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Sweater Series: Unleash the goaltenders

A lot of folks have worn the number 30 for the Lightning.

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

Many, many, many years ago (five), Raw Charge started a series to help pass the time through the dog days of summer. As training camp grinds on, we figured it would be a good time to bring back the series and walk back down memory lane as we remember some players.

We’ve made it into the 30’s and reached the last of the jersey numbers that were worn by 10 or more players (although 44 is getting close). This number is traditionally worn by goaltenders and of the 11 players that have donned it for the Lightning, only one didn’t strap on the pads. The list includes two goalies with their names on the Stanley Cup and the player that appears at the very bottom of the register of all-time Lightning players when sorted alphabetically.

Even bad goaltenders are interesting so this post goes a little long. So grab a drink, settle in and enjoy a quick rundown of the players who wore the number 30 for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Bill Ranford 1999 (32 games, 3 wins, 18 losses, .881, 3.90 GAA)

Bill Ranford

Prior to joining the Lightning, Bill Ranford had won a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe for the Edmonton Oilers. By prior, I mean nine years earlier in his career. He first backed up Grant Fuhr as the Oilers won the 1988 Stanley Cup and then stepped in for an injured Fuhr as Edmonton won in 1990, the last Cup of their dynasty.

He played a few more seasons for the Oilers before he was traded to Boston and then to Washington. With the Capitals, he was part of the team that made it to the 1998 Stanley Cup against the Red Wings. However, due to an injury, he had lost his starting job to Olaf Kolzig and did not see any playing time as the Caps were swept by Detroit (but he probably had a good look at Esa Tikkanen missing an empty net).

Ranford, 32-years-old at the time, thought he could still be a number one netminder and asked the team to trade him. Three days after he watched Detroit celebrate their Cup win, Washington GM George McPhee granted him his wish as he dealt him to Tampa Bay for a 3rd round pick and a 2nd round pick.

Tampa Bay was under new ownership and looking to add a strong veteran cast around a shiny new rookie named Vincent Lecavalier. Art Williams allowed GM Phil Esposito to spend some money as they added Ranford via trade and signed veterans like Wendel Clark and Craig Janney. Ranford came at a steep cost ($3 million) but was seen as a netminder that could ease the load off of Daren Puppa or step in if Puppa continued to struggle with back injuries.

Well, one of those two things happened. Puppa struggled with injuries and only appeared in 13 games. Ranford, stepped in and to say he struggled would be disrespectful to the word struggle. The nickname “Red Light” Ranford may have been uttered several times. He won three games. Total. He went thirteen appearances between wins from October 23rd to December 29th and then had his last win as a member of the Lightning on January 21st.

He was mercifully traded to Detroit at the deadline for future considerations and promptly went 3-0-1 in four games for the Red Wings. Maybe it wasn’t him as much as it was the cast in front of him during that chaotic 1998-99 season. Following the season, he was signed by the Oilers and then in early 2000 he retired.

Kevin Hodson 2003 (36 games, 4 wins, 11 losses, .872 SV%, 3.67 GAA)

Lightning v Senators

If trading for one of the goaltenders that appeared on the bench for the 1998 Stanley Cup didn’t help, the Lightning thought that trading for the backup on the winning team might help them out. Officially, Hodson was not part of the Bill Ranford trade, although he was sent to Tampa Bay from Detroit on the same day. Instead, Hodson was dealt to the Lightning along with a second round pick for Wendel Clark and a sixth round pick as Tampa Bay tried to cash in on Clark’s pretty good season with them.

Hodson, whose name was added to the Stanley Cup despite only playing in 21 games in 1997-98, played in 5 games following the trade and won two of them while posting respectable (actually downright fantastic considering the team in front of him) numbers. His .907 SV% and 2.78 GAA were good enough for the Lightning to protect him in the following summer’s expansion draft (Atlanta took Corey Schwab).

Unfortunately for Hodson, the Lightning made a big trade the following summer as they dealt the first overall pick to the Rangers for a package that included young netminder Dan Cloutier. That pushed Hodson further down the depth chart and after appearing in 21 games for the Lightning and a handful for the Detroit Vipers in the IHL, he was dealt to the Canadiens the following summer.

He did briefly reunite with the Lightning in the 2002-03 season where he saw action in seven games (and wore the number 30). His time in hockey came to an end in January of 2003 when the Lightning acquired John Graham to serve as Nikolai Khabibulin’s backup.

