Ah, hockey in the summer, where things come to a grinding halt for about two months in between one long season and another. To fill the void we at Eye on Hockey thought it would be fun to make an all-time team for each of the 30 organizations in the NHL today.
The ground rules: The teams will consist of a center, two wings (regardless of which side), two defensemen and a goaltender. A player must have spent at least 200 games with a franchise to be considered. So Bobby Orr won't be on the Blackhawks' roster or Wayne Gretzky for St. Louis.
Coming to the NHL as part of the first wave of expansion to the American southeast, the Tampa Bay Lightning have been around since 1991-92. The team has experienced many peaks and valleys since then, having made the playoffs just six times in 20 seasons. Though six in 20 isn't much to write home about, the team did capture the Stanley Cup in 2004.
This list was incredibly tough to make as three of the best players in franchise history play the center position -- Lecavalier, Richards and Stamkos -- while St. Louis was the only really clear choice at wing.
It doesn't get a lot easier on defense or in goal, but there's heavy representation on this team from that 2004 Stanley Cup champions squad. In fact, every player on this all-time team was part of that historic Lightning squad.
Instead of jumping right into this list, let's take a look at a piece of Tampa Bay infamy. Pictured below is the alternate jersey from the 1998-99 season, which depicts a storm over water. Front and back, this is thing is horrifying (via classicauctions.com).
Vincent Lecavalier: This probably should've been an easier call than I made it, but Lecavalier ended up beating out Stamkos and Richards for both his longevity and productivity in the position. When his career is over, this spot almost assuredly will belong to Stamkos, but Vinny has tenure at this point having played in a franchise-record 1,037 games.
Lecavalier is the club's all-time leading goal scorer (for now) with 383 and is second all-time with 874 points. The off-and-on captain of the squad enjoyed a 14-year career in Tampa before being bought out this season. He was later signed by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Lecavalier, who was the first overall selection by the Lightning in 1998, was part of five of the team's six playoff appearances and posted 16 points en route to the club's only Stanley Cup. He was also part of an extremely rare Stanley Cup Final superstar fight with Jarome Iginla.
For many years, Lecavalier was the face of this team. He topped 30 goals five times, including his career-best season of 52 goals in 2006-07, in which he won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league's top goal scorer.
Here's Lecavalier sharing the story of his first NHL goal.
Martin St. Louis: One of the great stories in the NHL, Martin St. Louis became one of the most prolific point producers in the game since he joined the Lightning. Undrafted out of the University of Vermont, St. Louis signed a free agent deal with the Cleveland Lumberjacks in the old International Hockey League. He soon earned a contract from the Calgary Flames and after two seasons ended up signing a free agent deal with the Lightning. The rest, as they say, is history.
Since 2000-01, the year St. Louis joined the Lightning, only two NHL players have posted more points than the diminutive winger's 892: Joe Thornton and Jarome Iginla. At a generously listed 5-8, 176, St. Louis wasn't even supposed to make it to the league, but now he has a whole bunch of points and a lot of hardware to show for it.
St. Louis had a dominant season in 2003-04, posting a league-best 94 points, earning the Art Ross Trophy. He also took home the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player and the Ted Lindsay as MVP voted by his peers. That same year, he led the playoffs with 15 assists and put up 24 points as Tampa Bay took home the Stanley Cup.
Remarkably, St. Louis collected his second Art Ross just last season with a 60-point effort bolstored by a league-high 43 assists.He just doesn't stop.
The Laval, Quebec native, who has topped 80 points six times in his career, is the Lightning's all-time leader with 892 points, including a franchise-best 556 assists, as well as 0.98 points-per-game, which ranks second all-time.
Despite all his offensive prowess, St. Louis was once bested in an end-of-practice strip shootout competition, not scoring until he was down to his hockey pants, shirt and FLIP FLOPS...
Fredrik Modin: It's a shame to leave off so many great centers and not have as much prowess on the wings, but Freddy Modin was a pretty solid guy for the Lightning over six seasons. His best years over a 14-year career came in Tampa Bay.
Modin came to the Lightning in a 1999 trade and would become a solid contributor for the team immediately. Over his Lightning career, Modin posted 286 points, which ranks seventh in franchise history.
He was also an integral part of the Stanley Cup run, posting 19 points in 23 games.
While Modin might not scream all-time great, as far as this franchise is concerned, he's the second best wing to ever play in Tampa.
Dan Boyle: After coming to Tampa in a trade with the Florida Panthers for a fifth-round draft choice (!), Dan Boyle became one of the game's better offensive defenseman. He never put up more than 26 points in three and a half season with the Panthers, but notched 53 in his first full campaign with the Lightning.
The following year, he was a key part of Tampa Bay's Stanley Cup squad and posted 10 points during the 2004 Cup run.
Over six seasons with the Lightning, Boyle posted 253 points, which is tops among blueliners and ninth overall in the history of the franchise. He had a career year in 2006-07 with 20 goals, 43 assists. He missed most of the next season, his last in Tampa, with wrist surgery.
Boyle was so good at getting the puck up and down the ice with his solid skating and puck moving. Here he is showing off some of his high-end puck skills for a great end-to-end goal.
Pavel Kubina: Over two stints with the Lightning, Kubina appeared in 662 games, more than any other defenseman in franchise history.The two-way Czech blueliner was Tampa's seventh round pick in 1996. By 1998, he was a full-time NHLer with the club.
Kubina ranks 10th all-time in Tampa, and second among defensemen, with 243 points. He never finished with fewer than 20 points in any full season with the club. In the 2003-04 season, Kubina blasted a career-high 17 goals, including eight on the power play. He was also a top-four defenseman during the Stanley Cup run of that same year.
Kubina never really stood out in any one thing, but was an effective defenseman and one of the best this franchise has ever had. He also has the second-most penalty minutes in club history with 862. Here he is sticking up for goalie Mathieu Garon against Ryan Carter.
Nikolai Khabibulin: A journeyman goaltender, Khabibulin has been a solid goalie for a long time in the NHL. Some of his greatest success came in Tampa Bay over four seasons.
Khabibulin is the Lightning's record holder in goals- against average (2.39), save percentage (.914) and shutouts (14). His 192 appearances are second all-time for Tampa.
Khabibulin will be best known for the Stanley Cup run in 2004, however. He was sensational from start to finish, while starting every game. He posted a sparkling .933 save percentage and 1.71 goals-against average while collecting five shutouts.
Here's one of his best saves from the Stanley Cup Final, which also reminded me that on the ice, Khabibulin's on-ice facial expressions are that of a deranged man. Whatever he's been doing, it's been working for the last 18 years.