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After being awarded the franchise, the team’s management brought in star power before they had any players.
The Lightning first took the ice on October 7, 1992, playing in Tampa’s tiny 11,000-seat Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds.
Most of the Lightning’s early stars were gone by 1998 due to free agency and trades by Phil Esposito which backfired. By all accounts, the Lightning’s plunge to the bottom of the NHL was due to the way Kokusai Green ran the team. Even in their first playoff season, the team was awash in red ink and Kokusai Green was looking to sell at any price. It later emerged that Kokusai Green’s owner, Takashi Okubo, had never met with Esposito or with NHL officials in person prior to being awarded the Lightning. Forbes wrote an article in late 1997 calling the Lightning a financial nightmare, with a debt equal to a staggering 236% of its value—the highest of any major North American sports franchise.
Williams sold the team for $115 million—$2 million less than he had paid for the team a year earlier—to Davidson, who had almost bought the team a year earlier. Davidson remained in Detroit, but appointed Tom Wilson as team president to handle day-to-day management of the team. However, as had been the case with Demers, the damage from the last few seasons under Kokusai Green was too much for Ludzik to overcome. In the playoffs, the Lightning quickly fell two games behind in the series but followed the two losses with four consecutive wins which advanced them to the Conference Semifinals for the first time in team history. The Lightning roared through the 2003–04 regular season, finishing with 106 points, second-best in the league after the Western Conference’s Detroit Red Wings—the first 100-point season in franchise history. In the second round, the Lightning faced the Montreal Canadiens, captained by Saku Koivu; Lecavalier, Richards, and Khabibulin led the team to a four-game sweep of Montreal. The Lightning had to wait a year to defend their title due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout, but in 2005–06 they barely made the playoffs with 93 points in a conference where six teams notched 100 or more points. Throughout March, the Lightning had been switching places with the Atlanta Thrashers for first place in the Southeast Division.
The Lightning were eliminated from playoff competition on April 22, after a 3-2 home loss to the New Jersey Devils in game six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. At the start of the All-Star Break on January 25, the Lightning had a 20–25–5 record, and with 45 points, were in last place in both the Southeast Division, and the Eastern Conference. On February 13, 2008, it was announced that Palace Sports & Entertainment had agreed to sell the Lightning to OK Hockey LLC, a group headed by Oren Koules, a producer of the Saw horror movies. However, after the trade deadline, the Lightning fared no better than they had throughout the entire season.
Vincent Lecavalier suffered a dislocated shoulder as the result of an open-ice hit from Matt Cooke of the Washington Capitals, in the game before the season finale in Atlanta. John Tortorella was fired by the Lightning following their worst season since Tortorella was hired. Barry Melrose would record his first win as a head coach in over 13 years on October 21, 2008 with a 3–2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers. After the firing of Melrose, the Lightning went 19–33–14, and would finish the season 24–40–18 with 66 points, their lowest point total since the 2000–01 season. During the offseason, the Lightning removed the interim status of Rick Tocchet, and decided to make him the full-time coach with a multi-year contract.[17] The Lightning had an up and down beginning to the 2009–10 campaign, however Martin St.
In May 2010, Vinik hired Steve Yzerman away from the Detroit Red Wings front office to be the new general manager, signing him to a five-year contract. The Lightning compiled a 46–25–11 record with 103 points, matching a franchise record for wins in a season. In the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, Tampa Bay drew the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference Quarterfinals. Contact the seller- opens in a new window or tab and request a shipping method to your location.
If for any reason you are not satisfied with your purchase, you may return the item(s) for a full refund. The team turned heads in the preseason whenManon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game, making her first of two NHL appearances in an exhibition game against the St. They shocked the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 7-3 with four goals by little-known Chris Kontos, a scoring mark unmatched by any Lightning player. The team moved into a glittering new arena, the Ice Palace (now the Tampa Bay Times Forum) and appeared destined for another playoff spot. During his seven years as owner, Okubo never watched his team play, and never even visited Tampa.


Even though the Ice Palace was built for hockey and the Lightning were the only major tenant, Forbes called the team’s deal with the arena a lemon since it would not result in much revenue for 30 years.
Early in the 1998–99 season, the Lightning lost 10 games in a row, all but ending any chance of making the playoffs. Along with the sale, the Lightning picked up a new top minor league affiliate; Davidson also owned the Detroit Vipers of the now-defunct International Hockey League. Wilson immediately fired Demers, who despite his best efforts (and fatherly attitude toward Lecavalier) was unable to overcome the damage from the Kokusai Green ownership.