Mark Fitzpatrick 1998 (34 games, 7 wins, 24 losses, 1 tie, .895 SV%, 3.16 GAA)

Another goaltender acquired to try and fill in games for an injured Daren Puppa, Fitzgerald came from the Panthers as part of the Dino Ciccarelli trade. He didn’t win very much and was shipped to Chicago for Michal Sykora in July of 1998.

Andrei Zyuzin 2000-2002 (107 games, 6 goals, 27 assists, -25)

Andrei Zyuzin #30

Zyuzin is the only non-goaltender to wear the number 30 in Lightning history and he wore it during a glorious part of Lightning history. Following the 1998 season, the Lightning held the number one overall pick in the upcoming draft. A draft that featured Patrick Stefan, the Sedin brothers, and not much else.

New General Manager Rick Dudley saw that pick as a chance to remake the entire roster. He started by trading the pick to Vancouver for the fourth overall pick and two third round picks. Dudley then sent that pick to the Rangers for Dan Cloutier, Niklas Sundstrom, a 2000 first round pick, and a 2000 third round pick.

Then, in August, he flipped Sundstrom and the third round pick to San Jose for Zyuzin, Bill Houlder, Shawn Burr and Steve Guolla. Dudley wasn’t done dealing as he added Jeff Reese and Fredrik Modin before the season started.

Zyuzin, who was just 21 at the time of the deal, was expected to be part of the Lightning’s defensive corps as the club built itself into a contender. The defenseman, drafted 2nd overall in 1996, was seen as a smooth-skating blueliner who could pile up points on the power play (kind of what Dan Boyle became).

The Russian never reached the potential the Lightning had hoped for (due partially to a shoulder injury that kept him out for half of the 1999-2000 season). He would be traded to New Jersey in 2001 for Josef Boumedienne, Sasha Goc and the rights to Anton But. Zyuzun bounced around the league for a few more years, playing his last NHL game in 2008 for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Jean-Claude Bergeron (53 games, 14 wins, 26 losses, .867 SV%, 3.65 GAA)

Jean-Claude Bergeron

Frederic Chabot was drafted with the fourth overall pick in the expansion draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning from the Montreal Canadiens. He never had to pack his house as the Lightning traded him for J.C. Bergeron the next day. Chabot wasn’t done with expansion drafts. He would be selected by Nashville in 1998 and then by Columbus in 2000. He never appeared for any of the teams he was selected by.

As for Bergeron, he ended up appearing in 53 games for the Lightning over the course of four seasons. He made his debut for the Lightning in a 5-4 loss to the New York Rangers on December 11th, but would go on and win his next three starts. The eight wins he posted that season tied Pat Jablonski for team lead that season and was a career-high. Bergeron would spend most of the next few seasons in Atlanta and led the Knights to the Turner Cup in 1993-94. He holds the record for most wins (60) in Knights franchise history.

Following the 1995-96 season where he appeared in 12 games with the Lightning, he signed with the Los Angeles Kings and appeared in one game (a 4-1 loss to Pittsburgh). Bergeron played in 42 games with the Phoenix Roadrunners that season and then finished his career with the Joliette Blizzard of the QSPHL.

Bonus note: He was a goalie for the Lightning in the NHL 94 video game which I played way too much of in college. Every time he would make a save (which was rare) my roommate (usually playing with the Penguins) would yell, at the top of his lungs, “JESUS CHRIST..BERGERON” to the tune of “Superstar” from the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Good luck getting that out of your head now.

Marc Denis 2007-2008 (54 games, 18 wins, 23 losses, .879 SV%, 3.32 GAA)

Tampa Bay Lightning v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Denis was brought in to provide some stability in net for a post-lockout, post-Khabibulin Lightning franchise. John Grahame didn’t perform to the team’s expectations and was a free agent following the 2005-06 season and was set to make more than the Lightning wanted to pay.

So Jay Feaster sent fan favorite Fredrik Modin and prospect Fredrik Norrena to Columbus for young, but not too young goaltender Marc Denis. The former first round draft pick by Colorado was a workhorse for the fledgling Blue Jackets, especially in 2002-03 where he appeared in 77 games and racked up over 4500 minutes net. For comparison, in 2017-18 Andrei Vasilevskiy played in 65 games and had 3825 minutes in net for the Lightning.

