high-end scorer. Steven Stamkos, Vinny Lecavalier, Brad Richards. That type of player. The other is the fighter. If you go to a Lightning game you will see jerseys representing players like Rudy Poeschek, Enrico Ciccone and Andre Roy, players who struggled to score, but could throw hands with the best of them. One of those players - Zenon Konopka.

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Rangers Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

Konopka, or “Zenon the Destroyer” only played two seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, he made sure to leave his mark during that all too brief time in the black and blue. That mark was usually on an opponent’s face.

In 2009-10, he set a franchise record by accumulating 265 penalty minutes which included a game against Florida where he racked up 24 minutes of penalties in under 6 minutes of playing time (2 fighting majors, a 10 minute misconduct, an instigator and a 2 minute minor for boarding). Impressive.

As is the case with most fighters in the NHL, there is more to Konopka than a willingness to stop fists with his face. He may have been one of the more well rounded players to lace up his skates in the past decade. Off of the ice he has:

In addition to being a good teammate he was pretty decent at killing penalties and winning faceoffs (career 59.6% and 62.5% during his time with the Lightning). He is also a former captain of the Syracuse Crunch (possibly one of their special guests for their home opener?)

What do you think? Would you rank the numbers any other way? Let us know in the comments.

^ “Tampa Bay suspends Sheldon Keefe.” UPI Archive: General News, 16 Mar. 2001

Poll

Who is your favorite Number 28?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Marc Bureau
    (1 vote)
  • 6%
    Patrick Poulin
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Corey Spring
    (0 votes)
  • 6%
    Kjell Samuelsson
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Reid Simpson
    (0 votes)
  • 6%
    Nils Ekman
    (1 vote)
  • 6%
    Sheldon Keefe
    (1 vote)
  • 50%
    Zenon Konopka
    (8 votes)
  • 0%
    Mathieu Roy
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Cody Kunyk
    (0 votes)
  • 18%
    Luke Witkowski
    (3 votes)
16 votes total Vote Now