Over the next few weeks, we’re running a bracket to determine the best Tampa Bay Lightning team in franchise history. Each day, we’ll put two of the 27 teams since the inaugural season in 1992-1993 up against each other to determine a winner until we’re left with who the community thinks is the best version of the Lightning.
We’re finishing the first week of our bracket today. On Friday, the 2016-17 easily beat the team from inaugural season, having exactly twice as much votes. Today we continue with another clash of teams that didn’t make the playoffs - the 2001-02 Tampa Bay Lightning against the 2011-12 Tampa Bay Lightning.
2001-2002 Lightning (27-40-11-4, 27th place)
The first full season for John Tortorella as the Tampa Bay Lightning coach was one of the least successful seasons during his time with the team, although comparing with the previous season, the Lightning definitely were showing signs of improvement. In the end, the Lightning had been eliminated from the playoff race in February and finished third in the Southeast Division, probably the weakest division in the NHL.
This year should have been also a breakout season for Martin St. Louis. His ice time has cardinally increased, he was given more minutes on the power play and was playing on the top line with Brad Richard as a center. In his second season with the Lightning, St. Louis was leading the team with 16 goals and 17 assists after 46 games. In January St. Louis suffered an injury, breaking the fibula in his right leg after a hit into the boards by the Pittsburgh Penguins Josef Melichar. St. Louis missed three months, returning in April when the Lightning were already out of playoff contention. His injury played a significant role in the Lightning’s elimination as the team still had a chance to make playoffs before that game in January.
The 2001-02 season was also the first full season for Nikolai Khabibulin as a Tampa Bay Lightning player. He played 70 games, which seems absolutely crazy nowadays, posting .920 save percentage and 2.36 GAA. During this season, he earned an invitation to an All-Star game, where he was robbed of the MVP award, despite recording a shutout in the third period of the game. At the end of the season, he also received three third votes for the Vezina Trophy.
After failing to make the postseason, general manager Rick Dudley was released from his position and was replaced by Jay Feaster who then spent six years with the franchise.
The Lightning finished the season with 69 points, breaking the 60-point mark for the first time since the 1996-97 season. Despite the early elimination from the playoffs race, the team were already headed in the right direction. After that season they’ve seen four consecutive playoff appearances, including winning the Stanley Cup trophy in 2004.
2011-2012 Lightning (38-36-2, 21st place)
One year before the Lightning reached the Eastern Conference Final and expectations for this season were very high, but due to departures of some players and regression of the others, the Lightning didn’t qualify for the Playoffs.
One of the most positive things that happened during this season was Steven Stamkos’ individual perfomance. The forward had already established himself as one of the league’s top goal scorers and before the start of the season, he signed a five-year extension worth $37.5 million. In this season, he earned every cent of his deal, scoring 60 goals in 82 games and winning his second Maurice Richard Trophy. Though this time he didn’t have to share it with another player as he outscored the second top goalscorer by ten goals. Stamkos fell short from winning the Hart Trophy, losing only to Evgeni Malkin by 12 points.
Despite his individual outcome, the team failed to follow his path. Despite being 36-years-old, Martin St. Louis finished the season in second on the team in scoring, recording 74 points in 77 games, proving that he was still one of the team’s leaders. Vincent Lecavalier already started showing signs of fading and the young core hadn’t been formed yet. Victor Hedman signed a five-year deal with the team during this season and already was a significant player for the team, playing 23 minutes per game. But other than that, the Lightning had clearly been in the rebuilding process. A long path of working with prospects and free agents were still ahead of them.
The Lightning finished third in the Southeast Division and 21st in the league. This season was also the last full year as the Lightning coach for Guy Boucher.
Now for the fun part. Tell us which of these two teams you think was best. The winner will face the 2017-18 team, which reached the Eastern Conference finals. That’s a tough second round matchup but which team deserves to get there?
Which is the better Tampa Bay Lightning team?
This poll is closed
Today’s News and Notes
On Friday evening, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced the re-signing of the Syracuse Crunch forward Daniel Walcott to a one-year, two-way contract. Justin recapped this news for you [Raw Charge]
In 240 career AHL games (all but one with the Crunch) the former 5th-round pick by the New York Rangers has 63 points (18 goals, 45 assists) and 288 penalty minutes. The Lightning acquired him in 2015 in exchange for a seventh round pick (a conditional pick that was originally part of the Martin St. Louis trade). He began his career as a defenseman, but transitioned to forward a few seasons ago. A pesky, hard-working forward, he excels at creating chaos on the forecheck and generally annoying the other teams.
Lauren is nearing the top five of her 2021 draft prospect list. This time she wrote an article about the young American forward Sasha Pastujov [Raw Charge]
If the name ‘Pastujov’ sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Sasha is the youngest of three hockey brothers — older siblings Nick and Michael play at the University of Michigan and Nick was a seventh round draft pick of the New York Islanders in 2016. Though they reside in Michigan, the Pastujov family has ties to the Tampa area — they lived in Bradenton — and Sasha’s brothers grew up watching the Tampa Bay Lightning.
There are a lot of parallels between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs, two teams built to outscore opposing teams into oblivion – they’re just on different parts of their trajectories. While the Lightning have been close in year’s past with this core and have been dominant during the regular season, the Leafs are still in the early part of their window and haven’t seen any playoff success yet, losing in the first round in three straight seasons.
The NHL is exploring an option of playing the remaining games of the season in Manchester, New Hampshire.
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu told a local radio station that he has held discussions with the #NHL about the city of Manchester potentially hosting neutral-site games if the season resumes: https://t.co/3pqtpO476G#TSNHockey pic.twitter.com/rsyeS6xOIj— TSN Hockey (@TSNHockey) April 18, 2020
The Winnipeg Jets and Dustin Byfuglien have finally reached an agreement on player’s termination of contract.