The Lightning believed that he was better than the numbers he posted in front of a bad Columbus defense and was set to enter the prime of his career so they signed him to a 3-year $8.6 million contract. He never really got on track with the Lightning. Despite being brought in to be the number one goalie, he ended up splitting time with Johan Holmqvist during the regular season and then watching from the bench as the Lightning lost four games to two to the New Jersey Devils in the first round of the playoffs.

He started the next season with one win and five losses and was demoted to the AHL at the end of December. In February the Lightning landed Mike Smith in the blockbuster Brad Richards trade and that pretty much signaled the end of Denis’ tenure in Tampa. Despite owing him $3 million ,they then bought out the final season of his contract in the summer. He signed a free agent deal with his hometown Montreal Canadiens and appeared in one game for them in the 2008-09 season.

Mike McKenna 2009 (15 games, 4 wins, 8 losses, .887 GAA, 3.56 Sv%)

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

Mike McKenna is a god damn legend. He signed with the Lightning on February 3rd, 2009 following an injury to Mike Smith. Four days later he swatted aside all 28 New York Islanders’ shots that he faced in a 1-0 victory (goal by Gary Roberts assisted by Steve Eminger and a young kid named Stamkos). It was McKenna’s first NHL victory and his lone NHL shutout.

McKenna appeared in 15 games that season for the Lightning. It was not a very good season for the Lightning as they were well on their way to a bottom of the table finish and the second overall draft pick in the upcoming draft. With 4 wins, McKenna tied for second in victories on the team with Karri Ramo. Smith led the team with just 14 wins while Olaf Kolzig added just two more.

That’s not what makes McKenna a goaltending legend. It’s what happened after that. The affable netminder continued on his professional goaltending career. A career that just wrapped up this past season. Along the way, he made NHL stops in New Jersey, Columbus, Arizona, Dallas, Ottawa and Philadelphia. Whenever and wherever there was a need for a back-up to the back-up, McKenna was there.

His AHL career checked off even more cities as he moved from Lowell to Albany to Binghamton to Peoria to Springfield to Portland (and then back to Springfield) to Cedar Park, Texas to Belleville and then finally to LeHigh Valley. There was a brief reunion with the Lightning organization between his journey to Texas from Springfield where he backstopped the Syracuse Crunch all the way to the Calder Cup finals in 2016-17.

Along with his vast collection of sweaters, McKenna built a pretty impressive social media presence and is now hosting a podcast where he interacts with former teammates, friends, and various people in the hockey world. He may not rank high in wins or shutouts, but he was a true professional with a tremendous dedication to the sport.

Antero Niittymaki 2010 (49 games, 21 wins, 18 losses, .909 SV%, 2.87 GAA)

Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

One of those players that people forget played for the Lightning, Niittymaki posted pretty good numbers during his one season with Tampa Bay. He split time with incumbent Mike Smith (always a good idea due to Smith’s injury history) and won more than he lost.

He parlayed that success into a two-year deal with the San Jose Sharks where he replaced Evgeni Nabokov (another soon to be ex-Bolt). That led to the Lightning bringing in Dan Ellis (didn’t work out) and another goaltender that we’ll talk about shortly.

Cédrick Desjardins 2010-2013 (6 games, 2 wins, 4 losses, .919 SV%, 2.41 GAA)

Tampa Bay Lightning v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images

Desjardins has the distinction of being traded not once, but twice from the Montreal Canadiens to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The first time came in 2010 when the Lightning sent prospect Karri Ramo to Montreal in exchange for a goaltender that Guy Boucher had coached in Hamilton the prior season.

He started the season in Norfolk but was called up in December following an injury to Mike Smith. (Side discussion - how many goalies have been called up due to a Mike Smith injury over the years?) Desjardins was fantastic in the two games he appeared in as he stopped 27 of 28 shots in his debut against the Canadiens on December 30th and then followed that up with a 2-1 overtime win against the Rangers in which he stopped 34 of 35 shots.

Those two wins earned him a trip back to Norfolk and he wouldn’t play in the NHL again for another two years. He played well for the Admirals and first year coach Jon Cooper until a shoulder injury ended his season. Unfortunately for him, the Lightning were fairly well stocked in the goaltending department with Mike Smith and Dan Ellis in Tampa and Dustin Tokarski and Jaroslav Janus as the prospects in waiting.

