Monday, November 20, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Why this Lightning season could be the most disappointing in Tampa Bay history

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — The Lightning trails in the race for the final wild card. It has made a commendable late charge, despite more injuries and employing a patchwork lineup.

But there is the current two-game losing streak. Tonight's game at Amalie Arena against Arizona, the second worst team in the league, qualifies as "must win."

Arizona. Must win. Desperate hockey.

The Lightning is trying to save some face. It's about the greater fight, a pitched battle to stave off infamy:

The most disappointing season in Tampa Bay professional sports history.

This was a team coming off a trip to the Stanley Cup final followed by a trip to the Eastern Conference final. Challenging for the Stanley seemed logical, particularly when it kept the band together. Steven Stamkos: back. Victor Hedman: signed long-term. Nikita Kucherov: signed. Ben Bishop: back. What could stop the Lightning?

Bad hockey and a pile of injuries. That's what.

Does Stamkos' return even matter at this point?

More important, do the Bolts want to be at the head of the class for most disappointing season?

Mind you, the competition is stiff.

2003 Bucs

A spectacular high dive coming off 2002 and the Super Bowl win. The Bucs were kings of the world heading into the 2003 season. Chucky Gruden and his stars were the talk of football. They began with a 17-0 shutout of the Eagles in Philadelphia's new stadium, as opposed to Veterans Stadium, which the Bucs had closed in the NFC title game.

But it all came apart on Monday Night Football, with the Bucs blowing a 35-14 lead with five minutes left to lose in Tony Dungy's return to Tampa with the Colts. The Bucs went downhill from there. There was the Keyshawn de-activation, the Gruden-Rich McKay split and awful losses everywhere for a 7-9 finish.

2009 Rays

The 2009 Rays, who went 84-78, truly disappointed if only because of expectations — there finally were some. Joe Maddon and the Miracles, coming off a World Series appearance from nowhere, broke slowly, rallied, then lost 11 straight in September. The fun would return, but 2009 was a disappointment. Maybe we should have seen it coming before the 2009 season, when the Rays added what was thought to be the missing piece: Pat Burrell.

1980 Bucs

Once 0-26 hapless, Tampa Bay had broken through in 1979, with Lee Roy Selmon and defense and Doug Williams leading the offense. They reached the NFL title game. They had Tampa Bay in the palm of their hands. Every game in Tampa Stadium was sold out. They began 2-0 in 1980. They finished 5-10-1, losing six of their last seven.

1998 Bucs

In 1997, the Bucs ended all those years of double-digit-loss seasons with a playoff season and a playoff win. The town was rocking. The 1998 Bucs finished 8-8, out of the playoffs, eliminated from contention as it returned from Cincinnati after a meaningless shutout win.

2014 Rays

In hindsight, this is where it began to come apart. The 2013 Rays won 92 games and beat Texas in a tiebreaker and Cleveland in the wild-card game. They went 77-85 in 2014. David Price was traded during the season. Ben Zobrist was traded after the season. Joe Maddon and GM Andrew Friedman left. The Rays have never come close to winning since.

2004-05 Lightning

This season was so bad it didn't even exist. It was the lockout stoppage and it devoured everything, including the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning making a true title defense. By the time hockey resumed, goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was gone. Not much else was the same, either. The Season That Never Was.

2016-17 Lightning

Desperate hockey, anyone?

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or 813-731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly.

     
     
Comments
Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

BRANDON — At one point during Saturday’s game against the Islanders, the Lightning was first in the NHL in points and second in points scored by its defensemen. That’s one reason the team is off to the best start in franchise history.It’s also by des...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

TAMPA — Jon Cooper stood at the podium late Saturday night to address the media after a regulation loss for only the third time this season."Let’s be honest," he said, "we’ve had one hell of a start."The loss, he added, was frustrating, even when you...
Published: 11/19/17
Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

TAMPA — The firepower showed up in the third period.Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat scored 13 seconds apart. Gourde scored again.Suddenly it was a one-goal game, and the Lightning appeared on its way to one of those comeback wins that would be remember...
Published: 11/18/17
Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

TAMPA — If you told coach Jon Cooper his team would open the season with wins in 15 of the first 19 games, well, "I’m not sure I can sit here and say I would have predicted that," he said Saturday morning.But the Lightning did just that to lead the N...
Published: 11/18/17
Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Islanders

Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Islanders

This is what happens when you have the best record in the league: You get the best from the other team. The Islanders came out strong and the Lightning couldn’t match it, falling behind 4-0 early in the third. For the most part, the Lightning has bee...
Published: 11/18/17
Early Lightning awards: Tough call on MVP

Early Lightning awards: Tough call on MVP

TAMPA — It’s still way early, but if the Lightning’s record start continues, there will be a lot of hardware up for grabs. And we’re not just talking about the Stanley Cup. Nikita Kucherov has league MVP written all over him. Andrei Vasilevskiy coul...
Published: 11/18/17

Red-hot Lightning leading NHL in more than wins

Nikita Kucherov, top left, celebrates with teammate Steven Stamkos (91) after scoring against Florida Panthers goalie James Reimer. [AP photo]The Lightning (15-2-2) enters tonight’s game against the visiting Islanders (10-6-2) leading the leagu...
Published: 11/18/17
Brayden Point becomes ‘the heartbeat’ of the Lightning

Brayden Point becomes ‘the heartbeat’ of the Lightning

TAMPA — A local TV crew set up shop in front of Brayden Point’s locker stall the other day, waiting for the Lightning forward to be ready.Then, captain Steven Stamkos walked into the room for his scrum. It didn’t take long for the TV crew to change c...
Published: 11/17/17
Lightning pummels Stars for fifth straight win

Lightning pummels Stars for fifth straight win

TAMPA — The Lightning welcomed Ben Bishop back with a classy, fitting video tribute in Thursday’s first period. The sellout crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena gave Bishop, the greatest goalie in franchise history, a standing ovation. It was an emotional...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Lightning journal: Specials teams in the spotlight vs. Stars

Lightning journal: Specials teams in the spotlight vs. Stars

TAMPA — C Braydon Point’s shorthanded goal tipped the game in the Lightning’s favor and the three penalties it killed during the second period kept it that way in Thursday’s 6-1 victory against the Stars.Dallas entered the game with an NHL-best 30.2 ...
Published: 11/16/17