The Super Bowl is here! And even better is that the local team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are making history as the first team to play for a Super Bowl in their home stadium. The NFL is unique among the big four professional leagues that the Championship game is held at a neutral site. Well, except for when the NHL sent their teams into a bubble and the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup. Oh, and the Tampa Bay Rays met the Los Angeles Dodgers in a neutral stadium, and the Lakers won in the Orlando bubble. Ok, the NFL is the only league that does that in normal years.
Let’s have some fun. How about we pick and choose some of the Bucs players and find an equivalent player in Lightning history that the player most reminds us. Disagree or have a different match up? Let me know in the comments! Let’s have a little fun, silly debate.
QB Tom Brady - F Mark Recchi
Brady came to the Bucs this past off season on a two-year deal. He’s a sure fire, first ballot Hall of Famer that’s nearing the end of his career, but is still having successful for the Lightning. While no one that has come to the Lightning has had the same kind of success as Brady before joining the Lightning, Recchi comes the closest. Recchi had two Stanley Cups to his name, with the Penguins and Hurricanes, and added another in the last year of his career in 2010-11 with the Bruins. The Lightning were still bad in 2008-09 and ended up being a trade deadline sell, but he was 40 years old and that alone makes him one of the closer comparables for Tom Brady.
WR Mike Evans - F Nikita Kucherov
Two of the best at their positions and potential future Hall of Famers. They’re both extremely talented play makers. They’re just exciting to watch and see some of the best at their craft do their jobs game in and game out.
WR Chris Godwin - F Brayden Point
Both are third round picks. Godwin was picked 84th overall and Point was picked 79th overall. They’re both younger players that have quickly ascended into being among the best at their positions. They both have great hands. They both have speed. They’re both big play threats. What’s not to like about these two?
TE Rob Gronkowski - F Pat Maroon
Gronkowski is a big man and a big dork. It came out during the press rounds that he tricked the Bucs coaching staff during offseason workouts by recording a bunch of videos of him doing sprints in different shirts and sending them in each day instead of doing the work every day. I can also see Pat Maroon being the kind of guy to do the same and he also has a big personality. They also both will play tough, with Gronkowski being one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL.
TE Cameron Brate - F Alex Killorn
They both went to Harvard.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul - F Steven Stamkos
Pierre-Paul lost fingers in a fireworks accident prior to the 2015 season. While not quite the same, Stamkos broke his leg during the 2013-14 season. For both players, these could have been career altering injuries, and it was. It has altered the way that both play the game. Both players though have shown resiliency in bouncing back to perform at a high level.
OLB Shaquil Barrett - F Yanni Gourde
Both players went undrafted and still found their way into the league. For Gourde, he had to go through development time in the AHL before making it to the NHL. For Barrett, it meant playing behind a future Hall of Famer before the Bucs gave him a chance and he flourished. They’ve both had to overcome obstacles to make it to the big times and have proven that they belong.
QB Blaine Gabbert - D Luke Schenn
Gabbert was fairly highly thought of coming out of the 2011 draft and was the third quarterback to come off the board at 10th overall. Schenn was drafted 5th overall and was the fourth defensemen to come off the board in the 2008 draft. Neither of them have turned out to be the player they were expected to be in the league. They’re both here. They’re on the roster. They’re ok. But you’d just rather not have to see either one of them come into the game.
CB Sean Murphy-Bunting - D Andrej Sustr
Murphy-Bunting isn’t a big or tall guy like Sustr, but what they do have in common is that they’ve often been burned in coverage and fans on Twitter absolutely LOVE to call them out for it.
S Antoine Winfield Jr. - D Cal Foote
Winfield is the son of former NFL defensive back Antoine Winfield Senior. Cal Foote is the song of former NHL defenseman Adam Foote. They’re both rookies on defense. Winfield has made more of an impact on the Bucs than Foote has so far with the Lightning, but there is still plenty of time in the season for Foote to grow into a similar role as a reliable defender that also likes to play a physical style.
WR Tyler Johnson - F Tyler Johnson
Come on. This one was too easy. TOOOOOOOO EAAAASSSSYYYYYY!!!!!!!
T Tristan Wirfs - D Mikhail Sergachev
Wirfs came to the Buccaneers as the 13th overall pick. He’s stepped right in as the right tackle for the Bucs and has put up a great rookie season. He’ll eventually move over to the left side to take the harder tackle spot, but for now, he’s been eased in with a easier role. This was very similar to Sergachev when he was acquired in the Jonathan Drouin trade. The Lightning eased him into the NHL with a protected role, and he’s grown into being a well-rounded defenseman that can take on big minutes.
DT Vita Vea - D Pavel Kubina
Vita Vea is the heaviest player on the Bucs roster at 347 pounds at 6’4”. Obviously, no hockey player is going to come close to that kind of weight. So we’ll go with the heaviest Lightning player to play significant time with the team. Kubina is listed at 6’4” and 258 pounds by the NHL site.
DT Anthony Nelson - D Vladimir Mihalik
In a similar vein, let’s look at the tallest players. Nelson is listed at 6’7” and Mihalik was listed at 6’10”. Mihalik only played 15 games in the NHL for the Lightning though. Mihalik also never scored a goal and Nelson has never scored a touchdown!