He signed with the Colorado organization in the offseason and spent the year in the AHL. The following summer, he signed with Montreal and found himself back in Hamilton. Then, on February 14th, 2013 he was traded once again to Tampa Bay, this time for Dustin Tokarski.

By this time, Smith and Ellis were gone (replaced by Anders Lindback and Mathieu Garon), Janus was in Europe, some of the shine was off of Tokarski, Riku Helenius wasn’t impressing anyone, and Andrei Vasilevskiy hadn’t left Russia. So Desjardins was brought in to stabilize the situation in Syracuse while giving the club an option as an injury back-up in Tampa Bay.

He went 8-5-1 for the Crunch as they made their way into the playoffs and then helped them make it to the Calder Cup Finals by posting 2.30 GA and .908 SV%. In between that, he did manage a recall to the Lightning in March as Garon battled a lower body injury. It didn’t go as well as he lost all three games he appeared in for Tampa Bay.

His services were good enough to earn a one-year deal in the summer and he returned to Syracuse for the bulk of the year. He was recalled one final time (this time it was Lindback with the injury) and appeared in one game (while wearing the number 31) in February when Ben Bishop was injured in a game against Toronto. The Lightning went on their Olympic break following the next game and Desjardins was back in Syracuse never to appear in the NHL again.

In the offseason, he signed with the New York Rangers but never made it out of the AHL. He retired in 2017. It was unfortunate that Desjardins came to the Lightning when he did (both times) as they had so many highly touted goaltenders in the organization. Had he rolled through a year or two earlier, chances are he might have had more of an impact in the NHL.

Dwayne Roloson 2012 (74 games, 31 wins, 28 losses, .898 SV%, 3.12 GAA)

The Dwayne Roloson Era in Tampa Bay burned bright, but it burned short. Basically, the netminder had one solid half season and a spectacular playoff run before fading away and setting the stage for the number one name on this list.

This list is about who you remember wearing a certain number and Roloson’s greatest accomplishments with the Lightning happened with him sporting a different set of digits on his back. So we’ll save the in-depth look at his ride with the Bolts for another day.

Ben Bishop 2013-2017 (227 games played, 131 wins, 64 losses, .921 SV%, 2.28 GAA)

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Islanders - Game Four Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

A quick glance at the franchise leaders shows how important Ben Bishop was to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Wins, games played, save percentage, goals against average, minutes, goalie point shares, goals saved above average, and goals allowed adjusted all show his name at the top of the franchise leaders. For at least a few more seasons he is the greatest goaltender in franchise history.

So it’s a little odd that the beginning of his career in Tampa Bay didn’t start under the best of circumstances. Following an offseason where Mr. Yzerman had traded a lot of assets for Anders Lindback (two second round picks, a third round pick and the rights to Sebastien Caron), the general manager turned around and traded the team’s best rookie - Cory Conacher - and a fourth round pick for the big goaltender.

That was not well received in the greater Tampa area. Conacher was an up and coming homegrown star and Bishop was another tall, unproven goaltender who had already been traded once before in his career. [Writer’s note - It remains the only trade that I remember exactly where I was when I heard - Kuma’s II in Chicago having lunch with my wife. I was quite surly for the rest of the day]

What transpired over the next few seasons was pretty good. For the first time since Nikolai Khabibulin was in the crease, the Lightning had a true number one goaltender for multiple seasons in a row. The organization had a netminder that not only they could count on, but was pretty darn good. In another day and age, he would have spent a decade or more in net for the Lightning, but with the way finances work in today’s NHL, it wasn’t meant to be.

I could spend the next few paragraphs going over some of his highlights, but we’re already at 3200 words and my editor’s eyes are blurring over so I’ll leave you with this link - when he was traded to Los Angeles the staff went over some of their favorite Bishop moments. Good times.

Feel free to leave your own comments on who was your favorite number 30 and vote in the poll!

Poll

Who do you picture in your mind when you think of the number 30 for the Tampa Bay Lightning

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Jean-Claude Bergeron
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Mark Fitzpatrick
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Bill Ranford
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    Andrei Zyuzin
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Kevin Hodson
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Marc Denis
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Mike McKenna
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Antero Niittymaki
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Cedric Desjardins
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Dwayne Roloson (but only his second season)
    (1 vote)
  • 86%
    Ben Bishop
    (46 votes)
53 votes total Vote Now