Many, many, many years ago (four) Raw Charge started a series to help pass the time through the dog days of summer. With news about hockey and our beloved Lightning coming out slower than molasses on ice, we figured it would be a good time to bring back the series and walk back down memory lane as we remember some players.
This is not a very popular number in Lightning history. Only five players have worn it and the last was Simon Gagne way back in 2011. That’s seven years, two coaches and and three Eastern Conference appearances ago. Our original breakdown of the number highlighted John Cullen and for good reason.
His return from Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma remains one of the most inspirational stories in Lightning history. Not only that, but he was a pretty productive player for the Lightning during his brief career in Tampa. In 150 games he put up 34 goals and 105 points and led the team in points (6) during their first playoff appearance in 1995-96.
Cullen was also the third consecutive player to wear number 12 with the initials “J.C.” following Jim Cummins and Jock Callander.
With all due respect to Cedric Paquette, the current wearer of the most superstitious number in the world, there is only one number 13 in the eyes of most Lightning fans - Pavel Kubina. The big, rugged defender was the first good defender that the Lightning developed through their system and is just as responsible for the 2004 Stanley Cup as Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Marty St. Louis and Nikolai Khabibulin.
Drafted in the seventh round of the 1996 draft, Kubina ended up playing a total of 10 seasons with the Lightning accumulating 243 points. Putting the puck into the net wasn’t his forte, while Dan Boyle was scampering around the ice racking up points, Kubina was the steady defender making sure the puck stayed out of the Lightning net.
His style of play was way more physical than what Lightning fans are used to seeing out of their defensemen these days. He excelled in blocking shots and knocking players off of the puck. And despite not being offensive-minded, he still had enough skill and awareness to run the point on a power play if needed. He was a steady all-around defender that was the backbone of the Stanley Cup team.
He wasn’t quite good enough to earn the honor of a retired number, but if the Lightning ever have a ring of honor, his name better be one of the first added.
Picking someone to represent this number for the Lightning is an exercise in mediocrity. Noah went with John Tucker, a member of the inaugural team, the first time this series ran. That’s one way to go. Another way to go would have been Glen Metropolit. He might be the standard bearer for the “He played for the Lightning?” group of players in the organization history. A veteran of over 400 NHL games for seven different teams, Metropolit was briefly a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2001-02.
The Lightning claimed him on waivers from the Capitals on September 28, 2001. He played two games for them before Tampa and recorded one shot on goal. He committed no penalties in his 21 minute Lightning career but did manage to be on ice for two goals against. Tampa tried to sneak him through waivers in October of the same year but the Caps snatched him back.
The 2001-02 Lightning may have contained the core members of the 2004 Stanley Cup team, but there were a lot of other players that played for that team. A total of 39 different players suited up for the team that finished 3rd in the Southeast with 69 points. The equipment managers were busy that season sewing names on the back of jerseys.
A lot of those players came and went without much of an impact. Metropolit’s 21 total minutes played wasn’t the fewest. Three players had less ice time - Ryan Tobler (17), Kristian Kudroc (16) and Gaetan Royer (15).
Metropolit wasn’t even the only player to wear 14 that season. Shane Willis wore it briefly after being acquired in a trade in March.
With the exception of Tucker and Brett Connolly, the number 14 doesn’t appear on anyone’s back for long. Most players who have worn it for the Lightning (Alex Kharitonov, Norm Milley, Robert Petrovicky, etc) have sported it for a season or less. The most recent player to wear it, Chris Kunitz, continued that tradition as he only lasted one season as well.
Two players have worn 15 since we ran this column. Both of them, Mike Angeldis in 2015 and Michael Bournival in 2017) have had more impact with the Lightning’s AHL affiliates than with Tampa itself. Most of the other players that have worn it have had minimal impact on the franchise as well.
Two players did play more than a handful of games with 15 on their back. The first captain in Lightning history, Paul Ysebaert was the first and Nikita Alexeev was the other. Ysebaert was profiled the first time around, but Alexeev deserves a few words as well.