Even with a wholesale transfer of talent from Detroit to Tampa (a move that eventually doomed the Vipers, which folded along with the IHL in 2001), the Lightning lost 54 games in 1999–2000 and 52 in 2000–01, becoming the first team in NHL history to post four straight 50-loss seasons.
In the semifinals the Lightning won only one game, losing the series to the New Jersey Devils.
Free agent Johan Holmqvist would eventually get the majority of playing time, and most of the club’s wins. Former first round pick Nikita Alexeev was traded on the day of the deadline to the Chicago Blackhawks. With a chance to overtake the Thrashers one final time and once again become division champions for the third time in team history, on April 6, 2007, in the final week of the regular season, the Lighting suffered a loss to the Florida Panthers, the night before the season finale in Atlanta. Only the Los Angeles Kings had a lower point total at this time of the season, with 40 points.
With the day of the deadline being February 26, the Lightning won only five games after that date. Lecavalier, who planned on having arthroscopic wrist surgery after the season’s ending, would undergo surgery to repair his right shoulder as well.
At the time working as an NHL analyst for ESPN, Barry Melrose stated on June 4 during an episode of Pardon the Interruption that he missed coaching and would entertain any NHL coaching offers. Boyle was pressured to waive his no-trade clause by Tampa Bay’s ownership, who said they would otherwise place him on waivers where he would likely be claimed by the Atlanta Thrashers. However, the Lightning did not get off to a great start as hoped, and Melrose was fired by the Lightning with a 5–7–4 record.Rick Tocchet, who had been hired as assistant coach during the previous offseason, was promoted to interim head coach. With the 2nd overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the Lightning selected Victor Hedman. Yzerman then hired Guy Boucher away from the Montreal Canadiens organization to succeed Tocchet as the head coach two weeks later.
With the 6th pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the Lightning selected forward Brett Connolly despite a history of injuries while playing for the Prince George Cougars. After holding the first place in the Southeast Division for several months, they fell to second after a poor performance in March. After losing Game 4 at home in the second overtime period, they fell behind in the series one game to three. With only 84 points, they fell short of reaching the playoffs, ending the season third in the Southeast Division and tenth in the Eastern Conference. If you reside in an EU member state besides UK, import VAT on this purchase is not recoverable.
Returns must include a receipt and the items must be in original condition, including tags and labels. Esposito eventually recruited a consortium of Japanese businesses headed by Kokusai Green, a golf course and resort operator. Although they lost their first-round series in six games to the Philadelphia Flyers, it still remains a magical season for Lightning fans. Though Demers had presided over the resurgence of theDetroit Red Wings in the 1980s and helmed a Stanley Cup run in Montreal in 1993, he was unable to change the team’s fortunes, and the Lightning ended up losing 55 games. The Internal Revenue Service investigated the team in 1994 and 1995, and nearly slapped a lien on the team for $750,000 in back taxes.
The lone bright spots in those years were the blossoming of Lecavalier and Brad Richards into NHL stars.
The Devils went on to win the Stanley Cup, but the Lightning’s return to the post-season pleased the long-suffering hockey fans of the Tampa Bay area. The first half of the 2006-07 NHL Season was rocky for the Lightning, maintaining an 18-19-2 record throughout the first few months. That same night, the Thrashers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes, and clinched the division. Louis, and Richards) along with Vaclav Prospal, had performed up to expectations, they had little consistent play from supporting players. Finishing with a 31–42–9 record, with 71 points, they had the best chance at getting the top overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft through the draft lottery, and was awarded the top overall pick by winning the draft lottery on April 7.
In the 2006–07 season, the Lightning had one of the best extra period records, winning 15 games in either overtime or the shootout.
Cooke was fined $2,500 by the NHL for the hit, because Lecavalier did not have possession of the puck at the time.
Despite an overmatched roster on paper, and a team that struggled in the first 2 periods of many games, the Lightning remained competitive in the playoff race until March, when they went 5–10–1 for the month and fell 8 points out of a playoff spot. Their record was good enough for second in the Southeast Division and fifth in the Eastern Conference, and they returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2006–07 season. However, the Lightning went on to win the next three games, including a 1–0 Game 7 win on the road, taking their first playoff series since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004. When Dwayne Roloson was pulled for Mike Smith, the Bruins failed to score again, and the Lightning tied the game in the second period by scoring three goals in 3:58, going on to win the game 5–3 and tying the series at two games apiece.


