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’ve reached the semi finals of the bracket meaning we only have three days left. We’ll crown the winner on Wednesday. Yesterday, in perhaps the closest contest so far, the 2014-2015 team defeated the 2018-2019 team with a 59-41 split. Today, the prohibitive favorite, the 2003-2004 championship team faces the 2015-2016 team that went to the Eastern Conference Final. Before we get into it, let’s check in on the bracket.
At this point in the tournament, we can dispense with the deep dives into each team. We’ve given the background multiple times so you probably already know how you’re going to vote.
The 2003-2004 team won the Stanley Cup. They’re responsible for the only title in team history and one of only two among the four major North American sports in Tampa history. They were led by the first great batch of Lightning players. Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, and Brad Richards set the standard for all future Lightning players to emulate. John Tortorella was the first head coach to bring sustained hockey success to Tampa. Overstating the importance of that team would be difficult.
The 2015-2016 team obviously doesn’t hold the same historical importance to the franchise but they were a formidable group. They lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games after being without Steven Stamkos for the entire playoffs until game seven against the Penguins. Those Pens would then go on to win their first of two consecutive Stanley Cups.
Just as the 03-04 team represents the first successful core in team history, the 15-16 team is a good representation of the second. Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman were all into their primes unlike the team from 2010-2011 when Kucherov wasn’t on the team yet and Hedman was still too young to be at his best. One could make a decent argument that they were better than the team that made the Cup Final the year before and if not for the injuries, they might have gotten a second chance at a title.
But as it stands, the vote is between a team that won the Cup and a team that fell just short.
And now for the fun part. Choose which of these teams deserves to advance to the final on Wednesday.
Which is the better Tampa Bay Lightning team?
This poll is closed
Today’s News and Notes
The Ducks have signed defenseman Brendan Guhle to a two-year contract extension through the 2021-22 NHL season and center Sam Carrick to a one-year extension through 2020-21.
Keep an eye on the AHL today. All indications are that they will officially cancel the remainder of the season. They had a meeting on Friday afternoon to plan for how to handle the cancellation and barring something unexpected, they should make the announcement today.