The Tampa Bay Lightning are an NHL franchise in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference.
The Lightning joined the NHL in 1992. The Lightning began their first season hot, leading the then-Norris Division for the first month or so. However, the long season and long road trips ended up leaving the Bolts in last place in their division, despite having one of the best initial seasons for an expansion team in NHL history. In 1995-96, after the lockout a season earlier, the Lightning made their first playoff appearance, losing to Philadelphia in the first round. The next season, unfortunately, Tampa Bay suffered a tremendous number of injuries to many of their star players including Brian Bradley, John Cullen and Darren Puppa. The wheels came all the way off the bus over the next four years, as the Bolts lost over 50 games in each season from 1997 until 2001. Trouble with poor ownership and incredible financial difficulties were leaving the Lightning players out to dry and there was really nothing that anyone who actually knew the game could do about it.
Finally, new ownership and new head coach John Tortorella turned the Lightning around and carried them straight to the playoffs, where they lost in the second round. The young influx of talent spearheaded by Martin St. Louis and franchise player Vincent Lecavalier, along with Brad Richards and captain Dave Andreychuk led the Bolts to the best record in the East in 2003-04. Nikolai Khabibulin backstopped the team all the way through the playoffs to a tough seven game series with the gritty Calgary Flames. The Lightning won their first Stanley Cup at home in Game 7 on Ruslan Fedotenko’s two-goal performance. Brad Richards won the Conn Smythe, Tortorella won the Jack Adams Award and St. Louis won Hart Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award as well.
The Lightning struggled to make the playoffs after the ’04-05 lockout, and were bounced in the first round. With poor goaltending and little to no help for Lecavalier and St. Louis, the Lightning finished with the worst record in the NHL in 2007-08. The 2008 offseason was crucial for the Lightning, as they went out and aggressively pursued talent to shore up their supporting cast. Lecavalier signed a long term contract which should keep him with the franchise for the rest of his career, Olaf Kolzig was signed from the Capitals to provide some stability in net and top draft pick Steve Stamkos is expected to start in the NHL immediately. Barry Melrose was also hired as the new head coach.
The Lightning play out of the St. Pete Times Forum, which holds 19,500 fans and hosts the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League as well.
Stanley Cups won: 2003-04
Notable Players: Dave Andreychuk, Dan Boyle, Brian Bradley, John Cullen, Ruslan Fedotenko, Roman Hamrlik, Petr Klima, Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Malone, Fredrik Modin, Vaclav Prospal, Darren Puppa, Mark Recchi, Brad Richards, Denis Savard, Martin St. Louis, Steve Stamkos, Rob Zamuner