Updated October 2018.
The Tampa Bay Lightning came into the NHL in 1992-93. President and general manager Phil Esposito selected the name based on Tampa’s reputation as the lightning capital of the country.
In just their fourth season, the Lightning made the playoffs, falling to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round. It would be six more years before they’d make it back to the postseason.
All those bad years – the club had four straight seasons of 50 losses – gave them some high draft picks. The Lightning used those selection to draft star centers Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards. The club also acquired diminutive winger Martin St. Louis and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. The group improved dramatically under coach John Tortorella. In his second season behind the bench, he guided the Lightning to the second round of the playoffs.
The team built on their success in 2003-04, finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference. Tampa won consecutive seven-game series against the Flyers and the Calgary Flames to claim the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship. St. Louis led the league in scoring with 94 points, earning him the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
The team’s success was short-lived, as they followed up their Cup win with back-to-back first round playoff exits and a subsequent three-year playoff drought.
The 2009-10 Lightning had a fresh start with new owner Jeffrey Vinik and new general manager Steve Yzerman. Led by the offense of sophomore center Steven Stamkos and St. Louis, the 2010-11 club returned to the postseason, losing Game 7 of the conference finals to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Boston Bruins.
The Lightning returned to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, falling to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. The following season, the club reached the Eastern Conference Final, losing a hard-fought seven-game series to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Lightning seemingly took a step back in 2016-17, missing out on the playoffs by one point. However, with a bulk of talent, including 100-point scorer Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning returned to glory in 2017-18 with a 113-point finish and an appearance in the Eastern Conference Final. After a loss to the eventual-champion Washington Capitals, the Lightning continue to roll out an impressive lineup, headlined by star young netminder, Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Feature photo courtesy Bob Fina | Flickr
This post produced in collaboration with Josh Smith, managing editor of ScoutingTheRefs.com.
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