While the NHL season sits in a state of pause due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, this seems like a good time to take a stroll down memory lane. More specifically, channeling our inner Sesame Street and taking an alphabet-themed look at Tampa Bay Lightning history.
Scrolling A to Z through the Lightning’s 27-season history turned out to be a fun ride down memory lane. Nearly the entire alphabet showcases both franchise legends, recent stars who have authored great moments, and obscure names long forgotten. While cruising through the archives, some selections were very easy. On the other hand, a few letters featured some difficult choices that some might not agree with. In between, there’s a couple of letters with no choices, a couple more with only one option, and a few letters where the depth was perilously thin.
With the help of the Lightning’s skater registry and goalie registry on Hockey Reference, lets take a look at each letter of the alphabet, sorted by the player’s last name. That’s right, we’re scouring the list of all 366 skaters and 47 goalies that have ever donned a Lightning uniform. All statistics and references come courtesy of Hockey Reference as well.
The Candidates: Dimitry Afanasenkov, Nikita Alexeev, Mikael Andersson, Dave Andreychuk, Mike Angelidis, Evgeny Artyukhin, Kaspars Astashenko, Adrian Aucoin, Keith Aulie
The Choice: Dave Andreychuk
The first Lightning player to earn induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame starts off the Lightning alphabet, and it’s a pretty easy choice. While Andreychuk only scored 68 of his 680 career goals in Tampa Bay, his impact on the team turned out to be immeasurable. Following his arrival in 2001, his leadership provided a steadying presence for a young Lightning team that eventually found their way, culminating in the franchise’s only Stanley Cup title in 2004. On top of that, Andreychuk has a statue of himself holding up the Cup outside of Amalie Arena.
Miscellaneous: Andersson was an inaugural member of the Lightning, playing 435 games for them from 1992-93 all the way to about halfway through the 1998-99 season. His highest offensive output as a Bolt was 1992-93 when he tallied 16 goals and 27 points. Tampa Bay took Alexeev with the eighth overall pick in 2000, but he only played in 144 games with the team from 2001-2007. Afanasenkov played two-and-a-half seasons with the Lightning, including a bottom-six role on their 2004 Cup team.
The Candidates: Drew Bannister, Mark Barberio, Matthew Barnaby, Bob Beers, Brian Bellows, Sean Bergenheim, Jean-Claude Bergeron, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Marc Bergevin, Tim Bergland, Karel Betik, Zac Bierk, Mathieu Biron, Ben Bishop, Mike Blunden, Brandon Bochenski, Zach Bogosian, Josef Boumedienne, Michael Bournival, Brian Boyle, Dan Boyle, Brian Bradley, Eric Brewer, Paul Brousseau, J.T. Brown, Peter Budaj, Marc Bureau, Sean Burke, Shawn Burr, Viacheslav Butsayev
The Choice: Ben Bishop
This is the first letter where there’s more than one solid option. However, Bishop is still a pretty clear choice for the letter B. After arriving in a trade with Ottawa in 2013, Bishop helped stabilize the Lightning’s crease after year’s of not having starting-caliber goaltending following Nikolai Khabibulin’s departure in 2005. Bishop finished as a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2013-14 and 2015-16, the latter season seeing him finish as a Second Team NHL All-Star while leading the league with a 2.06 goals-against average.
Miscellaneous: Brian Bradley represented the Lightning in back-to-back All-Star games in 1993 and 1994, but during his six seasons in Tampa his production topped out in the inaugural 1992-93 season when he finished with 42 goals and 86 points. His career came to a halt in 1997-98 due to injuries. One could make a case for Dan Boyle since he played a key role on the 2004 Cup team. Despite a Second Team All-Star nod and a fourth-place finish in Norris Trophy voting in 2006-07, his impact on the franchise as a whole simply doesn’t quite equal to what Bishop did despite being a solid contributor for several years. Brian Boyle was a solid penalty killer and physical presence who was a fan favorite, much like Bishop.
