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.
As we continue to move through the second round, the favorites continue to progress. Yesterday, the 15-16 team that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals eliminated the 06-07 team. Today, we get the most disappointing team of the Jon Cooper era against the unlikely success of the Guy Boucher led 10-11 squad. Here’s where the bracket stands after yesterday’s voting.
2016-2017 Lightning (42-30-10, 17th place)
The 16-17 team had one of the closer matchups in the first round as they defeated the inaugural 92-93 team with 64% of the vote. Frankly, I think that was an undeserved win. The 16-17 team missed the playoffs due to a myriad of injuries and by the end of the season, was relying on a forward group that included regular minutes from Michael Bournival, Gabriel Dumont, and Joel Vermin. That’s a good lineup in the AHL but for a team trying to make the playoffs, it’s less than ideal.
Meanwhile, the 92-93 team was the best expansion team in NHL history up to that point led by a fantastic season from Brian Bradley and while they never really threatened to make the playoffs, they were better than everyone expected. I would have liked to see them advance so they could get a little more love but instead, the 16-17 team is here in the second round.
This group stands out in the Cooper era as the only one to miss the playoffs. Major injuries to Steven Stamkos and Ryam Callahan played a big part in the results that year as well as missed time for Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson.
One thing we didn’t cover when we discussed them in the first round was that the bad season amidst all the success gave the Lightning a unique opportunity to sell at the trade deadline and have a relatively high draft pick.
They made full use of the deadline sending Ben Bishop to the Kings in exchange for Erik Cernak and a late round pick. That deal looks like robbery in retrospect although not many people took that position at the time. General Manager Steve Yzerman also used that deadline to move out the rest of Valtteri Filppula’s contract, which was necessary to create cap space for the summer.
That maneuver required two separate trades. First, the Lightning flipped Filppula to the Flyers in exchange for Mark Streit. Then, 48 minutes later, the Lightning flipped Streit to the Penguins. Those moves and the Bishop trade proved to be important in setting up the team for future success.
At the draft, the Lightning used their high pick on defender Cal Foote who is progressing through the development system. With two (nearly) full seasons in Syracuse, he should be in contention to make the team in training camp next season.
So while the team wasn’t a success on the ice, the front office did a good job of not allowing it to be a wasted season by using the opportunity to make some important moves for upcoming years.
2010-2011 Lightning (46-25-11, 4th place)
This is our first chance to discuss the 10-11 team as they got a bye in the first round. This was Steve Yzerman’s first season as General Manager after being hired by new owner Jeff Vinik in May of 2010.
The team didn’t waste any time establishing the pattern of success that would become the hallmark of this era. It started in the offseason as the team made sure to re-sign Martin St. Louis to a new contract as well as move out defender Andrej Meszaros while adding forward Simon Gagner in two separate trades with the Flyers.
Despite all the changes, expectations were low as the team was coming off some of the worst seasons in franchise history under the OK Hockey ownership group. The previous season had been better but the Lightning still missed the playoffs and the general air of incompetence around the organization was still present.
This group led by head coach Guy Boucher would change that perception. They played well during the regular season compiling 103 points and finishing second in the Southeast Division behind the Washington Capitals.
St. Louis and a twenty year old Steven Stamkos both topped 90 points with the veteran scoring 99 and the youngster 91. Vinny Lecavalier score 54 in 65 games. He was no longer at his peak by this point but still a very good player when healthy.
Also at just 20 years old, Victor Hedman led the Lightning defense in minutes. He only scored 26 points but considering he wasn’t getting much power play time, that was still a good total. More importantly, he played well outside of the score sheet putting up strong play driving numbers both offensively and defensively.
The Lightning with their mix of veterans and young future stars continued to surprise in the playoffs advancing all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before losing in seven games to the Boston Bruins.
The success was short lived as the team would struggle the following season and miss the playoffs. It would take two more seasons before Jon Cooper would take over and a new crop of young players would join Stamkos and Hedman for the team to return to the heights of the 10-11 run.
And now for the fun part. Cast your vote which team you think is best. The 15-16 team was a talented roster that underperformed due to injuries. The 10-11 team was maybe not as talented on paper but they were better on the ice and made a heck of a run in the playoffs.
Which is the better Tampa Bay Lightning team?
This poll is closed
Today’s News and Notes
Yesterday was pretty light on hockey news. The Arizona Coyotes announced the signing of prospect Mattias Maccelli to a three year entry level contract.
The Finish native was originally drafted in the fourth round, 98th overall, at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. At the time it may have looked like a bit of a reach, although Maccelli did come off a good season in with the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL.
This past season Maccelli played for Ilves in Liiga and in his rookie season, he finished with 13 goals and 17 assists in 43 games. He also had a stellar World Juniors where he was a key piece for Team Finland, earning him a lot more attention.
Pierre LeBrun reported that the 2020-2021 NHL season could be pushed back as far as December. According to the article, completing the 2019-2020 season in some form remains the goal for the NHL. And because of that, the timeline to start next season continues to slip backward.
The length of time it will take to complete the 2019-20 season (if resumed at all). Several team executives that I have spoken with over the past week have said the league has hinted at being willing to go as late as September, maybe even October, to finish off the playoffs for this season. After that, some form of an offseason would be needed, even in a truncated form, before you could start a new season.
LeBrun added in the same article that the league’s goal would still be to play an 82 game season next year even if the season doesn’t start until December. If that’s the case, it could mean another season with an unusual timeline as it seems almost impossible to fit a full schedule between December and April without putting players health at risk.