(Ed. Note: Welcome to the Puck Daddy 2013 summer project, the National Hockey League of Nations. We’ve recruited 30 writers/blogs to identify the best player in their favorite team’s history for each major nationality that creates the fabric of our beloved NHL: Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and The Rest of The World. It’s their criteria, as long as they can justify it. Read, debate and enjoy! If you want to do so on Twitter, it's #NHLoN.)
Canada: Martin St. Louis
Martin St. Louis has been the unquestioned leader of the Tampa Bay franchise during his 12 years with them. Many would expect the Bolts Canadian representative to be Vincent Lecavalier, but while Vinny was a prolific goal scorer (many a direct result of St. Louis passes), St. Louis was and is the “Heart and Soul” of the Lightning.
The six-time NHL All-Star is the Lightning career leader in assists (556), points (892), +/- (+19) and shorthanded goals (28). He is second all-time in games played (910), goals (336), even strength goals (221), power play goals (87), game winning goals (59) and shots (2449). St, Louis will be the career leader in ten offensive categories within the next two seasons, passing Lecavalier in six of those rankings.
Marty has a trophy case full of NHL honors and this is what separates him from Vincent Lecavalier. He has won two Art Ross Trophies, the Hart Memorial Trophy, three Lady Byng Memorial Trophies, the Ted Lindsay Award and of course, the Stanley Cup. Not bad for an un-drafted free agent who is too small to play in the NHL. – W.B. Philp
Finland: Sean Bergenheim
Finns are criminally underrepresented over Tampa’s 20 year history. They are so underrepresented that the top three Finnish players only spent one season with the Bolts. Taking that small sample size into account, the Lightning’s all time best from Finland is Sean Bergenheim.
In the 2010-11 season, Bergenheim recorded 14 goals and 15 assists. He bolstered an offense that was littered with injuries to star players. While those numbers may not be too sexy, the playoffs are where he made a name for himself.
In 16 playoff games, he scored nine goals and registered 11 points. Three of those goals propelled the Lightning to a series victory over Pittsburgh after trailing 3-1. A two goal performance in game four of the conference semi final cemented a sweep of the Capitals. From there Tampa went on to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2004 where Bergenheim saw continued success. Not bad for his first time in the NHL playoffs.
Though his time with the team was brief, Bergenheim definitely earned a spot in Lightning lore. Sorry, Janne Niskala. – Alexis Boucher
USA: Ryan Malone
When it comes to the US of A, Tampa’s best and brightest is left wing Ryan Malone. “Bugsy” may not have enjoyed the same success as he did in Pittsburgh, but he has been a steady contributor on the ice when healthy. Through 285 games, the big forward has 87 goals and 186 points. A leader in the locker room and a great teammate, he has definitely made an impact with the club. He was also part of the USA team that won silver at the Vancouver Games.
A fan favorite, particularly among the ladies, Malone has been compared to a young Reg Dunlop. Not too far off base given his penchant for plaid suits. Another hallmark of his time in Tampa was his epic bromance with goalie Mike Smith. Although he may be shopped heavily this off season, Malone is well ahead of nearly every other American who has worn a Lightning sweater.
With talent like Tyler Johnson on the horizon, that could very well change. – Alexis Boucher
Sweden: Fredrik Modin
Tampa’s best Swedish player is also one of their most underrated players of all time. Left wing Fredrik Modin played for the Lightning from 1999-2006. He compiled 116 goals and 229 points in 363 games. The big Swede is fifth overall in franchise history in goals scored. Impressive numbers that never seemed to garner the same recognition that some of Modin’s teammates received. An easy mistake when your linemates were Brad Richards and Marty St. Louis. An integral part of the 2004 Stanley Cup championship team, Freddie had eight goals and 19 points during that playoff run.
A bit of a unique presence in that he played with a wooden stick for most of his career, the throwback gear didn’t stop him from winning the Hardest Slapshot competition at the 2001 All Star Skills Competition with a speed of 102.1 mph. On his day with the Stanley Cup, he not only celebrated with champagne but homemade birch schnapps. It’s hard to imagine what that actually tastes like, so it’s safe to say Mo is a tough son of a gun. Victor Hedman’s career is a bit too young to be counted as the Lightning’s all time best Swede, but he could be a contender in a few more seasons. – Alexis Boucher
Russia: Nikolai Khabibulin
As much as we like Evgeny Artyukhin, the answer here is clearly the “Bulin Wall”.
Nikolai Khabibulin’s best years came in a Tampa Bay Lightning uniform, including the 2004 Stanley Cup win. Unfortunately he bolted to Chicago for the money after the lockout…but we’ll always raise a glass to Khabby and then we’ll call a cab.
In all seriousness, Khabibulin is the last great goaltender to don a Lightning uniform. He is at or near the top of every major Lightning career goaltending statistical category. He leads in wins (83), save percentage (.914), goals against average (2.39) and shutouts (14). Khabibulin is second all-time in games played (192), minutes (11,080), saves (4,715) and shots against (5,157). Khabibulin’s performance in the Bolts 2003-04 championship season was nothing short of phenomenal: A 16-7 record with a 1.71 goals against average, a .933 save percentage and an astounding five shutouts. Sorry Arty. – Jason Haas
Slovakia: Martin Cibak
It’s not often that a ninth round, 252nd overall draft pick makes the list, but in the Lightning’s case, yes, “it’s Cibby time” again.
After honing his skills with the Detroit Vipers, Martin Cibak made the jump to the NHL with the Lightning in the 2001-02 season. Cibak accumulated five goals, 23 points and 30 penalty minutes in 135 games during his three seasons with Tampa Bay. He was a contributor in the Bolts Stanley Cup championship season of 2003-04. Cibak beat out the two year oft-injured, minus-18 defenseman Andrej Meszaros. – W.B. Philp
Czech Republic: Vinny Prospal
The Lightning have had their share of good players from the Czech Republic. A case can be made for the franchises first ever pick, defenseman Roman Hamrlik and the career leader in games played by a defenseman, Pavel Kubina. But, the choice here is forward Vinny Prospal. The center played a total of six seasons with the Bolts in three different stints starting in 2001-02. Prospal is eighth all-time in games played (468), sixth in goals (127), fifth in power play goals (44), fourth in assists (244) and fifth in points (371).
These numbers certainly qualify Prospal as a candidate, but what put him over the top was his post game interview after scoring two goals to beat the Montreal Canadiens in 2008. He had been taken off the top line by then coach John Tortorella, drastically reducing his ice time. The Canadiens game marked his return to the top line.
"Shove it up to somebody's (Tortorella) butt" for the win. – W.B. Philp
REST OF THE WORLD CATEGORY
Ruslan Fedotenko (Ukraine)
If recent Stanley Cup Finals have taught us anything, it’s that depth wins championships. Top line players tend to cancel each other out and it’s usually a third or fourth line skater who delivers the death blow.
Ruslan Fedotenko was exactly that player for Tampa Bay in the 2004 Finals, scoring two goals in Game Seven to lift the Lightning to its first and only Stanley Cup championship. While his acquisition wasn’t the most popular deal (Philadelphia sent Fedotenko and two second round picks to Tampa Bay for the Bolts fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft), it’s safe to say that the move worked out beautifully.
Aside from his playoff heroism, “Feds” was a consistent contributor in his four seasons in Tampa Bay with 32, 39, 41, and 32 points respectively from 2002-2007, including 26 goals in 2005-06.
Did we mention that he’s married to his billet mom from juniors? Legendary. – Jason Haas