The Candidates: Ryan Callahan, Jock Callander, Jim Campbell, Dave Capuano, Matt Carle, Sebastien Caron, Erik Cernak, Shawn Chambers, Eric Charron, Martin Cibak, Dino Ciccarelli, Enrico Ciccone, Zdeno Ciger, Anthony Cirelli, Brett Clark, Wendel Clark, Dan Cloutier, Ben Clymer, Braydon Coburn, Danton Cole, Blake Coleman, Gerald Coleman, Mike Commodore, Cory Conacher, Erik Condra, Brett Connolly, Alain Cote, Jean-Philippe Cote, Ryan Craig, Adam Creighton, B.J. Crombeen, Cory Cross, John Cullen, Jassen Cullimore, Jim Cummins
The Choice: Ryan Callahan
This is a letter where there’s plenty to choose from, but most of the options simply weren’t high-impact players. Those that were high-impact players from this particular list were either near the end of their career when they joined the Lightning (Ciccarelli and Wendel Clark), or simply haven’t been with the team long enough (Cirelli). Because of that, the honor goes to Callahan, who played 307 games in just over five full seasons in Tampa Bay. Following his arrival from New York in that memorable trade for Marty St. Louis in 2014, Callahan put up 54 goals and 132 points with the Lightning. In addition, he turned into a highly-regarded leader in the room while also being a stout penalty killer. However, the letter C is the first one that could easily change if this list is re-done in a few years’ time.
Miscellaneous: The reason it could change? The rise of Cirelli, who in just over two years has turned into a two-way force and excellent penalty killer. While he may not win the Selke Trophy this season, if he maintains his high level of play, he could easily add more than one Selke to his trophy case before his career ends.
The Candidates: Alexander Daigle, Mathieu Darche, Louie DeBrusk, Xavier Delisle, Rob DiMaio, Marc Denis, Cedrick Desjardins, Chris Dingman, Louis Domingue, Jake Dotchin, Steve Downie, Jonathan Drouin, Stan Drulia, Donald Dufresne, Gabriel Dumont, Gordie Dwyer, Karl Dykhuis
The Choice: Steve Downie
Although the letter A didn’t have much in the way of depth, the letter D is the first in this alphabet where there’s not only little depth, but there’s not much in the way of high quality, either. With that said, Downie is my choice here. In three-and-a-half years in Tampa, Downie provided a physical, nasty edge to the Bolts’ lineup while also providing some occasional offense. He contributed 14 points in 17 playoff games in 2011 during the Lightning’s run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Miscellaneous: If this alphabet were based purely on talent, Drouin would be the runaway winner for the letter D. However, his inability to play a two-way game never fully endeared him to the coaching staff. He demanded a trade in 2015-16, earning a suspension from the team when he refused to report to AHL Syracuse, a demand he later rescinded. The Lightning eventually traded him to Montreal in June 2017.
The Candidates: Allan Egeland, Brian Eklund, Nils Ekman, Matt Elich, Dan Ellis, Pat Elyniuk, Steve Eminger, John Emmons, Adam Erne
The Choice: Adam Erne
This one of those letters where the pickings were awfully slim. I tried to focus on franchise impact when making my choices, but in the case of Erne, I simply went old school and used goals, assists, points, and games played. Among the above list, Erne leads this group with 13 goals and 27 points. He’s tied with Elyniuk in assists with 14. Erne is also the runaway franchise leader for games played among players whose last name begins with E (114), 43 more than the second-place Nils Ekman. Like I said, there wasn’t a lot to work with here.
The Candidates: Todd Fedoruk, Ruslan Fedotenko, Valtteri Filppula, Steven Finn, Mark Fitzpatrick, Wade Flaherty, Colin Forbes, Kurtis Foster, Kyle Freadrich, Byron Froese
The Choice: Ruslan Fedotenko
Much like the letter E, there weren’t a whole lot of players to choose from. However, Fedotenko’s name isn’t simply chosen by default. While his 144 points in 313 games in Tampa are fewer than Filppula’s 171 in 292 games, Fedotenko earns this nod for his exploits in the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs. His efforts in the final two rounds are forever etched in Lightning lore. In 22 playoff games that season, Fedotenko scored 12 goals, including the Lightning’s only two goals in their 2-1 Stanley Cup-clinching win over the Calgary Flames in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Miscellaneous: In Filppula’s first season in Tampa Bay (2013-14), he tallied a career-high 25 goals. He never topped more than 12 with the Lightning after that.
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