(Ed. Note: As the Stanley Cup Playoffs continue, we're bound to lose some friends along the journey. We've asked for these losers, gone but not forgotten, to be eulogized by the people who knew the teams best: The bloggers who hated them the most. Here is hockey writer Brian Palmer, who inexplicably requested the Tampa Bay Lightning. Again, this was not written by us. Also: This is a roast and you will be offended by it, so don't take it so seriously.)
By Brian Palmer
Ten years ago during the halcyon days of the clutch and grab NHL, the Tampa Bay Lightning captured the imagination of dozens of Central Floridians and convicted felons with a wild run to the Stanley Cup Final.
Led by opportunistic super fan and advanced stats guru Hulk Hogan (A player’s Hogan Rating is calculated by measuring the ratio of shots directed at the net to leg drops, brother), the Bolts beat the Calgary Flames in 7 games to claim the only Stanley Cup in the franchise’s 22-year history.
“HoganClose rating is the number of Suburban Commando references in the third period of a one goal game”
The NHL responded by shutting the league down for an entire season, hoping the hockey world would be cool about it, and forget that a team from Florida (gross) ever won the Cup. The Lightning franchise has done its part, barely making a peep for the last decade, save for the occasional Len Barrie punch line or bad breakup with a franchise icon.
This year’s edition of the Tampa Bay Lightning has proudly carried on this tradition of anonymity. Swept in four easy games by the Montreal Canadiens, Tampa earns the dishonor of being the first team eliminated from the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Max Pacioretty’s power play game-winning goal with 43 seconds left was the final insult, allowing the Lightning to embrace their destiny to be quickly forgotten by everyone.
“Who’d we beat in the first round PK?” “I’m not sure Carey. One great player, bad D, mediocre goalie; maybe the Capitals?”
It’s fitting that following a season in which Martin St. Louis, their captain, leading scorer in team history, Napoleon Complex awareness spokesman, and one of only two Lightning players you’ve heard of, demanded a trade, the Lightning will suffer the indignity of being eulogized here by an unknown hockey writer. Tampa just doesn’t inspire strong feelings. They’re hockey’s “meh team”, the Bran Stark storyline of the NHL. They’re just the team you see when your family takes a trip to Disney World during March Break.
But after much digging, I found four reasons to hate the Lightning:
They hate proper grammar: Writing “the Lightning are” just feels weird and wrong.
They ruin divisions: The awesome “Chuck Norris” Division of the 80’s was besmirched when Tampa joined Detroit, Toronto, Minnesota, St. Louis, and Chicago in 1993. Now they play in the Atlantic Division, when they’re clearly on the Gulf of Mexico.
They’re the Dawn Summers of the NHL.
“Things were great before you got here Tampa Bay. Now it’s only intermittently good with frustrating character development.”
Horrible owners: Somehow the Southern parody that called Vincent Lecavalier the “Michael Jordan of hockey” is only the third worst owner in team history. (Yakuza ties and hiring Barry Melrose to coach in 2008 are tied for worst).
They erected a statute of Phil Esposito: Presumably for acquiring Chris Gratton. Twice.
“This statue has some great stories about the Bobby Orr statue in Boston.”
Now that your blood is boiling with hatred for the Florida team that sucks less often than the other one, let’s remember everyone that contributed to the latest Tampa failure.
General Manager Steve Yzerman
Stevie Y inexplicably didn’t include the moody Martin St. Louis on the initial roster for Canada’s Olympic team, despite being the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner and pleading desperately to be included. This led directly to the messiest divorce this side of Victor Newman (Blatant pandering to Tampa’s senior citizen population, which comprise 75% of the Lightning’s fan base).
“What Gary Bettman sees when he looks in the mirror.”
Apparently St. Louis' massive thighs hide a fragile soul, because he immediately demanded a trade closer to his home in the Shire. And because Yzerman skipped the Conflict Resolution class at GM school, he had no choice but to deal the heart and soul of his franchise to the Rangers. In return he got a pending UFA and couple of draft picks that will become players just as Yzerman is becoming the President of Hockey Operations for the Ottawa Senators. (He grew up there! And the Lowe Act, recently passed by Canadian Parliament, requires all Canadian NHL teams to be run by local boys in order to bring about a culture change.)
What brings this to a Mike Milbury level of stupid is that Yzerman weakened his own team for ultimately little gain. St. Louis remains an elite player and having him on Canada’s roster would have been easily defendable. What’s more, Canada was so stacked that John Scott could have been the 13th forward and they still would have won gold. Have fun explaining the lost playoff revenue to your owner, Stevie!
Head Coach Jon Cooper
Considering the best coach in Lightning history is John “Loose Cannon” Tortorella, the Brian Pillman of NHL bench bosses, Jon Cooper doesn’t really have a lot to live up to in Tampa. Yet after curiously trolling the Habs after going down 2-0 in the series, Montreal scored 11 seconds into Game 3 and never looked back.
As an encore, Cooper decided being down 3-0 was the perfect time to practice his comedy skills by pretending to be a reporter interviewing Steven Stamkos.
“The man Louis CK looks up to.”
They lost Game 4 too.
Jon Cooper is going to be a great addition to Sportnet’s 2015 Trade Deadline coverage team.
Last Superstar In Town Steven Stamkos
Selfishly broke his leg and missed half the regular season.
Although he kind of looks like circa 1984 Wayne Gretzky, he probably knows now that it’s easier to lead your team to victory when your teammates are Mark Messier and Jari Kurri and not something called an Ondrej Palat.
Goaltender Ben Bishop
Speaking of selfish injuries, Bishop picked a horrible time to hurt his elbow. Unless of course it was part of his master plan to show Vezina voters how bad Tampa’s defense actually is. Be sure to thank Anders Lindback in your speech too, Big Ben!
Formerly Relevant Ryan Callahan
Faster than you can say “David Clarkson”, pending UFA Ryan Callahan has gone from indispensable captain of the New York Rangers to pointless in 4 playoff games.
Sadly, the Oilers just lowered their July 1st contract offer to Callahan down to $52.5 million over 7 years.
Other Lightning Forwards
Nope, they didn’t show up here either.
The 2013-14 Tampa Bay Defense Corps
Are Eric Brewer and Sami Salo really part of Tampa’s top six defensemen? Is Joe Reekie back there too? Only the most hardcore Lightning fans would be able to tell you for certain, but he’s working late tonight at Denny’s so you’ll just have to trust me that Brewer and Salo are totally defensemen on a playoff team in 2014. It’s amazing they didn’t lose this series in three games.
Victor Hedman’s there too, whose mention would make Lightning fans angry that the team passed on Matt Duchene with the second overall pick in 2009, if they had ever seen a Western Conference game and knew who Matt Duchene was.
Whether old and useless or young and useless, every Tampa defenseman came together to leave Lindback hung out to dry as much as possible. Apparently they didn’t realize that, much like the dancers at Chez Parée, you can make contact with the Montreal forwards.
This is the most anyone has ever thought about the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 2013-14 edition of the squad will be quickly forgotten by the hockey world, as well it should be. Not good enough to be lamented, not horrible enough to be interesting, the 2013-14 Tampa Bay Lightning are the most Lightning team that ever Lightninged.
Brian Palmer (@the_real_palmer) is a freelance hockey writer from London, Ontario. He holds an English degree from the University of Western Ontario, which he parlayed into a cushy Toronto marketing job after only 8 years of bouncing around. Cursed by his father to be a Maple Leafs fan, he now takes pleasure in the misfortunes of other NHL failures.