Alexeev was drafted in the first round (8th overall) in the 2000 draft. The Lightning originally had the fifth overall pick in a three person draft. They traded that pick to the Islanders in a massive deal that landed them Kevin Weekes, Kristian Kudroc and a second round pick for the first, a fourth and a seventh round pick. They then used the 8th pick (obtained the prior season from the Rangers) to draft the big Russian forward.
He was a big (6’5”, 227 lbs.) forward with speed. An impressive workout at the NHL combine prior to the draft was apparently enough to convince the Lightning to take a chance on him despite his raw skills. Unfortunately it never worked out for the club.
Alexeev played one more season for the Erie Otters following his draft where he posted his best numbers in juniors (31 goals and 72 points). He split time with Tampa and Norfolk the following season, recording 8 points in 44 games with the Bolts and 14 points with the Falcons. From there he would bounce back and forth between the NHL and AHL, never developing into the scoring threat the Lightning had hoped for.
He stands as a symbol of the Lightning’s drafting futility in the early 2000s.
Random fact: Nikita Alexeev is the only player to score a playoff goal for the Lightning while wearing the number 15.
Yet another jersey that has spent the last few seasons in the back of the closet, the number 16 has not seen the ice since 2014. Darcy Tucker is the most famous Lightning player to wear the jersey although Chris Kontos has the most famous highlight sporting the number (Love the throwaway fact that the four goal pucks were used in pickup games in Kontos’ backyard).
The only player to wear it after our initial series was Teddy Purcell. Brought in to the organization by Brian Lawton’s only good trade as Lightning general manager Purcell was seen as an offensively gifted forward who had struggled to meet expectations during his tenure in Los Angeles.
The Kings, looking for an experienced center for their playoff run, dealt Purcell and a third round pick to Tampa for solid veteran Jeff Halpern. The deal didn’t work out for the Kings. Halpern, now an assistant coach for the Lightning, only contributed two assists in sixteen games as Los Angeles was bounced by Vancouver in conference quarterfinals. He then left as a free agent and had a solid season for Montreal.
Purcell, on the other hand, found his game on the west coast of Florida. In the sixteen games following the trade he put up nine points, three more than he had scored in 41 games with the Kings. That was just the beginning for Purcell as a member of the Lightning.
Over the next four seasons he put up 64 goals and 130 assists. He also passed the puck roughly 5,678 times when he should have shot the puck. Of course, when you’re running shotgun with Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos, it would seem to be a good idea to pass it to him as much as possible.
That unselfishness is all well and fine if you’re not good at shooting the puck. Therein lies the conundrum of Teddy Purcell. He had a good shot, some even called it the best wrist shot on the team.
He hovered around a 10% shooting percentage during his time with the Lightning which is good enough that he should have averaged more than 2 shots a game no matter who his linemates were. Twice in his career with Tampa he netted hat tricks and he scored a career-high 24 goals in 2011-12.
That was good enough to score him a 3-year $13.5 million from General Manager Steve Yzerman. The following season he put up 42 points (12 goals and 30 assists) as a member of the Lightning. It would be his last as part of the team. In the summer of 2014 he was traded to Edmonton for Sam Gagner, a move that made almost no sense for the 32 seconds Gagner was part of the Lightning. The Edmonton forward was then flipped to Arizona along with B.J. Combreen for a sixth round draft pick. The Lightning retained one-third of Gagner’s salary but it freed up some cap space for Mr. Yzerman to make other deals. The pick was used to draft goaltender Kristian Oldham, a long-term prospect who is currently playing for the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
Purcell would spent the better part of two seasons in Edmonton before being traded to Florida. He signed with Los Angeles prior to the 2016-17 season but only saw action in 12 games. He spent last season with Avangard Omsk in the KHL. He had hoped to play for Team Canada in the 2018 Olympics but they passed him by on their way to a bronze medal.
Who represents the number 16 best for the Lightning?
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