Tampa Bay Lightning

Wed, 18 Mar 2009 08:07

History of Tampa Bay Lightning

Information about the NHL team Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Tampa Bay Lightning was created after Phil Esposito along with the entire city of Tampa began to actively lobby for their own hockey team. The Tampa Bay Lightning was created in 1992 and played their first game with Phil Esposito leading as club president and Terry Crisp as coach. The team, popularly known as the Bolts, also made headlines when they chose Manon Rheaume, the only woman goalie to play in an exhibition. She wowed the crowd when she stopped 7 out of 9 shots against the St. Louis Blues. Although Rheaume’s participation was originally only intended for the stunts she was later signed to play for the team’s top minor league club in Atlanta.

The Tampa Bay Lightning started off the regular season on a good note, beating the defending champions the Chicago Blackhawks with a score of 7-3 led by Chris Kontos. However, the Lightning would eventually finish last in the Norris Division with a disappointing score of 23-54-7.

The three-month lock-out that occurred in the 1994-1995 season due to the lack of a collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the teams led to a shortened season that was eventually salvaged and which started on January 20, with the Lightning facing the Pittsburg Penguins at the Thunderdome. The team finished the season in 6th place with a record of 17-28-3.

The Bolts were still at 6th place a season later. They opened the 1997-1998 season in their own home area, the Ice Palace on October 20, beating New York Rangers in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 19,000 fans, only to end the season with another dismal record of 32-40-10.

Cullen’s Fight with Cancer

John Cullen, one of the team’s top scorers had to miss the 1997-1998 season to undergo chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The team struggled without Cullen and eventually landed in last place. Terry Crisp was replaced by Jacques Demers, who will later replace Phil Esposito as the team’s GM in one of the team’s worst seasons yet, with a record of 17-55-10. Cullen would eventually make a comeback as assistant coach during the 1998-1999 season, but this did not prevent the team’s downward struggle that again landed them in last place in the Southeast Division with a record of 19-54-9, a record even lower than that of the Nashville Predators.

From 1998 to 2002 the Lightning continued on their losing streak, posting a disappointing record after another. In the 2001-2002 season, the team’s 10th year anniversary, the Lightning was out of the play-offs for the 9th time in franchise history. The 2002-2003 season offered a small glimmer of hope, with the team all fired up from the straight seven wins in October. Dave Andreychuk, team captain became the 14th player on the history of the league to reach the 600 goal scored milestone. The team did not let a slight setback on December and January, when they reached back to 500, to affect their play, pushing stronger in the second half of the season to face the Washington Capitals for the Southeast Division title. The Lightning would eventually beat out the Capitals by one point. They again faced the Caps at the play-offs, where the first two games went to the Capitals with a score of 9-3. When the game moved to Washington, the team captured game 3, and the Lightning eventually won the series in game 6 with Martin St. Louis Blues scoring the winning goal in triple overtime.

The second round of the play-offs pitted the Lightning against the New Jersey Devils, which would eventually come out victorious after 5 games.

The team also managed to start off the 2003-2004 season by winning their first seven games. However, the team faced difficult times ahead, with only four wins in December and falling out of the first place in the Southeast division. Coach Tortorella’s decision to bench Goalie Nickolai Khabibulin and calling out Vincent Lecavalier resulted to a better performance from the team. Vincent Lecavalier scored 32 goals and 43 assists. Martin St. Louis also did better, scoring a total of 35 goals and 56 assists, a feat which earned him the Hart Trophy. This was also the season when the team was able to post an Eastern Conference best of 46-21-8-6, an achievement that also earned Coach Tortorella the Jack Adams Award as Coach of the Year.

The Stanley Cup

The team was off to the Stanley Cup finals in the 2003-2004 season, facing the Calgary Flames but dropping the first game at 4-1. The move to Calgary, which resulted to the deluge of excited and anxious home arena fans, may have played a part in the Lightning’s discomfort. The rowdy crowd got even noisier as the game shifted from the Flames to the Lightning, as the second game went into OT, and the Bolts were able to bag game 4, followed by a tie at OT in game 5. In the end the, the Stanley Cup went to the Bolts with a superb defense from Khabibulin for a 2-1 victory.

Captain Dave Andreychuk was released in the 2005-2006 season, successfully ending a Hall of Fame career at 42. Martin St. Louis was also finding it hard to return to his old play, but despite these the team managed to stay on the running for play-offs seeded at 8th with a record of 43-336. The team’s luck effectively run out once they reached the play-offs, however, when they came face-to-face with the Ottawa Senators who sweeped the Lightning in five games.

The 2006-2007 season saw the Lightning off to a somewhat non-stellar start, which nonetheless showed some signs of improvement when the team started winning games in February, climbing up the ranks in the Southeast Division. This turnaround was partly attributed to Lecavalier who led the NHL in goals at 52. The Lightning had a chance at the division title, placing 7th at the Eastern Conference play-offs. They faced the New Jersey Devils in the first round, and although they won games 2 and 3, the team lost to the Devils by the fourth game, and the season eventually ended up a loss to the Devils with a score of 3-2.

Tortorella Leaves the Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning team captain Tim Taylor was nowhere to be seen at the start of the 2007-2008 season due to a condition called hip dysplasia, which required him to undergo surgery. The lighting started their slide on the standings as soon as December rolled, with just two games won over a total of 13. At the end of the season the team would post just five more wins along with a 31-42-9. This also put an end to John Tortorella’s hold on the team. Barry Melrose replaced Tortorella as Lightning coach.

Barry Melrose’s first few months on the help got off to a bad start, with the team losing two games from the New York Rangers in Prague. The team was equally luckless upon their return to America, losing their first five games. Melrose also did not get along with both the players and the management, and he was eventually fired on November 14, leaving the team holding a 5-7-4 record.