Stamkos was second in the league in points with 97, and was a finalist for both the Hart Memorial Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award. The prospect of Japanese backing tipped the scales in the Esposito group’s favor, and they were awarded an expansion franchise for the 1992–93 season, as was a group in Ottawa (which became the Senators).
However, they buckled under the strain of some of the longest road trips in the league—their nearest division rival, the Blues, were over 1,000 miles away—and finished in last place.
The Thunderdome crowd of 28,183 for the April 23 playoff game against the Flyers was the largest crowd for any NHL game, a record that stood until the 2003Heritage Classic in Edmonton. Puppa developed back trouble that kept him out of all but four games during the season; he would only play a total of 50 games from 1996 until his retirement in 2000.
However, he was very visible and outspoken, and immediately pumped an additional $6 million into the team’s payroll to turn it around.
Although some blame Williams for the slide, it can be argued that the damage from the Kokusai Green era was too much for Williams to overcome.
Wilson, Dudley, and Ludzik had helped make the Vipers one of the premier minor league hockey franchises, having won a Turner Cup in only their third season in Detroit (the team had originally been based in Salt Lake City). The young team was led by the goaltending of Nikolai Khabibulin and the scoring efforts of Lecavalier, St.
January and February were far better months for the team, going 9-4-0 in January, and 9-2-2 in February, getting them back into the thick of things in the playoff race. For the Lightning, this meant having to settle for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, with a final record of 44-33-5 (93 points). The group announced that it planned to keep the team in Tampa, but the deal fell apart during the 2007-08 season. They would use their first overall pick to select Steven Stamkos, who had been playing in the Ontario Hockey League prior to the draft. Unable to make a final push for the playoffs, they were officially eliminated from contention within the first week of April. The series went the full seven games, but the Lightning were eliminated and denied a Stanley Cup Final by a single goal, as the game was lost (0–1). Their 53 points in 1992-93, however, was one of the best showings ever by an NHL expansion team. The March 5th trade deadline offered another glimmer of hope when the team acquired hold-out goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin from Phoenix for 3 players and a draft pick. While ultimately finishing far out of playoff contention, the Lightning showed some signs of life, earning more than 60 points for the first time since 1997. Louis, Modin, Richards, and Ruslan Fedotenko, and also boasted a new captain, former prolific scorer Dave Andreychuk. 14 games in March were split even, and on March 16, 2007, Vincent Lecavalier broke the franchise record for most points in a season, with 95 (finishing with 108). Petersburg, Florida for what would become the Vincent Lecavalier Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at All Children’s Hospital. The Lightning finished the season 34–36–12, 4th in the Southeast Division, and 12th in the Eastern Conference. After taking control, Williams publicly assured the Espositos that their jobs were safe, only to fire them two games into the 1998–99 season. Tortorella stripped Lecavalier of the captaincy due to contract negotiations that had made the young center miss the start of the season. Throughout the season, the Lightning battled the Washington Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division. Only three years after losing 50 games, the Lightning became the southernmost team ever to win the Stanley Cup, in only their 12th year of existence. Martin St. Louis to a lucrative 4-year contract extension worth $22.5 million beginning on July 1, 2011. Still, the Lightning appeared to be far ahead of their expansion brethren, the Ottawa Senators.
He then gave Demers complete control of hockey operations as both coach and general manager. They finished with 93 points, breaking the 90-point barrier for the first time in team history. On July 19, in another move with the Flyers, the Lightning traded defenseman Matt Walker and Tampa Bay’s 4th round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for high scoring winger Simon Gagne.
In marked contrast to the Lightning, the Senators showed almost no sign of respectability in their first four seasons. Despite the clouds still hovering over the franchise, the Lightning drafted Vincent Lecavalier in 1998, a player who would be a cornerstone of the team for years to come. They won the division by just one point, giving them home-ice advantage in their first round match-up with the Caps. Lecavalier also broke the franchise’s goal scoring record, finishing with a league-leading 52 goals.
A season of superlatives was capped with one final accolade, as The Sporting News named GM Jay Feaster as the league’s executive of the year for 2003-04.



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